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When it comes to planning a family getaway, finding the perfect destination is always a priority. If you’re in Chattanooga, you’re lucky to have a variety of beautiful locations to explore. One of the top choices that comes to mind is a beach vacation, and finding the closest beach to Chattanooga ensures that you make the most of your precious time together.

two yellow chairs set up on beach in Panama City Florida
Beautiful view from Panama City Beach, one of our favorites!

As a mom who has frequently visited Chattanooga with her husband and four boys, I can assure you that there are some great beach options nearby. We like to use Chattanooga as a fun vacation spot before heading out to the coast.

Our family’s favorite would definitely be Tybee Island in Georgia. This charming Atlantic coastal town is just a 6-hour drive from Chattanooga, making it the perfect spot for a weekend escape. With great food, a beautiful lighthouse, and its proximity to Savannah, you can rest assured that your family will have an unforgettable experience.

Aside from Tybee Island, there are other lake beach destinations within driving distance, such as Cherokee Lake, which is under a 2.5-hour drive. Located just outside of Knoxville, Cherokee Lake is an excellent camping and fishing spot for families who enjoy the great outdoors.

With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect beach destination to match your family’s preferences and create lasting memories.

Closest Ocean Beaches to Chattanooga

If you live in Chattanooga or are visiting, I highly recommend exploring some fantastic ocean beaches not too far away. Here are my top picks for ocean beaches that are within driving distance, along with approximate travel times.

Tybee Island

Tybee Island is the closest ocean beach to Chattanooga, and a lovely little beach town on the coast of Georgia. With a driving distance of just under 6 hours, it’s an excellent choice for maximizing your family fun while minimizing your drive time. Tybee Island offers great food, a beautiful lighthouse, and is just a short drive from Savannah. Your family will love it!

Our favorite things at Tybee Island were the lighthouse and, of course, the sandy beach itself. It was beautiful and we loved touring the nearby town of Savannah as well for old Southern charm!

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach in Florida is another fantastic option for your family, though it’s a bit further away at just over 6 hours and 30 minutes driving time. Famous for its white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, this stunning vacation destination along the Gulf Coast offers plenty of fun in the sun for everyone.

This is a super fun destination for couples as well as families. This is where I first took my husband to the beach. He was 24 and had never seen the ocean! I got him down to Panama City as soon as possible after he told me that!

We love the beaches, Saint Andrews State Park and the small waterpark in the town. We’ve been with our kids as well and always have a great time.

Myrtle Beach

Located in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is around an 8-hour drive from Chattanooga. This popular destination boasts over 60 miles of beautiful coastline, offering a perfect opportunity for your family to enjoy numerous beach activities, amusement parks, and nearby dining options.

This is where my hubs and I would go when we lived in Fayetteville, NC. It was only a couple hours away and we loved the amusement park and atmosphere. We haven’t taken our kids here, but it’s definitely on our list of places to go with them.

Wrightsville Beach

Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina is around a 9-hour drive from Chattanooga. Once you get there, you’ll be treated to beautiful sandy shores and lush greenery, making it a great spot for families to relax and soak up the sun. There’s also an abundance of outdoor activities available for you and your kids to enjoy, from surfing lessons to nature walks.

This is another area we loved to visit when we lived in North Carolina. We loved to visit the charming town of Wilmington and this beach is very close. It is a great place to check out if you love the laid back atmosphere of a small beach town.

Folly Beach

At around a 9-hour drive from Chattanooga, Folly Beach in South Carolina is an excellent choice for those who don’t mind spending a bit more time on the road. This charming beach town offers a laid-back atmosphere, plenty of family-friendly activities, and a variety of dining options to please the whole family.

I’ve been to Folly Beach with my dad and oldest son. We were visiting Charleston, SC for a conference and toured the city as well as visited Folly Beach. Great destination and the city of Charleston itself is definitely worth a trip!

New Smyrna Beach

If your family loves the beach, you’ll fall in love with New Smyrna Beach, about 8 and a half hours away. The soft sand and warm waters make the perfect setting for a fun day with your family.

You can all enjoy building sandcastles, splashing in the ocean, or trying out some boogie boarding. The area also has various water parks and amusement parks nearby, where you can cool off and enjoy thrilling rides. Don’t forget to check out the local golf courses and tennis courts as well, where you and your family can engage in friendly competition.

Orange Beach

Making your way down to Orange Beach is definitely worth the trip for your family. It’s just a little over 6 hours to this beautiful gulf beach. With its sugar-white sand and warm waters, it offers a perfect setting for a family beach vacation.

You can enjoy various water activities, such as parasailing, jet skiing, and dolphin cruises – something your kids will never forget! Besides spending time at the beach, don’t miss the nearby attractions such as The Wharf, which offers dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

Gulf Shores

Another fantastic destination near Chattanooga is Gulf Shores, less than an hour’s drive from Orange Beach. This lively beach town is incredibly family-friendly, offering stunning coastlines, pristine sands, and crystal-clear waters.

Keep your kids entertained by visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo or taking advantage of the numerous water sports available, like paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling.

