23 Closest Beaches to Knoxville TN That Are Perfect For a Family Vacation

While we all love exploring our home state, we must admit there’s one thing missing: the beach. Thankfully, you can reach the closest beach to Knoxville TN is less than a day’s drive.

All of these beaches near Knoxville offer a great mix of relaxation and family-fun attractions to please your entire crew. From historic lighthouses to large-scale oceanside aquariums, you’re sure to find the vacation retreat of your dreams!

happy family smiling and standing on the beach representing Closest Beaches to Knoxville TN

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What is the Closest Beach to Knoxville TN?

The closest beach to Knoxville TN is Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. At just under six hours away, this beach location offers an easy drive and tons of rest and relaxation. This is Charleston’s quietest beach town.

For a more in-depth look, check out the full description below.

Atlantic Ocean Beaches Near Knoxville

The beaches along the southern Atlantic coast provide warm waters and plenty of sunshine. Known for both family friendliness and southern charm, any one of these stunning coastal locations is sure to delight!

Looking for gulf beaches? Keep reading. They are listed just a little further down.

1. Sullivan’s Island, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 5 hours, 54 minutes
Triangular lighthouse with a black top and white bottom sitting on a grassy sand dune, representing the closest beach to Knoxville TN.

Sullivan’s Island is home to one of the most unique lighthouses in the world. Instead of the typical cylindrical shape, this lighthouse is shaped like a triangle.

If that isn’t enough reason to go, there is also historic Fort Moultrie, used during the Revolutionary War. This seaside fort has ranger-led educational programs available all throughout the year.

Sullivan’s Island is also just 21 minutes from Charleston. Here you’ll find world-famous historic architecture, quaint shops, and tasty restaurants all along the downtown peninsula.

The city also has a variety of kid-centered attractions including an aquarium and a children’s museum.

Delicious Food

For a rustic sea shanty vibe, check out The Obstinate Daughter. This restaurant offers a unique combination of seafood and hand-crafted pizza.


This 6-bedroom private beach house is a stunning place to plan a vacation with your extended family. There’s plenty of room for everyone, even in the private pool.

2. Folly Beach, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 6 hours, 8 minutes
Sailboats in a marina on glistening water in Folly Beach South Carolina.


At Folly you can meander through quaint shops, indulge in scrumptious Southern cuisine, and enjoy all the water sports the coast has to offer, including fishing, boating, swimming, and more!

Kids will love the free entertainment at Pirate’s Cove Playground and Skate Park. There is also a second playground right across from the ocean. As an added bonus, Folly also offers a dog park for Fido.

Folly is just 27 minutes outside of Charleston for added fun.

Delicious Food

The Crab Shack offers a wide variety of fresh seafood including shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, and more. It also has several different sandwich options, like fried fish and cheeseburgers.


Have an entire beach house all to yourself with just a 4-minute walk to the ocean.

3. Kiawah Island, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 6 hours, 13 minutes
3 sea birds playing in marsh on Kaiwah Island.


Kiawah is primarily marshland and is the perfect beach destination for the outdoor adventurer. The island places special emphasis on native wildlife watching and offers several different locations for viewing, including Marsh Island Park and Canvasback Duck Pond.

Kiawah also boasts 2 scenic observation towers that provide stunning 360-degree views of both land and sea! They also have a variety of nature paths for walking and biking.

Night Heron Park boasts a nature center, kids’ playground, hiking trails, and a swimming pool with a separate kids’ area.

Delicious Food

Jasmine Porch is an upscale vacation treat that is perfect for a splurge. The Jasmine serves up delicious Lowcountry favorites including she-crab bisque, shrimp and grits, po’boys, fresh seafood, burgers, and more.


This dog-friendly cottage is just steps away from the beach.

4. Isle of Palms, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 5 hours, 57 minutes
Fishing pier in sandy beach surf in Isle of Palms South Carolina, one of best beaches near Knoxville.


Stunningly gorgeous and beautifully uncrowded, this beach is the perfect spot for rest and relaxation. In addition to traditional coastal fun, they also have a beachfront park with a picnic area and a playground for kids.

Delicious Food

For delicious breakfast and lunch, check out the affordable Sea Biscuit Cafe. They serve all your favorite breakfast items along with some quirky Lowcountry options, like shrimp and gravy and seafood omelets. They also have a variety of tasty sandwiches for lunch.


Check out this beautifully decorated single-family cottage just steps from the beach.

5. Hilton Head, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 6 hours, 26 minutes
Beaches Near Knoxville: Hilton Head Island, SC red and white lighthouse behind sailboats in marina.


