20 Best Beaches Near Nashville TN (Lake + Ocean)

Best Beaches near Nashville TN Graphic

Music City and the state of Tennessee may be landlocked, but there are some amazing beach getaways that are a 30 minutes to a day’s drive way! From beautiful lake beaches to the white sand ocean beaches of the Gulf Coast, there’s plenty of options if you’re driving from the downtown Nashville area. In this guide, I’ll explore the best beaches near Nashville, TN!

Key Takeaway: The closest beach to Nashville is at Percy Priest Lake, which is about a 30-minute drive. The closest ocean beach is Gulf Shores Beach, which is about a 6-hour & 45-minute drive.

View of calm Percy Priest Lake near Nashville TN
Shoreline of blue-green waters at Pensacola Beach Florida

Lake & Ocean Beaches: Our Picks

Our Lake Beach pick is Percy Priest Lake because it’s the closest beach area to Nashville and has tons of things to do there (like Nashville Shores waterpark)!

Our Ocean Lake Beach pick is Pensacola Beach, Florida because:

  • it’s one of the closest ocean beaches to Nashville at 6.5-hour drive
  • beautiful Gulf Coast beaches (nickname “World’s Whitest Beaches”)
  • great water activities like dolphin tours

The Top Lake Beaches Near Nashville, Tennessee are…

A lake beach is the perfect location if you want at most a 1 or 2 hour drive time from Music City. There is a 6-hour drive difference between the nearest lake beach (Percy Priest Lake) and ocean beach (Gulf Shores).

Tennessee’s lakes are almost all man-made reservoirs that are overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The one exception is the smaller Reelfoot Lake that was created in the early 1800s by earthquakes (source: Tennessee Magazine).

Perks of Going to the Lake: Lake beaches offer sandy beaches, water sports/recreation, state park amenities, recreation areas, and a host of other activities.

Here are five of the best lake beaches that average 64 miles from Nashville, averaging a 75-minute drive.

1. Percy Priest Lake

View of calm Percy Priest Lake near Nashville TN

Percy Priest Lake is the closest beach for those in the greater Nashville area. Driving along I-40, you can see the J. Percy Priest Dam that creates this 42-mile lake. This lake is among the most popular in Tennessee and attracts millions of annual visitors.

Beaches at Percy Priest Lake. The main beaches and swimming areas are at the Anderson Road and Cook Recreation Areas. These are day use beaches that have picnic tables, playgrounds, boat launch ramps, group shelters, and clean restrooms.

You can enjoy a quiet day, soaking in the sun on the shore. Or head over to one of the five commercial marinas for a variety of lake activities like boating, water skiing, or jet skiing. Make sure to check out the other things here too:

  • Campground and RV sites
  • Fishing (TN fishing license required)
  • Scuba diving is permitted at the lake (see rules)
  • 3 hiking trails
  • Horseback riding trail

One of the most fun attractions is Nashville Shores! This waterpark and adventure course is located along the shores of Percy Priest Lake.

Distance: short drive of 15 miles

Driving time: 25 minutes

Army Corps of Engineer’s Website for Percy Priest Lake

2. Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake is the second closest beach area to Nashville at about a 40-minute drive northeast. Old Hickory Dam on the Cumberland River creates this picturesque reservoir lake, which is an excellent spot for family outings and outdoor recreation!

Beach Areas at Old Hickory Lake. The lake boasts sandy beaches at four designated recreation areas:

  1. Cedar Creek
  2. Laguardo
  3. Lock 3
  4. Old Hickory Beach

In addition to the beach and swim areas, each site includes park amenities like picnic areas, grills, a boat ramp, and clean restrooms.

  • Fishing Piers at Rockland, Shutes Branch, Sanders Ferry, and Bledsoe Creek State Park
  • Stay at one of the campground sites

After enjoying hours of fun in the water, consider stopping by Sam’s Sports Grill, a local restaurant known for its tasty American cuisine!

