Considering it’s completely landlocked, the state of Tennessee is blessed with an abundance of lakes and several lovely beaches. Granted, the beaches in Tennessee are not an idyllic tropical paradise with palm tree-lined white sand, but they have a relaxing ambience and are enjoyable to visit.
Tennessee’s beaches are set within state or federal parks, framed by woodlands and offset by shimmering lakes or reservoirs. They provide fantastic opportunities for sunbathing, walking, picnicking and swimming. At many places, you can camp for a few days or break out your kayak, paddleboard or jet-skis for fun on the water. Here are 20 Tennessee beaches you’ll love to visit.
Also read: 20 Landmarks In Tennessee
- 20 Beaches In Tenessee
- Tennessee Beaches Near Nashville
- Tennessee Beaches Near Knoxville
- Beaches In Tennessee Near Chattanooga
- More Beaches In Tennessee
20 Beaches In Tenessee
Tennessee Beaches Near Nashville
1- Center Hill Lake
In the Eastern Highlands of Tennessee, about 60 miles from Nashville, Center Hill Lake is a gorgeous 18,000-acre (7300 ha) lake.
Framed by verdant forests, the lake has over 400 miles (643 km) of shoreline that contain several pretty sandy beaches, as well as coves and inlets.
All of which are great for exploring or just going for a gentle stroll.
The lake is also surrounded by three state parks which offer terrific opportunities for swimming, camping, hiking and boating, and swimming.
Three scenic waterfalls are also located nearby, which add an even more romantic edge to the area.
Center Hill Lake is at 158 Resource Dr, Lancaster, TN 38569.
2- Old Hickory Lake
With four distinct swimming beach areas around it, the 22,500-acre (9100 ha) Old Hickory Lake is a must-visit place to feel the sand on your feet.
Providing plenty of opportunities to walk, sunbathe, relax and even play with a bat and ball, they all have restrooms, picnic tables and grills, making them a family-friendly destination.
Situated 25 miles (40 km) from Nashville in northern Tennessee, this gorgeous spot has four marinas and two campgrounds.
It’s a well-known recreational spot for boating, jet skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing.
Old Hickory Lake is at 5 Power Plant Rd, Hendersonville, TN 37075.
3- J. Percy Priest Lake
Created from the construction of the nearby J. Percy Priest Dam, Percy Priest Lake is just a short drive from Nashville’s downtown area.
As a result, it’s a busy recreational destination for those who love the outdoors.
There’s everything from swimming, sailing, jet skiing and hiking to fishing, boating, horseback riding and wildlife watching on offer.
The prettiest beach in the area is at the Anderson Road Recreation Area.
A lovely stretch of sand, with grills and picnic tables, it’s a nice place to spend the afternoon relaxing.
J. Percy Priest Lake is at 3737 Bell Rd, Nashville, TN 37214.
4- Cordell Hull Lake
Cordell Hull Lake is a 12,000-acre (4856 ha) body of water that lies 40 miles (64 km) to the east of Nashville, on the beautiful Cumberland River.
Situated within the north-central part of Tennessee, the lake has three-day use areas that house lovely swimming beaches.
The water might be a bit fresh, but a dip is a perfect way to stay cool on a hot day.
There are also numerous picnic sites and playgrounds dotted around the landscape too, along with plenty of opportunities for horse riding, biking, hiking and camping.
Cordell Hull Lake is at 71 Corps Ln, Carthage, TN 37030-2264.
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Tennessee Beaches Near Knoxville
5- Cherokee Lake
About 30 miles (48 km) from Knoxville, Cherokee Lake lies in the foothills of the Clinch Mountains.
Surrounded by evocative rolling pastures that interweave with colourful patches of farmlands, this impressive 30,300-acre (12,300 ha) lake was born from the Holston River and its tributaries.
One of Tennessee’s biggest lakes incorporates some 463 miles (745 km) of impressive shoreline.
Parts feature comely pockets of sand that provide perfect spots to spend the afternoon reading, relaxing or resting.
