20 Beaches Near Knoxville, TN (Ranked Closest to Farthest)

If you’re looking to soak up the sun on a sandy beach, you’ll love my list of the closest beaches to Knoxville, TN!

From beautiful spots along the coast of the Carolinas to gulf beaches with crystal-clear water, this list features the top spots for family beach vacations near Knoxville and the surrounding area.

If you are in East Tennessee and looking for the perfect place to spend a beach getaway with the entire family, you’re sure to find several options in this post. So, check out some of my family’s favorite spots to find a great place to spend your next beach vacation!

1. Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

If you’re looking for the closest beaches to Knoxville besides the ones you’ll find at local state parks, Sullivan’s Island is probably your best bet. With an estimated drive time of 5 hours 44 minutes, Sullivan’s Island is the closest ocean beach to the Knoxville area.

This quiet beach community sits on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, just 25 minutes from the popular city of Charleston. Because of its close proximity to Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is full of fun things to do with the whole family.

black and white lighthouse on beach in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island

In addition to the beach and water sports you’ll find on Sullivan’s Island, visitors can also spend time checking out the South Carolina Aquarium, the Children’s Museum, and local pirate cruises. Not to mention all the fabulous dining options in the area!

If you’re looking for accommodations near Sullivan’s Island, we recommend checking out the Wild Dunes Resort in neighboring Isle of Palms. This family friendly resort is located right on the beach and boasts fun pools, multiple restaurants, and lots of kids’ activities.

2. Folly Beach, South Carolina

Located near Sullivan’s Island and the city of Charleston, Folly Beach is just a short 5 hour 52-minute drive from Knoxville. With its easy access to Charleston plus its own attractions, Folly Beach offers multiple dining options and activities for visitors. 

If you’re looking for things to do in the area with kids, we recommend checking out the Folly Beach playgrounds, dolphin tours, surf lessons, and the South Carolina Aquarium.

Folly Beach pier

Folly Beach features lots of options for beach vacation rentals in the area. If you’re interested in renting a house right on the Atlantic Ocean, we highly recommend checking out the VRBO website. VRBO allows you to narrow down your search results based on your desired number of bedrooms and bathrooms along with choosing specific amenities.

3. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Sitting 45 minutes away from Charleston, Kiawah Island is another good location for a beach vacation near Knoxville. With a driving time of 6 hours 12 minutes, Kiawah Island is easily accessible from East Tennessee.

Kiawah Island coast in South Carolina

This beautiful coastal community in South Carolina features golf courses, restaurants, and lots of water activities for families. If you’re looking for accommodations in the area, we recommend checking out the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. This luxurious beachfront hotel features multiple swimming pools, dining options, and activities for the entire family to enjoy.

4. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Continuing our list with another South Carolina beach near Knoxville, Hilton Head Island sits roughly 6 hours 18 minutes away. This family favorite beach destination is also only a 45-minute drive to Savannah, Georgia.

Hilton Head Island features all kinds of fun things to do with kids from horseback riding to ziplining to water sports. The town also offers quaint villages on the water like Shelter Cove Harbour and Harbour Town at the Sea Pines Resort.

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beach travel planner

Both of these areas feature shopping, dining, and entertainment for the whole family. Visitors to Hilton Head Island will find a selection of resort accommodations and vacation house rentals. For a luxurious stay, we recommend checking out Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, which offers golf, tennis, swimming, fishing, and more. 

beach in Hilton Head Island

Additionally, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is a great place to stay with kids. Although it isn’t located directly on the beach, the Disney resort offers a shuttle to its beach access or you can ride bikes along the pathway. 

This resort is part of the Disney Vacation Club hotels, which means you can often get great deals on your stay. You can check out our post on Renting DVC Points to see how my family and I save on Disney hotels using this trick.

5. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is another popular beach vacation spot for families. This exciting beachfront town is approximately 6 and half hours away from Knoxville, TN.

ferris wheel and condos on beach

Visitors to the Myrtle Beach area will have no trouble finding fun things to do. The beach boardwalk offers all kinds of restaurants, shops, entertainment, and rides that kids love. Additionally, families can find an aquarium, pirate cruise, and water park all near their hotel or rental accommodations in Myrtle Beach.

6. Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island, Georgia is a short 6 hour 45 minute car ride from the Knoxville area. This serene, coastal community features historical landmarks like Fort Pulaski National Monument and the Tybee Island Lighthouse.

sand and ocean with pier in background

Animal lovers will want to spend time learning about marine life at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. If you’re wanting to branch out for additional activities and dining options, Savannah, Georgia is just a 20 minute drive away. Tybee Island features beautiful vacation rentals and inns that offer amenities like a swimming pool, water sports, and more.

7. Kure Beach, North Carolina

Kure Beach, North Carolina sits an estimated 7 and a half hours from Knoxville, Tennessee. This beach town is the perfect vacation spot for families as it offers plenty of attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, beachfront parks, and fishing piers.

pier and birds on Kure Beach, NC

Plus, visitors will find all sorts of restaurants available nearby. Additionally, Kure Beach is located just a short 25 minute drive from Wilmington, NC, which opens the door to even more exciting attractions and dining options.

8. Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia is located roughly 7 hours and 35 minutes away from Knoxville. This beach community is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center as well as other fun spots for families.

dead tree on sand in Driftwood Beach
Driftwood Beach, South Carolina

Visitors to the area can also visit the nearby St. Simons Island and Driftwood Beach for additional things to do during their beach vacation. If you’re looking for places to stay in Jekyll Island, we recommend checking out the Jekyll Island Club Resort. This beachfront resort features luxurious amenities and beautiful accommodations for guests.

9. Pensacola, Florida

If you’re looking for the closest gulf beaches to Knoxville, Pensacola Beach is a great place to start. Located just 7 hours 34 minutes from Knoxville, Pensacola Beach boasts white sand beaches and miles of shoreline.

Pensacola Beach

Whether you’re looking to boogie board with the family or enjoy some beach volleyball, Pensacola Beach features plenty of fun activities. Families also enjoy experiencing the Blue Angels Air Shows, dolphin tours, and Laguna’s Adventure Park. Visitors looking for accommodations in Pensacola Beach should check out the Portofino Island Resort, which offers multiple pools and various types of rooms.

10. Destin, Florida

If you’re looking for white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water, Destin is the beach for you. Sitting just under 8 hours (7 hours 53 minutes) from Knoxville, Destin features numerous restaurants, kid-friendly activities, and gorgeous beaches.

white sand beach with water in background

From water parks to go karts to dolphin tours, Destin offers plenty of things to do with the whole family. You’ll also want to check out Harborwalk Village and The Village of Baytowne Wharf for lots of shopping, dining, and entertainment while in Destin. Visitors to the area can find beach rentals of all sizes available on VRBO, including beachfront homes that sleep 30+ people. 

If you’re looking for resort accommodations in the area, we recommend checking out our post on the best resorts in Destin, FL where we list our top picks for family friendly hotels in the area.

11. Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida is located just east of the Sandestin area and an 8 hour drive from Knoxville. Santa Rosa Beach offers quiet beachfront accommodations while still allowing easy access to nearby attractions in Destin.

beach with seagulls

Visitors to Santa Rosa Beach should check out Gulf Place Town Center where they’ll find restaurants with outdoor patios, numerous shops and local vendors, as well as live entertainment on select nights.

For additional ideas on activities in this beach community, check out our post on Fun Things to Do in Santa Rosa Beach. In that article, we discuss the best places to find ice cream as well as where to enjoy water sports and beach activities.

12. Seaside, Florida

The picturesque town of Seaside, Florida is located just 8 hours away from Knoxville. This beautiful community features beaches with clear water and soft sand.

sand dunes with stairs leading down to water

After spending a day on the beach, visitors should take time to walk to the town center and visit the Town Square. Here, you’ll find lots of food trucks, shops, restaurants, and live entertainment.