Distance: 25 miles

Driving time: 40 minutes

Army Corps of Engineer’s Website for Old Hickory Lake

3. Center Hill Lake

Center Hill Lake is known for its clear waters and beautiful beaches. It’s perfect for a day trip or even a weekend getaway. In addition to the beaches, you can saddle up and go trail riding along the Appalachian Ridge.

Beach Areas at Center Hill Lake. There are three beach areas at Center Hill.

  • Ragland Bottom Recreation Area (Day Use)
  • Floating Mill (Day Use)
  • Floating Mill Campground (only open to registered campers)

Some other great things to explore include:

  • Fishing for bass, crappie, and walleye at the lake or Caney Fork River downstream
  • 3 Nature Trails – Buffalo Valley, Lost Springs, Ye Ole Red Post
  • Day Cruise aboard a luxury houseboat
  • Cumberland Caverns

Distance: 70 miles

Driving time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Army Corps of Engineer’s Website for Center Hill Lake

4. Lake Guntersville State Park

Lake Guntersville is Alabama’s largest lake, has plenty of sandy shoreline to enjoy, and is only a 2-hour and 45 minute drive from Nashville.

The beach complex is open for day use and to registered guests at the state park. In addition to the beach, you can enjoy the following at this Alabama State Park:

  • Boat rentals at Town Creek Fishing Center
  • Fishing for largemouth bass, bream, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, sauger, and catfish
  • Eagle’s Nest Golf Course
  • Geocaching
  • Ziplining
  • Horseback Riding and more!

Distance: 162 miles

Driving Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Lake Gunterville State Park Website and Beach Complex Info

5. Cherokee Lake (Jefferson City, TN)

Nestled in the foothills of the Clinch Mountains, Cherokee Lake has a public beach and swimming area that is a 3.5 hour drive from downtown Nashville. The spot offers some stunning views and is a great place for swimming and sunbathing!

The Cherokee Dam Reservation is located in northeastern Tennessee, about 30-minutes from Knoxville. There is a day use beach and swimming area that’s open to the public. The Cherokee Dam Reservation is also pet friendly.

Typically the weekends are more popular here, but call 865-361-2151 if you have any questions about the best time. When I called, they picked up the phone quickly and answered all my questions. Very helpful.

Also note that there is a 44 site campground that takes reservations for 2-night minimum stays

Distance: 212 miles

Driving time: 3 hours and 30-minutes

Cherokee Dam Reservation Website

6. Watauga Lake (Hampton, TN)

view of a pier at Watauga Lake in Hampton, TN

Watauga Lake’s scenic beach area is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and is about a 4 hour and 45 minute drive from Nashville. This is one of the best places for a return to nature!

The main public beach area is at Shook Branch, which includes a golden sand beach and swimming area! There are also 24 picnic tables and large grass-covered area for picnicking and relaxing amidst the backdrop of scenic Cherokee National Forest.

In addition to the fun in the sun, you can check out:

  • 2 Campground Sites: Cardens Bluff Campground & Dennis Cove Recreation Area
  • 5 Fishing Areas
  • Target Shooting at Pond Mountain Shooting Range
  • A scenic mountain drive along US 321/TN 67

Distance: 303 miles

Driving time: 4 hours and 45-minutes

Address for Shook Branch Swimming Area : 1588 US-321 Scenic, Hampton, TN 37658

Forest Service Watauga Lake Area Website and Visitors Information Site

Table of Best Lake Beaches Near Nashville, TN

Lake BeachDistance & Drive TimeUnique FeaturesGoogle Reviews (Rating, No. of Reviews)
Percy Priest Lake-15 miles
-25 minutes
-Known for its sandy beaches, the Anderson Road and Cook Recreation Areas

