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The 14 Best Lake & Coastal Beaches in Georgia [2023]

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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There are many reasons to visit Georgia. It’s known for its Atlanta music scene, peaches, and history. People can sometimes overlook the fact that some of the best beaches in the U.S. are in this southern state. But with 110 miles of coastline and multiple barrier islands, there are many shorelines to choose from.

You’ll have a nice time at nearly any beach in the state, but doing some research can mean the difference between a good beach day and a great one. We did the hard work of weighing the pros and cons to come up with the best beaches on the Georgia coast. By the time you’re done, you’ll have all the information you need to pack your beach bag and go.

Map of the 14 Best Beaches in Georgia

The 3 Best Lake Beaches in Georgia

1. John Tanner State Park

John Tanner State Park
Image Credit: Explore Georgia

If you prefer closed bodies of water to spending time near the ocean, John Tanner State Park in Carroll County is the place for you. The beach is on a freshwater lake surrounded by forests and hiking trails. Though the lake is just a single part of the park, it’s what the area is known for.

There are numerous water-based recreational activities at the lake, including swimming, kayaking, and boating. Since the lake is state-protected, pollution is minimal, making the water clean and safe to swim in.

John Tanner State Park is a popular location for visitors during the spring and summer, so you might encounter some crowds depending on when you visit. Your best chance at space and privacy is during the week.

2. Lake Lanier

Lake Lanier
Image Credit: Amog U via Flickr (license)

Lake Lanier is the largest lake in Georgia and has more shoreline than the state’s ocean coast. Since it’s so large, you won’t have any trouble finding a place to lay out a towel for a day in the water. Some parts of the lake are considered safer and more popular than others. The land surrounding the lake is natural and undeveloped to maintain the area’s landscape.

Some areas are naturally more dangerous to explore than others because of overgrowth, deep waters, unstable shores, and the amount of potentially dangerous wildlife. Run-off is also a concern in some places because the lake’s water comes from nearby rivers.

Choosing where to swim is easy, as 20 areas have been specifically designated as swimmable. These areas have the cleanest waters and the most stable conditions for a fun and carefree time.

3. Robin Lake Beach

Callaway Gardens
Image Credit: Callaway Gardens

Located on another one of Georgia’s freshwater lakes, Robin Lake Beach is a family-friendly, safe place for summer days. It’s also the largest inland continuous sand beach in the country. There are plenty of activities to entertain people of all ages. There are golf courses and nets for volleyball, but the beach is the main attraction.

Robin Lake has 1 mile of white sand around the water that’s soft and even for sunbathers. You can also take a leisurely stroll around the lake if you need to stretch your legs a bit. The lake is clean and has clear water, which makes swimming safe and secure.

The water can get pretty deep, but it’s a gradual dip that makes it safe for amateur or young swimmers who might not be comfortable being in areas where they can’t touch the bottom.

Hot Tip: Admittance to Robin Lake Beach is included with Callaway Gardens daily admission tickets and for guests of the resort’s properties.

The 11 Best Coastal Beaches in Georgia

1. Cabretta Beach, Sapelo Island

Cabretta Beach
Image Credit: Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Cabretta Beach is located on one of Georgia’s 15 barrier islands, Sapelo Island. Since 97% of the island is a state park, it’s managed to maintain a natural, wild look.

This beach is no exception. It’s naturally maintained through wind erosion and the ocean’s tides. Though the sand isn’t tilled manually, it’s still soft and plush to walk on because it’s not constantly packed down by foot traffic.

It’s a perfect place to go if you want to camp near the coast since it’s safe and secluded. There also aren’t any docks nearby the beach, which helps preserve the area and cuts back on the amount of pollution that reaches the island’s water and shores. However, there usually aren’t many lifeguards on duty, if any, so swim carefully.

Access to Sapelo Island is restricted to pre-registered visitors only.

2. Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore
Image Credit: NPS

Not only is Cumberland Island National Seashore one of Georgia’s islands, but it’s also the largest. It has the most to do and see while still maintaining a calm and quiet environment. The shore is pristine and free of pollution no matter where you are on the island. There are also multiple beach stretches you can choose from.

