There is nothing quite like watching the sun fall into slumber over the water on Lake Sinclair, changing from bright yellow to a soft golden, it’s reflection rippling in the calm waters. Even the occasional fish jumps up to see the show.
With 15,330 acres of sparkling water against the backdrop of the Oconee National Forest, Lake Sinclair just outside Milledgeville in central Georgia, less than two hours from Atlanta is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.
Lake Sinclair is a man-made lake that was created when the Oconee River was dammed by Georgia Power. You won’t find any big hotels or resort along it’s 417 miles of easy-going shoreline.
What you will find is affordable accommodations, great fishing (including some well-known fishing tournaments), recreation areas with picnic tables and public boat ramps, plus miles of shoreline waiting for the nature lover to discover.
Here are some of our favorite reasons to plan a visit to this more casual cousin of nearby Lake Oconee. Plus a few reasons to explore off the water too.
Lake Sinclair +17 More Reasons Nature-Lovers Should Visit Milledgeville
Boating on Lake Sinclair. With a maximum depth of approximately 90 feet, you’ll find all kinds of boats on Lake Sinclair, from the early morning fishing boats to pontoons, ski boats, jet skis, kayaks, and even sail boats.
Boat Ramps. There are several places to put your boat in on Lake Sinclair. Haslam’s, Twin Bridges, Sunset Marina, Bass Boat House, and Sinclair Marina all have boat ramps, plus everything you need for a great day on the water. Little River Park Campground, the Lake Sinclair recreation area, and Rocky Creek all have minimalist boat ramps that are great for kayaks or smaller crafts (plus easy parking – booyah).
Boat Rentals. Sinclair Marina, the oldest marina on the lake, recently completed a dramatic renovation and now bills itself as the newest marina on the lake. If you want to rent a boat for your stay, this is the place to do it.
Tubing.Ski.Wakeboard. My son’s summer bucket list has included tubing on the lake since he was about 4 years old. If you don’t have a ski boat, Twin Lakes rents ski boats (and jet skis).
Jet Ski. My older teens love flying across the water on jet skis. There are a couple of places to rent Jet Ski’s on Lake Sinclair. Jere Shai Lakeside and Twin Lakes are two. Note: You must be 18 to rent a jet ski.
Kayak. Lake Sinclair has lots of tentacles spreading out from the main lake. Rent a kayak from Krazy Daves or Oconee Outfitters, and explore the hidden coves.
Swimming. The best swimming spots on Lake Sinclair are at Rocky Creek and the sand bar. The sand bar can be found just off the airport peninsula. If you are lucky, you’ll see a plane overhead while you bask in the sun.
Dockside Dining. There is something special about arriving at a restaurant by boat. Two local favorites located on the water with convenient boat access are The Grill at Crooked Creek, and Dukes Lounge & Dawg House, a local honky tonk with pool tables and a stage for live music.
Aubri Lanes is also worth mentioning. With views of Lake Sinclair from the deck, Aubri Lanes chef-inspired dishes include award-winning seafood and local favorites like the bone-in pork chop and hand-cut rib eye. Looking for a special evening out? This is the place.
Fishing. Lake Sinclair is known for its fishing. You can find large, small and stripped bass; channel, flathead and blue catfish; as well as crappie. The lake is stocked and Georgia power also plants fish attractors. Here is a map to where to find the fish. If you are in need of supplies, try the Tackle Box on N. Columbia Street or Lakeside Bait & Tacke on Milledgeville Hwy.
Fishing Tournaments. Don’t let the big one get away. Lake Sinclair has several fishing tournaments to prove your catches aren’t just fish tales. Little River Park has a page with a list of upcoming tournaments.
More Nature Loving Fun in Milledgeville
Hiking. Lots of options here. Bartram Forest, is 1,343-acre wildlife management area around Lake Sinclair.View the wildlife and wetlands through three looping trials perfect for walking or biking. Another option is walking the Oconee River Greenway. Along the way stop to fish, launch a canoe, or watch for wildlife. Lake Sinclair is also just west of the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. Get lost exploring 50 miles of hiking trails in this 35,000 acre refuge.
Take a Drive. If you’d rather not hike through the forest, take the car on the six mile Wildlife Drive at nearby Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. There are numerous overlooks to stop for a family selfie.
Wildlife Watching. With the Bartram Forest, the Oconee River Greenway, Lake Sinclair, and the nearby wildlife refuge, you are sure to see some animals on your visit. Watch for deer, turkey, raccoons and other small creatures.