This coastal paradise offers more than just golf. With a variety of recreation options, water sports, miles of bike trails, and renowned shopping and dining options, there is really something for everyone!

Delicious Food

A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant is a local favorite that has even been featured on the Travel Channel. The menu includes casual fare like sandwiches, salads, shrimp and grits, crab cakes, and more.


This 4-bedroom villa includes free pool and bike access.

6. Myrtle Beach, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 6 hours, 38 minutes
The shorline and ferries wheel of Myrtle beach South Carolina.


This beach needs almost no introduction. Essentially the Pigeon Forge of the East Coast, this one-stop family destination has something for everyone.

With over 60 miles of expansive beachfront, Myrtle Beach offers a huge variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options for all ages. Entertainment includes shows, museums, an aquarium, mini-golf, go-karts, and much more!

The amazing amenities make this a vacation hot spot, which unfortunately means that it can be quite crowded at times. But if your family loves to keep busy, this is the vacation spot for you.

Delicious Food

The Carolina Roadhouse is a casual family restaurant known for its delicious food and friendly staff. The roadhouse offers a variety of seafood, burgers, sandwiches, salads, steaks, ribs, and more!


At this oceanfront 1st floor condo, you can walk to the beach in under a minute.

7. Oak Island, NC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 8 minutes
beach houses along the shore of Oak Island Beach, NC.


In addition to stunningly scenic beaches and water sports, Oak Island is filled with rich historical adventures around every turn. Here, you can visit Fort Caswell, which was in use for much of the 1800s and 1900s.

Though not as old as the fort, the island lighthouse is another popular beachside attraction.

Nature lovers will enjoy Oak Island Nature Center. From hiking trails and animal exhibits to fossils and kayaking, this outdoor oasis has everything you need for a full day of family-friendly fun.

Delicious Food

Swain’s Seafood Shack offers a scrumptious variety of fresh and fried seafood as well as pasta, chicken, and steak for land lovers.


This expansive single-family home has incredible views of the marsh.

8. Wrightsville Beach, NC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 23 minutes
Wrightsville Beach, NC pier with waves crashing at the base.


Wrightsville is 1 of 3 beaches located just outside of Wilmington, NC.

Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure, each offer their own brand of fun, which means they all qualify for this list of the best beaches near Knoxville TN.

Even better, it only takes 30 minutes to drive the length of all 3 beaches, so you don’t have to miss anything!

Wrightsville is primarily known for its crystal waters and excellent surfing. Attractions include shopping, dining, the Wrightville History Museum, catamaran cruises, seasonal festivals, and free outdoor concerts throughout the prime tourist season. 

This coastal getaway also features a variety of fun-filled kids’ activities including an accessible beach-front playground, pirate-led treasure hunts, and educational programs at the Fred and Alice Stanback Coastal Education Center.

Wrightsville is located just 14 minutes from Wilmington.

The city is famed for its River Walk and boasts a variety of waterfront shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

It also has a variety of kid-friendly museums including the Wilmington Railroad Museum, which features real trains you can climb inside!

Delicious Food

The Bluewater Waterfront Grille offers stunning views and tasty food. Although they specialize in fresh seafood platters and sandwiches, they also have cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks for the picky eaters in your life.


This rustic oceanfront condo is just steps from the beach.

9. Kure Beach, NC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 31 minutes
People carrying chairs to Kure Beach near Wilmington North Carolina.


Aside from the beach, the most popular attraction in this area is the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which features touch tanks, an adventure reef, a nature play area, and more!

Additional attractions include shopping, dining, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Civil War Museum, beach cruises, a beachfront playground, a dog park, and more!

This beach is located just 27 minutes outside of Wilmington.

Delicious Food

Jack Mackerel’s Grill is a casual family eatery with a varied menu, including pasta, seafood, sandwiches, and burgers.


This adorable tiki cottage is sure to put a smile on your face and is just steps from the beach.

10. Carolina Beach, NC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 27 minutes
Pale glowing sky over a sandy beach with crashing waves in Carolina beach.


The Carolina Beach boardwalk was named one of the top 10 boardwalks in the nation by USAToday.

In addition to world-class shopping, restaurants, and entertainment, the boardwalk also boasts weekly fireworks and free live music throughout the tourist season. Additional attractions include the Federal Point History Center, sunset cruises, a skate park, and Carolina Beach State Park.

This beach is located just 23 minutes outside of Wilmington.

Delicious Food

At Havana’s Restaurant, you can enjoy shrimp and grits, burgers, seafood, salads, and more in a fun tiki bar atmosphere.


