Land-locked Atlantans know how to survive the sweltering summer months. If we’re not at the beach, we keep our cool by hitting one of the local lakes. Buzzing with boats or small and secluded—suit up for a swim at one of these splash worthy spots.

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Lake Lanier
Located just 45 minutes up Interstate 85 from Atlanta, Lake Lanier is one of the closest lakes to most people’s front doors. It is also one of the largest lakes near Atlanta, and the busiest. But busy isn’t always bad, as the powers-that-be saw the potential in all those visitors and created Lake Lanier Islands Resorts. Head there for a big time (and a big admission ticket, and big crowds) at the water park, amusement park, and restaurants, or skip the party and find a cove to claim as your own for the day. Boats are available to rent, or you could get your toes wet along the shore at the brand new Don Carter State Park, which has hiking trails, a swimming beach, and playgrounds.

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Lake Oconee
If you’re looking for a little lake getaway with some panache, Lake Oconee is your best bet. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee delivers the dream of an American lake vacation with precision. All you have to do is have your car valet parked, check in, then check out in one of the lakeside hammocks, swings, infinity pool, or spa. Don’t miss the nightly s’mores, curated by a s’more-fessional. Not ready to foot the bill of the Ritz? Lake Oconee is also accessible through any of these parks and marinas.

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Lake Sinclair
Downstream from Oconee is the laid back Lake Sinclair. If you’re looking for an overnight stay, you’ll want to rent a house on VRBO, but if you’re just in the market for a big-city jailbreak, drive to Millidgeville or Eatonton and soak up some small town ambiance with your lake trip. While Oconee has the Ritz, Sinclair has Dukes Lounge. Rent a boat at one of the local marinas and head to Dukes for a new spin on boat-up drive-through. Move over, Chick-fil-A. There’s a new king in town.

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Lake Allatoona
Thirty minutes north on Interstate 75 lies Lake Allatoona, which serves as one of Atlanta’s main water reservoirs and recreational lakes. With much of its shoreline managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, Allatoona is a popular lake that still retains much of its natural beauty. Close to Atlanta and with multiple marinas, campsites, and recreational areas, you can easily make a day trip or turn it into a full weekend of freshwater fun.

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Lake Chatuge
With its shoreline part of the Nantahala National Forrest, Lake Chatuge is a far cry from busy Lake Lanier. Located in North Georgia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you won’t find any water parks or laser shows, but you will find quiet coves and uninhabited islands perfect for exploring. While it’s a doable drive from Atlanta (right at 2 hours), you may want to pack a bag and stay at the Ridges Resort and Marina. With a salt water pool, fire pits and s’mores at night, and a nearby marina where you can rent a boat for the duration of your stay, you’ll wonder why you ever went to the trouble of driving six hours to the beach.

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Which local lake do you love? Tell us in the comments section below!

—Shelley Massey

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Photos courtesy of the author and Lentini via Flickr Creative Commons, zachpendleton via Flickr Creative Commons, scostello22 via Flickr Creative Commons, and Tobyotter via Flickr Creative Commons.