Georgia’s Best Beaches
Five Fantastic Spots for Sun, Surf, and Sand
By Hope S. Philbrick
From remote island escapes to sandy getaways near the big city,dog-friendly banks ideal for splashing into the surf and romantic shores ideal for watching sunsets, Georgia has a beach for every occasion. Make sure to include these sunny spots on your summer to-do list for a long weekend or beach vacation sure to leave you with sand in your toes and a smile on your face.
Lake Lanier Islands Resort
Located about an hour north of Atlanta, this sprawling resort is home to a half-mile stretch of white sand dubbed Big Beach. Lounge and get some sun, dig in the powdery sand or splash in the blue water secure in the knowledge that a lifeguard will keep watch. This 1,500-acre vacation spot, located on the 38,000-acre lake that gives the place its name, is Georgia’s most-visited lakeside resort.
The lakeside beach is only part of the fun: Get a wet adrenaline rush just steps away at the other attractions that make up LanierWorld, the resort’s water park. Thrills await kids of all ages, including nine waterslides, a raging river, flumes, a wave pool, a miniature golf course, beach volleyball courts, a ropes course and much more.
Beyond the beach and water park, enjoy horseback riding, golf, boating, biking, dining, hiking, partying and more. Accommodation options range from villas to campsites, cabins and even houseboats for literal overnights on the water.
770-945-8787 • lakelanierislands.com
Elijah Clark State Park
On the western shores of Clarks Hill Lake on the border between Georgia and South Carolina is where you’ll find the white sand beach at Elijah Clark State Park. Hugging the blue waters of this 71,000-acre lake—one of the largest in the Southeast—the beach is open year-round, although it’s most popular from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are two other state parks on the same lake, but this 447-acre retreat, its beach nestled under tall trees, is especially peaceful.
The lake’s cool water lures swimmers, water-skiers and boaters, who can launch from one of four ramps or rent a canoe. Fish for striper and largemouth bass from the pier, deepen your understanding of history touring a Revolutionary War-era cabin, or test your skills at archery, geocaching, hiking, miniature golf and shuffleboard. All state park beaches are free, so the whole family can enjoy a day at the beach for a $5 parking fee. Stay overnight in one of 20 cottages or camp in a tent, trailer or RV.
800-864-7275 • gastateparks.org/elijahclark
Robin Lake Beach
The world’s largest manmade white sand beach loops a mile around the 65- acre Robin Lake in Callaway Gardens, a 13,000-acre resort and preserve in Pine Mountain, Ga., about an hour and a half southwest of Atlanta. From June through early August, the lake serves as the hub of summer fun in middle Georgia. Lounge in the sun, splash into the water, or test your skills at waterskiing, wakeboarding or just holding onto an inflated tube.
Miniature golf, ping pong, shuffleboard, giant chess and checker sets, a playground and more are included with general admission. Other activities and amenities are available for an additional fee, including access to a floating playground of obstacles, Blaster Boats with water guns that can spray up to 50 feet, laser tag, cabanas and individual waterskiing lessons. Some activities require advance reservation.
800-852-3810 • callawaygardens.com
St. Simons Island
The largest barrier island in the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island sports four miles of beaches on its south side. During high tide, try kayaking, fishing or bird watching. Then run with your dog, nap on the soft sand or build sandcastles at low tide when retreating water expands the beach a couple of hundred yards, exposing sand bars and tidal pools. The island also boasts a charming selection of boutiques, restaurants and historic sites. Built in 1872, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse and keeper’s residence are Glynn County’s oldest surviving brick structures. The Maritime Center offers insight into the area’s natural, maritime and military history with a variety of interactive exhibits.
For a regal experience, stay at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America. Guests have been lured to this location since it first opened its doors in 1935 as a private dance club, drawn by its reputation for elegance and warm Southern hospitality.
843-757-9889 • stsimonsisland.com
Just 20 minutes from Savannah’s Historic District, Tybee Island is the northeasternmost of Georgia’s barrier islands. The party is on South Beach, with its wide stretch of sand, a pier for dolphin watching, and nearby shops and restaurants. For a more private setting, live the dream of owning beachfront property and rent accommodations from Oceanfront Cottage Rentals or Tybee Vacation Rentals: Options that range from efficient condos to quaint cottages to luxe mansions.
You can spend your entire stay lounging near the sea, or get up off that towel and discover what else Tybee Island has to offer. Charter a private eco-tour to explore the salt marsh that houses dozens of birds, turtles, dolphins, alligators, crabs and other creatures. Climb 178 steps to the top of the Tybee Island Light Station, a lighthouse that has guided sailors into the Savannah River since 1732. And see Fort Pulaski National Monument, where the brick walls were considered unbreachable until a two-day Civil War battle proved otherwise. Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach, since Tybee Island is an important nesting area for endangered sea turtles.
Four More Georgia Beaches
Cumberland Island National Seashore is on the state’s largest and southernmost barrier island, which boasts 17 miles of pristine beaches and is home to wild horses. www.nps.gov/cuis
Don Carter State Park is Georgia’s newest state park and the first located on 39,000-acre Lake Lanier. Situated on the north end of the reservoir, the park boasts a huge sand swimming beach. gastateparks.org
Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island is a camera-ready beach scattered with knobby, twisted tree trunks and root bulbs made gray by the sea. It’s a great spot to look for seashells while taking a leisurely stroll. jekyllisland.com
East Beach on St. Simons Island is an ideal spot for bodysurfing at high tide and napping on the soft sand at low tide, when the beach expands to a couple of hundred yards wide. goldenisles.com