The main beaches on the island are the ocean shores, but there are also freshwater lakes where you can spend your days. In all, there are 17 miles of white sand beaches on the island’s coast, so you won’t feel crowded even on busy weekends.

Busy beach days are fairly rare on these shores, with many Georgians preferring to spend their summers at beaches on the mainland. You’re also most likely to catch a glimpse of southern coastal wildlife on this protected beach.

The only way to get to Cumberland Island is by passenger ferry (reservations are recommended) or private boat. There is also an entrance fee.

3. Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island

Driftwood Beach
Image Credit: Zach Reiner via Unsplash

Driftwood Beach is one of the most unique and dramatic beaches in Georgia and also in the entire country. The beach was once full of lush greenery and trees, but erosion destroyed the forest and petrified the wood that remained.

There are still trees standing along the shore, but they’re driftwood now, which gives the beach an almost eerie yet exotic look. You’ll feel like you’re in another world and not just a few hours away from one of the biggest cities in the country.

The beach is protected to maintain its characteristic look, but visitors are still welcome. It’s a great place to go for long walks and fully see how nature preserved the landscape that was once part of the island.

Vehicles require a parking pass that you can purchase online or at the entry gate.

Hot Tip: If you’re traveling with kids, make sure they don’t climb on the wood. Not only can the wood break, but it also provides food and shelter for animals.

4. Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island
Image Credit: Little St. Simons Island

Another barrier island, Little St. Simons Island is a pristine and preserved snapshot of Georgia’s history and a relaxing beach getaway. The island is privately owned, but visitors are welcome and access is via ferry. You can even stay the night at one of the island’s lodges or cabins.

The beach isn’t developed, but it’s not so overgrown that it’s unwelcoming. Instead, you’ll feel like you’ve found a secluded and calm place to spend time by the ocean. You might see some boats on the horizon, but none will come too close to the island, so the water can stay nice and clean.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can go for long walks on the soft sand. It’s safe to walk at all hours of the day. Even when the sun is high and bright, there are plenty of trees to offer you shade to keep cool.

Access is only via ferry and this fee is included for overnight stays and day trips.

5. Nanny Goat Beach, Sapelo Island

Nanny Goat Beach
Image Credit: Image Credit: Evangelio Gonzalez via Flickr (license)

Nanny Goat Beach is the closest free beach to the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary you’ll be able to visit. If you’re up for a swim, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the reef while you’re visiting since the water is so clear.

Since the beach is on one of Georgia’s islands, it doesn’t typically get too crowded, especially during the week. Even weekends outside of the high season (July and August) are usually pretty peaceful.

There are 2 ways to get to the shore from the mainland. You can either take the ferry, or you can take a small plane. These limited transportation options help ensure Nanny Goat Beach stays clean and unaffected by overdevelopment.

This beach is one of the most family-friendly in the state. It has picnic tables and rest areas to make your days relaxing and stress-free.

6. North Beach, Tybee Island

North Beach Tybee Island
Image Credit: Visit Tybee Island

North Beach is one of the largest areas on Tybee Island, and it’s also home to the premier shopping district in the area. It’s not the best place for surfers since there aren’t usually any waves, and those that are there tend to be on the smaller side. But the minimal waves are part of the beach’s appeal to families.

The current is very gentle, so you don’t have to be a proficient swimmer to splash around. Though the island gets its fair share of crowds, North Beach is usually fairly calm and empty. It’s a little more out of the way, which is perfect if you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy the sun and the water.

Bottom Line: Due to the lower crowd levels, Tybee Island’s North Beach is also a good place to observe wildlife.

7. Saint Andrews, Jekyll Island

Saint Andrews Jekyll Island
Image Credit: Jekyll Island State Park

As you hit up Driftwood Beach, you’re in the perfect position to check out the rest of Jekyll Island. The island is owned by the state and maintained by the 1,000+ people who live there. As such, the water is clean and the sand is clear of pollution.

Jekyll Island is another one of the state’s barrier islands that has multiple sections of shoreline to choose from, and Saint Andrews is one of those gems. There’s a picnic area nearby. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see dolphins.

There aren’t usually lifeguards on duty, especially outside of the high tourist season, but the water is usually calm and safe for swimmers. The sand is also soft if you prefer lounging.

