- Rose Kennedy For the AJC
Warm sand, cool lakes, smack dab in the middle of Georgia? Yes, that's a real thing.
Lake beaches abound near Atlanta —from tiny secluded spots on Lake Lanier to the outsized spread that's part of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain.
Here are seven of the best:
Don Carter State Park
On the northern edge of Atlanta, Don Carter State Park is positioned right where the Chattahoochee River meets Lake Lanier. Georgia's newest state park and the first state park on Lake Lanier, one of its big draws is a large sand swimming beach and bath house. This is a great beach for day trips -- you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or cool off in the water after hiking or biking Don Carter's multi-use trail through a hardwood forest. Overnights are another possibility at the park's cabins, RV campground or primitive camping area. $5 parking fee.
Fort Yargo State Park
Winder is convenient to both Atlanta and Athens. The large swimming beach at Fort Yargo runs along a 260-acre lake where you can also kayak or canoe. It's a nice spot for large groups with picnic or group shelters for rent, and wedding planners should note its beach pavilion that seats 150. $5 parking fee.
Keith Bridge Park
Here's one of the tiniest, most secluded lake beaches in Georgia. Lake Lanier was constructed in the early 1950s as a multi-purpose lake to provide flood control, power production and drinking water, and Keith Bridge Park is one of the resulting 46 recreation areas still maintained by the U.S. Army Corps. It has picnic tables and grills in plain view, but you'll need to drive to the end of the Keith Bridge Park parking lot and take a walkway to the beautiful secluded beach. Read, nap, picnic and dip in the lake, but be careful -- no lifeguards are on duty, so it's "swim at your own risk."
Big Beach at Lanier Islands resort
Just 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, this playground is part of the LanierWorld theme park and features more than a half mile of white, sandy beach with plenty of lounging spots. There's a Tiki hut for beach beverages, a floating stage for live performances and lifeguards at the ready at the swim area. LanierWorld offers a special price for admission to the beach only (ranging from $10-$15), or do the beach as part of an active and adventurous day at the water park.
Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens
Go big at this beach -- a full mile of manmade white sand beach around the 65-acre Robin Lake, all part of Pine Mountain's Callaway Gardens. It's ripe for sunbathing and swimming and features other summer fun like giant chess and checkers, mini-golf and shuffleboard. The beach is included in Callaway Gardens admission. A season pass may be a good idea. It allows you to bring five different guests each visit.
Acworth Beach at Cauble Park
A fine, family-style public beach and recreation area, Acworth Beach is free and has a white sand beach and roped-off swimming area. Located on Beach Street on the North side of Lake Acworth, the 25-acre Cauble Park also has set places to fish, a playground and public restrooms, so plan to make a day of it. $10 parking fee for non-residents on weekends.
Red Top Mountain State Park
This popular park on the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona has a sand swimming beach -- Gilligan-style -- nestled in a cove and surrounded by trees. Visitors can bring their own boats or rent from nearby marinas. It's good for a group, with picnic and group shelters you can rent for meetings, parties or reunions. And if the beach isn't enough, the mountain offers more than 15 miles of trails winding through the forested park.