13 Fantastic Beaches That Are a Weekend Trip From Atlanta

Steve Cummings

St. Simon's Island

If you're based in Atlanta and craving a seaside escape, you're in luck! Despite being landlocked, Atlanta is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from fabulous beach destinations perfect for a weekend getaway. Whether you're after the Gulf Coast's sun-soaked sands or the Atlantic's charming shores, there's a beach calling your name. So pack your sunscreen, grab your sunglasses, and prepare to swap the cityscape for the soothing sounds of ocean waves. From the hidden gems just a few hours’ drive away to beloved tourist hotspots, we'll guide you through the best beaches to recharge your batteries on a brief but blissful retreat. Let's dive into the wave of options!

1. Tybee Island

Tybee Island beach sunset

Tybee Island, just a four-hour drive from Atlanta, is a beloved beach getaway, made even more popular as a filming location for “Sponge Out of Water.” The journey there is straightforward, via I-75 S and I-16 E. While it shares some similarities with Jekyll Island—famous for its Driftwood Beach—Tybee Island has its unique charm with stunning natural landscapes and historical sites. One must-visit is Fort Pulaski, which has been meticulously rebuilt and features almost lived-in rooms, complete with quilts and lanterns. The Fort also offers enchanting nature trails that wind their way to scenic picnic spots and inviting beaches. It’s a perfect mix of history and nature for a delightful weekend escape.

2. Amelia Island

Amelia Island
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Amelia Island, a mere four-hour drive south of Atlanta, presents an ideal beach getaway with its stunning white sands and many activities. Known for top-notch golf courses and fascinating wildlife, the island offers a variety of outdoor pursuits like horseback riding along the beach, kayaking through serene waters, and fishing in abundant spots. Visitors can also explore the local culture and cuisine, enhancing their experience beyond the usual beach activities. Whether you're looking to unwind on the beach, enjoy the thrill of water sports, or explore nature trails, Amelia Island caters to all tastes, making it a perfect retreat.

3. Sandestin

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Sandestin, just 5.5 hours from Atlanta and near South Walton's Highway 30A, offers a perfect blend of beachfront and bayfront vistas within its vast 2,400-acre resort. The area is packed with diverse activities, nightlife, and accommodations, eliminating the need for a car thanks to extensive walking, biking, golf cart paths, and a handy tram service. The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa caters to both families and couples with its casual beach vibe. However, the upscale Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood provides a more refined dining option, being the only AAA Four Diamond restaurant in the vicinity.

4. Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island is a kid's paradise with massive driftwood pieces perfect for climbing and exploring. It’s located at the island's north end and adds a touch of adventure to any visit. The nearby Georgia Sea Turtle Center offers an educational and inspiring chance to learn about and meet sea turtles, focusing on their rescue and rehabilitation. The Jekyll Island Club Resort is a must-visit for a slice of history. This grand hotel was once the getaway spot for wealthy families like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Don't miss the chance to stroll its grounds and maybe even play croquet!

5. Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island
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Hop on a ferry to Cumberland Island for a unique adventure where you can enjoy 18 miles of pristine, undeveloped beaches—just remember to pack a lunch since there are no concessions there. While in the area, the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum is a great spot to soak up some local history. If your kids are fascinated by submarines, you'll want to visit the St. Marys Submarine Museum. It's packed with cool exhibits like a working periscope, torpedo models, a deep-sea diving suit, and submarine uniforms. And for relaxation and playtime, swing by St. Marys Waterfront Park, which features a fun playground for the kids.

6. Fort Yargo State Park Beach

Fort Yargo State park
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Fort Yargo State Park, located just under an hour from Atlanta, is a favorite for its versatile 260-acre lake beach where visitors can swim and fish. This destination is a hit with sunbathers and adventure seekers, especially mountain bikers who can challenge themselves on trails ranging from easy to moderate. These trails feature exciting twists, climbs, and steep descents, providing a thrilling experience. Given its proximity to Atlanta—only 49.7 miles away via I-85 N and US-29/University Parkway—Fort Yargo offers one of the most accessible beach experiences for Atlantans looking for a quick getaway.

7. Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach
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Henderson Beach State Park, located about 5 hours and 13 minutes from Atlanta, offers a stunning landscape with its snow-white dunes, resilient beach grasses, and sea oats. More than just a place for relaxation, the park caters to fishing enthusiasts with a valid license, offering the chance to catch species like whiting, redfish, and pompano. The park features 60 campsites connected by boardwalks for those looking to extend their stay. It's also a popular venue for events, including weddings and family reunions, making it a versatile destination for both leisure and special occasions.

8. Panama City Beach

Panama City, Floridas
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The city has transitioned from its wild spring break reputation to a more family-friendly destination. For fun-packed family activities, head to Pier Park, which offers a mix of a small-scale amusement park, diverse shops, and tasty dining options. For those who love quirky and educational attractions, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and WonderWorks provide interactive experiences that challenge the mind and spark curiosity. Kids and adults can enjoy navigating the giant maze and playing mini-golf at Coconut Grove Mini-Golf. Additionally, Gulf World Marine Park offers up-close encounters with marine life, while Shipwreck Island Waterpark promises a day of thrilling water rides and relaxation. These attractions make the city an ideal spot for families seeking a blend of entertainment and leisure.

9. Orange Beach

Orange Beach, Alabama
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During the summer, the Alabama Gulf Coast twin cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are buzzing with beachside festivals such as the Hangout Music Festival and the National Shrimp Festival. For convenient lodging, consider the Phoenix All Suites, ideally situated directly on the beach and within walking distance of several festival locations. This makes it easy for visitors to enjoy both the natural beauty of the beaches and the vibrant local culture, providing a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment during their stay.

10. Pensacola Island

Pensacola, FL
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Pensacola Beach, inviting sugar-white sands and emerald waters, is a scenic 5-hour drive from Atlanta. This beach paradise is perfect for various activities such as sunbathing, shell collecting, shoreline walks, and swimming. Beyond the beach, Pensacola offers additional attractions and activities. The Pensacola Beach pier is a highlight, not just for a leisurely stroll but also for enjoying stunning coastal views, watching skilled fishermen at work, and soaking in the fresh, salty air. This destination combines the tranquility of a beach escape with the engaging experiences of coastal life.

11. St. Simon’s Island

St. Simon’s Island
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St. Simon's Island, a picturesque beach destination near Atlanta, offers a scenic and quieter alternative to Tybee Island. Accessible in just under five hours via I-75 S and I-16 E, the island features enchanting mossy oak trees along its winding roads, enhancing the serene beach atmosphere. The beach welcomes pets and provides shelling, biking, kiteboarding, and fishing opportunities, especially at low tide. Visitors can immerse themselves in the island’s rich southern culture, experiencing local food, stores, and architecture. A must-visit is the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, where guests can climb 129 steps to the top for a breathtaking island view.

12. Highway 30A

30A a stretch of beach between Destin and Panama City
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This stretch of sand in Florida offers an abundance of family-friendly fun. Families can enjoy a scenic bike ride linking Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Seaside, and WaterColor, exploring each unique community. In Seaside, kids can delight in snow cones from a charming Airstream trailer and other snacks like grilled cheese and fried pickles. For cultural entertainment, the Seaside REP Theatre frequently puts on puppet shows and theater productions tailored for children. For those seeking a quieter activity, renting stand-up paddleboards at the WaterColor Boathouse allows for gentle water exploration, providing a soothing alternative to ocean waves. This area combines outdoor adventures with cultural experiences, ensuring every family member finds something enjoyable.

13. Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores, Alabama
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This Alabama beach destination is a treasure trove of family-friendly activities. Families can enjoy the sandy play areas at waterfront restaurants like Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s, which offers an allergy-friendly menu, and The Hangout, adding a touch of ease for those with dietary restrictions. For more adrenaline-pumping fun, Waterville USA features big water slides, lazy rivers, and interactive water fountains, perfect for a day of aquatic adventure. Not to be missed, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo provides an up-close experience with exotic wildlife, including tigers and black bears. This destination blends beach relaxation with engaging attractions, making it ideal for families looking to combine leisure with educational excitement in their vacation.

In Conclusion

Ready to escape Atlanta's hustle for sandy shores? These fantastic beach destinations, each within a short drive, promise refreshing ocean breezes and activities for all ages. From serene nature trails to lively boardwalks, there’s a perfect beach waiting just for you. Pack your bags and set off on a beach adventure only a weekend away!

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