Atlanta is a great town, except for one thing; it’s not on the water. To find a great beach, you need to travel. If you live in Atlanta, you might ask yourself, “Where is the closest beach to me?” Great Question!
There are a few Georgia beaches that are simple day trips from Atlanta, but most options are best suited for a oceanside beach vacation. We’ll tell you what seaside beach is closest to Atlanta, and give you the scoop on 10+ more drivable favorites.
Escape to an uncrowded paradise less than a two hour flight from Atlanta! Martin County boasts a beautiful natural landscape, farm to table restaurants, world-class fishing, eclectic shopping and unique cultural experiences for the entire family to enjoy.
Disconnect to reconnect in Martin County, where seemingly endless Atlantic beaches span nearly 22 miles along the coast and include individual access strips that allow for more private spots to enjoy the surf and sand or larger, guard-protected areas like Stuart Beach, Hobe Sound Beach and Sea Turtle / Jensen Beach. There are also numerous beaches along the Indian River Lagoon to explore such as the beach at Indian RiverSide Park.
Building restrictions have limited structures to four stories, preserving breathtaking views throughout the county. The natural beauty and attractions here offer up a treasure trove of activities—minus the crowds of our popular next-door neighbors.
The closest beach to Atlanta technically may be at a lake, but when I think of beach, I’m really thinking about oceanside family getaways searching for sea shells, or fun weekend getaways that include restaurants with amazing seafood caught nearby.
Beaches in Georgia
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is sometimes called Savannah's Beach because it’s so close to the city. In fact, you could stay in Savannah and enjoy a city and sand vacation like we did recently. But how far is Savannah from Atlanta? It’s about 3.5 hours, or if you’d rather measure the distance from Atlanta to Savannah in miles, it’s around 250 miles, making Tybee Island the closest beach to Atlanta, and perfect for quick getaways.
In addition to enjoying the sand between your toes on the Tybee Island beach, be sure to check out Sea Kayak Georgia for a tour of the marshes and waterways around the island. If you’d rather enjoy the marshes from the land, order the low country shrimp boil at the Crab Shack and enjoy it out on the deck with marsh views.
St. Simons Island
There are several Georgia beaches, but my favorite Georgia vacations are usually at St. Simons Island. Probably because I’ve spent the most time there.
The King and Prince is where you want to stay to be on the St. Simons Island beach. They also have several swimming pools. My favorite is the main pool that overlooks the ocean. It’s the perfect compromise for my son who likes the pool and me who feels like we can swim in a pool anywhere, I want an oceanside beach destination.
The King and Prince also has a wonderful restaurant called Echo. In addition to delicious food you can eat Oceanside (the only Oceanside restaurant on the island), they also have a great happy hour.
The Cloister at Sea Island
The most luxurious beaches in Georgia are at the The Sea Island family of beach resorts. I’m still dreaming about the beds at The Cloister at Sea Island, and the spa, where I had one of the best massages of my life. Although this is a very family friendly resort, it's also a great place if you are looking for romantic getaways in Georgia. In fact, it's a favorite for honeymooners.
The Beach Club at Sea Island is the place to be for ocean views. Rent a catamaran on the beach, or just relax on one of the lounge chairs under an umbrella. If the kids get too antsy, they can walk across the sand to the Beach Club and either play in the pool, hit the arcade, or participate in any number of games like basketball or shuffleboard. If you need a break from the sun, there is a free movie theater (popcorn is extra).
And for the adults, there are several beachside bars and an ice cream shop that serves up the famous Sea Island Gold Brick Sundae – well maybe that’s for the kids, or all the kids at heart. Looking to enjoy Sea Island luxury for less? Check out a stay at The Inn at Sea Island.
Jekyll Island Beach
Jekyll Island is going through an amazing renaissance. If you’ve never been, now is the time to go. If you’ve been in the past, it’s worth a second look.
I’ve always enjoyed staying at the Historic Jekyll Island Club, but it’s not on the beach. The new Jekyll Ocean Club is part of the Historic Jekyll Island Club family and IS on the beach. Want more hotels on the Georgia beach? The Westin at Jekyll Island, the Holiday Inn at Jekyll Island and the Hampton Inn are all good choices too.
You can’t visit Jekyll without seeing the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, but I’d also recommend a visit to the less flashy, but equally fun Tidelands Nature Center. If you have kids with you, Summer Waves water park is a must.
Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island is the perfect family getaway for anyone who loves nature, but hates camping. Additionally, the food can compete with the best Atlanta restaurant, and there is always a cooler of adult beverages chilling on the porch. This is truly one of my favorite island beaches, and thankfully it's also one of the closest beaches to Atlanta.
Although visitors won’t run into many people on Sapelo Island, what they will find are unspoiled beaches, dense maritime forests, miles of undisturbed salt-marsh land, a mansion from a by-gone era, and a community of slave decedents preserving an almost forgotten culture.
Cumberland Island National Seashore
While we're at it, don't miss another of the "by-ferry-only" barrier islands - Cumberland Island. You can stay at the historic Greyfield Inn, or rough it on the beach. Plan your trip when the bugs are gone...but do it early, as the prime camping spots fill up quick.
Private Islands of Georgia
Eagle Island isn’t just for quick getaways, but true escapes. Just like the name suggests, it’s your own private island, accessible only by boat.
22-miles of wide open beaches are at your fingertips just South of the Georgia/Florida border in Jacksonville. Park it on the Beach Pier, where there is everything from multiple beach access points to a Saks Fifth Avenue. Want to see more of the shoreline? Hop aboard the Beaches Trolley on the weekend to explore the area for just $1.50 each way or $4 for a one-day, unlimited ride pass. This old-timey bus shuttles locals and guests up and down the shore every 15 minutes from South Beach Regional Shopping Center to Atlantic Boulevard.
Looking for something more rustic and less "big city?" Try nearby Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. You've got over a mile of beach, prime for surfing...plus a fresh-water lake and kiddo splashpad. You can even camp here!
It's more than 6 hours from Atlanta to Tampa, but you can sometimes get really good flights that make the Tampa beaches closer.
The best part about the closest beaches to Tampa is there are so many to choose from all within an hour drive of the city. Clearwater Beach is probably what you think of when you think Tampa beach, but I have friends who live in the area that love Caladesi Island State Park.
The nearest beach to Tampa is probably the Ben T. Davis public beach, but it is on the bay, not the gulf. And if you want something super special, then take a dip when the weather is cold - you can swim with Manatees!
Florida’s panhandle has some of the nicest beaches in the entire world. Parts of it is known as the Emerald Coast because of the shimmering green ocean. A lesser known spot in this area is Grayton Beach. Grayton has one of the best beachside campgrounds.
Amelia Island has oodles (and by that we mean 40+) public beach access points, making it easy to enjoy the waterfront no matter where on the island you’re staying. In addition there are lots of things to do out of the water like visit Fort Clinch State Park or wander around historic downtown Fernandina.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a popular beach retreat in the Northwest Florida sector known more commonly as the panhandle. In addition to sugar-white sands, there are tons of things to do in Panama City Beach - water recreation and outdoor fun, along with other attractions, activities and amenities.
New Smyrna Beach
Just south of world famous Daytona Beach is glorious New Smyrna. It's truly a surf hub, which makes it so fun! You'll find nearby Canaveral National Seashore which makes a fun daytrip or overnight camping spot. Visit Ponce Inlet and its lighthouse, the historic Canal Street District for shopping and food, and don't miss the Black Heritage Museum.
Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas Florida is more remote than the aforementioned Georgia vacation spots, but that’s what I like about it.
Relax on the beach, you can even have a bonfire there, or bike down to the state park. If you need more action, there is a lot to do in neighboring towns like Port St. Joe, if you know where to look (and you will if you read this Gulf County Florida post)
One of our favorite destinations, Destin, offers gorgeous emerald waters and equally stunning white-sand beaches. There are tasty culinary treasures and tons of cool things to do here, too! Try water adventures like cruising, paddleboarding, seeing dolphins and more...or hit up one of several state parks on the beach.
Don't confuse this with San Destin. San Destin is kind of the South’s answer to the Atlantic beaches boardwalk, and a completely different experience.
I'm cheating a little here - Stuart and Martin County are not super close...but we have been here 3-4 times and absolutely love playing in the Atlantic along these shores. I can't recommend it here enough!
Another perfect place to combine a city and sand vacation is in Charleston. At the Cottages at Charleston Harbor, you have your own private beach area, just off the rocking chair screened porch. There is also a pool and hot tub at the clubhouse. It’s a perfect set up for family getaways or a group of friends.
