A peach of a beach

Located at the north end of the Chattahoochee arm of Lake Lanier, Don Carter State Park Beach is an hour from Atlanta.

What’s the best beach in Georgia?”

Well, that depends. What are you looking for? A great place to take the husband and kids? A spot that’s romantic, but maybe a little different? A remote stretch of sand far off the beaten track…or maybe a beach that’s much closer?

The good news is that no matter why you’re bound for the beach, Georgia has the beach you’re looking for. I wish we had room to talk about them all. But rather than covering the entire beach catalog, let’s take a look at one way to scratch your beach itch.

Close to home: The beach at Don Carter State Park

Sometimes you get the beach urge, but don’t have the time or inclination to make a long road trip. When that’s the case, look no farther than one of Georgia’s nearby state parks.

“Several of Georgia’s state parks offer lakeside beaches, which are a great way to cool off during summer without a longer trip to the coast,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Our beaches have roped-off swimming areas, so it’s easy to know where kids can swim. It’s also affordable since lake swimming is free and parking is only $5.”

One such nearby beach getaway is waiting for you at Don Carter State Park, Georgia’s newest state park and the first state park on 38,000-acre Lake Lanier.

Located at the far north end of the Chattahoochee arm of the lake, Don Carter is a great destination for anyone on Atlanta’s north side who loves the beach but doesn’t want to have to travel far to get there. It’s a perfect place to enjoy sun and sand without having to drive all the way to the coast.

Like other state park beaches, this one features a roped-off swimming area with an adjacent bathhouse too. You’ll enjoy relaxing on the white sand and in the water (but note, there are no lifeguards, so keep a close eye on the kids). And when you are ready for a break from the sand, you can enjoy the park’s multi-use hiking and biking trail, which carries you through the neighboring hardwood forest…or bring your canoe or kayak (or rent a kayak or paddleboard seasonally) and explore one of several designated canoe routes originating at the park.

Don Carter State Park is a great place for a day away, but why stop there? The park offers a number of options for overnight stays, including two-bedroom hillside cabins near the water. You’ll also find two campgrounds – one developed specifically for RVs and another more primitive camping area for tents and hammocks.

What if you’ve never camped before? That’s not a problem if you take advantage of Georgia State Park’s “First Time Camper” program, designed for folks who have never camped at one of Georgia’s state parks. You’ll be able to borrow gear (including a six-person tent, four sleeping pads, a camp stove with fuel, two camp chairs, one lantern and four roasting forks) and receive great advice as you get your campsite set up and ready to go. You will need to bring your own sleeping bags or blankets and your own pillows. Regular camping rates apply, as does the $5 ParkPass for the duration of your stay. As one first-time camper said recently, “I wish I’d found how much fun this is a long time ago!”

Don Carter State Park is at 5000 North Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville, GA 30506, phone 678-450-7726. For lodging or camping reservations, call 800-864-7275.

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