Here's how to get maximum sand for minimal travel bucks near Atlanta

Beach vacation.

The words can conjure up a vision of luxury, stretches of white sand, four-star oceanview restaurants, maybe a little cliff diving. It's whimsical, but what if you don't have the travel budget for a luxurious private beach, like the reputed $40,000-per night Laucala Island Resort in the South Pacific?

Believe it or not, you can still have your sand. There are beaches and sandy adventures all over the state of Georgia, some of them very close to big city living in Atlanta.

To maximize your beach bucks with Georgia travel, you'll need to employ a combination of frugal thinking, careful timing and early-season investment. Here are five creative tactics to get the beach without the big bucks.

Consider your definition of "beach."

Yes, the ocean has sand. The joyous news is, in Georgia, numerous state parks and other public bodies of water also have sand, in the form of lake beaches. In the Atlanta area, you've got two options even if you don't have much more money than the change you found in the car and the couch. The first is a white sand beach and roped-off swimming area known as Acworth Beach at Cauble Park in Acworth.

It's free to the well-behaved public and open Memorial Day to Labor Day, dawn to dusk. If you just want to feel sand between your toes or walk hand-in-hand, the beach itself is open all year. Just make sure to bring $10 to park and pack a picnic.

Very close in the same area is the popular Red Top Mountain State Park, which abuts the 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona and has a lagoon-style sand swimming beach that's in a private cove and surrounded by trees. If you want a beachside breakfast, the park opens at 7 a.m. If you want beach camping, it's got pioneer camping and cottage options, and even a yurt. Those cost extra, but the lake beach itself only requires $5 for parking.

Credit: Contributed by Callaway Gardens

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Credit: Contributed by Callaway Gardens

Don't mind if it's manmade.

Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens is a short, sweet drive from downtown Atlanta in Pine Mountain. The full mile of white sand beach is made by men, but you and the fam will probably forget that while puttering around the 65-acre lake, sunbathing and playing childhood beach favorites like giant checkers and mini-golf.

To really tap the benefits of the beach, you might want to spring for a family membership. They start at about $170 and score unlimited general admission for two adults and two children for one season, just about the same price as one night at an oceanfront family hotel.

Set up a season pass arrangement.

The only thing better than actually living near an ocean or bay with a sandy beach is living near a lake beach that will let you return again and again for the same price. Just 30 minutes from Atlanta is a spiffy sand beach on Lake Lanier. Lanier World's Big Beach has a boardwalk vibe worthy of Atlantic City, from the hot dog stands to the ferris wheel.

And hey, they've got lifeguards − just like Baywatch. The proximity to home base means short (or at least shorter) rides home in sandy suits and it also lets you take advantage of season membership deals that start at about $90 for individuals and let you bring friends at half price on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Camp an hour away and save hundreds on hitting the beach at Tybee Island.

Credit: Contributed by

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Credit: Contributed by

Camp near, but not on, Tybee Island.

If only vast sand stretches with lapping waves will do for your beach fix, consider this workaround for vacationing at Tybee Island: Book a "pioneer camping" site in the Skidaway Island Georgia State Park, which costs a mere $40 per night, and then drive an hour and hit the beach at Tybee Island. The maximum number of people is, ah, 30, so beach reunion here you come. (Though it's important to only invite folks who can hack pit privies.)