This pink beauty has to be the cutest cottage ever and is just a few minutes walk to the beach.

11. Edisto Island, SC

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 24 minutes
Edisto Island Beach South Carolina petrified tree in the middle of the ocean.


Edisto is a low-key gem offering opportunities for rest and relaxation, including short hiking and biking trails. There are also several restaurants and shops on the island.

It is probably most famed for its stunning driftwood beach along Botany Bay (pictured above). The beach is lined with gorgeous sun-bleached driftwood that forms large natural art sculptures along the shoreline.

For kids, the island does have a small playground and a fun Serpentarium, which features a variety of snakes, alligators, turtles, and lizards.

Delicious Food

The Seacow Eatery is a funky restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu includes tasty items like sandwiches, seafood, Lowcountry boils, po’boys, and more.


Bring your extended family to this 4-bedroom stunner with a beachfront covered porch.

12. St. Simon’s Island, GA

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 42 minutes
white metal fence in front of a sandy beach with sunset on St. Simons Island, GA.


Although not incredibly close to any larger city amenities, this relaxing beach oasis boasts several shops and restaurants, water sports, and a few family attractions like the Neptune Park Fun Zone.

Delicious Food

Porch is a quirky restaurant specializing in fried chicken, fried catfish, and shrimp. Although they do have a small menu, there are salads available for the health-conscious crowd.


This gorgeous single-family beach rental is right near the lighthouse and has its own private swimming pool.

13. Tybee Island, GA

  • Distance from Knoxville: 6 hours, 55 minutes
Tybee Island fishing pier.


This is one of the most popular beaches near Tennessee. For families who thrive on peace and quiet, Tybee is your ticket. About 1/2 hour outside of Savannah, this low-key island is perfect for a relaxing vacation.

If you do want to go out, there are several quaint shops and restaurants to enjoy on the island. You can also head into Savanah to enjoy a wider variety of amenities including upscale shops and restaurants, historic architecture, museums, ghost tours, and a variety of family-friendly attractions.

Delicious Food

Bubba Gumbo’s is a waterfront gem serving shrimp, crab cakes, burgers, jambalaya, fried fish, and of course, their signature seafood gumbo.


In this beautiful rental, you’ll enjoy stunning oceanfront views and a convenient outdoor shower.

14. Jekyll Island, GA

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 43 minutes
Jekyll Island. GA beach with large driftwood beanch in front of a sunset.


When it comes to the closest beach to Knoxville TN, Jekyll Island is a fan favorite.

Its claim to fame is its un-commercialized scenic beauty and gorgeous driftwood beach. There are also several shops and restaurants, as well as a water park and a sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility located on the island.

Delicious Food

The Driftwood Bistro is famous for its scrumptious shrimp and grits, but they also have burgers, sandwiches, catfish, crab cakes, pasta, and more!


This gorgeous oceanfront resort with a pool is sure to wow your entire family.

15. Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 57 minutes
red and gray sunset over a marina on Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, FL.


Amelia Island is known for its wide variety of historic architecture. History lovers will enjoy the fun trolley tour that takes you to all of the different historical districts around town.

After exploring the town, you can visit a gorgeous lighthouse, a history museum, or Fort Clinch. For more traditional beach activities, there is kayaking, shelling, paddle boarding, and mini-golf.

Delicious Food

The Salty Pelican Bar and Grille offers seafood tacos, burgers, sandwiches, seafood platters, fresh shrimp, oysters, salads, and much more. The restaurant also has a gorgeous waterfront view to complete the experience.


You will love the sweeping views of the ocean from your private balcony.

16. St. Augustine, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 8 hours, 9 minutes
St. Augustine Beach, FL beach houses with waves crashing on the shore.


St. Augustine, known as the oldest city in America, offers tons of historical adventures like old forts and the original fountain of youth. Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there.

They also have a great selection of family-fun activities, including dolphin tours, a pirate ship cruise, a medieval torture museum, a mini-golf course, a variety of Ripley’s attractions, and more!

Delicious Food

Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille has an eclectic southern menu with fried green tomatoes, gumbo, she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, burgers, and much, much more. They really have something for everyone.


This cozy rental is only a 2-minute walk from the beach.

17. Jacksonville Beach, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 8 hours, 42 minutes
red sunset glow over beach waves with a small bird on the shore in Jacksonville Beach, FL.


While Jacksonville Beach may not be the absolute closest beach to Knoxville, it has a ton to offer. Here, you can enjoy a mix of scenic beach beauty and big-city amenities.

