No boat? No problem! Get on the water with a Lake Lanier boat rental!
From in-depth insiders’ tips to a quick reference guide, we’ve got the scoop on which boats you can rent, where to rent them, what you’ll need, and why Lake Lanier is a grownups’ boating paradise.
By Jill Gleeson
If you want to spend a day on the lake in Georgia, Lake Lanier boat rental options have you covered. From pontoons to jet skis, luxury yachts to speed boats, Lake Lanier boat rental companies can help you realize your waking needs and dreams.
Located about 45 minutes north of Atlanta, Lake Lanier offers some of the best opportunities for boating in the United States, with 13 marinas servicing almost 58 square miles of water and more than 700 miles of stunning shoreline. If you’re not lucky enough to live on Lake Lanier and/or own a watercraft, a wide range of Lake Lanier boat rental options is available whether you’re staying at the luxury resort Lanier Islands, roughing it at a nearby campground, or just want to spend a day on the water.
The chance to rent a watercraft with no muss and fuss must be part of what brings some 12 million visitors a year to Lake Lanier. According to Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc., boating on Lanier really gets started in late March or early April, and runs through October if the weather stays warm. Lake Lanier offers two distinct personalities in its northern and southern regions, she notes.
“The lake is long and narrow,” says Dickson. “The upper part, where the Chattahoochee River feeds into where the lake was dammed, is quieter and more residential—people can fly fish in the upper part of the Chattahoochee. You’ll find kayakers and paddle boarders and canoers and things like that, plus fishing spots. There are different depths of water at different places, so depending on what you’re fishing for—brim, crappie, largemouth bass, or striped bass—you have to use experience and technology to decide where you are going to go.” (In the mood for some trout fishing? Check out this article on fishing line for trout.)
Friendly is exactly the word Dickson uses to describe the feel of Lake Lanier and why it’s so special. “The whole southern hospitality, the spirit of people on the lake that enjoy the outdoors and have fun is very universal,” she says. “If someone runs out of gas on their boat, people come to tow them to the next gas station. Or, if someone asks, ‘Where’s a good place to anchor?’ they help each other and share information. The hospitality factor makes visiting our lake different from others.”
Whether you’re renting a pontoon boat or own one of the large cabin cruisers that call the deep water of Lanier home, one of the pleasures of boating on it are the hundreds of coves etched into its shoreline. Dickson calls the LandShark Landing area (formerly known as Sunset Cove) “probably the biggest and most popular cove. On a holiday weekend that’ll have 300 boats tied up or docked together.” LandShark Landing is located on the lake’s south end, near Margaritaville at Lanier Islands. Lanier Islands offers Legacy Lodge, villas and other accommodations, while Margaritaville features a water park, beach, restaurants, courtesy docks and boat rentals.
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
Margaritaville boasts about 25 boats in its rental fleet, which can be rented for a few hours to all day. The company does not allow overnight rentals, and currently, to comply with CDC and State of Georgia social distancing guidelines, rentals are limited to 10 passengers per boat. Renters must be 21 or older with a valid driver’s license and credit card as well as watch a short boating safety video before leaving the dock. Anyone driving the boat must be 18 or older, with a valid driver’s license.
If you’re thinking of renting a boat at Margaritaville, Maggie Garcia, spokesperson for Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, says, “Weekends tend to be busy; we recommend reserving two weeks in advance. We recommend five days in advance for weekdays. But we do allow walk-ins if we have something available.”
Boats include 24-foot, 25 horsepower standard pontoons, which can carry eight passengers comfortably. In-season pricing from April 1 to September 30 begins at $150 for two hours on a weekday. The 30-foot Picnic Pontoons, which normally carry 16 passengers and feature a bathroom, are priced year-round beginning at $400 for all-day weekday rentals. The 36-foot, 150-horsepower double-decker Party Barge, with a non-social distancing passenger capacity of 20 and two slides, begins at $400 for in-season, weekday rentals for four hours.