-Activities include boating, water skiing, jet skiing, camping, fishing, scuba diving, hiking, and horseback riding
4.5 of 5 stars
250+ Reviews
Old Hickory Lake-25 miles
-40 minutes
-Sandy beaches, water skiing, Old Hickory Beach4.5 of 5 stars
206+ Reviews
Center Hill Lake-70 miles
-1 hour & 20 minutes
-Clear waters, limestone cliffs, walking trails4.5 of 5 stars
245+ Reviews
Lake Guntersville State Park-162 miles
-2 hours & 45-minutes
-Alabama’s largest lake with a beach complex open for day use

-Activities include boat rentals, fishing, golf, geocaching, ziplining, and horseback riding
4.5 of 5 stars
2,900+ Reviews
Cherokee Lake -212 miles
-3.5 hours
-Public beach and swimming area with stunning views

– The Cherokee Dam Reservation is pet friendly. Features a 44 site campground
4.5 of 5 stars
330+ Reviews
Watauga Lake-303 miles
-4 hours & 45-minutes
-Scenic beach area at Shook Branch surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains

-Offers picnic areas and activities like camping, fishing, and target shooting.
5 of 5 stars
200+ Reviews

Closest Beaches in Alabama to Nashville, TN

If you’re looking for the quintessential beach experience – salty air, crashing waves, and endless stretches of sand included – then pack up the car for a road trip to the Gulf Coast.

Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Dauphin Island are the three Alabama beaches that average a drive time of 7 hours and distance of 473 mile from Nashville, TN.

7. Gulf Shores, AL

Gulf Shores is the closest Alabama beach to Nashville, TN at 467 miles, which is about a 7-hour drive.

And this is one of the best beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, with white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and an amazing water park. Gulf Shores, AL is the most popular Alabama resort town and beach, so expect higher traffic during peak times of summer and spring break.

Craving adrenaline-pumping action or serene nature encounters? Look no further! Gulf Shores is not just about sun-soaked beaches. It’s a treasure trove of vibrant experiences waiting to be discovered:

  • Waterville USA – one of the country’s largest water parks. Also includes amusement park and escape rooms!
  • Gulf Shores Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours
  • Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
  • Gulf State Park & Campgrounds (beach access at Romar Beach)
  • Gulf Shores Fishing Pier
  • Deep Sea Fishing Charters
  • Bon Scour National Wildlife Refuge
  • Historic sites like an 19th century American fort (Fort Morgan)

For those who want to enjoy the indoors to relax after a day of fun in the sun, check out:

  • Gulf Coast Arts Alliance
  • making pottery at Sea Oat Studio
  • Gulf Shores Museum

Distance: 467 miles

Driving time: 7 hours

8. Orange Beach, AL

Orange Beach is just a 15-minute drive down the road from Gulf Shores and is the great spot if you want a smaller beach town with a more residential feel!

One of the best strips of sandy shoreline is Cotton Bayou Beach, with public beach access here.

In addition to all the beach activities on the Gulf, there’s plenty of adrenaline-packed water sports along Orange Beach!

Some of other attractions that the kids will love are:

  • The Ferris Wheel at the Orange Beach Wharf
  • Adventure Island Theme Park
  • Hiking the High S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Distance: 473 miles

Driving time: 7 hours

9. Dauphin Island, AL

Dauphin Island is an Alabama barrier island that is connected to the mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge! There is plenty of space on Dauphin Island, which is 14 miles long.

The primary beach areas are:

  • West End Public Beach
  • Dauphin Island East Beach

In addition to the quiet beach vibes and fishing, Dauphin Island offers some unique spots like:

  • Bellingrath Gardens and Home: a 65-acre historic estate with a home museum and year-round flowers in bloom
  • Fort Gaines
  • Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the Alabama Aquarium

Distance: 480 miles

Driving Time: 7 hours

Best Florida Beaches Closest to Nashville, TN

Five popular Florida beaches along the Gulf Coast average a 6-hour and 55-minute drive from Nashville. These beaches are among the most popular in the country. With white sand beaches and warm, aqua-marine waters, there are options for the whole family.

