Lake Martin Alabama: 19+ Best Ways To Enjoy the Freshwater Coast

For outdoor lovers, Lake Martin, Alabama, has it all. With almost 900 miles of pristine shoreline and more than 40,000 acres of stunning views, it’s no wonder Lake Martin is known as Alabama’s Freshwater Coast.

You’ll find water activities galore, awesome hiking trails, fabulous restaurants, and stunning views everywhere you look. Lake Martin in Alabama is the perfect place to relax, unwind, and enjoy fun times with family and friends.

The best part?  Lake Martin is located just over the Georgia border!  Just a 2-hour drive from Atlanta, you don’t have to go far to get to this awesome Alabama locale. We were able to spend a weekend there, and we’ve got everything you need to know to make the best of your Lake Martin, Alabama, vacation! 

Lake Martin Alabama: 19+ Best Ways To Enjoy the Freshwater Coast

LAKE MARTIN ALABAMA

Lake Martin is one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States and it’s a popular place for all sorts of outdoor recreation. Once you see it, you’ll understand why! The lake is located in Tallapoosa, Elmore, and Coosa counties in Alabama.

Lake Martin is a reservoir that was formed by the construction of the Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River. The Martin Dam powerhouse is used by the Alabama Power Company to generate hydroelectric power. Construction on Martin Dam was completed in 1926, creating what was — at the time — the largest man-made body of water in the world!

Lake Martin was originally known as Cherokee Bluffs for the geological formation upon which it was built, but the dam was renamed in 1936 in honor of Thomas Martin, the then-president of Alabama Power Company.

The area hosts many events throughout the year, including fishing tournaments, fireworks on July 4th, and the Alexander City Jazz Festival, held every year in downtown Alexander City. The Jazz Fest has rocked East Central Alabama with jazz, blues, and southern rock for the past 30 years.

And don’t get confused! Alabama has a lake of a similar name, the Logan Martin Lake on the Coosa River, but Lake Martin and Logan Martin Lake are actually not the same.

LAKE MARTIN ACTIVITIES

With more than 40,000 acres of beautiful water and almost 900 miles of shoreline, Lake Martin is a great place to spread out and relax.  Refreshingly uncrowded, Lake Martin has no shortage of things to see and do out on the water.

Cruise the water and see the sights, enjoy fishing, water sports, swimming, and visiting some of the must-do islands and hot spots.

One of the coolest things about Lake Martin is that in addition to water sports, there are awesome islands and beaches to enjoy.  These islands and hot spots are must-dos to get the most out of your day on the water. There are awesomely themed islands, snack stops, rock jumps – and so much more!

CHIMNEY ROCK

Calling all thrill seekers!  Ready to take the plunge?  (Into Lake Martin, of course!)  Head on over to Chimney Rock and take the 60-foot leap into the water.

This area was the Tallapoosa River gorge before Martin Dam was built, and the water is really deep here, so it’s perfect for a jump. There is a rope to help you climb up, and we even saw some younger kids taking the leap from a little lower (and closer) to the water.

The lake has several landmarks, such as the Kowaliga Bridge, but perhaps the most recognized landmark on the lake is Chimney Rock, a large rock formation that resembles a chimney. Chimney Rock is located several hundred yards away; the formation that most people call Chimney Rock is actually Acapulco Rock.

No matter what you call it, we call it fun!  It’s a must-do while here, so make sure your bathing suit is tied tight, and enjoy the adventure. 

HANK WILLIAMS CABIN

Want to stay in a little piece of history?  Or maybe just see it from the water?  Make sure to make a stop at Hank Williams Cabin – which is part of the Children’s Harbor grounds.

Hank Williams stayed at this cabin for a few days back in 1952, and while there – he wrote his famous song, Kowaliga.  You can now stay in the cabin, which still looks much the way it did back then.

The proceeds from renting the cabin help Children’s Harbor, which is a camp for sick and disabled children and their families.  A neat piece of history and a great cause, make this one amazing rental!

PIRATE ISLAND AND PEANUT POINT

Arrrrgh you ready for some pirates?!

Pirate Island is a small island that residents have decorated with a pirate theme!  Just swing on by and see the skeletons, Jolly Roger flag, treasure chests, cannons, and more.  We didn’t tell our kids about it ahead of time, so they were thrilled to “discover” it!

And in the summer months, make a stop at Peanut Point and grab a snack to enjoy on the water.  Beginning Memorial Day weekend, pull up in your boat and buy some boiled peanuts!  You won’t be sorry.

LAKE MARTIN BOAT TOURS

Lake Martin is huge!  And beautiful!  And filled with fun places!  The best way to see it all is with a boat tour from Lake Martin Tours.

The tour guides with Lake Martin Tours are knowledgeable and will make your lake experience a memorable one.  We were able to spend the day on the water with Art, and I can honestly say – we learned and saw SO much – it was amazing!  It was so great to just be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the lake without worrying about anything.

Our tour guide was able to tell us all about the lake, its history, show us some of the spectacular homes that line the shores, and just generally give us the scoop on all things Lake Martin! Such beautiful real estate.