8. Saint Catherines Island

St. Catherines Island Stormy Boneyard
Image Credit: William D Bone via Wikimedia (license)

Saint Catherines Island is one of the most exclusive spots in Georgia. To protect the local flora and fauna, access is limited. You can only get there by boat, which makes visiting even more of an adventure.

Most of the island is off-limits to the public. The island is used for natural scientific research that can’t risk disturbance from visitors. However, the beach is freely-accessible. The beach’s regulations ensure the water stays safe for visitors and the environment is preserved for future visitors.

The beach is one of Georgia’s most picturesque. The wild trees and greenery look gorgeous at all hours of the day and are perfect for a photo opportunity. The beach rarely gets busy, so you’ll have plenty of room to walk around and spread out on the sand during your visit.

9. Sea Island Beach Club

Sea Island Beach Club
Image Credit: Sea Island Resorts

If you’re looking for an exclusive beach experience while you’re in Georgia, Sea Island Beach Club is the place for you. The beach club gives visitors full access to a private beach with VIP-level amenities. The sand is golden and soft to walk and lay out on, and the water is bright blue and crystal clear.

The main demographic for the club is adults, and it’s especially popular for anniversaries and honeymoons. Children are also welcome and can safely splash around in the water. The beach offers miles of uninterrupted shoreline where you can swim, walk, and tan without worrying about crowds.

If you decide to leave the beach, the club resort is in a central location that’s nearby other landmarks, attractions, and towns. The club is open year-round, but the water might be too cold for swimming in the winter.

Access to the private, gated island of Sea Island is for resort guests and Sea Island Club members only.

10. St. Simons Island

St. Simons Island
Image Credit: Golden Isles CVB

Don’t confuse this island with its little brother Little St. Simons Island. Though the 2 locations might be close by, they’re quite different. St. Simons has become a haven for Georgians looking for a getaway any time of year.

During the warmer spring and summer months, it’s more of a hot spot for swimmers and sun-bathers, but it’s still popular during the fall and winter as well. The sand is even and soft, making it easy to go on long walks and lose track of time.

The beach is well maintained, so you generally don’t have to worry about rocks, sticks, or worse objects injuring you while you’re on the sand. If you need a break from the water, you can explore the town’s historic sites and make new friends with the locals who are more than happy to make you feel at home.

11. South Beach, Tybee Island

South Beach Tybee Island
Image Credit: Visit Tybee Island

Tybee Island’s North Beach has already made an appearance on this list, but the entire island deserves recognition. Tybee’s beaches are wide and sprawling and covered in soft sand.

The most famous on the island is South Beach. It even has a pavilion and pier for residents and visitors to stroll on to get a better view of the water. The beaches are popular among Georgia residents and people in surrounding states, but they rarely feel overcrowded. You can typically find plenty of space to lay out your towels for a beach day.

Tybee has 3 main tourism seasons. For people looking for a calm, warm day at the beach, April and May are recommended. For the warmest water, June and July are best. If you’re more interested in listening to the waves and going for walks on the beach, September to November is the best time.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, there’s no shortage of beaches in Georgia. There’s bound to be a sandy paradise that’ll be perfect for your next vacation. Hopefully, this list has helped you narrow down your options and figure out all the little details that will make your time on the Georgia coast a dream come true.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Georgia known for its beaches?

Georgia is known for its Southern culture and as the location of many important events in recent history. In the past few years, the state’s beaches have earned more national notoriety.

Are there any clear-water beaches in Georgia?

There are multiple clear-water beaches in Georgia, such as the beaches on St. Simons Island. Beaches that don’t have shipyards or docks nearby are more likely to have clear water because there’s less pollution. Less popular beaches or natural coasts also tend to have clear water.

Are there alligators on Georgia beaches?

Alligators have been sighted on the sands of Georgia’s beaches, especially on sunny, warm days. However, you won’t find them everywhere since they tend to avoid humans when possible. If you visit popular beaches or those near cities, you’re less likely to encounter alligators.

Can you swim on Georgia beaches?

You can swim in the water on most of Georgia’s beaches. Even beaches that don’t have lifeguards on duty typically allow swimming with caution. Before you assume the stretch of coast where you’ll be staying is swimmable, you can check with local authorities first.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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