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 an ocean beach vacation. We’ll tell you what seaside beach is closest to Atlanta, and give you the scoop on several more driveable favorites.
The closest beach to Atlanta technically may be at a lake, but when I think of the beach, I’m really thinking about ocean waves and searching for sea shells! Or fun weekend getaways that include restaurants with amazing seafood caught nearby.
There are plenty to choose from in the southeast, and if you’re looking for the ideal place to stay then also check out our Beach House Rentals post, too.
The closest beach to me may not be the first thing you think of when you think of this amazing state -- but it should be! Georgia has some of the most beautiful and unique beaches around, and lucky for you -- they're not too far away from the ATL.
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 sandy shoreline, 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 your fresh seafood out on the deck with marsh views. You can even feed the gators while you're there! (Seriously!)
ST SIMON'S 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 the delicious food you can eat oceanside (the only oceanside restaurant on the island), they also have a great happy hour.'
Don't miss the chance to explore the fishing pier while you're in town. The entire family will love the shops, restaurants, picnic area, playground...and looking for dolphins!
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 dripping with Southern charm. In fact, it's a favorite for honeymooners.
The Beach Club at Sea Island is the place to be for ocean views and amazing amenities. 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.
Have you ever wanted to see a beach absolutely filled with the haunting silhouettes of trees and driftwood? Beaches like that don't exist -- except on Jekyll Island! Driftwood Beach is an absolute must-do. It's an amazing beach, truly unique, and you cannot take a bad picture there. Spend the day relaxing there, or get some great pictures during the sunset -- you won't regret it.
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 east coast gem is truly one of my favorite closest beaches because of the remote nature of the barrier island. But hanging out on the pristine, remote beach is only part of the fun...naturalists offer guided tours, there are multiple biking trails, you can enjoy water sports like paddle boarding or kayaking...plus the unmatched meals we mentioned above. It's Georgia's only all-inclusive beach vacation.
If you can't make it for an overnight, try one of the 2x per month "day trip" days listed on their website.
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.
Rent a bike and tour the island that way, or hiking isn't a bad way to see this island either. Make sure you stop by to see the ruins of Dungeness! I mean, this is a beach where you will see wild horses! Need I say more?
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.
BEACHES IN FLORIDA
Some of the best beaches in the United States are located in Florida, and lucky for us -- we don't have to travel far to get there!
Twenty-two miles of wide open beaches are at your fingertips just south of the Georgia/Florida border in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jacksonville Beach Pier is a must-see, and you'll find lots of waterfront dining in the area too! You'll find golf courses, and plenty of water sports on Jacksonville Beach, including some of the best surfing around.
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 a splash pad for the kiddos. You can even camp here!
Another of the best beaches near Jacksonville is Neptune Beach. With ocean beaches, delicious food, and proximity to family-friendly attractions, the state park, and plenty of family fun it's easy to see why it ranks so high in our list of best beaches.
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 too.
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 are 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. It was also named "most beautiful beach in America" by “Dr. Beach” – it’s wide and clean and a genuine piece of paradise.
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.
Amelia Island beaches are wide, stunning beaches stretch over 13 miles starting from Fort Clinch State Park and head south with over 40 public access points.
PANAMA CITY BEACH
Panama City Beach is a popular beach town 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! You'll find water recreation and outdoor fun, along with other attractions, activities and amenities.
A visit here is not just for Spring Break anymore. You'll find plenty of family friendly activities here too!
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 day trip 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 sandy 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.
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, paddle boarding, seeing dolphins and more...or hit up one of several state parks on the beach.
Don't confuse this with Sandestin. Sandestin is kind of the South’s answer to the Atlantic beach boardwalk setting... and a completely different experience.
I'm cheating a little here - Stuart and Martin County are not super close...but we have been here 5+ times and absolutely love playing in the Atlantic along these shores. I can't recommend it here enough! They are known for their world-class deep sea fishing, state parks, and adorable coastal community.
BEACHES IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Our neighbors in South Carolina have some beautiful beaches too! It's time to check them out, and maybe add a visit to their beaches to your vacation list.
South Carolina's southernmost sea island is just a mile from Hilton Head, but a world away. You'll need a boat to get to Daufuskie Island, since there is no bridge.
Once there, soak up some sun on the beaches, hit up the local artist scene, trek the beautiful hiking trails, try delicious seafood (like the crab cakes at Lucy Belle's - oh my!) And if you, like us, can't stand to part the island then consider calling it home with property or a National Membership at Haig Point.
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 with ocean waves only for you, 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. But this is a post about real oceanside beaches, and the closest sandy beach 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!
Your other option here is Folly Beach. The sandy beaches are clean and wide, stretching way into the Atlantic. Families love the beach here, and adults appreciate the great beach-side bars and restaurants. Paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, surfing, and delicious food make Folly Beach of the best beaches near Charleston.
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. Head on over to Beachwalker County Park for public beach access!
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 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 three 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."
Thanks Kathi - sounds fantastic...but I must admit to being partial to Beaufort, just north of there!
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 in South Carolina. From miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and shopping, to entertaining shows and attractions, the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand is affordable and tons of fun. From the amusement parks to the boardwalk, 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. We pick it over Myrtle Beach every time.
BEACHES IN ALABAMA
You may have heard -- Alabama's got some great beaches too! Head west and see what the excitement's all about.
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! If you ask me, The Beach Club condos make this one of the best beaches for families looking for a weekend escape.
BEACHES OF 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.
Soar like the Wright Brothers with hang gliding lessons through Kitty Hawk Kites, or enjoy horseback riding on the beaches of the National Seashore. Climb the lighthouses, go on a fishing expedition, or simply let the large Atlantic waves toss you about as you soak up the sun.
Outer Banks is also home to world class fishing. Even if you don't usually bring a pole on your beach vacations, I highly recommend catching a fishing charter here for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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! Be sure to try these NC Day Trips when you visit!
Topsail Beach, especially North Topsail, is one of those remote beach destinations with perfect sand and zero crowds that beach bums love. Sometimes I hesitate about sharing this gem because it's only a matter of time before the rest of the South gets wind of it. have a 4WD? You can take to the beach here!
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 you really need THE closest beach, 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.
Make sure you check out some of your local Georgia State Parks. Many of them have popular lake beaches too!
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