The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Georgia
Get away from it all.
Week in and week out, we fill you in on some of the coolest events and happenings in Atlanta, but when all else fails, you can’t go wrong with going outside and getting some fresh air. Thanks to the BeltLine and a long list of public parks, the city has a bunch of great outdoor spaces for you to explore, but why limit yourself to the confines of Atlanta? As you’re about to see, Georgia is a gorgeous state with more lakes, rivers, trails, and parks than you can imagine, so don’t let your time here pass without experiencing the Peach State’s natural wonders firsthand—you may even be able to use it as an excuse for a scenic weekend road trip. Here’s your guide to some of the most beautiful places in Georgia.
The Flint River is the second-longest river in Georgia, and it stretches from Clayton County to Decatur County in Southeast Georgia. The 344 mile-long river makes for a gorgeous waterfront picnic or cookout, and for those who know how to swim, the Flint can be the perfect destination for a scenic kayaking or canoeing trip as well. Either way, the Flint River is a lot more stunning than its name would suggest.
In the northwestern corner of Georgia, near the Alabama border is Rising Fawn, and there, you will find the Cloudland Canyon State Park. With over 3,500 acres, Cloudland Canyon is a sprawling open-air space that features far more than your typical state park—we’re talking thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland, and plenty of wildlife. If there’s one place in Georgia where you can be certain that you’ll be able to reconnect with nature, Cloudland Canyon State Park is it.
Even though temperatures are gradually decreasing as we enter the final stretch of 2021, a trip to Jekyll Island’s Driftwood Beach, one of Georgia’s most stunning beaches, may be exactly what you need. Yes, it’s nearly five hours from Atlanta, but its iconic driftwood and tree-clad shores are definitely worth the drive. Driftwood Beach’s unique, otherworldly scenery will make for some pretty great photos and some truly unforgettable memories.
If you’re a fan of the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Midtown, then you have got to visit Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia, which is just an hour north of the city. Gibbs Gardens is a 300+ acre property that is composed of 16 gardens—with the three featured sections being Manor House Gardens, Japanese, and Waterlily Gardens—that boast gorgeous designs and architecture such as ponds, bridge crossings, and waterfalls. Gibbs Gardens does require visitors to purchase tickets online in advance, but for just $20 (or $18 if you’re 65 years old and up), you’ll be able to spend hours at one of the biggest and prettiest gardens in Georgia.
Right near the border of northwest Georgia and Tennessee is Lookout Mountain, and one of its prized locations is Rock City Gardens, which rests atop the mountain. There, visitors can marvel at ancient rock formations, lively gardens, and breathtaking panoramic views. In light of COVID-19, timed-entry tickets are available for patrons, making for a safer and more social-distanced experience for those witnessing the wondrous beauty of Rock City Gardens.
If you love the BeltLine but desperately need a switch of scenery from the city, head west to enjoy Carrollton. There, you’ll find the Carrollton Greenbelt, an 18-mile shared-use path designed for pedestrians, bikers, and skaters. It claims the title of Georgia’s largest paved loop trail system, and—like the BeltLine—the Carrollton Greenbelt brings together neighborhoods, commercial areas, city parks, and even the University of West Georgia’s campus, making it easy to explore the rest of what Carrollton has to offer as well.
About four miles south of Tybee Island is a secluded nature preserve called Little Tybee Island. In addition to being so close to one of Georgia’s most beloved barrier islands, this gorgeous getaway is twice Tybee Island’s size with far fewer tourists. Little Tybee Island is only accessible by boat, but once you make it there, you’ll be wowed by its serenity and natural beauty.
You probably weren’t thinking about taking a road trip to Albany prior to this, but the southwest Georgia city boasts one of the seven natural wonders of Georgia: Radium Springs Garden. This magnificent landmark is one of the state’s largest springs, and it’s known for pumping out tens of thousands of gallons of strikingly blue water every minute from an underground cave. There’s also plenty of history surrounding Radium Springs Garden, so a trip there would be both awe-inspiring and educational.