Lake Martin Tours offers a few different options, so you can pick what works best for your group.  They offer your choice of a 3-hour public or private Landmark Tour, where your guide will take you to all the major hot spots – like Chimney Rock and Goat Island.  You can also include a stop at a restaurant for lunch if you’d like.

Their Sunset Tours are also 3 hours, and you can choose a private or public pontoon boat ride.  The sunsets on Lake Martin are spectacular!   A dinner stop at a waterfront restaurant can also be added here.

And if you’re in town during July 4th, they also offer a special July 4th Tour – so you can enjoy the fireworks from the water.

All of the tours include non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, gas, and operational costs.

MARINAS

Remember how I said Lake Martin was huge?  Well, they have 14 full-service marinas to prove it.

Russell Marine offers four full-service marinas owned and operated by Russell Lands – The Ridge, Kowaliga, River North, and Real Island marinas are all located along the shores of Lake Martin and offer everything you need to get out on the water.

You’ll also find Anchor Bay, Blue Creek, Chuck’s, Harbor Point, Lakeside, and Lakeside at Bay Pines marinas too.  Rent boats, watercraft, stock up on snacks and equipment and more!

WIND CREEK STATE PARK

I consider myself a state park connoisseur, so when I say that Wind Creek State Park is spectacular – I mean it! I’ve never seen a state park that had so much to do.  It felt more like a resort than a state park!

Wind Creek State Park is located right along the shores of Lake Martin, is the public’s access to the lake, and is a whopping 1,444 acres.  With hundreds of campsites, beaches, fishing, birding, and activities galore, you will need to spend a week here to get it all done.

CAMPING AND CABINS AT WIND CREEK

With an impressive 586 campsites, 20 equestrian campsites, and 7 camper cabins – this place is ready to host you and your crew!

We stayed in one of the camper cabins while we were visiting, and it was amazing!  The camper cabins include a porch that overlooks the lake, two sets of bunk beds, a pull-out sofa, a kitchen with a mini-fridge, a private bathroom, A/C, picnic tables, and a fire pit and grill.  It has everything you need!

The views were seriously amazing from the back porch, and we had a dock for boats basically right outside our door.  A family of geese even came by for a visit! 

Now, let’s talk about campsites. Whether you’re looking for tent sites, RV sites, or waterfront sites – they’ve got it!  They’ve got 102 30-amp waterfront campsites, 18 30-amp sewer waterfront campsites, 211 30-amp sewer campsites, and 216 30-amp base campsites.

In addition to the above campsite options, they also have 39 premium campsites, which include amenities such as water, sewer 50/30/20 amp electrical, waterfront access, and TV service.

They also have an area for equestrian campsites, that are first-come, first-serve.  These 20 sites all have 30-amp electrical and water service.

Throughout the camping areas, you’ll find bathhouses and some awesome playgrounds.  Our kids absolutely loved the huge playground near Campsite Section C.  They were showing an outdoor movie (free) at the ballfield right next to the playground, so it was a happening, awesome spot.

WIND CREEK ACTIVITIES

Wind Creek State Park isn’t just a place to sleep – this Alabama state park is full of fun activities!  At Wind Creek you’ll find swimming, fishing, boating, kid’s activities, mini golf, archery, horseback riding, playgrounds, ziplining, and…silo climbing!  (If you ask me, there aren’t nearly enough silos to climb, so this is a real treat!)

  • Ziplining. Ziplining at Wind Creek is awesome, because you can experience amazing lake views from a completely new perspective. The ziplining is done by Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures, which is a subsidiary of Historic Banning Mills.  The guides here were awesome, super knowledgeable, and made the whole experience really fun. This adventure is for ages 8+, and a minimum weight of 60 pounds. (Max weights are 250 for women, and 285 for men.)
  • Climb the Silo. Wind Creek is known for its silo – which was originally built as a grain silo by a local farmer in 1915.  Now it has a spiral staircase on the side, so you can climb to the top and take in the beautiful views of the lake.
  • Swimming. The swimming beach offers picnic tables, plenty of beach area, restrooms, grills, and pavilions.  And, most impressive to me was — they had air for your pool floats!  Oh my gosh, it’s a parents’ dream amenity. When I asked my kids after our trip what their favorite part was, they both said it was the swimming beach.  Highly recommend.

MORE ACTIVITIES AT WIND CREEK

Looking for even more ways to fill your days at Wind Creek?  They’ve got more!

  • Horseback Riding. Try horseback riding with Rockin’ K around the park.  Choose from a 1-hour or 2-hour guided trail ride for groups of up to four riders. (For ages 8+.)
  • Golf. Practice your golfing skills on the putt-putt golf course. This fun mini golf course features 18 holes that are themed after local area attractions! 
  • Archery Range. You’ll even find an archery range at Wind Creek State Park for target and field pointed arrows.
  • Catch a Fish. Fishing is the name of the game at Wind Creek, and you’ll find a 210-foot fishing pier that’s opened 24 hours here.  Live bait and tackle are sold at the store marina, along with hunting and fishing licenses.  While we were visiting, everywhere we looked, there were people fishing! 
  • Rent a Boat. Wind Creek State Park also has its own marina and boat rentals.  They offer johnboats for fishing – with or without an engine – for rent.  They also rent pontoon boats so you and your crew can explore the lake.  Boat rentals are first come, first serve.

