20 Best Beaches Near Chattanooga (Ranked Closest to Farthest)

Are you looking for the best beaches near Chattanooga? The Scenic City of Chattanooga is known for its natural beauty and landscape.

But, sometimes we want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy sandy beaches and cool waters. If you find yourself longing for some quality beach time, you’re in luck!

Chattanooga, TN is within an easy drive of many family friendly beach communities in the Southeast. Whether you’re looking to visit the coast of the Carolinas or the Gulf of Mexico, you are sure to find a beach destination in our list that meets your needs.

In this post, we will provide a list of the best beaches near Chattanooga for a family vacation. And if you aren’t able to commit to a road trip to the coast, we’ll cover some local beach spots where you can cool off from the summer heat too!

Chattanooga Beaches

If you aren’t able to get away for a lengthy vacation, a long drive to the coast may not be in the cards for you. In that case, you can enjoy a day trip to one of the state parks, rivers, or lakes near Chattanooga, TN.

pictures of different beaches with text 20 Best Beaches near Chattanooga

Although most people are familiar with the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, some prefer to visit nearby lakes to enjoy additional recreation areas, biking trails, water skiing, and more. 

If you’re interested in visiting a sandy beach close to the Scenic City, you can check out the following lake beaches near Chattanooga:

Chickamauga Lake

Chickamauga Lake sits in Chattanooga and offers all kinds of family fun like swimming, boating, water sports, playgrounds, and sandy beaches.

Chester Frost Park

Chester Frost Park is located just north of the downtown Chattanooga area in Hixson. This popular destination in Chattanooga features sandy beaches, playgrounds, and water sports among other fun things.

Harrison Bay State Park

Harrison Bay State Park is located in Harrison, TN which is right outside of Chattanooga. Visitors to this state park can enjoy the golf course, picnic areas, camping sites, and other activities.

Rainbow Lake

Rainbow Lake sits just outside the downtown Chattanooga area in Signal Mountain. This beautiful lake is a good spot for families who enjoy hiking together.

Nickajack Lake

Nickajack Lake is located just west of downtown Chattanooga and is a great spot for camping, fishing, and other fun activities for families.

Cumberland River

The Cumberland River runs through the city of Nashville, which is located roughly 2 hours from Chattanooga. Families visiting the Cumberland River can enjoy kayaking, fishing, and other water activities.

Cherokee Lake

Cherokee Lake and Cherokee National Forest are located just outside of Knoxville in East Tennessee. This is a great camping and fishing destination for those families who enjoy the outdoors. Cherokee Lake is just under a 2.5 hour drive from Chattanooga.

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beach travel planner

If you’re interested in reading more in-depth information about lakes near Chattanooga, we highly recommend checking out our post on the Best Lakes in Tennessee for Families. In that post, we feature multiple lakes and state parks throughout the state of Tennessee, including some of the fun things to do at each one.

Families who are wanting to stay more local to the city of Chattanooga can check out our post on Fun River Cruises and Boat Tours in Chattanooga. Whether you’re looking for holiday cruises or boat rental opportunities, that post includes the best options in the Scenic City.

Closest Ocean Beaches to Chattanooga

If you’re looking for a beach vacation that’s longer than a weekend getaway, you’ll want to check out some of the beautiful beach destinations that are within a short drive of Chattanooga. The beach communities included in our list below offer beautiful scenery within an easy drive.

Tybee Island, GA

If you’re searching for the closest beach to Chattanooga, Tybee Island is the winner. With a travel time of just 6 hours 10 minutes, this beautiful little beach town is a great spot for the whole family.

Tybee Island pier

Tybee Island features local museums, a beautiful lighthouse, and restaurants for families to enjoy. Additionally, Tybee Island is located just outside Savannah, Georgia, which opens the door to even more dining options, entertainment, and activities. 

Dauphin Island, AL

If you’re looking for the closest gulf beach to Chattanooga, you’ll want to check out Dauphin Island. Sitting just 6 hours 14 minutes away from Chattanooga, Dauphin Island is a great beach destination on the Gulf of Mexico.

dune in dauphin island

In addition to its beautiful beaches, Dauphin Island offers fun things to do like the Alabama Aquarium and Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Plus, you’ll find lots of local shops and restaurants available near your accommodations.

Santa Rosa Beach, FL

If you’re searching for the closest Florida beach to Chattanooga, TN, look no further than Santa Rosa Beach. With a drive time of 6 hours 14 minutes from Chattanooga, Santa Rosa Beach is worth every minute of the short drive.

Featuring white sand beaches and emerald colored water, Santa Rosa Beach is located between Destin and Panama City Beach on the Florida panhandle. Visitors will find all sorts of restaurants, shops, and activities in and around the Santa Rosa Beach area.

dunes in Seaside fl

Since the town is located on the popular Highway 30a, families in Santa Rosa Beach have easy access to the nearby towns of Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Seagrove. 

For a list of my family’s favorite things to do in this beautiful beach community, check out our post on Family Activities in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

Hilton Head Island, SC

Families looking to head to the Carolinas for their beach vacation will want to check out Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. This popular tourist destination sits just 6 hours 15 minutes from Chattanooga.

Hilton Head Island is full of family-friendly areas like Harbour Town and Shelter Cove Harbour. This stunning beach destination also offers numerous resorts that are perfect for families. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in the area, we recommend checking out the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort.

Hilton Head Island Lighthouse

Disney also offers a resort in the Hilton Head Island area. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is part of the Disney Vacation Club, meaning you can rent points to stay here super cheap. For more information on how to stay at this Disney resort, you can check out our post on How to Rent DVC Points.