You’ll find Cherokee Lake within East Tennessee at Cherokee Marina, 9499 Hwy 11 W., Moorseburg, TN 38380.
6- Douglas Lake
Douglas Lake enjoys a stunning setting with the Great Smoky Mountains hovering in the background.
Skirting 500 miles (800 km) of shoreline, the lake is about 25 miles (40 km) east of Knoxville and is home to one of the best beaches in Tennessee.
Found around the Douglas Dam Headwater Campground, the beach is framed by stunning hardwood forest and stretches all along the shore, making it perfect for walking on.
A popular spot for fishing, boating, swimming and watersports, lovers of ornithology also come to check out a wide range of birds.
Douglas Lake is in Dandridge, TN.
7- Tellico Reservoir
In the heart of the eastern Tennessee mountains, the splendid shoreline around Tellico Lake features several sandy areas. All of which are great to swim at or top up on your vitamin D levels.
It’s also a very popular spot for boating and fishing, and if you are into photography, you will find inspiration from the natural surroundings.
Tellico Reservoir is within Loudon County, TN.
8- Norris Lake
Another spot near Knoxville, with a delightful beach area, is Norris Lake.
Filled in 1937, after the Norris Dam was built, the lake is surrounded by Big Ridge State Park and showcases over 15 miles (24 km) of camping sites and maintained trails.
It is very popular with people who love water skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding and has an excellent swimming hole and plenty of sand to set yourself up for the day.
Norris Lake is at 433 Deerwood Ln, La Follette, TN 37766-6733
Beaches In Tennessee Near Chattanooga
9- Watts Bar Lake
The ‘King of the Southern Great Lakes’, aka Watts Bar Lake, is roughly halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
This stunning reservoir is very popular with anglers and is home to several marinas that facilitate boat and houseboat rentals.
It’s a popular swimming spot too, with lots of sand expanses strewn around the shoreline, thus giving you plenty of space to enjoy yourself.
Watts Bar Lake is in Roane County, TN.
10- Chickamauga Lake
Featuring over 810 miles (1303 km) of spectacular shoreline, Chickamauga Lake is a popular recreational reservoir in southeast Tennessee.
Located about 20 miles (32 km) from Chattanooga, it is a haven for those who love water-based activities.
You’ll see lots of people sailing, boating, kayaking, and fishing throughout the year.
There are plenty of nice beach spots here to set up camp for the day, as well as seven well-maintained swimming areas.
Also, if you are into golf, there is an 18-hole PGA course to play near the lake.
Chickamauga Lake is at TN-153, Chattanooga, TN 37406.
11- Nickajack Lake
Fringed by the sharp, jagged walls of the Tennessee River Gorge, Nickajack Lake enjoys a stunning setting.
With around 215 miles (346 km) of spectacular shoreline best explored by canoe or kayak, this fabulous reservoir in Chattanooga is also a renowned spot for fishing.
Dotted along the shoreline is a lovely collection of sandy and pebbly beaches that are terrific spots for a swim or to sunbathe.
Nickajack Lake is near Chattanooga, TN.
More Beaches In Tennessee
12- Big Ridge State Park
Including both the Valley Range and Appalachian Ridge, the Big Ridge State Park enjoys a breathtaking setting featuring three narrow ridges that rise majestically above the surrounding valleys.
Contained within a bosky 3,687-acre (1492 ha) park that possesses over 15 miles (24 km) of hiking trails, the beach lies on the banks of Big Ridge Lake.
It’s very sandy, and perfect for swimming, especially in the summer when it can get steamy.
If you are into beach volleyball, you’ll be pleased to know this sandy area also has a fantastic, dedicated space for you to play at as well.
Big Ridge State Park is at 1015 Big Ridge Park Rd, Maynardville, TN 37807.
13- Paris Landing State Park
On the Tennessee River’s western shore, at the widest part of the massive Kentucky Lake, lies Paris Landing State Park.