Bird Watching. The area around Lake Sinclair offers excellent birding. On the lake, you may find heron and osprey, in the forests surrounding the lake look for a Red-cockaded woodpecker, which is especially prevalent in the spring. There have even been sightings of bald eagles nesting along the lake.
Look for Butterflies. Engage the family in a natural treasure hunt. See how may of the 92 species of butterflies that inhabit the area your family can find. Here is a list of the types butterflies you are looking to find.
Explore the Rivers. Rent a kayak and head out on the river.
The Upper Oconee is great for teens. It goes from the Sinclair dam to the Milledgeville Greenway and includes a class II rapid at the end.
The Lower Oconee is better for families with younger children. It has lots of sand bars to take a break from paddling, and good picnic stops.
Full Moon Paddles. For something a little out of the ordinary, book a special kayak trip with Oconee Outfitters. In addition to full moon paddles, they also offer ladies-only, meteor show paddles and kayak fishing trips. Put me down for the meteor paddle.
Picnic. There are several day use areas near Lake Sinclair. One of our favorites is Rocky Creek Park which has grills, picnic tables and a playground.
Frolick Among the Trees. The Lockerly Arboretum is 50 beautiful acres of shrubbery, trees, camellias, conifers and more. The gardens are free to roam, and this is another great place for a picnic. Rose Hill, a Greek Revival house on the property, is available for touring for a nominal fee.
Travel Through History. Walk or bike the Milledegville section of the breathtaking Antebellum trail for a fun day off the water. The entire trail is 170 miles and stretches from Macon to Athens, but one of the prettiest parts goes right through Milledgeville. Stop along the way to see the historic Governor’s Mansion, or take a break for a sweet treat. We suggest a smiley faced frosted cookie from Ryal’s Bakery on Wayne Street, or a frosty ice cream from SweeTreats.
Mountain Biking. Whether this is your first outing or you are an old pro, Bartram Forest has a mountain bike trail for you. The Green trail is super easy, but by no means boring. There are also trails for intermediate and advanced cyclers. And once you’ve built up a sweat, head back to the lake for a dip.
Biking. If you aren’t up for off road biking, try the Oconee River Greenway. There are two small paved loops from .5 – 1.5 miles in length. The perfect distance for kids to bike, and it’s all within easy viewing distance of the Oconee River.
Hit the Links. Gorgeous lake views are also available on the links at The Club @Lake Sinclair. Afterwards, be sure to get a meal at Aubri Lanes, one of the best restaurants in Milledgeville.
Set the Stage for Awesome Ghost Stories. And if you want something totally unique, we have just the thing.
Central State Hospital in Milledgeville was Georgia’s first public psychiatric hospital. It’s closed now, but you can book a tour through the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority.
Believe it or not, that’s not the creepiest part. For something really macabre, visit Cedar Lane Cemetery, where you’ll find rows and rows of numbered iron markers, instead of grave stones. The markers commemorate more than 25,000 individuals who died while patients at the Central State Hospital and were buried on the grounds.
Camping and other Accommodations on Lake Sinclair
Little River Park Campground. Book early for one of the 39 waterfront camp sites, or if you want the one cabin for rent. Bring the boat too, there are three boat ramps and 70 wet storage slips. Or come for the day and picnic on the beach. They also have a playground for the kids.
Lake Sinclair Recreational Area. This is another great option for families who want to camp. There is also a day use area with picnic tables, beach access and a boat ramp.
Scenic Mountain. Situated on 122 acres of beautiful land, this lake-side RV and campground has it all plus fabulous views. By all we mean a fenced dog run, pavilion, nature trails, bike trails AND five fishing ponds.
Jere Shai Lakeside. We like Jere Shai Lakeside because not only can you rent a 1, 2, or 3 bedroom cabin, but you can also reserve a pontoon boat or jet ski on site.
Home Rentals. The most popular way to stay on the lake (other than camping) is renting a home. For a larger group we like this ‘hidden cove’ that sleeps 6 and also has a deep water dock for the boat or swimming. For a less expensive option that still has a view of the lake (plus a jacuzzi on the deck) try this rental. Ahhhh.
Where to Eat Off Lake Sinclair
Aubri Lanes Restaurant. You don’t have to play golf to eat at Aubri Lanes, which recently relocated to Lake Sinclair. This is definitely the place for a romantic dinner.
Local Yokal. The place to go for breakfast or brunch. They have seven different eggs Benedict on the menu and it gets better from there.
Pickle Barrel. This local favorite is often overlooked by visitors because it isn’t in town or on the lake, but rather in-between. Don’t let the location deter you, it’s worth the detour.
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