No ocean, no problem: 6 refreshing lake beaches near Atlanta

Warm sand and cool water, smack dab in the middle of Georgia? Yes, that’s a real thing.

Lake beaches abound near Atlanta — from Red Top Mountain to the outsized spread that’s part of Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain.

Here are six of the best:

Don Carter State Park

On the northern edge of Atlanta, Don Carter State Park is positioned where the Chattahoochee River meets Lake Lanier in Gainesville. 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 location for day trips. You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or cool off in the water after hiking or biking Don Carter’s multiuse trail through a hardwood forest. Overnights are another possibility at the park’s cabins, RV campground or primitive camping area. Parking fee: $5

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. Parking fee: $5

Keith Bridge Park

Here’s one of the tiniest, most secluded lake beaches in Georgia. Lake Lanier was constructed in Gainesville in the early 1950s as a multipurpose 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 of Engineers. It has picnic tables and grills in plain view, but you’ll need to drive to the end of the 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.”

Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens

This full mile of man-made white sand beach around the 65-acre Robin Lake is part of Pine Mountain’s Callaway Gardens. It’s ripe for sunbathing and swimming, and features giant chess and checkers, mini-golf, shuffleboard and other activities. The beach is included in Callaway Gardens admission. Consider a season pass, which allows you to bring five guests each visit.

Acworth Beach at Cauble Park

A fine, family-style public beach and recreation area, Acworth Beach is free and has white sand and roped-off swimming area. On the north side of Lake Acworth, the 25-acre Cauble Park also has places to fish, a playground and public restrooms, so plan to make a day of it. There is a $10 parking fee for nonresidents 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 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.