Can’t decide if you like the beach or the mountains? Have both – just alter those beach expectations a little – with these beaches fed by cool, refreshing mountain water all within two hours or less of Greenville.
I grew up near the Jersey Shore so I have a good idea of what a beach should look like. Get that version of miles and miles of sand and shore out of your head. However, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by these small mountain beaches that do have sand and sun, just not exactly like you may be used to at the ocean.
OK, now that you’re sufficiently prepared to enjoy both the beach and the mountain, here are our best recommendations of where to grab the sand toys, beach towels, and cooler and head out for some sun and a refreshing swim for the day.
If you’re looking for lakes for fishing, boating and other water activities, try our list of Recreational Lakes in the Upstate.
Sandy Mountain Beaches Near Greenville, SC
Where: Devils Fork State Park, 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem
Cost: $8/adults, $4/kids ages 6-15, under five are free
Lake Jocassee beach is one of our favorites in the Upstate because you look out over the stunning and crystal clear lake. The view is unbeatable. Water shoes are best since you have to scramble down some rocks to get to the sandy oasis. How large the beach is will depend on the water level of the lake. If it’s around 96 or below, you’ll have a decent amount of sand. If it’s above that, you won’t. Check it before you go to prepare!
Where: Table Rock State Park, 158 Ellison Lane, Pickens
Cost: $6/adults, $3.50/kids ages 6-15, under five are free
This lakeside beach has a decent sized shore front with lots of sand. Get there early in the summer to make sure you are able to get into the park.
Where: Paris Mountain State Park, 2401 State Park Road, Greenville
Cost: $6/adults, $3.50/kids ages 6-15, under five are free
Small beach in this state park located inside Greenville County. Watch the Paris Mountain website for swim advisories as water there has been found to be contaminated in recent years.
Chau Ram County Park
Where: Oconee County, Chau Ram Park Road, Westminster
A nice little sandy beach with lots of shallow spots to swim and wade.
Twelve Mile Park Recreation Area
Where: 113 Twelve Mile Park, Clemson
Cost: $5 parking fee
Pretty beach right in Clemson within the beautiful setting of Lake Hartwell. Learn all about it in our review of Twelve Mile Park .
Riley Moore Falls
Where: Sumter National Forest, Riley Moore Falls Trail, Westminster
This swimming hole and beach is accessible by a two-mile round-trip hike and people even camp there. Park near the sign that says “Riley Moore Falls” if you don’t have a 4×4 SUV or truck to get up the logging road to the trailhead. There is a good size sandy beach with views of the 50-foot wide waterfall. Lots of places to let the kids play around in the water but because so many people have littered, there is some trash around and we had to watch for glass. Water shoes were worn the whole time.
South Cove Park
Where: On the shores of Lake Keowee, 1031 S Cove Rd, Seneca
South Cove Park has a small sandy beach for sunbathing and playing, a great playground as well as lots of lakeside campgrounds. The park is actually a peninsula that extends into the lake.
Where: 2724 Memorial Hwy, Lake Lure, NC
Cost: $9/adults, $7/kids ages 4-12 + 45” tall, Kids four and under are free with adult
Lake Lure has a huge beach for relaxing, sunning, and playing. Admission also includes access to the on-site small waterpark. Lifeguards are present at Lake Lure.
Darwin Wright Park
Where: 106 Anderson Beach Boulevard, Anderson
Darwin Wright Park in Anderson County has a good-sized beach along the lake where you can swim. Swim at your risk since there are no lifeguards.
Lake James State Park
Where: Just outside the Linville Gorge in NC, 6883 NC-126, Nebo, NC
Cost: $5/adults, $4/kids 12 and under
Large sandy beach just under two hours from Greenville with bathrooms, changing rooms, and a concession stand. The lake has a designated swimming area with lifeguards from May to September. Opens May 1, 2023.
Mile Creek County Park
Where: On Lake Keowee, 757 Keowee Baptist Church Road, Six Mile
Cost: $5/day parking fee
This great little beach is perfect for families. It’s got a playground, swimming area, bathrooms, picnic facilities, and camping. Read our review here.
Where: In Pisgah National Forest, 375 Wesley Branch Rd, Asheville
Cost: $2/person day use fee
This is a small lake and campground only 90 minutes from the Upstate with a sandy beach where lifeguards are on duty. If you’re camping or glamping there, the fee is waived.
Calhoun Falls State Park
Where: On Lake Russell, 46 Maintenance Shop Rd, Calhoun Falls, SC
Cost: $3/adults, $1/kids
Small sandy beach right on Lake Russell. And there’s great camping sites here also.
Lake Hartwell State Park
There’s a very small sandy beach inside the park on Lake Hartwell off a small trail on the road leading to the fishing pier.
Where: 19138-A Hwy 11 S, Fair Play, SC
Cost: $3/adults, $1/kids ages 6-15
Pines Recreation Area on Lake Glenville
Where: 1965 Pine Creek Road, Cullowhee, NC.
Beautiful little beach on the shores of Lake Glenville in Jackson County, NC.
The Shores of Asbury
Where: On the shores of Lake Hartwell, 1600 Asbury Park Road, Anderson
Cost: $5/parking + $10/person beach access
The Shores of Asbury is a campground that has imported sand from Florida and a huge Aqua Zone floating obstacle course that operates seasonally. Beach access is available.
High Falls Park
Where: On Lake Kewoee, 671 High Falls Road, Seneca
Right on the beautiful Lake Keowee, High Falls Park has a small sandy beach, restrooms, changing rooms, and a campground.
Sandy Creek Park
Where: Athens, GA
Cost: $2/per person
Sandy Creek Park has it all: a playground, shaded picnic areas, a lake with boat rentals, 28,000 square feet of sandy beach, and trails. It’s a great spot to cool off during the summer and walk the trails during the cooler months. It’s only 15 minutes outside of downtown Athens. Hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 7 am – 8:30 pm and closed on Mondays.
Cane Creek Park
Where: 5213 Harkey Road, Waxhaw, NC
Cost: $4/car + $2/person for swimming or $5/person for swimming, mini-golf, and peddle boat day pass
Cane Creek Park in Waxhaw, NC has a big, sandy beach where you can swim and play. They open June 14, 2023 and their hours are Wednesdays – Fridays 11 am – 6:30 pm. They are on a modified schedule due to a lifeguard shortage. They have also trails, peddle boats, kayak rentals, and mini-golf at this park.
Where’s your favorite sandy beach near the Upstate?
Hello,I just love the newsletter and I love Greenville I would love to move there in the future.Since I have a 10 year old son we come this way a lot. I would like to know coming from Columbia which beach would you recommend that may be the closest.? Thanks
Fellow Jersey Shore girl here and this is the article I’ve been waiting for! I love how you distinguished this is not the miles and miles of sand you might be expecting. Beach is used very liberally here and if you don’t clarify, it’s just disappointing! Thank you!
You’re welcome – happy you took notice (as you would because Jersey Girls are awesome)!