If you’re looking for beachfront accommodations in Seaside, we recommend checking out the Watercolor Inn. This luxurious resort features multiple pools and dining options plus a lazy river and water slides!

13. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is just an 8 hour drive from Knoxville, Tennessee. Visitors to Virginia Beach love spending time biking or strolling along the beach boardwalk. 

beach and pier with birds flying in sky

You can also enjoy live entertainment and various dining options right on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. If you’re looking for a good rainy day activity or a getaway from the sun, you can check out the nearby Virginia Aquarium.

14. Orange Beach, Alabama

The beachfront communities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores sit just over 8 hours away from Knoxville, TN on the gulf coast of Alabama. Families love visiting the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores areas because they offer lots of fun dining options as well as kid-friendly activities.

beach with water in background

Visitors to Orange Beach should check out The Track Family Fun Parks where they’ll find fun activities like bumper boats, go karts, and mini golf. Additionally, The Wharf offers various shops and restaurants plus a Ferris wheel that families love! 

15. Rosemary Beach, Florida

Located along Highway 30a on the Florida panhandle, Rosemary Beach sits just 8 hours 9 minutes from Knoxville. Visitors to Rosemary Beach can enjoy the beautiful emerald waters and white sandy beaches.

30A Beach

We also recommend checking out the Rosemary town center, which offers cobblestone streets lined with restaurants and shops. For accommodations in the area, you can check out The Pearl Hotel for an upscale beachside experience.

16. Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Jacksonville Beach is located 8 hours 15 minutes from Knoxville, TN. This beach community is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, which means the beaches come with larger waves than in the gulf coast.

Jacksonville Beach aerial view

Jacksonville Beach offers plenty of fun things to do, including the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Shipwreck Island Water Park, and the Museum of Science and History.

17. Amelia Island, Florida

Sitting just north of Jacksonville, Amelia Island is roughly an 8 hour 16 minute drive from the East Tennessee area. This beautiful beach community features award-winning golf courses and luxurious family resorts.

Amelia Island coastline in Florida from above

In addition to exciting water activities, visitors to Amelia Island enjoy exploring the Nature Center and local lighthouses. If you’re looking for accommodations in the area, we recommend checking out the Omni Amelia Island Resort.

18. Panama City Beach, Florida

Panama City Beach, FL is located just 8 hours 18 minutes from the Knoxville area. This lively beachfront town is full of fun things to do with kids.

beachfront condo from the water

Some favorite places to visit include Gulf World Marine Park, Pier Park, and ZooWorld Panama City Beach.

19. Nags Head, North Carolina

Nags Head sits just over 8.5 hours from Knoxville on a barrier island in North Carolina. This quiet beach town is full of history, which you can learn more about by visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial during your visit.

sea grass and sand dunes

The coastal community of Nags Head features plenty of dining options for visitors. If you’re looking for accommodations in the area, we recommend checking out The Sanderling Resort and Spa.

20. Cape San Blas, Florida

Cape San Blas, Florida is a hidden gem tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Panama City Beach. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Cape San Blas sits 8 hours 40 minutes from Knoxville. This beach vacation destination is perfect for families wanting to relax on a quiet beach.

Cape San Blas in Florida

Although, you will find local restaurants available if you would like to venture out during your stay. We recommend using VRBO to find accommodations in Cape San Blas since this area is not developed with condominiums and hotels like other beach communities on the Florida panhandle.

Final Thoughts on Closest Beaches to Knoxville, TN

Overall, Knoxville is within a short drive to numerous beaches in the southeastern United States. Whether you’re looking to take a road trip to the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the list above provides plenty of destinations.

beach travel planner

With quiet beach towns perfect for a relaxing beach trip or vacation spots featuring lots of attractions and activities, the beach towns on our list offer a wide variety for whatever type of trip you are looking for!

So, what do you think? What’s the best beach near Knoxville? Comment below to share your thoughts!

beach pictures with text 20 Closest Beaches Knoxville, TN

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