Popular attractions include over 10 different museums, such as a large hands-on science center and an interactive children’s museum. There are also theatre shows, a lighthouse, arcades, a ninja warrior course, trampoline parks, escape games, mini-golf, and much more!

Delicious Food

TacoLu has a gorgeous outdoor eating area with funky street art. As the name suggests, this restaurant specializes in street tacos of all kinds. It also has a great menu of specialty tequila drinks.


You won’t forget the time spent in this spacious condo overlooking the ocean.

Gulf Beaches Near Knoxville Tennessee

With an average water temperature of 72 degrees, these gulf beaches provide a tropical getaway that’s close to home!

18. Destin, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 57 minutes
Blue ocean waters with whispy beach grass, representing Gulf Beaches Near Knoxville TN.


Destin is the closest beach to Knoxville TN on the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to gorgeous sand and surf, Destin is known for its world-class fishing, wonderful golf offerings, and Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Plenty of shopping, dining, and family-fun options, like go-karts, a water park, and mini-golf are also available.

Delicious Food

The Back Porch has been offering gorgeous oceanfront dining for 40 years. Though they specialize in gulf seafood, they also offer sandwiches, burgers, tacos, steaks, and more.


This oceanfront beauty was featured on HGTV.

19. Navarre Beach, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 55 minutes
Neach grass over an emerald ocean with fluffy white clouds on Navarre Beach.


If you aren’t sure whether you want complete peace and quiet or tons of exciting attractions, Navarre Beach is the place for you.

Navarre is a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of traditional beach vacations. But, it’s also located directly between Destin and Pensacola which are both bursting at the seams with lively attractions.

Delicious Food

TC’s Front Porch is a cozy hidden gem with super affordable pricing and an adorable coastal vibe.


Enjoy the view from your stunning beachfront balcony in this stylish condo that sleeps 6.

20. Pensacola, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Beach grass and sand dune in front of bright blue water.


In 2016 this stunning beach was ranked one of the top 10 in the US. With over 18 miles of white sandy beaches and clear waters, the ranking is no surprise. Pensacola visitors will find a wide variety of shopping and dining options, water sports, and even a fabulous dog beach for Fido!

Delicious Food

The Fish House is a waterfront stunner offering tons of different fish, oysters, shrimp, salads, burgers, fried chicken, po’boys, and so much more.


This stunning beach rental has sophisticated decor and sweeping ocean views.

21. Panama City Beach, FL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 8 hours, 6 minutes
Tall beach front hotel in front of light blue water.


Panama City packs a mean punch for families looking for adventure. With a wealth of kid-friendly attractions including water parks, go-karts, beach-side amusement parks, and much more, there is truly something to please everyone.

Of course, there is also a wide variety of shopping, dining, and nightlife options.

Delicious Food

Pineapple Willy’s has a varied menu with fresh and fried seafood, pulled pork, chicken, and more. They also have scrumptious frozen daiquiris and a stunning ocean view.


This pristine rental comes with a community beach and oceanfront pool.

22. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL

  • Distance from Knoxville: 8 hours, 9 minutes
Crashing beach waves against a pale yellow sunset.


After soaking up the sun on these gorgeous Alabama beaches, you can enjoy a variety of family fun including museums, a historic fort, an awesome zoo, and much more! The shopping and dining options are also amazing.

Delicious Food

The Gulf is a waterfront joint for casual food that has been built out of fun shipping containers. This restaurant has stunning ocean views, a great selection of surf and turf menu items, and a full bar.


You can’t miss the stunning views with the classy wrap-around windows in this modern beach rental.

23. Gulfport Beach, MS

  • Distance from Knoxville: 8 hours, 16 minutes
blue beach umbrella rentals along a sandy shore in Gulfport Beach, MS.


For families who like to keep busy, Gulfport Beach is jam-packed with a wide variety of family fun, including mini-golf, arcades, quirky beach rentals, Gulf Islands Water Park, and the Ocean Animals Marine Park.

The water park boasts a variety of slides, a lazy river, and multiple kids’ zone for extra fun!

The marine park, which also helps with local conservation efforts, offers a variety of hands-on encounters with dolphins, stingrays, and sea lions. Of course, there are also lots of traditional aquarium displays.

Delicious Food

Murky Waters specializes in delectable southern BBQ, but the menu also boasts po’boys, fried catfish, homemade sides, and more. The rustic atmosphere is amazing, especially when there is live music.


Walk straight to the beach from the backyard of your private beach home.

Beach Map

Did we miss your top pick for the closest beach to Knoxville TN? Please send us the details so we can add it to the list.

Finding all the best beaches near Knoxville is somewhat of a hobby around here.

More East TN Family Fun

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