Georgia’s Lake Country is made up of a dozen towns around lakes Oconee and Sinclair, including Greensboro, Madison, Eatonton, and Milledgeville. An hour from Atlanta, the lakes offer the ideal weekend getaway from the fast pace of the city.
Each small town has something different to offer and you’ll always find something to do. You can find award-winning golf courses, watersports, and hiking. Both lakes are manmade, created by Georgia Power in the 1970s from a dam project.
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The town of Eatonton was established in 1809 as the county seat of Putnam County. It was located on Creek territory and later became an important railroad stop for the route between Macon and Savannah.
What to Do
Alice Walker Driving Tour– Author of The Color Purple Alice Walker was born in Eatonton. Visitors can see her birthplace, childhood home, church, and where her parents were buried. Pick up the self-guided tour brochure at the visitor’s center. 305 North Madison Avenue
Georgia Writers Museum– This museum focuses on the region and state’s writers, including Walker, Harris, and O’Connor. It’s also home to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. 109 South Jefferson Avenue
Rock Eagle 4-H Center– The Rock Eagle Effigy Mound is a bird created from quartzite by Native Americans some 1,000 to 3,000 years ago. It is one of two of its kind east of the Mississippi River. The site is a 4-H Center, which educates visitors on the history of the area. Rock Hawk is another effigy nearby with surrounding trails. 350 Rock Eagle Road
Uncle Remus Museum– Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus books, was born in Eatonton. This museum dedicated to his life is made up of two former slave cabins. It has copies of the book translated into countless languages as well as information on Harris. 214 Oak Street
Where to Eat
Georgia Butts BBQ– For authentic Georgia barbecue with lakeside views, visit this restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Menu highlights include brisket, chicken wings, and pulled pork. 1137 Lake Oconee Parkway, (706) 474-0946
Tastee Chick- Visit this locally-owned chicken restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner. The menu includes wraps, hot dogs, and chicken wings. 812 Oak Street, (706) 485-9988
Pablo’s Tacos- Next door is this modest Mexican restaurant with tacos and rice bowls. 810 Oak Street, (706) 485-1116
Where to Stay
The Lodge On Lake Oconee Eatonton– The full-service hotel has both and king and queen beds and a pool, sauna, fitness center, and even boat docking. Guests have access to complimentary daily breakfast. 930 Lake Oconee Parkway
Rentals- Lakehouse rentals are also available on sites like Airbnb. This lakefront A-frame home in Eatonton and cottage with a dock are favorites. The Plantation is a luxury rental great for special events.
Named for Revolutionary War figure Nathanael Greene, Greensboro was established in 1803. It became known for cotton production and later textiles and garments. It was also home to one of the state’s oldest jails.
What to Do
Oconee Brewing Company– As the area’s first craft brewery, this place brews a diverse lineup including a saison, kolsch, and stouts. The brewery is open for tours and tastings every weekend. 202 N West Street
Old Gaol– Built in 1807, this jail is the oldest standing in the state, made with two-foot thick granite walls. The cells have no lights or windows and the gallows there were used for many years. It’s now a museum. N East Street
Durhamtown Off Road Resort– Set in nearby Union Point, this facility opened in 1991 with dirt bike and ATV rentals to navigate the over 6,000 acres. There’s also a restaurant, campsites, and cabins. 2350 Randolph Church Road #2016, Union Point
Golf- This area has many golf courses for visitors to enjoy. The Ritz Carlton has five of its own, featuring a TaylorMade pro shop. Cuscowilla also has a golf club as does The Club at Lake Sinclair.
Where to Eat
The Yesterday Cafe– This small town cafe is known for its world-famous buttermilk pie, which was served at the wedding of Carrie Underwood. If you’re not in the mood for sweets, try any of the delicious southern meals for lunch or dinner. 114 North Main Street, (706) 453-0800
Gaby’s By the Lake– Located at the Ritz Carlton, this lakeside restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining. The menu has favorites like fish tacos and burgers, along with local craft beer. 1 Lake Oconee Trail, (706) 467-0600
Lamai Ban Thai Kitchen– This authentic Thai restaurant is a surprise find in the Lake Country. But it’s the best place around for laab pork salads, duck curries, and other dishes. 4950 Carey Station Road, (706) 454-5999
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation– This property is the ultimate lakeside luxury accommodation. The resort has world-class golf courses, dining, and spa services. There are three in-house restaurants and countless activities for the kids. 1 Lake Oconee Trail
Tru By Hilton Greensboro Lake Oconee– Located near the highway, this hotel has amenities like a fitness center, free daily breakfast, and an outdoor pool. 1030 Hospitality Drive
Rentals- Check out the comfortable rentals on and near the lake, including this stylish Greensboro home with lake access.
The town of Madison was named for James Madison and was a stagecoach stop between Charleston and New Orleans. It has one of the largest historic districts in the state, especially its antebellum homes.
