Kayaking at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia. Photo by Ben Galland

Kayaking at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia. Photo by Ben Galland

Best Things to Do in East Georgia

Get out on the water, play golf, and much more in Augusta and Georgia's Lake Country.

From moss-draped cypress trees to laid-back lake escapes, this region offers all the picturesque beauty its name implies. Relax in a kayak or enjoy an epic game of golf, and get to know the culture-rich communities that make up east Georgia.

You may get lost playing disc golf or exploring historic sites and natural wonders. When you resurface, you'll be charmed by this region's small towns, which offer countless culinary delights and cultural hotspots.

Things to see & do

Sunset boat ride on Lake Oconee
Sunset boat ride on Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair

Middle Georgia earned the nickname Lake Country thanks to sister reservoirs Oconee and Sinclair, whose broad blue expanses and quiet coves unroll through forest-dotted countryside. As the home of upscale neighborhoods and a Ritz-Carlton, Lake Oconee is the better-known destination, while Lake Sinclair offers a serene, kick-back break. Both are fed by the Oconee River and are beloved destinations for boating and bass fishing.

More: Can't-Miss Water Activities at Lake Oconee

The Creek Golf Course at Hard Labor Creek State Park
The Creek Golf Course at Hard Labor Creek State Park

Golfing

Off the water, golf is a major draw in Lake Country, especially at Reynolds Plantation, a luxury gated community on Lake Oconee. Reynolds boasts six championship courses designed by some of the sport’s biggest names (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, and Rees Jones), along with a state-of-the-art practice facility. Near the town of Rutledge, the Creek Golf Course at Hard Labor Creek State Park is one of the state's best golfing values.

More: 10 Courses to Golf in Georgia's Lake Country

Charming downtowns

The communities that make up this region, including Harlem, Greensboro, and Augusta, share some common traits: charming downtowns, stately Southern architecture, and rich culture. Visit Harlem’s Laurel & Hardy Museum, a tribute to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; drop into Greensboro’s cafes and antique shops; and discover Augusta's many historic sites, including the Miller Theater, which was the second-largest theater in Georgia when it opened in 1940.

Downtown Washington, Georgia. Photo by Chris Greer
Downtown Washington, Georgia. Photo by Chris Greer

Downtown Washington has been the center of commerce for Wilkes County, established 1777, since farmers in horse-drawn wagons hawked their wares here. Today, you can stroll the picturesque square, presided over by the Victorian-era Fitzpatrick Hotel, stopping for a craft beer at Maddy’s Public House or a frozen treat at Jamie’s Homemade Ice Cream. Architecture lovers will find plenty to admire, from beautiful homes in the Historic District to the iconic Mary Willis Library, one of Georgia’s loveliest book repositories.

Oconee Brewing Co. in Greensboro, Georgia. Photo by Clay Viation
Oconee Brewing Co. in Greensboro, Georgia. Photo by Clay Viation

Oconee Brewing Co.

The confines are as pretty as the beers are quaffable at Greensboro's Oconee Brewing Co., housed in a historic former cotton warehouse. (Try the Hey Man Blonde Ale.)

More: The 21 Essential Breweries in Georgia

Augusta happy mural. Photo by @mayddaq
Augusta happy mural. Photo by @mayddaq

Augusta Murals

Colorful walls abound in downtown Augusta. Share your feelings in front of the “Happy” mural (Tire City Potters), or raise a glass high above the city at the rooftop mural at Edgar's Above Broad.

More: Cool Murals and More Curious Public Art in Georgia

Pool at Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. Photo by @jessicadauler
Pool at Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. Photo by @jessicadauler

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

You may need to lean down to capture a shot of the infinity pool blending seamlessly into the lake at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. The view is especially pretty in the morning.

More: 16 Relaxing Spas Perfect for Weekend Getaways in Georgia

Augusta & Co. welcome center in Augusta, Georgia
Augusta & Co. welcome center in Augusta, Georgia

Augusta & Co.

Housed in a historic downtown building, Augusta's recently revamped welcome center, Augusta & Co., does more than share information on regional attractions. The experience center is also an art gallery, a tasting room offering local sips and bites (try 2nd City Distilling. Co. spirits or Watanut gourmet nuts), and a gift shop celebrating Southern makers.

More: Guide to Augusta

Amphitheater at Evans Towne Center Park
Amphitheater at Evans Towne Center Park

Evans Towne Center Park

Big-name music acts and vibrant festivals visit Evans Towne Center Park, which boasts two outdoor venues: the Lady Antebellum Pavilion (aka “Lady A”), named for two bandmates who grew up in the area, and the more intimate Columbia County Amphitheater. There's also a splash pad and a dog park.

More: 14 of Georgia's Best Outdoor Music Venues

Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen, Georgia
Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen, Georgia

Magnolia Springs State Park

This Millen park is known for its crystal-clear water and abundant wildlife. Look for turtles and alligators as you walk the boardwalk at Magnolia Springs State Park. Hit up the splash pad and bike trails, and don't skip the museum, which showcases relics and artifacts from when the site served as a prison during the Civil War.

More: Remembering Georgia's Role in the Civil War

White Hills Lavender & Herb Farm in Dearing, Georgia
White Hills Lavender & Herb Farm in Dearing, Georgia

White Hills Farm

Every Friday during growing season, this family-run farm in Dearing invites the public to tour its organic lavender and herb gardens and shop handmade herbal teas, bath salts, and more. It's also a bucolic gathering place for yoga retreats, cooking classes, and other special events.

More: 5 Things You Didn't Know about Lavender

Ask a local

Denise and Baruti Tucker, @humanitreehouse, own Humanitree House, an organic juice bar and art gallery in downtown Augusta.

James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History
James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History

What’s one thing all visitors to your region should do?

Augusta Museum of History. Augusta has a rich history that answers many questions about the greatness of this region.

What's your favorite restaurant?

The Bee’s Knees. In addition to the food, the service and spirit of this place is unmatched.

Augusta Canal National Historic Area Headgates near the Savannah Rapids Visitor Information Center
Augusta Canal National Historic Area Headgates near the Savannah Rapids Visitor Information Center

Where would you recommend someone go with kids?

We have several beautiful parks. Savannah Rapids has a huge bike trail, which is great for kids.

What's something surprising about your region?

People are often surprised at how diverse the area is, in addition to the massive arts culture.

What do you love most about living here?

Time and space. You have enough time to develop creatively, professionally, and even spiritually here — and you also have the space to do it.

Published: February 2020