Margaritaville also rents tritoons, which feature three aluminum tubes beneath the deck to distribute weight more evenly than a pontoon, which offers two. In-season pricing on a weekday starts at $235 for a two-hour rental of the 22-foot, 115 horsepower Platinum Tritoon and $285 for the 24-foot, 150 horsepower Gold Tritoon. For four hours in-season on a weekday, the 25-foot, 115 horsepower Diamond Tritoon rents for $370, the 25-foot 150 horsepower Diamond Plus for $420 and the 28-foot 150 horsepower Catalina Tritoon for $490. “Our most popular are the platinum tritoons,” Garcia says. “They are the most budget friendly.”
Lake Lanier Port Royale Marina
This friendly vibe continues as you head north from the more developed and rowdy southern section of the lake. There are still plenty of fun spots for boaters to visit along the way, including Pelican Pete’s Floating Tiki Bar & Restaurant, the only floating eatery on Lanier. It’s located at Port Royale Marina, which rents everything from zippy WaveRunner jet skis (priced at $249 for a half-day (four hour) rental) to 40-foot Island Voyager boats (which rent for a full day (eight hours) at $759). The marina’s other rental watercraft include 18-foot runabout speedboats; 20-foot deckboats; 20-foot and 25-foot pontoons; 32-foot MegaCruisers; and 35-foot Destination Yachts.
Port Royale Marina’s non-fiberglass boats—including the pontoons, MegaCruisers, Destination Yachts and Island Voyagers—can be rented for four, eight and 24 hours, while runabouts, deck boats and WaveRunners can only be rented for four and eight hours. Depending on availability, some boats may be rented by walk-up, “typically,” says Amy Looby, marketing director of T.E.I. Industries, which owns Port Royale Marina, “on non-holiday Mondays through Thursdays.” Otherwise, she recommends customers reserve watercraft “a week in advance…for holiday reservations a month or more is best.”
According to Looby, the marina’s most popular rentals are the 20-foot and 25-foot pontoons, deck boats, and Destination Yachts. Like Margaritaville, Port Royale also rents single and double tubes, as well as waterskis, wakeboards and kneeboards for extra fun in the sun. Boat renters are required to take a short online boater’s safety course and, Looby adds, for anyone still feeling nervous, “Our trained dockhands will go over the boat with you, as well as safety, maneuvering, and navigation, and answer any and all questions you may have.”
Whether you’re playing hard at the south end of Lanier or indulging in quieter pleasures up the north, while boating you’ll want to keep an eye out for the lake’s wildlife, which call both the water and the land surrounding it home. On the southern end of Lanier, around Buford Dam, bald eagles can be spotted soaring high above the area’s thick Georgia pine and azalea. The well-named Osprey Island—where boaters can day camp and picnic—is home to the large raptors and their massive nests. In addition, Dickson says, visitors might see “beaver, groundhog, deer and all the other Snow White and Bambi-type creatures. If it’s in a Disney cartoon you can find them here as well.”
Lake Lanier Gainesville Marina
On the northern end of the lake, Gainesville Marina is the only public marina. It features a fleet of seven rental boats, including a 24-foot, 90 horsepower pontoon that holds up to 12 people, with rates beginning at $299 for a four-hour rental on a weekday; a 24-foot, 115 horsepower pontoon that holds up to 12 people, with rates starting at $320 for a four-hour rental on a weekday; and a 24-foot 150 horsepower tritoon that holds up to 12 people, with rates as low as $365 for a four-hour rental on a weekday. The marina also offers multi-day and overnight rentals, and rents tubes, water skis, wakeboards and kneeboards.
Whitney Stovall, Gainesville Marina’s boat rental and gas dock manager, advises customers to book boats three weeks in advance for holiday weekends, two weeks for regular weekends and a few days prior for a weekday reservation. What’s more, she says, “The drivers must be 25 or older, have a valid driver’s license and watch a short 10-minute safety video on how to drive a boat. You’d be surprised how many people rent boats and have no idea what they’re doing. It’s unreal. I had a lady yesterday looking for brake pedals!”