An area of outstanding natural beauty, where deer, fox, turkey and coyote roam free, the lake is a haven for water sports enthusiasts who arrive in droves.
It also provides access to a testing 18-hole golf course and a designated public swimming section situated beside a quaint patch of beach, which is a lovely place to relax.
Paris Landing State Park is at 16055 Highway 79 N, Buchanan, TN 38222.
14- Watauga Lake
If you are able to make your way over to Watauga Lake, you will be in for a real treat.
Nestled within the Appalachian Mountains, within the northeastern part of Tennessee, this pristine lake is in the Cherokee National Forest and can only be accessed by narrow, winding mountain roads.
Given its remoteness, the area remains off the radar to most out-of-state visitors.
For this reason, it retains an unspoiled beauty that is simply breathtaking.
Should you reach the beach on the western end of the lake, be prepared to enjoy some tranquillity without the distraction of others.
Watauga is at Lake Hampton, TN.
15- Kentucky Lake
Kentucky Lake has the honour of being one of the world’s largest man-made bodies of water.
Situated six hours from the Smoky Mountains and three hours from St. Louis, it was created in 1938 during the building of the Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River.
A place generally favoured for fishing, hunting, and boating, there is a lovely pebble beach around the Moss Creek Day Use Area, a charming spot to relax and picnic.
Moss Creek Day Use Area is at Kentucky Lake near Buchanan, TN.
16- Dale Hollow Lake
Flanking the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, Dale Hollow Lake encompasses 620 breathtaking miles (1000 km) of a largely undeveloped shoreline.
Well-known for its houseboats that create a beautiful aesthetic on its spring-fed waters, the lake is a favoured spot for water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing.
While you can go for a dip at any point along the lake, there are several assigned beach areas for sunbathing and swimming.
Dale Hollow Lake is at 540 Dale Hollow Dam Rd, Celina, TN 38551.
17- Reelfoot Lake
Reelfoot Lake in northwestern Tennessee is the largest natural lake in the state.
It is technically a flooded forest that features swampy areas linked by narrow ditches to open water.
Flanked by stunning cypress trees, the shoreline is a paradise for birdwatchers, especially in winter, when over 200 American bald eagles congregate there.
The shallow lake is excellent for kayaking and swimming, particularly around the numerous sandy beaches dotted around the area.
Reelfoot Lake sits around 2595 TN-21, Tiptonville, TN 38079.
18- Lake Barkley
Another lake shared between Tennessee and Kentucky is Lake Barkley, a reservoir created when the Barkley Dam was constructed across the Cumberland River.
There are many spots here to swim and several excellent campsites, each with its patch of sandy or pebbly beaches.
While lifeguards do not man these beaches, they do have basic facilities and amenities which will enable you to spend a happy afternoon at any one of them.
Lake Barkley is at 200 Barkley Dam Overlook, Grand Rivers, KY 42045.
19- Rock Island State Park
If the delightful natural sandy beach isn’t reason enough for you to visit Rock Island State Park, then the rampaging, 30-foot (9 m) cascade of Great Falls Dam should provide extra incentive.
A ruggedly beautiful park, the beach here is picturesque and tranquil.
It also provides a lovely spot to unwind from the pressures of daily life, while the water is refreshing to swim in.
Because of the falls, there is also a fantastic whitewater section that is very popular with kayakers, who are attracted to come here from all corners of America.
Rock Island State Park is at 82 Beach Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581.
20- Cheatham Lake
Not so much of a lake, rather a wide area that occupies the Cumberland River, Cheatham Lake is a popular recreational spot.
Accommodating over two million visitors every year, it provides excellent fishing, boating and camping experiences.
The main sand and swimming beach at the Cheatham Dam Right Bank Recreation Area is an excellent spot for chilling out on a towel.
There are also several lovely coves and smaller, more isolated patches of beach that a kayak can easily access.
Cheatham Lake is at 1798 Cheatham Dam Rd, Ashland City, TN 37015.