10. Pensacola Beach, FL

Pensacola Beach is the closest Florida beach to Nashville at 443 miles, which is about a 6.5-hour drive.

I’ve vacationed here many times. And Pensacola has so many outdoor adventures and activities to enjoy! This variety makes it one of my favorite spots to enjoy the warmth and relaxation of the Gulf Coast.

Public Beach Access Points: Nicknamed the “World’s Whitest Beaches,” you’ll find 10 access points in the Pensacola Beach area. A map of these points is here.

History and Museums. Pensacola is perfect for history buffs and fans of museums too. Two of the most popular historical spots around are:

  • The Fort Pickens National Park
  • The National Aviation Museum are
Fort Pickens at Pensacola Florida

Other fun Pensacola sites and activities that I’ve enjoyed over the years include:

  • Parasailing
  • Dolphin boat tours
  • Blue Angels Air Shows
  • exploring local lakes in a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe
  • booking a charter to go deep sea fishing
  • exploring historic Pensacola Village
  • golfing at championship 18-hole courses

Distance: 451 miles

Driving time: 6 hours and 30-minutes

11. Panama City Beach, FL

Panama City Beach has 27 miles of white, sandy beaches and clear turquoise water. This is among the most visited beaches in the US and is worth seeing at least once!

(Map of beach access points here.)

After relaxing on the white, sandy beaches , check out the water activities like:

  • Paddleboarding
  • Nearby state parks
  • A Dog Beach
  • Jet ski rentals
  • Luxury Spas

Distance: 461 miles

Driving time: 7 hours and 20-minutes

12. Miaramar Beach

Miramar Beach is a hidden gem with both pristine, white sand beaches and plenty of family recreational activities. Near Destin, Florida, this is a more relaxed spot than Panama City or Pensacola beaches.

It’s a great spot to bring the entire family because there are lots of condos and townhomes to rent.

In addition to the water sport activities, don’t miss out on these:

  • Book a dolphin watching cruise (Miramar Beach Dolphin Tours)
  • Rent a bike and explore Miramar Beach’s many trails and paths
  • Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
  • Silver Sands Premium Outlets for shopping
  • The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Distance: 453 miles

Driving time: 6 hours and 50-minutes

13. Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach is a great choice for a quiet, beach getaway! As a planned community of only 4,000 residents, it’s not a highly developed tourist spot.

Walk the pristine beaches while listening to seagulls and ocean sounds. Some other things to check out are:

  • Rent a bike and explore the local shops
  • Visit the Spa at the Pearl Hotel
  • Kayak or paddleboard at Coastal Dunes Lakes

Distance: 445 miles

Driving time: 7 hours

14. Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach has a small town feel and a rich history. The town prides itself on supporting locally owned and operated businesses.

So when you’re not at the beach, try exploring some of these fun activities in Fort Walton Beach:

  • Emerald Coast Science Center
  • Downtown Arts and Entertainment
  • Shopping in Uptown
  • Extreme Sports Center: Emerald Coast Dirt & Vert, which includes a BMX racing track, dirt jumps, and 9,000 square-foot skatepark
  • Miniature Golf at Goofy Golf

Distance: 443 miles

Driving time: 6 hours and 45-minutes

Mississippi Beaches Nearest to Nashville, TN

Three of Mississippi’s best beaches average a 7 hour and 10-minute drive from Nashville! Although some are known for the casinos, there are plenty of family-friendly options as well in Biloxi, Long Beach, and Gulf Port!

15. Biloxi Beach

Biloxi Beach, MS is a 7-hour drive from Nashville. This beach is known for the casinos, but has some gorgeous beachfront too!

Popular beach access points include:

  • beach area near the Biloxi Beach Pavilion
  • the Biloxi Lighthouse Beach.

After a day at the beach, check out the amazing, fresh seafood and stunning views of the Gulf Coast at local restaurants like The Reef.

