Lakes and Beaches

There are plenty of Georgia beaches within driving distance of Atlanta, each offering warm sands and cool waters all summer long. Most large lakes in Georgia offer at least one sandy beach, and it only takes a few hours to drive to Atlanta’s nearest ocean beach. Keep reading to find out the best beaches near Atlanta and which ones offer the additional amenities you desire.

Margaritaville at Lake Lanier

With over half a mile of white sandy beach, Margaritaville touts itself as “Georgia’s Inland Beach.” This popular destination at Lake Lanier also provides a wide assortment of water activities, including water slides, a children’s water play zone, boating and water sports. Located just one hour north of Atlanta, the Lake Lanier Islands resort features restaurants, tiki bars and live music performances.

Margaritaville’s Paradise Beach and water park is open on weekends from early May through late September. It is open daily from Memorial Day through the first week in August. The resort opens each day at 10 a.m. but closing times vary from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., depending on the day. Admission fees vary by age and height:

  • Daily Admission, under 48” tall: $31.99
  • Daily Admission, 48” and taller: $45.99
  • Daily Admission, age 62 and over: $31.99
  • Group Tickets (groups of 15 or more): $31.99

Lake Lanier Margaritaville offers season passes with prices that vary according to the passholder’s age, the extra amenities purchased and the date of purchase. Current season pass fees range from $84.99 to $254.99. Each vehicle must pay a $15 gate fee ($25 for vehicles carrying 12 or more passengers). Visitors may bring their own beach chairs and umbrellas or rent them on-site.

Don Carter State Park

Don Carter State Park is located at the north end of Lake Lanier in Gainesville and offers a calmer, more rustic beach experience than Margaritaville. It is also significantly more affordable. For a $5 parking fee per vehicle, visitors can freely access the wide sand beach and cool lake waters all day.

This Georgia beach features bathhouses with showers, and the lake has boat ramps, a fishing pier and fish cleaning station. Swimmers should stay within the roped-off areas for safety reasons. Other park amenities include hiking trails, paved biking trails, outdoor fitness equipment and a playground. Some of the best boating in Atlanta opportunities can be found at Lake Lanier.

Robin Lake at Callaway Gardens

Approximately 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta’s Hartfield Jackson International Airport sits the world’s largest man-made white sand beach. Often touted as one of the prettiest Atlanta, Georgia beaches, the beach at Robin Lake stretches a mile around the 65-acre waterway. Beach amenities include mini-golf, table tennis, shuffleboard, giant chess and checker sets and performances by the Florida State University Flying High Circus.

Because Robin Lake Beach is located within Callaway Gardens, visitors must purchase a general gardens admission ticket or annual pass. Daily admission charges vary by age:

  • Adults age 13-64: $24.95
  • Seniors age 65 and over: $21.95
  • Children age 6 to 12: $14.95
  • Children age 5 and under: Free
  • Active military members and veterans: $14.95 adult/$11.95 child

Waterskiing, waterboarding and tubing are available at an additional cost. Paddle boats, beach bikes, beach chairs, umbrellas and private cabanas can be rented daily. Aqua Island Floating Playground tickets can be purchased for $12.50 per person for 45 minutes of playtime.

Summer Family Adventure packages are offered during June and July. Touted as a summer camp for families, packages include daily beach access, accommodations in cottages or villas and many other on-site attractions. This Georgia beach is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Lake Oconee

Scenic Lake Oconee is situated near Athens, approximately 62 miles from downtown Atlanta. Its 19,050 acres of water are flanked by several designated swimming beaches, including:

  • Lawrence Shoals Recreation Area: $18 per day
  • Old Salem Campground and Boat Ramp: $5 per day (beach access is free if camping)
  • Parks Ferry Campsite and Boat Ramp: $3 per day (beach access is free if camping)

Each of these locations provides access to boating, fishing and watersports. Lawrence Shoals is open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with opening delayed a half-hour on Fridays and two hours on Saturdays and Sundays. If you prefer a more luxurious Lake Oconee beach experience, the Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Hotel includes a stretch of white sand beach along its 30 acres of lakefront property.

