Looking to get some sand between your toes? Atlanta is a central location for driving to several beaches around the South, so pack your bags and road trip to one of these warm destinations.

St. Simons Island, Ga.

Neptune Park is a favorite for families, an oceanfront public park with a playground, pool, mini-golf course and a fishing pier. The lighthouse museum is a great introduction to Georgia’s maritime history, and kids will love the views after climbing to the top. Don’t forget to hunt out the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island: 20 face carvings in trees around the Island, making for a fun scavenger hunt.

Jekyll Island, Ga.

Kids will go crazy about climbing over and under the giant driftwood pieces situated on Driftwood Beach, located on the North end of Jekyll Island. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is also a special opportunity to meet sea turtles and learn about rehabilitation efforts. The Jekyll Island Hotel has tons of history between the walls, with millionaires such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, once taking residence. Check out the croquet court and walk the grounds.

Tybee Island, Ga.

Tybee is known as Savannah’s beach, located only 30 minutes from Downtown Savannah.  Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, you can see for miles down the long stretches of beach.  Grab some ice cream from Seaweeds and walk down to the pier to watch fishermen. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center is a fun place to learn about marshes, beaches and wildlife on the Island. Then stop by the Tybee Lighthouse or drive into Savannah for a trolley tour of the city.

Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Climb the red-and-white-striped lighthouse in the Harbour Town area (114 steps above!) or check out the Sandbox, a local children’s museum complete with a boat, plane and sandcastle play areas. Visit Adventure Cove for the large mini-golf area or the Coastal Discovery Museum, with a butterfly enclosure, trails, gardens and more.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

A big drawl to this beach destination is the water and amusement parks set Oceanside. Family Kingdom has a variety of thrill rides and the adjacent waterpark has twisting waterslides with ocean views. Wild Water and Wheels has go-karts, speed slides and mini-golf. Myrtle Waves Waterpark is also a great choice with 20 acres of water rides.

Panama City Beach, Fla.

The city is moving towards being more family-friendly, beyond the spring break days of the past.  Make sure to visit Pier Park for family fun, which includes a small-scale amusement park, shops and restaurants.  Don’t miss Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Wonderworks and the giant walk-through maze and putt-putt at Coconut Grove Mini-Golf. Gulf World Marine Park and Shipwreck Island Waterpark are also fun picks.

Destin, Fla.

Destin is a great pick for families, with sparkling Emerald waters and tons of activities for the kids. Take a pirate ship cruise, walk down Destin Harbor, go shopping at the Silver Sands Outlets or visit Big Kahuna’s Waterpark to slide down waterslides. Travel towards Okaloosa Island for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone.

Highway 30A, Fla.

The beaches along this stretch of sand are packed-full of fun for kids. Hop on bikes and travel from Rosemary Beach to Alys Beach to Seaside and Watercolor. Stop in Seaside for snow cones out of an Airstream trailer, or other treats such as grilled cheese or fried pickles. The Seaside REP Theatre is always hosting puppet shows or theater productions for kids. Rent stand-up paddleboards at the Watercolor Boathouse for calmer fun away from the ocean.

Pensacola Beach, Fla.

Take a dolphin cruise here; you will be sure to see many pods of dolphins playing in the water. Pensacola sits within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which has plenty of places to build white sandcastles. The City is also full of military history–visit the National Naval Aviation Museum to see many types of aircraft and don’t miss the Navy’s Blue Angels practice tricks high above the beach.

Gulf Shores, Ala.

This Alabama beach destination has lots to offer families. Visit the beachy play areas at Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s (tip: they have an allergy-friendly menu just for gluten, shellfish and other allergies) and The Hangout, both waterfront restaurants. Waterville USA is a waterpark full of big water slides, lazy rivers and walk-through water fountains. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is also a fun spot, which has a variety of exotic animals including tigers and black bears.

Shorter Drive:

Acworth Beach at Cauble Park

The beach area features a white sand beach and roped off area for swimming.
Location: 4425 Beach St. NW, Acworth.
Cost: Swimming is free. Mon.-Fri. Parking, free; $10 per vehicle on weekends. Cash only. For non-Acworth residents between 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Big Beach at Lake Lanier Islands

Hang out on the beach, play some volleyball, catch some rays and enjoy food from the boardwalk.
Location: 7000 Lanier Islands Pkwy., Buford.
Cost: Big Beach only: Mon.-Fri. Adults, $10; Sat.-Sun. $15; ages 6 and younger, free. Parking is extra.

Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens

Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, miniature golf, a floating playground with obstacles, paddle boats, inflatable waterslide, rock climbing wall and more.
Location: 17800 US Hwy. 27, Pine Mountain.
Cost: Adults, $20; children ages 6-12, $10; ages 5 and younger, free. Some activities extra charge.

The Beach at Clayton County International Park

The colorful and immense “adventure kiddie pool,” with fountains, towers, “water shooters” and more offer something for the big kids, too. The beach action includes big slides and even a water trampoline.
Location: 2300 Hwy. 138 S.E., Jonesboro.
Cost: Ages 13 and older, $11; ages 3-12, $9; ages 2 and younger, free.

The Swimming Beach at Red Top Mountain State Park

Cool off in the sandy beach area and roped off swimming area nestled in a cove and surrounded by trees at Lake Allatoona, and enjoy the nearby putt-putt golf and large playground.
Location: 50 Lodge Rd. SE, Cartersville. redtopmountainstatepark.org
Cost: Parking, $5.

Check out all of these ways to get cooled off around Atlanta. 

Other Ideas:  

Charleston, S.C.

Jacksonville, Fla.

Amelia Island, Fla.

St. George Island, Fla.

Fripp Island, S.C.

Folly Beach, S.C.

Pawley’s Island, S.C.

Kiawah Island, S.C.

Huntington Beach, S.C.

Topsail Beach, N.C.

– Teresa Farkas

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