Lake Lanier is one of the most visited lakes in the world, with some 12 million enjoying this jewel north of Atlanta each year. The shores are dotted with parks, many with beaches and swim areas. There are also outfitters that will help get you on the water whether on a kayak, Jet Ski or boat. A Boat Rental Education Certificate is required by law and many outfitters offer the course on their websites so it can be completed prior to arrival.
Lake Lanier Olympic Park
This park, once the site of rowing and paddling events in the 1996 Summer Olympics, is set on the north end of Lake Lanier and features a public boat launch and courtesy docks along with beach and picnic areas. Canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards can be rented on the weekends from the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club.
- 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville
- www.lckc.org | 770-287-7888
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
This expansive waterpark and resort includes tiki bars and lakeside restaurants, impressive water slides and a wave pool along with a beach area. Boats can be rented from Harbor Landing Marina, and a variety of accommodations are available. During the colder months, Margaritaville transforms into a winter wonderland with its Lakeside Lights Spectacular and activities like snow tubing and ice skating.
- 7650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford
Don Carter State Park
At the north end of Lake Lanier, Don Carter State Park offers an abundance of water recreation like swimming, boating, paddleboarding, fishing and kayaking.
Those itching to hike have the choice among five trails including the 1-mile Woodland Loop, 1-mile Terrapin Cove Trail and half-mile Lakeview Loop.
Visitors are also welcome to spend the night at the park in one of its RV campsites, two-bedroom cabins or primitive tent campsites.
- 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville
- gastateparks.org/doncarter | 678-450-7726
Burton Outdoor Adventures
Guests can rent a kayak or paddleboard and then take a shuttle ride to Old Federal Beach and Boat Ramp on Lake Lanier. After a tutorial and safety briefing, paddlers can explore a large mapped-out area on Lake Lanier. This outfitter is located in Flowery Branch on Jim Crow Road. No, it’s not named after that Jim Crow, and yes, locals have debated about renaming the road that honors local resident G.C. Crow.
- 5962 Jim Crow Road, Flowery Branch
- Burtonoutdooradventures.com | 770-447-0869
Paradise Rental Boats
Paradise has a location on Lake Lanier inside Port Royale Marina. Don’t let you the Gainesville address fool you, it is on the Forsyth County side of the lake near Browns Bridge. Paradise offers a range of watercraft from the personal, such as a WaveRunner, to larger yachts and cruisers.
- Port Royale Marina, 8800 Port Royale Drive, Gainesville
- Rentals.portroyalerental.com | 770-887-5715
Aqua Sports Adventures
This outfitter is located at Holiday Marina on the south end of Lake Lanier and offers pontoon and ski boat rentals along with water toy accessories.
- 6900 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford
- Aquasportsadventures.com | 770-932-3366
This marina offers pontoon and tritoon boats for rent just west of the city of Gainesville. Reservations are highly recommended during peak summer months.
- 2145 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville
- www.gainesvillemarina.com | 770-536-2171