15 Lake Lanier Attractions

Wave Pool at  Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, photograph from LanierIslands.com

One thing is certain: you cannot run out of fun things to do to keep everyone happy on your vacation to Lake Lanier.

In this chapter, we will introduce Lake Lanier’s most popular attractions.  We’ll cover the amenities of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, which is by far the best waterpark in Georgia — maybe even the best in the South.

There is no better way to get a feel for the inception of Lake Lanier than by visiting the Buford Dam.  We’ll include information about the walking trails near Buford Dam and where you can go to get the best views.

Or, perhaps when visiting Lake Lanier, you might like to launch a kayak from Lake Lanier Olympic Park and paddle around where the rowing events for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games took place.

Lake Lanier’s two newest attractions in Gainesville, Don Carter State Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville offer numerous points of interest, as well as many great educational events and programs.

After checking out Don Carter State Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville, an evening meal at one of Main Street Gainesville’s fantastic restaurants will make any Lake Lanier day complete.

Read on to find out more about each of these great Lake Lanier attractions.

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, photograph from LanierIslands.com

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands is the ultimate lakeside paradise where you can escape the everyday. Here, a diverse, entertainment complex awaits you – refreshed with the atmosphere of Margaritaville. You’ll find your favorite thrills and chills at the Water Park, on its beaches, on the water or while enjoying our lakefront recreation.

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands has restaurants, tiki bars, and walk-up food and drink concessions – all re-imagined putting you in that Margaritaville state of mind.   The marina, docks, boat rentals, sunset cruises, yacht charters and watersports are all now part of the Margaritaville at Lanier Islands experience.

Bands and entertainment are provided all summer long.  Check the events calendar at https://www.lanierislands.com/margaritaville/events/event-calendar for details.

The Shoal Creek campgrounds, as well as a luxury RV Resort, are part of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands. A Margaritaville Tram will transport you within this lakefront paradise, as you move between the campgrounds, lakefront attractions and the Legacy Lodge at Lanier Islands. Golf and spa services are also available.

Water Park Attractions

Whether you are a thrill-seeking, water-sliding, zip-lining adventurer or just visiting for a day of sun, swimming and relaxation, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands has something for everyone.  Hold on tight to your tube for the twists and turns of Typhoon & Twister, or dare to be different with the steep drops of Triple Threat and Intimidator.  Catch a wave on the rapids of Raging River or float on the wake in Wild Waves wave pool.  Blackout & Splash Down are sure to thrill, or race a friend down the Double Down side-by-side slides.

The Water Park has numerous attractions for kids and adults, including:

  • Family Fun Zone, featuring Wiggle Waves — the junior version of their Wild Waves wave pool — mini water slides that bring big-kid thrills, fun sprinkler features, and a sandy beach perfect for building sandcastles in paradise.
  • Thrilling water slides, consisting of Blackout, Twister, Double Down, Splash Down, CAT 4, Intimidator, Triple Threat, Typhoon
  • Wild Waves Wave Pool, Georgia’s largest wave pool
  • Raging River, replicating a ride down the rapids
  • Thunderbolt Triple Zip, taking you soaring over Paradise Beach suspended 50′ in the air

Paradise Beach

In the center of the Family Fun Park, thrilling slides and rides and the Chill Zone, Paradise Beach is the ultimate place for families to relax and enjoy life at the lake. You’ll enjoy good fun, delicious beach food, ice cream treats for the kids, frozen concoctions for Mom, ice-cold beer for Dad and music videos on a five-story outdoor screen. Rent an umbrella for shade or a cabana for added protection. Arrive by boat or car and stay the weekend!

LandShark Landing

With the new signature LandShark Bar & Grill, open year-round, the beach at the landing, live entertainment stage, new beachfront tiki bar, boat docks, beach volleyball, and fire pits – this is THE spot to live the Margaritaville lifestyle! Ideally set at the opposite end of the lake shore from Paradise Beach and the Family Fun Park, with easy access to the Chill Zone restaurants, LandShark Landing is Lake Lanier’s new adult playground!

