No summer would be complete without a trip to the beach. You probably don’t think of Tennessee when you are planning a beach vacation, but the Volunteer state has the most beautiful lakes you’ve ever seen, plus the gorgeous land of Dixie. This state in the inland region in the southeastern United States may be far from the crashing waves of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but there are still plenty of opportunities to swim, fish, canoe, or just enjoy a fun day at the beach. There is a number of Tennessee State Parks that have swimming holes, and there are also a few sandy beaches at area lakes. Whether you’re looking for a strenuous hike to a breathtaking waterfall, or just a picnic and a pickup game of volleyball, there’s a Tennessee beach for you. Beat the heat in a beautiful Tennessee vacation rental surrounded by gorgeous scenery, and it sounds like you have the perfect summer planned.
1. Rock Island State Park
For sand, water, and never ending fun, head to Rock Island State Park located about 90 minutes southeast of Nashville. This popular state park boasts some impressive waterfalls and features a natural sand beach at the banks of Center Hill Lake. You can also play horseshoes and volleyball or go boating, fishing, or hiking. Hike down the banks and splash near the rocky shore by the main falls, and on your way back, you’ll find some great swimming holes. Rock Island Park also offers both cabin rentals and campsites for visitors and is near points of interest such as the Cumberland Caverns, Virgin Falls and Burgess Falls.
2. J. Percy Priest Lake
This hot spot just outside of Nashville offers you a great place for picnicking, swimming, hiking, backpacking, boating, fishing and wildlife observation. Perfect for families, let the kids play in the sand and splash in the water. There’s a swim beach along with volleyball courts and a playground in the Bryant Grove section of the lake. J. Percy Priest Lake is also great for camping or just cool down.
3. South Cumberland State Park
Another great destination to cool off in Tennessee is the Grundy Lakes area in South Cumberland. The man-made beach is perfect for lounging in the sun or spreading out a waterside picnic.There’s also a swim-up dock for sunbathing and jumping in the water. For a little more adventure, you can take a hike to one of the many waterfalls that can be found along the trails in the area. Greeter Falls is a moderate 1-mile out-and-back hike that’s not too treacherous. You can also find a lot of boulders that are irresistible for climbing and jumping.
4. Big Ridge State Park
For only a couple of bucks, you can spend the afternoon at any Tennessee state park. Big Ridge is a heavily forested, 3,687-acre park located in the Appalachian Ridge and Valley range with narrow ridges flanked by fertile stream valleys. This park is home to a variety of activities perfect for the whole family. There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to very rugged, 50 campsites on or near Norris Lake that accommodate RV’s, trailers and tent campers, and back country camping available at no charge. Of course, there’s a sandy beach next to Big Ridge Lake which provides a concrete-bottomed swimming area for children. If you’re still looking for more things to do, the park also offers sand volleyball, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a basketball court and a softball field.
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5. Cummins Falls
One of the newest public parks, and also one of the most beautiful, is Cummins Falls. Recently rated one of the top swimming holes in the country by Travel and Leisure Magazine, this park has a 75-foot cascading waterfall complete with a crystal clear swimming hole and rock shelves for sitting and jumping. The hike down to the falls is on the difficult side, so it’s probably best for families with older children, but if you’re up for a challenge, you’re in for a great reward!
6. Paris Landing State Park
Located in the northwest corner of Tennessee, along with Kentucky Lake, is Paris Landing State Park. Here, there are plenty of places to stay including cabins, camping, group camping and even a 130-room inn. Paris also has the reason we’re sure you came, beaches along the banks of Kentucky Lake with plenty of places to swim and soak up some sun. If that’s not enough for you, how about boating, fishing, hiking, playgrounds, sports fields and an 18-hole golf course?
7. Natchez Trace Parkway
Okay, this one isn’t technically one beach, but rumor has it there’s a great local swimming hole at mile marker 382 on the Natchez Trace Parkway at a historic site called Metal Ford complete with a rope swing. Nearby at mile marker 385, at Meriwether Lewis Campground, there’s a wonderful stream for splashing. On the other side, at mile marker 391, you can find a waterfall and swimming hole called Fall Hollow on the Trace. It’s a great little area off the beaten path to take a quick dip.
8. Old Hickory Lake
The beaches of Old Hickory Lake is fun for the whole family. With three different day-use areas, Cedar Creek, Laguardo, and Old Hickory Beach, you’ll find great swim beaches, picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and launching ramps. How about a house boat for a nontraditional vacation rental? Old Hickory Lake Tennessee Marinas is a full-service marina with boat rentals, house boats, ski boats, pontoon boats, and slip rentals.
9. Cordell Hull Lake
At this hidden gem, you’ll find some of the most stunning sunsets in the state. Cordell Hull Lake also provides a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for millions of visitors each year like fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, hiking, horseback riding and other numerous ways to enjoy nature.
10. Cheatham Lake
There’s no better place than Cheatham Lake, in Ashland City, to hang out with friends with a can of beer and some good tunes on the radio. Millions of visitors each year come here for fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, hiking, and more.