Down the road is the marina with boat transportation to downtown Charleston. We rode the Cottages' bikes to Patriots Point to view the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the beautiful Mt. Pleasant Memorial Park with a marine themed playground and fishing pier Unfortunately we missed swing dance night on the pier. But this is a post about real oceanside beaches, and the closest one here is Sullivan’s Island, a 15 minute drive away.
Considered one of Charleston's Beaches, Isle of Palms is only a stone's throw away. We adore the wide beaches and luxurious but comfortable resort of Wild Dunes on this island. It's great for couples, but PERFECT for families!
A stay at the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island is like combining luxury accommodations with a nature filled vacation. It is simply divine to open up the doors to the ocean, and sit out on the balcony overlooking the waves.
Hilton Head Island
When I originally put this post up, reader Kathi Girard asked via Facebook why we didn't include her favorite beach destination Hilton Head Island. It's been a looong time since I've been to Hilton Head, so I asked Kathi to give us the inside scoop. Here is what she said.
"We always stay at Hilton Head Beach and Tennis on Folly Field Rd. It has a huge pool right on the ocean (although I'm like you, I can swim in a pool anytime, I go for the ocean), also a smaller adult only pool, tennis courts and most units have a view of the ocean (some better than others). There's a tiki bar at the main pool, as well as as sports bar and pizza joint on the property. I think there may be a sit down restaurant as well as on site bike rentals. Most importantly, the beach is beautiful. Wide stretches of beautiful white sand.
Because it's a condo and we want to spend as much time on the beach as possible, we don't really eat out, but there is a huge Kroger, a Walmart and a Publix nearby, so picking up stuff to cook or from the deli is easy.
As for Hilton Head itself there are bike trails everywhere and it's relatively flat so easy riding. There are also 3 mini golf courses as well as numerous 18 hole courses.
The three main areas are Coligny Plaza and Public Beach and Harbour Town at Sea Pines Resort and Shelter Cove. Lots of restaurants, shops and activities. In the summer, Shelter Cove has HarbourFest every Tuesday night, live music, carnival games and fireworks."
If you’re looking for a vacation with no shortage of activities to keep the whole family busy that also won’t break the bank, consider Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. From miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and shopping, to entertaining shows and attractions, the Grand Strand is affordable and tons of fun. From the amusement park to the board walk, there is so much to do!
I've not "overnighted" in Myrtle Beach - only stopped in for the day - but we did visit Georgetown just south of the big tourist area, and we loved the more quiet beaches and relaxed feel offered here.
Beaches In Alabama
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
Gulf Shores and neighboring Orange Beach are on the southern coastal community of Alabama’s lower quadrant, sitting just across the state line from Pensacola and known for white sand beaches juxtaposing glorious, emerald-tinted Gulf of Mexico waters. Packed with water recreation, fresh seafood, and family fun, Gulf Shores is an easy trek from Atlanta via I-85 to I-65 and then to AL 59 – less than six hours and you’re on the beach!
Beaches In North Carolina
Outer Banks Beaches
Looking for beach towns the whole family can enjoy? The beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina offer everything you could possibly dream of. Head to Paradise Fun Park on Kill Devil Hills and ride the bumper cars or Go Kartz. Play mini-golf. Go surfing or paddleboarding in Duck. Take a dolphin tour on Manteo. Or just head directly to the beach in any of these towns and hit the water. You and your kids will have a blast. And be sure to stop in at Duck Donuts before you leave the area. You’ll thank me later.
Wilmington is home to Carolina, Kure, and Wrightville Beaches. There are water tours, a sea turtle camp, kayaking adventures, and a beautiful reserve - Masonboro Island Reserve - perfect for escaping to for some natural beauty!
Mississippi Gulf Beaches
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is about a 6 hour journey from Atlanta, so it isn't necessarily "close" -- but it's worth the journey! The white sandy beaches are gorgeous, and there is so much to do - for couples, for families...and everyone in between.
Beaches In Atlanta
If you really don't have time for a quick getaway and are thinking I really need THE closest beach to me, then there are a few Atlanta beaches to try. The closest beach to Atlanta is the Beach at International Park in Jonesboro, Georgia. The Jonesboro Beach, as well as the beaches at Callaway Gardens (80 miles), Lake Lanier Resort (46 miles) and other area lakes make great day trips from Atlanta or quick getaways.