The Best Beaches and Lakes Near Knoxville, TN

Norris Lake

Knoxville, Tennessee is a landlocked city that isn’t near any ocean front beaches, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a relaxing lakeside beach to lounge and catch some sun rays. There are several lakes and parks in the area for anyone who doesn’t want to drive the 5 or 6 hours required to make it to the coast. Here are the best places to go within an hour’s drive of Knoxville if you’re looking for fun in the sun, some swimming and maybe a little fishing while you’re at it.

Watts Bar Lake

Halfway in the middle between Knoxville and Chattanooga you’ll find Watts Bar Lake. The lake is a result of the Watts Bar Dam. It’s a large lake that is popular with locals and tourists with plenty of space to spread out. It’s ideal for boating and sailing with houseboat rentals also available. There are quire a few sandy beaches on the shores of Watts Bar Lake, so bring your swimming suit and your lounge chair. It’s also a good place for sports fishing, complete with several marinas and boat launches.

Douglas Lake

Douglass Lake is a 28,000 acre lake situated 25 miles to the east of Knoxville. Here you’ll find 500 miles of shoreline that surrounds the lake. Ther are plenty of boat ramp in the area with great places for fishing, boating, and a sandy beach that is popular for swimming. It’s ideal to spend the night at the campground behind the beach for a day of fun on the beach, or a fishing adventure in the lake.

Norris Lake

Norris Lake is about a half hour drive from Knoxville. The lake was created from the construction of the Norris Dam in 1937. The Big Ridge State Park is the closest attraction with camping sites and trails. You’ll find great places for swimming, boating, fishing and water sports at Norris Lake. This is a recreational area but there are no lifeguards on duty.

Tellico Lake

Tellico Lake is a half hour’s drive from Knoxville. It’s a part of the Tellico Reservoir created when the Tellico Dam was built. This is a natural area with few developed recreation areas, however, there are a few hiking trails, campgrounds and boat ramps on the lake. It’s a great place to fish, boat, or sail. If you enjoy lounging on the beach there are several sandy spots for lounging around the lake and swimming or sunbathing.

Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake is located in the Cherokee National Forest in the northeastern part of Tennessee. This lake is 58 miles long offering breathtaking scenery and a lake shoreline of public lands. A public beach on the west part of the lake features a national recreation area with a public boat launch and some of the best places for swimming, boating, fishing, and water sports. This is a recreational area that offers a huge diversity of activities.

Big Ridge State Park

Big Ridge State Park is located in the Appalachian Ridge. It makes up 3,687 acres of recreational area and gorgeous scenery. Here you’ll find 15 miles of hiking trails and several historic sites. The Big Ridge Lake provides the ideal place for swimming with its sandy beach with additional facilities for kids. Other amenities include volleyball, basketball, softball, and tennis so you won’t run out of things to do. This park draws in huge crowds of visitors every year. If you enjoy hiking on well-maintained trails, this one is definitely worth checking out.

Cheatham Lake

Cheatham Lake is a wide expanse of the Cumberland River that provide locals and visitors with a great place for beach and lake recreation. It’s popular for camping, fishing, boating, and for observing wildlife. During the summer months, many boaters take to the waters of Cheatham Lake for sailing, cruising, wakeboarding, tubing, and fishing. It’s also great for swimming with small sandy beaches. You might have to look hard though, because the sandy spots tend to get covered up by the trees, grasses and shrubs that are growing in the area.

Cherokee Lake

Cherokee is 30 miles from Knoxville. This large lake is 30,3000 acres created from the Holston River. It’s one of Tennessee’s larges lakes with 463 miles of shoreline. It’s popular for fishing, swimming and a variety of different water sports. There are campsites for tents and trailers at the Cherokee Dam Campground, as well as a playground picnic tables, a beach for swimming, boat ramps, paved walking trails, heated showers, and more. This is a popular place for campers who want to go and stay a week.

Chickamauga Lake

This lake is about 20 miles from Chattanooga, and although it’s a bit further from Knoxville, it’s well worth the drive. The Lake offers over 810 miles of shoreline dotted with recreational developments. It’s a big recreational area that features more than a dozen marinas, boat ramps, and several ideal swimming areas. You can fish, camp, water ski, and even enjoy a round of golf at the 18-hole PGA golf course. There are even vendors present to sell grocery, fuel, and camping items on the lake.

Cordell Hull Lake

Cordell Hull Lake is located in the North Central part of Tennessee as a feature of the Cumberland River. It was created when the Cordell Hull Dam was built. This area is popular for outdoor recreational activities including camping, picnicking, biking, horseback riding, hiking, boating, fishing, and more. There are two main campgrounds at Cordell Hull Lake including the Salt Lick Creek Campground, and the Defeated Creek Campground. There are also playgrounds for kids, picnic sites and beaches that are designated for swimming. Cordell Hull Lake offers almost any type of outdoor recreation you could want. It’s not the largest lake in the area, but it is 12,000 acres offering plenty of space to spread out.


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