Although there’s really no bad time to head to the lake, summer is prime swim season. And with a half-dozen or more lakes near Atlanta within an easy morning’s drive, you can live your best beach life without too much trouble. Trade your next trip to the splash park for an afternoon of boating, tubing, fishing and all around good times at one of our favorite swimming holes. Who says you need to have a friend with a cabin to enjoy the amenities of Atlanta’s best lakes. Here’s where to spend your next unplanned summer day.

Lake Lanier

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As one of the closest (and largest) lakes to Atlanta, Lake Lanier is a popular favorite with Atlanta families. It is also one of 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 to have an epic time at the water park, amusement park and restaurants (just expect crowds and an added price tag), or skip the party and find a quiet cove to claim as your own for the day. Boats are available to rent, or you and the kids could get your toes wet along the shore at Don Carter State Park, where you'll find everything you need to hike, swim and play the day away.

Drive time: About 1 hour

Lake Rabun

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Cradled in the hills of the North Georgia Mountains, Lake Rabun is an 835-acre stocked lake and a great place to spend time fishing, camping and hiking (hint: don't miss a trip to Angel Falls when you're there). For water activities, lake homes often have two-story boat houses, perfect for passing the time if you're able to VRBO one or are lucky enough to have a friend with one. If not, no problem. There are 80 tent and trailer campsites and a developed recreation area that's perfect for a picnic and a splash.

Drive time: Just under 2 hours

Lake Oconee

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If you’re looking for a lake getaway with panache, Lake Oconee is your best bet. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee delivers the dream of an American lake vacation with precision. It's as simple as checking in, then checking out in one of the lakeside hammocks, swings, infinity pool or the spa. Don’t miss the nightly s’mores, curated by a s’more-fessional. Families can also enjoy all that Lake Oconee has to offer through any of these parks and marinas.

Drive time: Just over 1 hour

Lake Sinclair

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Downstream from Oconee is the laid back Lake Sinclair. The perfect destination for a big city break, this low-key lake is known for Dukes Lounge, offering curbside and lakeside service. Rent a boat at one of the local marinas and head to Dukes for waterside service. Move over, Chick-fil-A. There’s a new king in town.

Drive time: About 90 minutes

Lake Allatoona

All it takes is thirty minutes on the interstate to get to Lake Allatoona, 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 its natural beauty. Close to Atlanta and with multiple marinas, campsites and recreational areas, families can easily make this lake destination a day trip or turn it into a full weekend of freshwater fun.

Drive time: About 45 minutes

Lake Chatuge

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With its shoreline part of the Nantahala National Forest, 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 (clocking in around two hours), you may want to pack a bag and stay at the Ridges Resort and Marina. With a salt water pool, fire pits with 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.

Drive time: Just over 2 hours

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