Buford Dam

The Buford Dam is the reason Lake Lanier exists.  It was completed in 1956 to channel the water of the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers into a great reservoir, which was named Lake Lanier.  If you’d like to see Buford Dam, head to Buford Dam Park, Lower Overlook Park, or West Bank Park for a great view of the dam.

Lower Pool Park is located directly behind Buford Dam and is a popular park with canoe enthusiasts and kayakers who launch on the Chattahoochee.  It’s also a popular spot for fishermen.

We provide the address and phone numbers for these parks below.  For more information about park user fees, visit  http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Lake-Sidney-Lanier/Recreation/Day-Use/.

Buford Dam Park

Lower Overlook Park

Lower Pool Park

West Bank Park

You’ll be able to view the Dam from Laurel Ridge Trail and Buford Dam Trail.  Laurel Ridge Trail is a loop with great views of Buford Dam.

  • Buford Dam Trail:  1 mile trail through Lower Pool Park and below the Dam. Find the trailhead from Lower Pool Park.
  • Laurel Ridge Trail:  3.8 mile trail loop that takes you past the Buford Dam and a part of the Chestatee River and through Buford Dam Park, Lower Overlook Park and Upper Overlook Park.  Note: Unfortunately dogs are not permitted on this trail.

An easy place to access this trail is Lower Overlook Park, which doesn’t charge for parking.

Don Carter State Park

Don Carter State Park in Gainesville officially opened in 2013 and is Lanier’s only state park.  If you don’t have a Georgia State Park Annual Pass, there is a $5 parking fee.

This state park is situated on 1,316 acres and offers the following amenities:

  • 8 cottages
  • 44 RV camp sites
  • 12 primitive walk-in tent camp sites
  • 4 picnic shelters
  • 10.4 miles of shoreline
  • hiking trails
  • white-sanded beach
  • playgrounds
  • boat ramps
  • seasonal kayak, Stand Up Paddle-board and Aquacycle rentals
  • educational hikes and events throughout the year

Hiking Trails at Don Carter State Park

  • Woodland Loop:  1 mile, paved
  • Terrapin Cove Trail:  1 mile, natural
  • Overlook Trail:  1/8 mile, paved
  • Lakeview Loop Trail:  1/2 mile, paved
  • Huckleberry Trail:  3/4 mile, natural

Don Carter State Park has kayaks available to rent year-round and SUP (Stand Up Paddle-Boards) and Aquacycles available seasonally.  Make your reservation at the park’s Visitors Center.  Kayaks and SUPs are kept at the beach for easy launching.

  • Kayaks rent for 4 hours or 8 hours.
  • SUPs rent by the hour, or for 4 or 8 hour durations.
  • Aquacycles rent for 30 minutes or for 1 hour.

Contact Information for Don Carter State Park

Lake Lanier Olympic Park

Lake Lanier Olympic Park in Gainesville sits on the site where the rowing events for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games took place.

The park was rebranded in 2016 and includes a beach and picnic area, the Olympic Tower, the Boat House and Clarks Bridge Park.  Lake Lanier Olympic Park continues to host visitors from all over the world for races, regattas and training.

It is also home to the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club and the Lake Lanier Rowing Club.

  • Address: 3105 Clarks Bridge Road, Gainesville, GA 30506

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Gainesville opened in 2015.  It’s a satellite garden to the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is located adjacent to Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta.

The Gainesville garden property sits on 168 acres that were donated by Charles and Lessie Smithgall.  This second location of the Atlanta Botanical Garden features beautiful outdoor gardens, walking trails, a visitor center, a model train garden and an amphitheater.

Check out their website for upcoming exhibitions, programs (family and adult) and events.  Note: They are closed on Mondays.

Main Street Gainesville

Main Street Gainesville is a vibrant downtown situated very close to the shores of northern Lake Lanier.  If you are looking for a break from the lake, Main Street Gainesville is an excellent choice for grabbing a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.  The unusual restaurants and shopping make this a delightful location to while away your time off the lake.

Visit http://www.gainesville.org/main-street-gainesville for more information about Main Street Gainesville, Downtown Shopping and Downtown Dining.



The Lake Lanier Visitors Guide Copyright © 2020 by LakeLanier.com. All Rights Reserved.

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