While these beautiful beaches are the highlights of your trip, you might want to explore other popular destinations in the Southeast during your family vacation. Some notable places to consider are:

  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina: Enjoy miles of bike trails, world-class golf courses, and beautiful beaches in about 6 hours from Chattanooga.
  • Amelia Island, Florida: Visit this historic island for its natural beauty, charming downtown, and stunning beaches. A little over 7 hours drive.
  • St. Simons Island, Georgia: Explore the rich history and picturesque scenery while enjoying the beach and outdoor activities. Six and a half hours from the city.
  • Outer Banks, North Carolina: Experience beautiful lighthouses, wild horses, and stunning coastlines in this unique beach destination. This is the farthest beach on our list at about a 10 hour drive. Absolutely stunning and worth the drive!

It’s worth noting that the travel times mentioned here are approximate and may vary depending on factors like traffic and weather. Nonetheless, any of these mentioned beaches will provide you and your family a memorable ocean escape. Happy beaching!

chair set up on lake beach

Best Lake Beaches Near Chattanooga

When we visit Chattanooga, we know how important it is to find nearby outdoor activities to keep the whole gang entertained. Thankfully, there are plenty of state parks close to the city suitable for you and your family.

Chickamauga Dam

The Chickamauga Dam beach area, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a popular recreational spot that offers a variety of activities. The area is surrounded by a natural landscape, including a lake and waterfall, and features a beach with a roped-off swim area, a pavilion, picnic tables with grills, two launch ramps, and restrooms.

There are also boat ramps on the reservoir and canoe access on North Chickamauga Creek. For those who enjoy hiking, there’s a 1.3-mile loop trail through the Big Ridge Small Wild Area, a 200-acre upland hardwood forest.

Pets are welcome in the area, provided they are kept on a leash no longer than 6-feet, and visitors are encouraged to follow Leave No Trace practices. The park is accessible all year round, and there are no fees for using the visitor centers, trails, boat ramps, and canoe access points.

According to reviews on TripAdvisor, the park is highly appreciated for its natural beauty, ample parking, and restroom facilities. However, visitors are advised to supervise children at all times as the riverbank area is not fenced.

Harrison Bay Beach and Picnic Area

Harrison Bay Beach Area, part of the Harrison Bay State Park, is a popular destination for water lovers. The park provides access to TVA’s Chickamauga Lake, an impoundment of the Tennessee River, with over 35,000 acres of the lake accessible for various water activities.

The park allows all types of boats and water recreation vehicles. There are two boat launch ramps, one located at the marina and another at the Wolftever location off Highway 58.

The marina also sells ethanol-free gas, ice, and snacks, and provides restrooms and a pump-out service. Canoes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards are available for rent seasonally.

The beach area is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing, offering stunning views of the lake. Fishing is another popular activity at the park, with bass, bluegill, shell cracker, crappie, catfish, gar, and others commonly caught.

The park provides almost any type of fishing desired, whether by boat, bank, or the park’s accessible pier. The park is also a destination for birdwatchers, with shorebirds, wintering waterfowl, osprey, and bald eagles frequently seen.

South Cumberland State Park

South Cumberland State Park, located in Monteagle, Tennessee, offers a unique beach experience at the Grundy Lakes area. This popular destination is just four miles from the visitor’s center and features a man-made beach that is perfect for lounging in the sun or spreading out a waterside picnic.

The site also includes a swim-up dock for sunbathers and jumping children, providing a fun and safe environment for families. However, visitors are advised not to bring any glass items to the beach area.

For those seeking a bit more adventure, the park also offers numerous waterfalls along the trails, which are excellent opportunities to escape beneath the forest canopy and cool off in the cold creek waters.

Some of these include Foster Falls, Sycamore Falls, Blue Hole Falls, and Hanes Hole Falls. However, jumping from the falls is not advised as the water beneath is shallow and often has submerged dangers such as rocks and trees.

It’s important to note that there are no lifeguards on duty at any swim areas, so visitors are advised to swim with caution and check with a ranger about uncertain conditions.

Pines Recreation Area Beach

If you’re willing to drive a bit farther, Pines Recreation Area Beach is a hidden gem that offers a fun-filled day for you and your family. The beach is on the shoreline of the shimmering Cherokee Lake, about three hours from Chattanooga, making it an ideal destination to beat the summer heat and create some family memories.

The sandy shore is perfect for beach activities such as sandcastle building, sunbathing, or playing beach volleyball. You can also take a dip in the refreshing waters, go swimming, or rent a kayak to explore the lake. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as you might spot some local critters along the shoreline.


  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Beach volleyball
  • Sandcastle building
  • Wildlife watching

Pines Recreation Area Beach is just one of the many state parks in the vicinity of Chattanooga that offer beach fun. You can find several other lovely spots near the Tennessee River, the Cumberland River, and Norris Lake. We sure have visited quite a few with our four boys, and they have all loved the outdoor experiences these locations have to offer.