Lake Allatoona

Lake Allatoona is approximately a 40-minute drive northwest of Atlanta. Its 270 miles of shoreline include 15 day-use beaches of varying sizes and amenities. At its northern end lies Red Top Mountain State Park Beach, where an entire family can sun and swim for a $5 per vehicle entrance fee. Fishing, hiking and biking are other activities available at Red Top Mountain.

A Georgia lakes map can help you locate other Lake Allatoona beaches that offer swimming along with picnic shelters, playgrounds and grills. Some of these, such as Acworth Beach, are free to residents and charge only a small parking fee for non-residents. Most Lake Allatoona beaches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fort Yargo State Park

A list of beaches near Atlanta must include the beach that sits along the shores of the 260 acre lake at Fort Yargo State Park. Located between Atlanta and Athens in Winder, GA, this small GA beach is about an hour’s drive from the city. Access to Fort Yargo’s beach is available for a $5 vehicle parking charge. The 150-seat beach pavilion can be rented for waterfront weddings and other large events.

The park includes a challenging disc golf course, fishing and boat ramps and a network of hiking and mountain biking trails. One of the lakes in GA that offers overnight accommodations, longer vacations at Ft. Yargo can be had by “glamping” in a yurt or cabin, or reserving an RV or tent campsite.

Lake Hartwell

The third-largest Army Corps lake in America, Lake Hartwell, is located about two hours away from downtown Atlanta via I-85. Straddling the Georgia/South Carolina border, a GA lakes map shows that only a small portion of its 962 miles of shoreline are designated as swimming beaches.

Elrod Ferry Recreation Area features three designated swim beaches, playgrounds, reservable picnic shelters and a volleyball court. It is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the daily admission fee is $5 per vehicle. Additional recreation areas with designated swim beaches are located on the South Carolina side of Lake Hartwell.

Lake Hartwell is best known for fishing and boating, with five marinas and a variety of water sports including tubing, water skiing and wake boarding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages over 500 campsites at nine campgrounds. Additional lodging choices include bed and breakfast inns and chain hotels.

Vogel State Park

To swim with mountain views, visit the beach along Vogel State Park’s 22-acre lake during the summer months. Located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest, reaching Vogel is a scenic 100-mile drive from downtown Atlanta. Paddleboat rentals are available and the park includes hiking and biking trails.

As with other lakes in Georgia operated by the state’s parks system, beach admission is included when you pay a $5 per vehicle parking fee. Stay overnight in the park’s cottages or campsites and visit nearby Brasstown Bald to view four states from one peak. This beach is also close to one of Atlanta’s favorite day trip destinations, the Alpine Village of Helen.

Costley Mill Park

Although one of the smallest GA beaches, the white sand beach at Costley Mill Park in Conyers has one of the state’s most beautiful views. Situated next to the rocks and waterfalls of Big Haynes Creek, the beach is open annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Although parking is free, most visitors must pay a beach swimming fee:

Rockdale County Residents:

  • Age 3 and under: Free
  • 4 to 12 years of age: $2
  • 13 to 61 years of age: $4
  • Age 62 and over: $2

Non-Residents:

  • Age 3 and under: Free
  • 4 to 12 years of age: $3
  • 13 to 61 years of age: $6
  • Age 62 and over: $3

Swimming is permitted only when a lifeguard is on duty. This occurs in two-hour blocks, generally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. All children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and the parent or guardian must be present on the beach any time the child is in the water. Perhaps the closest beach to Atlanta, Costley Mill Park is approximately 30 minutes east of Atlanta via I-20.

Tybee Island

One of the most popular Georgia beaches, and the nearest saltwater beach to metro Atlanta, Tybee Island offers a unique blend of recreational and educational activities. This barrier island features a sandy beach on its eastern shore and a tidal salt marsh on its western side. Located 265 miles southeast of Atlanta and just 18 miles from Savannah, this closest ocean beach to Atlanta is sometimes called “Savannah Beach.”

Sunning, shelling and swimming are all popular activities on this GA beach. Kayaking, fishing and birdwatching are excellent on Tybee, and there are dozens of shops, restaurants and bars to visit. Little Tybee Island is an uninhabited nature preserve accessible only by boat. It is the perfect escape from the tourist scene of most Georgia beaches and allows visitors to truly get back to nature.