What to Do
Madison-Morgan Cultural Center– The Romanesque Revival building was the first graded schoolhouse in the Southeast and now is home to a museum representing the South through the years. There are also restored classrooms, parlors, and the theatre. 434 South Main Street
Morgan County African-American Museum– Set in the circa 1895 Horace Moore House, this museum tells the important stories of the county’s African-American culture. 156 Academy Street
Historic homes– Madison’s historic buildings are open for tours, including the Rogers House and Rose Cottage. Others are open through seasonal events. 277 South Main Street
Steffen Thomas Museum of Art– Located in nearby Buckhead, this small town museum has an incredible collection of works by its namesake artist. 4200 Bethany Road, Buckhead
Where to Eat
Amici Italian Cafe– This casual Italian joint is a local chain offering fresh pizza and sandwiches. The original location opened in 1993 and has become a family favorite in “America’s favorite small town.” 113 South Main Street, (706) 342-0000
Farmview Market– For farm-fresh produce and ingredients, visit this market that also sells artisan sandwiches and ice cream. The market also offers classes and events. 2610 Eatonton Road, (844) 210-7030
Town 220 Restaurant– The area’s best restaurant is in Madison, offering steaks, seafood, and pasta. Chow down on fried green tomatoes, Vidalia onion soup, and filet mignon. 220 West Washington Street, (706) 752-1445
Where to Stay
Brady Inn– This 1885 Victorian bed and breakfast has seven bedrooms with all the necessary amenities and comes recommended by Southern Living. It’s only one block from the restaurants of Main Street. 250 North 2nd Street, Madison
The James Madison Inn– The bed and breakfast features 17 unique rooms and two suites with art and furnishings from local artists. Rooms have books from local authors, king-sized beds, and rain showers. 260 West Washington Street, Madison
Hampton Inn Madison– Close to the highway, this chain hotel has all the amenities you could want, including free daily breakfast, high-speed WiFi, and an outdoor pool. 2012 Eatonton Road
Southern Cross Guest Ranch– Experience the dude ranch atmosphere with horseback riding and rustic accommodations. 1670 Bethany Church Road
Camping- Visitors can stay at nearby Hard Labor Creek State Park, which has RV and tent campsites along with cottages and horse campgrounds.
Founded in 1803, Milledgeville was the state capital during the Civil War. It was the site of a visit by the Marquis de Lafayette. A college was established after the Civil War that still exists today.
What to Do
Andalusia Farm– Writer Flannery O’Connor lived here with her mother at the end of her life as she struggled with lupus. On the family farm are her beloved peafowl, as well as many of her belongings. It was in this home that she wrote Wise Blood. 2628 North Columbia Street off US 441
Central State Hospital– Take a self-guided driving tour or a monthly trolley tour of what was once Georgia’s largest mental institution, established in the 1800s. 620 Broad Street
Lockerly Arboretum– The Southern Greek Revival plantation is the centerpiece of the Lockerly Arboretum, which has acres of stunning gardens. The home, built in 1839, has self-guided tours. 1534 Irwinton Highway
Old Governor’s Mansion– The old Governor’s Mansion in the former capital of Milledgeville offers visitors a look into the home of the state’s leader during the Civil War. General Sherman once slept here and it became a college dormitory and staff housing before being turned into a museum. 120 South Clark Street
Where to Eat
Aubri Lane’s– Open since 2008, this restaurant is now located at the Club at Lake Sinclair. It features Southern favorites like the “hot damn” shrimp, buttermilk fried chicken, and cheese grits. 3700 Sinclair Dam Road NE, (478) 454-4181
The Brick– Every college town needs a sports bar and The Brick is Milledgeville’s. Try the wings, massive sandwiches or classic pizzas. Wash it down with one of their seasonal draft beer selections. 136 West Hancock Street, (478) 452-0089
Blackbird Coffee– Grab your daily jolt along with sandwiches and biscuits at this student favorite. Their coffee is roasted in-house daily. 114 West Hancock Street, (478) 454-2473
Stacked Sandwiches & More– The college crowd loves this deli for its soups, salads, and sandwiches. Try the Wicked BLT, tomato basil bisque, and veggie flatbread. 1827 N Columbia Street, (478) 414-4348
Where to Stay
Soho Lofts– The funky lofts above downtown businesses feature stylish decor and exposed brick walls in four suites. Each comes with a television, WiFi, full kitchens, and private bathrooms. 107 South Wayne Street
Fairfield Inn & Suites Milledgeville– Set a short drive from downtown, this chain hotel has free daily breakfast, WiFi, and a fitness center. 2461 North Columbia Street
Camping- If you’re traveling with an RV or tent, the Little River Park Campground & Marina in Milledgeville is recommended.
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I was a guest of Georgia’s Lake Country as a part of the Georgia Travel Media Marketplace and later hosted at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee but all opinions are my own.