I stumbled onto Lake Varner by accident one day and decided to return with my canoe. It seemed like a very nice, secluded lake and is one of the best kept secrets around here.
Varner is an 850-acre man-made lake that serves as the water reservoir for Newton County. As a result, the lake is restricted to boats with trolling motors only (no gas engines). This is a good thing because it allows for leisurely paddling without having to worry about being run over by a ski boat.
Lake Varner is well known for its fishing, and is one of the best in the state of GA. You're likely to see folks out bass fishing with trolling motors, which also makes for a quiet and peaceful experience. It's a good lake for getting some exercise or practice without having to worry about other boats. The most I have seen on the lake at one time is 6 boats with electric motors, and they were off in coves fishing.
One quick note though: Parking and launch is free for Newton and Walton County residents, and they enforce this quite often. In fact, I have been there at least a dozen times and seen a deputy checking plates every time. I saw them issue a fine a few months ago. You can pay a $5 parking and additional $5 launch fee if you like when you first enter the grounds.
The nearest campsite is probably Hard Labor Creek State Park (about 15 miles) or Charlie Eliott Wildlife Ctr (20 miles). Lake Varner has nature trails, picnic areas, a playground and restroom facilities. Grab food and drink at a gas station once you get off on Alcovy Rd.
Free for Newton and Walton County residents.
$5 parking and $5 launch fee for non-residents.
East of Atlanta in Newton County. Take I-20 toward Augusta and get off on Exit 92 (Alcovy Road). Take a left and go down about 3.5 miles and you'll see the entrance on your left.