Historic Sites & Educational Sites in Biloxi to Check Out

  1. Biloxi Lighthouse – 1800s lighthouse with amazing views of the Gulf
  2. Beauvoir Museum and Library – lots of information about the Civil War
  3. Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
  4. Fort Massachusetts – take a ferry ride to this island fort and get a guided tour
  5. Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
  6. Biloxi Visitors Center

Casinos in Biloxi

  1. Beau Rivage Casino
  2. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
  3. Treasure Bay Casino
  4. New Palace Casino Point Cadet

Distance: 506 miles

Driving time: 7 hours

16. Long Beach

Long Beach is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and beautiful, Gulf Coast beaches!

Go swimming, sunbathing, and strolling along the picturesque Gulf Coast. Afterwards, here are some great places for adventure:

  • visit Friendship Oak
  • Long Beach Harbor and Recreation Area – go fishing or for a picnic
  • play miniature golf at Plantation Pines
  • go on a fishing expedition with 9-Ball Fishing Charters

Distance: 443 miles

Driving time: 7 hours and 10-minutes

17. Gulfport Beach (Gulfport, MS)

Gulfport Beach has incredible beaches! Enjoy the beaches, swimming, and sand castles. Then explore some local adventures like:

  1. Children’s Museum – Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
  2. Jones Park
  3. the ever-popular Gulf Islands Water Park
  4. MS Coast Model Railroad Museum
  5. the Mississippi Aquarium!
  6. and the World’s “Largest Rocking Chair”

And for restaurants, three of the best around are:

  1. Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria: Authentic Italian cuisine like its famous for wood-fired pizzas.
  2. Half Shell Oyster House: Southern and seafood
  3. The Rack House Steak & Spirits

Distance: 493 miles

Driving time: 7 hours and 20-minutes

Closest Georgia and South Carolina Beaches to Nashville

18. Tybee Island, GA

Tybee Island is the closest Georgia beach to Nashville, TN at just under an 8-hour drive. This is a great choice if you want to explore the rich history of Savannah.

Only 20-minutes from historic downtown Savannah, Tybee is Known as “Savannah’s Beach”

Reasons to Visit Tybee Island: There’s a lot of fun to be had for the whole family both in Tybee Island and downtown Savannah. Some of the best things in Savannah include:

Distance: 515 miles

Driving time: 7 hours and 50-minutes

19. Hilton Head Island, SC

Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island is among the closest of the South Carolina beaches to Nashville. If you’re interested in the beaches around Charleston (which are my favorite in SC), check out this article for more information.

Hilton Head has 8 public beach access points. And each spot is unique! To relax, there’s the more secluded Alder Lane then there’s the bustling Coligny Beach Park with its shops and restaurants.

Hilton Head is known for great shopping and world class golf courses.

Here are just a few links to things to do at HHI.

For the Trip: Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen and a sturdy beach umbrella like this one that’s wind-resistant up to 34 miles per hour. 

Distance: 528 miles

Driving time: 8 hours

20. Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina boasts beautiful beaches and plenty of entertainment options. Myrtle Beach is worth visiting if you like lots of activities and don’t mind crowds.

The three main beaches are :Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle, and Surfside Beach.

Myrtle is perfect place for a family vacation because of all the family-friendly entertainment and attractions. Learn more about some of the post popular places to go in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Other popular things to do include:

Distance: 590 miles

Driving time: 9 hours

Conclusion to Best Beaches Near Nashville

Whether you want to drive 20 minutes to Percy Priest Lake, or pack up for a daylong road-trip to Hilton Head, there are plenty of beach options for you!


My Favorite Tools for Planning a Trip


Booking.com. They have great deals and free cancellation usually.

Vacation Rentals

VRBO. I have been both a guest and renter for VRBO. 20+ experiences over the years. All great.


Viator. I’m newer to this, but it’s a great spot to get ideas or discounted tickets.

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