So pack your bags, grab your family, and embark on a memorable vacation to one of these wonderful lake beaches from Chattanooga. When you visit these destinations, you will know why we love coming back with our boys year after year. Have a great time!

Family Vacation Spots

South Carolina Beaches

South Carolina beaches offer a fantastic mix of relaxation and adventure for you and your family. Here, you can find pristine shores lined with beautiful dunes and quaint beach towns. Favorite spots like Myrtle Beach provide excellent resorts with kid-friendly water parks, keeping your four boys entertained all day. If your kids are up for a challenge, there are plenty of mini-golf courses and even some amusement parks within driving distance.

North Carolina Beaches

North Carolina beaches are another great destination for families that frequently visit Chattanooga. With their stunning landscapes and wide variety of beach-related activities, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Beautiful areas like the Outer Banks are perfect for families, offering gentle surf, beachcombing, and water parks nearby. While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on the scenic golf courses and tennis courts sprinkled throughout the region – they’re excellent ways to relax and unwind as a family.

Florida Beaches

Another popular area for beaches near Chattanooga is the Florida panhandle. Here you can find wonderful beaches such as Panama City Beach, Destin, Fort Walton Beach and many others.

I have amazing memories of family vacations to Florida panhandle beaches growing up. We went to Fort Walton Beach many times and some of my earliest memories are Florida beaches.

You’ll find that these beaches offer a range of activities, catering to all preferences and energy levels. So pack your sunscreen, swimsuits, and adventurous spirit – your next family vacation is waiting!

Water Activities and Recreation

If you’re looking for an enjoyable day at the beach near Chattanooga, you won’t be disappointed. With various water activities and recreational options, your family will surely have a great time.

Live Music and Nightlife

During our visits to Tybee Island and Chickamauga Lake, we’ve had fantastic experiences with the live music scene. Your family can enjoy performances by local musicians in various beachfront venues. The nightlife options cater to different tastes, making it a perfect spot for winding down after a day of water activities.

Beach Houses

When we visit the area we’ve found renting beach houses to be an ideal choice for a comfortable stay. There are plenty of options to suit your specific needs, and you’ll appreciate the convenience of having a home base during your visit.

We especially appreciate the washer and dryer in most beach homes we’ve rented because with four boys we go through a lot of laundry! It also helps cut down on how many clothes we need to pack.

Dolphin Cruise

We’ve especially enjoyed taking a Dolphin Cruise with the kids. It’s an unforgettable experience, with kids and adults alike marveling at the sight of these incredible marine animals in their natural habitat. A dolphin cruise is a must-try when you visit the area.

Water Activities

One of the main reasons you’ll love visiting beaches near Chattanooga is the vast selection of water activities available. From water sports to swimming pools, the whole family can enjoy their favorite aquatic activities.

  • Kayaking: Tybee Island and Chickamauga Lake both offer amazing locations for kayaking. Your family can rent kayaks and explore the surrounding area, taking in the refreshing breeze and scenic views.
  • Swimming: There’s no better way to cool off during a warm summer day than by jumping into the refreshing water at the beach. With lifeguards on duty and designated swimming areas, you can confidently enjoy a day of swimming with your family.
  • Nature Trails: If you want to take a break from the water activities, exploring the nature trails is a fantastic way to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Your family can enjoy hiking, biking, or simply strolling through the trails, surrounded by lush greenery and diverse wildlife.

Visiting beaches near Chattanooga offers your family an array of exciting water activities, recreation, and unforgettable memories. So next time you’re planning a family beach getaway, make sure to include these fun-filled activities in your itinerary.

Natural Beauty and Wildlife

As a regular visitor to Chattanooga with my husband and four boys, we always make sure to experience the beautiful scenic attractions and wildlife. Let me share our favorite locations with you.

Historical Sites and Attractions

When it comes to historical sites and attractions, beaches near Chattanooga never disappoint. One of the places we love to visit is Tybee Island, GA. Not only does it offer a pleasant and uncrowded beach perfect for a family like ours, but it also features a fantastic birding trail where we can observe local and migratory birds up close.

Nature Lovers

For those who enjoy exploring nature, Chattanooga has quite a few spots that can satisfy your thirst for outdoor adventure. One of our go-to places is Rainbow Lake situated just outside the downtown Chattanooga area in Signal Mountain. This beautiful lake is a perfect spot for families to enjoy hiking together.

Another favorite is Nickajack Lake located just west of downtown Chattanooga. This lake offers exciting activities for families, such as camping and fishing. It’s also a popular destination for spotting unique wildlife, such as sea turtles and numerous bird species.

When we’re in the mood for some shopping, we often head to Destin, Florida. This beach is close to Panama City from our list above. This town not only has beautiful clear waters for all your beach day needs but is also an excellent place to find unique shops and attractions.

As nature lovers and frequent visitors to Chattanooga and the beaches nearby, our family can attest to the area’s stunning natural beauty and wildlife experiences. We truly hope that you will be able to enjoy them as much as we have over the years.

Final Thoughts on the Closest Beach to Chattanooga

See the closest beach to Gatlinburg, too!

Hope to see you there!

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