Destin, Florida

Destin, Florida is another amazing beach near Chattanooga on the Gulf of Mexico. With a travel time of 6 hours 15 minutes, Destin sits within an easy drive of the Scenic City.

Destin features soft, white sand and some of the clearest water in Florida you can find. If you prefer to enjoy water sports while on vacation, you can often find rentals available near the beaches.

sandestin beach

This popular tourist destination offers multiple entertainment districts, including Harborwalk Village and The Village of Baytowne Wharf. Visitors to the Destin area also have plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining.

If you’re looking for family friendly resorts in Destin, we recommend checking out the Hilton Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and the Henderson Beach Resort. Both of these hotels offer beachfront locations with multiple pools and restaurants.

Orange Beach, AL

Orange Beach, Alabama and the neighboring community of Gulf Shores are located roughly 6 hours 19 minutes from Chattanooga. Orange Beach sits on the gulf coast of Alabama and offers lots of family friendly fun.

beach in orange beach alabama

Visitors to the area enjoy spending time at The Wharf, which features multiple restaurants and shops. You also find seasonal activities and entertainment here, including a huge Ferris wheel that kids love.

Panama City Beach, FL

Panama City Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico just 6 hours 45 minutes from Chattanooga. This popular beach destination boasts clear, blue water and white, sandy beaches.

Panama City Beach highrise

Visitors love Panama City Beach for its fun attractions and entertainment options. You can experience activities like dolphin swims, catamaran cruises, or fun rides all while staying in Panama City Beach. 

St. Simons Island, GA

St. Simons Island is located north of Jekyll Island just 6 hours 50 minutes from Chattanooga, TN. This small beach community features unique beaches that kids love to explore.

beach in st simons island

Visitors to the area should check out popular spots like Neptune Park, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and St. Simons Lighthouse. 

Folly Beach, SC

Folly Beach, South Carolina sits just 7 hours 3 minutes from Chattanooga. This beautiful beach town offers all kinds of fun activities like surfing lessons, dolphin tours, and easy access to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Folly Beach pier

Since Folly Beach is located just outside the popular tourist destination of Charleston, visitors to Folly Beach can also explore the historical downtown area of Charleston as well. Families visiting Folly Beach should check out the Wild Dunes Resort located near the island.

Amelia Island, FL

Amelia Island is a stunning beach community located on the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. With a drive time of just 7 hours 18 minutes, Amelia Island is easily accessible from the Chattanooga area.

Amelia Island coastline in Florida

If your family enjoys visiting golf courses and luxurious resorts, Amelia Island is just the place for you. We recommend checking out the Omni Amelia Island Resort or the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island if you’re planning a vacation to this area.

Jacksonville Beach, FL

Located just south of Amelia Island, Jacksonville Beach sits 7 hours 21 minutes from Chattanooga, TN. Jacksonville Beach is a great spot for those families looking to stay near the action.

jacksonville beach aerial view

With easy access to the downtown Jacksonville area, Jacksonville Beach allows visitors to experience city life and beach life.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is located 7 hours 38 minutes away from Chattanooga. This popular tourist destination is home to numerous kid-friendly accommodations and activities.

Myrtle Beach Ferris wheel

In addition to the beaches in Myrtle Beach, families love visiting this area for the water parks, boardwalk, carnival rides, restaurants, and entertainment. 

St. Augustine, FL

St. Augustine sits on the Atlantic Coast of Florida just 7 hours 41 minutes from Chattanooga. St. Augustine is known for being the oldest city in the United States.

St. Augustine beach aerial view

This means visitors can enjoy all sorts of historical sites and museums while visiting St. Augustine. The quaint community also features numerous restaurants and shops that families love to explore.

Beach Rentals near Chattanooga

In addition to some of the specific family-friendly resorts we mentioned above, the locations on our list offer beach house rentals from cozy cottages to large properties that are perfect for family reunions.

When renting a condo or house on the beach, my family and I like to use the VRBO website. VRBO allows you to filter results based on your personal preferences. You can narrow down your search based on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

You can also specify certain amenities like pools, hot tubs, beach view, etc. We like to use VRBO as a source for reviews before we book a new property. The VRBO website (and app) allows you to read what other families had to say about their experiences with the property.

If you’re planning a beach vacation to one of the destinations above, we recommend checking out VRBO for your beach house accommodations.

Printable Beach Planner

If you’re planning a family beach vacation, you may be interested in our printable beach packing list. This checklist is full of everything you need for a trip to the beach, and it’s completely free to print as many times as you like.

Families looking for a more in-depth beach planner can check out our printable beach planner in our Etsy shop. This 30+ page planner is available to download and includes all kinds of helpful planning forms and sheets.

beach travel planner

Some of the pages you’ll find in our planner include comparison charts (for airfare, hotels, transportation), outfit planners, itineraries, budget guides, and more. You can see our printable beach planner in our Etsy shop by clicking on the image above.

Final Thoughts on Beaches near Chattanooga TN

Overall, Chattanooga sits in a prime location for beach lovers. With easy access to South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama beaches, families will never have a shortage of ocean beaches close to Chattanooga to visit.

For shorter trips like day or weekend getaways, families can enjoy one of the many local or regional beaches mentioned above. Whether you enjoy fishing, boating, or kayaking, these lake beaches near Chattanooga are a perfect way to cool off from the hot sun.

If you’re interested in some additional beach getaways, you can check out our post on the Top Beaches to Visit in the Southern USA! This is a comprehensive list of destinations in the Southeast that are perfect for family beach vacations.

Did we forget your favorite beach? What do you think is the best beach close to Chattanooga? Comment below to share it with us!

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