From the cosmopolitan Atlanta to the waterfront beauty of Savannah to the quaint mountain towns of Dahlonega and much-touristed Helen to Stone Mountain, the park and monument, to the confederate figures, George is ripe for exploration. But head to some less well-known destinations for a sweet experience of history, beauty, and a true taste of Georgia.
Cumberland, Jekyll, and St. Simon barrier islands are among Georgia’s crown jewels and rightly so, drawing thousands of tourists to their unspoiled beaches and resorts, but head to Sapelo Island and go beyond the beaches to soak up some unique history and culture. Accessible only by ferry or plane, Sapelo is the fourth largest island in the chain of coastal Georgia islands between the Savannah and St. Mary’s rivers. Most of the island is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, except the community of Hog Hammock, the home of about 70 full-time residents, many of whom are descended from the West African Gullah-Geechee freed slaves of Sapelo’s plantations. Explore miles of unspoiled beaches and protected marsh land on Sapelo. Also, on the island is R.J. Reynolds Mansion which was built by Thomas Spalding in 1810 and restored by automotive pioneer Howard Coffin in 1925 and tobacco heir Richard J. Reynolds in the 1940s. Arrange overnight accommodations at the mansion, stay with one of the island’s residents, rent a cottage or camp, but bring everything you’ll need with you; there’s only one small general store which keeps only semi-regular hours.
Black Rock Mountain State Park
From marsh and shore, head to the heights. Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia’s highest state park and offers some incredible views of the Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. At 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain state park is a perfect late summer getaway offering cool temperatures and plenty of shade. Find four hiking trails that wind past streams, small waterfalls, wildflowers and cool, lush forests. A small lake is popular with anglers and those who don’t want to fish can enjoy a walking trail around the lake.
Anyone planning to tow an RV to Black Rock State Park should be prepared to navigate steep winding roads. Tent sites with spectacular views and plenty of privacy are available or stay in one of the park’s mountain top cabins.
Travel about an hour south of Atlanta to Warm Springs and soak up southern charm, hospitality, and the naturally heated springs that drew President Franklin D. Roosevelt here. At the heart of Warm Springs is Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Site and the museums that chronicle FDR’s time in Georgia. Roosevelt, searching for relief and a cure for his polio, built the house while he was the governor of New York, before he became president. He enjoyed swims in the 88-degree spring waters and while he didn’t find a cure, he did fine relief from his pain. After exploring the history of the area, enjoy the town’s antiques, shops and restaurants located in restored historical buildings.
Peach Wine Tour
Georgia is definitely more well-known for it’s bountiful summer fruit than wine, but enterprising vintners have found a way to uncork a new flavor on the world – combining sweet Georgia peaches with wines for a unique Georgia taste. About a dozen wineries produce peach wines throughout Georgia and welcome visitors for tastings and pre-arranged tours. Front Porch Peach wine at Spies Vineyard and Farms in Rayburn, take in the gardens and enjoy spectacular sunsets. Travel to Toccoa and visit the Currahee Vineyards & Winery to enjoy a one-of-a-kind Sunrise, the vineyard’s signature wine. The no-sugar added, naturally sweet Sunrise is made from peaches and muscadine grapes. On a hot summer day, cool off with the specialty of the house, a Sunrise peach slushy. While you’re in the area, enjoy the city of Toccoa in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Explore Main Street and visit the Currahee Military Museum devoted to the soldiers who trained at Camp Toccoa. Head to the lowlands and Butterducks, in Guyton, near Savannah, where a full-line of peach wines from the chardonnay blend Duck Call White to Dancing Ducks Super Sweet Joyful, a luscious dessert wine, are produced. Butterducks offers tastings weekends throughout the year.
Albany Civil Rights Institute
Visit the Albany Civil Rights Institute in Albany, Georgia, to experience the story of the civil rights movement in southwest Georgia. The museum and research center include the newly renovated Old Mount Zion church, site of one of the first mass meetings of the Albany Movement, and a 12,315 square foot museum space adjacent to the church. The institute includes exhibit space packed with interactive exhibits chronicling the history of the southwest Georgia civil rights struggle, a large multipurpose room, an outdoor garden facility, a digital oral history database, a resource library, and state-of-the-art audio and visual technology. The Institute shows the reality of life in southwest Georgia in the runup to the modern civil rights movement and immerses visitors in the culture and conflicts of the 1960s. While in Albany, tour the historic town and visit the Flint RiverQuarium, one of only a handful of open-air aquariums in the world. The RiverQuarium provides a unique look at more than 100 indigenous species of fish, as well as alligators turtles, and other river life.
Peaches may be the Georgia claim to fame, but Ellijay, in the North Georgia Mountains, is the heart of Georgia apple country. Ellijay is a small mountain town that offers big family fun – and plenty of apple-related activities including apple picking in heirloom orchards and apple festivals. Fun is always in season in Ellijay, even when apples aren’t. Explore Amicalola Falls the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast, enjoy excellent hiking trails and spend time at scenic Carter Lake for boating and fishing or relax at the beach on Harris Branch. Stay in a local campground or rent a mountain cabin so you can savor all Ellijay has to offer, including golf, a historic downtown, and a stop at a local winery – including some that feature apple infused wines.
Indian Springs State Park
Indian Springs State Park is one of the nation’s oldest state parks and for many years before that was a site revered by Native Americans for its artesian springs water, believed to have healing and restorative powers. For centuries the Creeks collected water from the springs and after a treaty was signed between the U.S. and the Creek Nation in 1821, a bustling resort area developed, catering to those seeking the healing powers of the mineral-rich waters. The resort thrived until the early 1900 when the gilded age came to a crashing end and the resorts fell into ruin. Current structures were built as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Today, visitors can still sample the spring water flowing inside the stone Spring House built by the CCC, along with enjoying cabins and campsites, short hikes and stream wading. The park is located just off I-75 in central Georgia.
If Arizona’s Grand Canyon is too far afield for your next journey, consider a trip to Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon in the northwest corner of the state. Carved by roaring river waters millions of years ago, the canyon, on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, will dazzle with thousand-foot canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves and waterfalls, and wild-life rich forested lands. Stay to enjoy the hiking, biking, guided caving trips, fishing, horseback riding and other outdoor activities. Lodging choices include campgrounds, wilderness camping, cottages and even yurts. A new recreation area includes mountain biking and an 18-hold disc golf course.