But, she adds, “It’s not hard to drive boats at all. The hardest part is docking, as docks can be crowded with other boats and people. So long as you can see and hear out on the open water you should be good. It’s just knowing the parameters of the boat when pulling into a dock or a slip or what have you.”
Lake Lanier Windsong Sailing Academy
Whether or not you’ve mastered boat driving, you might want to learn boat sailing, especially on Lake Lanier, which Windsong Sailing Academy Founder Captain Dave Crumbley calls, “Relaxing; it’s very peaceful. We have a good breeze. Lake Lanier is unlike Lake Allatoona and other lakes. It’s a large body of water, and it’s not surrounded by a lot of hills and trees. It’s kind of flat, which means you get a good consistent wind anytime there’s a temperature difference between the wind and the water. So, in the early morning we get winds and in the late in the afternoon we get winds. And on some days, when we have storm systems within a couple hundred miles of us, we get a nice breeze all day long.”
Windsong offers two-hour lessons, for $75, all year long, with six levels of educational programming geared toward national certification from the American Sailing Association. Crumbley has also developed eight elective courses in subjects from marine meteorology to emergency planning, as well as about a dozen clinics including anchoring, dinghy handling and mooring. Crumbley says Windsong’s busiest seasons are spring and fall, because there are fewer motorized boats on the lake, and, of course, it’s much cooler. Winter sailing on Lanier has its special pleasures, however, like even less boat traffic, good wind, and clearer air, which brings out views of the Appalachian Mountain foothills.
Crumbley has found adults “50 years old, plus or minus 20 years,” to comprise most of Windsong’s customer base, with “more couples” than ever learning to sail. They’ll find much to love on Lanier, says Crumbley: “We probably have five places where you can sail into the dock, go ashore and you can have lunch or dinner, you can have a happy hour, lots of local bands are playing there. You sail down the lake and you hear lots of Caribbean steel drums playing. And most of the people you meet are very considerate. When you anchor together it’s a very friendly, open and kind of communal area. And it’s an activity anybody can do! You don’t have to be rich to enjoy boating…It’s something you can do for a lifetime.”
Lake Lanier Boat Rental Quick Reference Guide
type of boat & where to rent it
- Canoe – Energy Watersports
- Deck boat – Port Royale Marina
- Houseboat – Boat Rentals at Harbor Landing
- Island Voyager – Port Royale Marina
- JetSki – Port Royale Marina
- Kayak – Energy Watersports
- Kneeboards – Port Royale Marina, Gainesville Marina
- MegaCruisers – Port Royale Marina
- Paddleboard – Energy Watersports
- Party Barge – Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
- Pontoon (Standard, Picnic, etc.) – Boat Rentals at Harbor Landing, Port Royale Marina, Gainesville Marina
- Sailing – Windsong Sailing Academy
- Speedboat – Port Royale Marina
- Tritoon – Boat Rentals at Harbor Landing, Gainesville Marina
- Tube – Boat Rentals at Harbor Landing, Port Royale Marina, Gainesville Marina
- Wakeboard – Energy Watersports, Port Royale Marina, Gainesville Marina
- Waterskis – Port Royale Marina, Gainesville Marina
- Watersports equipment – Boat Rentals at Harbor Landing
- Yacht – Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, Port Royale Marina
Know of additional rental options on Lake Lanier? Let us know in the comments!
Lake Lanier Visitor Information Center
2875 Browns Bridge Road
Gainesville, Georgia 30504
Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
Harbor Landing Boat Rentals
7650 Lanier Islands Parkway
Buford, Georgia 30518
Port Royale Marina
8800 Port Royale Dr.
Gainesville, Georgia 30506
2145 Dawsonville Hwy
Gainesville, Georgia 30501
Windsong Sailing Academy
– Photos courtesy Lake Lanier CVB, Windsong Sailing Academy; click image for its specifics.