LAKE MARTIN AREA ACTIVITIES

With horseback riding, awesome hiking trails, and an awesome nearby national park – there is plenty to do in the surrounding area too!

RUSSELL CROSSROADS

Russell Crossroads is an awesome community hub – a place where residents and visitors can gather.  The scenery here is amazing, and it’s worth the visit just to stroll the cobblestone streets while looking over the beautiful rolling hills. 

You’ll find amazing restaurants – like Catherine’s Market and Café where you can buy specialty foods, and grab homemade sandwiches and soups.  The sandwiches at Catherine’s were so good!  You can also experience fine dining at SpringHouse.

Amazing activities abound here too.  Enjoy canoe and kayak rentals, see a blacksmith or wildlife demonstration, go hiking on their nearly 100 miles of trails, enjoy a picnic on the Town Green, or take a horseback ride and explore the Russell Forest Trail System.

While I was visiting, I took a horseback ride so I could explore some of the trail systems, and I cannot recommend it enough!  The horses were so beautiful and gentle, the guides really helpful, and the ride through the forest and around the lake opened up to spectacular views.  They even take pictures of you on your horse along the way and email them to you. 

HIKING

Hiking here is so important, and the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association (CRATA) works hard to keep the trails kept up and beautiful.  They work to promote and preserve nature, and they really do an amazing job.  (It’s obvious as soon as you hike on one of their trails.)

We hiked the Smith Mountain Fire Tower Trail, which was so awesome.  This hike was a highlight of the trip for us.  This trail was beautiful – we hiked it in early May, and the Mountain Laurel was blooming, and everywhere you looked was either pink flowers, huge rocks, or the lake.  Amazing!

After the short (but steep) hike up, we reached the actual fire tower.  *You* can climb it – but I was chicken and only made it up a few flights.  But, lucky for me – there was plenty to see, do and explore all around the base.  And the views (even from the bottom!) were still great.

Looking for a super scenic trail?  Try the Deadening Alpine Trail, a 4.2-mile loop with views of Lake Martin.  You’ll hike along the cliffs of the Tallapoosa River, the Needles Eye, and Jasmine Bluff, which is why this hike isn’t recommended for children under 12.  Those cliff drops can be a bit scary.  But when you’re ready, this trail’s views cannot be beaten.

More information about local trails can be here.

PIEDMONT PLATEAU BIRDING TRAIL

Calling all bird lovers! With over 430 bird species documented in Alabama, there’s more to see here — including Bald Eagles! The shores of Lake Martin are part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail, which is part of a trail series that was 10 years in the making.

The system of eight trails — with 280 stops — highlights the best public locations to watch birds year-round, and Lake Martin is included. The Piedmont Plateau region, of which Lake Martin is a part, features 40 stops.

Bald Eagles are regularly spotted over the lake, and Wild Turkeys are abundant in the lush hardwood forests that surround the trail. You may also spot other traditional woodland birds. (We saw both eagles and turkeys during our quick weekend visit!)

HORSESHOE NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK

While you’re in town, you must make a stop at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.  Just 15 minutes from Lake Martin, this park is full of history.

Horseshoe Bend is the where Major General Andrew Jackson’s army attacked Chief Menawa’s Red Stick Creek warriors in 1814.  The Red Sticks were fortified in a horseshoe-shaped bend of the Tallapoosa River.  Jackson’s army won, and the battle ended the Creek War – leading to Jackson’s popularity, and eventually helping him win the presidency. 

This park is full of information, an awesome Visitor’s Center, a driving tour, and a great Junior Ranger program for kids.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

DINING

With all the activities, you’re going to need some sustenance to make it through!  No worries, Lake Martin has plenty of amazing restaurants and yummy food.

  • Jake’s on Broad was one of our favorites – with awesome steaks and seafood, this place was delicious!  The fried green tomatoes were to die for.
  • Carlisle’s is a great lunch spot.  It’s an old-fashioned soda fountain that serves the best chicken salad.  They offer a few different versions – my husband was a big fan of their jalapeno chicken salad.
  • If you’re looking for the perfect lakeside eatery, then Kowaliga’s Restaurant is for you.  You’ll find southern comfort food, a great atmosphere, beautiful sunset views, and even a little beach area for the kids to play around on and see the turtles who swim up to say hello.
  • Looking for some delicious homemade pastries and muffins for breakfast?  You’ve got to head to Sweet Gaga’s.  A word of warning:  Your kids may eat the muffins in 10 seconds flat.

More restaurants and waterfront locales can be found here!

Lake Martin Alabama: 19+ Best Ways To Enjoy the Freshwater Coast

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Lake Martin Alabama: 19+ Best Ways To Enjoy the Freshwater Coast