Since the drive from Atlanta to Helen takes a little under two hours, a day trip to North Georgia could be just what you need. The town’s unique charm will surely draw you in, but the mountains have plenty of outdoor activities awaiting you, from hiking to tubing. At the moment, you can’t fully experience Brasstown Bald—the highest point in Georgia—because the recreation center there is currently for the season. However, you can still bundle up and take a paved one-mile hike at Anna Ruby Falls that will take your breath away.
Waterfalls. That’s it. That’s the tweet. But seriously, Cochran Mill Park is an 800-acre wonderland tucked towards the bottom of Fulton County. In addition to housing waterfalls like the gorgeous Henry Mills Falls, Cochran Mill Park boasts historic mill ruins, plenty of forest and riverside trails, and rare flowers that are native to the park. Thankfully, It opens 30 minutes prior to sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset, because experiencing a sunrise/sunset by Henry Mills is unmatched.
The serenity and simplistic beauty of a lakefront is a joy to experience, from fishing or kayaking to swimming or sunbathing. Skip that haunted lake off Highway 85 and instead take 75 to Allatoona Lake. The 12,000-acre body of water crosses into multiple counties, and its shorelines have several outdoor recreational activities available. TV buffs will also be interested to know that Allatoona Lake is actually one of the filming locations for Netflix’s sensational lakeside drug drama Ozark. Thankfully, it’s a far safer and more serene place than Ozark makes it out to be.
On the western outskirts of Blairsville sits Meeks Park, a huge outdoor recreation complex that’s intersected by Butternut Creek and Nottely River. The park boasts a dog park and several recreational amenities, such as batting cages, a skateboard park, a community pool, and a basketball court to name a few. However, the most scenic (and socially distant!) are the creekside hiking trails, canoe and kayak areas, and the Grist Mill Waterwheel.
Although Andersonville National Historic Site requires a two-hour southbound trek from Atlanta, the trip is well worth it because the historical site provides both a lesson about the Civil War-era South and an open-air respite from the city. In addition to housing the National Prisoner of War Museum (which has finally reopened at reduced capacity), The Andersonville National Historic Site features a national military cemetery and an abundance of gorgeous green space.
At 1,000-feet-deep and nearly two miles long, Tallulah Gorge is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi. More aptly called Tallulah Gorgeous, the site sits right next to a nearly 2,700-acre Georgia state park. With six waterfalls, which cause the river to drop 500 feet over one mile, an 80-foot-high suspension bridge, and ample hiking and biking space, it’s literally breathtaking. Tallulah Gorge is one of Georgia’s state parks that are experiencing large crowds, but social distancing is still being strictly enforced. As a result, prepare for potential wait times and entry limits.
Arabia Mountain is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the country, i.e., places recognized by Congress as sites where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. What you’ll appreciate most, though, is its starkly beautiful granite landscapes, incredible, awe-inducing views, and dozens of brilliantly colored rare plant species. If a more serene place exists, we haven’t found it yet.
A public garden and resort on 14,000 acres of beautiful Appalachian foothills near Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens is teeming with gorgeous views of multiple multi-acre kaleidoscopic flower gardens, and much more, including some legit golf course action, too. Practically all of its indoor and recreational activities have reopened as well, so don’t forget your mask while enjoying all of the experiences that Callaway Gardens has to offer.
A true hidden gem tucked away by the CDC, Morningside Nature Preserve is a secret even to many who live in the neighborhood. It’s a great place for hiking, trail running, walking, letting dogs frolic, or simply forgetting that a huge metropolis is hidden behind the lovely trees, trails, brush, creeks, suspension bridge, and sandy beaches. Seriously, you’ll feel like you actually got away without ever really leaving the city.
This 54-acre site is the most intact Mississippian culture (a mound-building Native American civilization) site in the Southeast, and it features six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, borrow pits, and a defensive ditch. Artifacts at this archaeological site include huge, hand-carved stone effigies that still have some original pigments. No doubt: This is one of the coolest history lessons you'll ever have.
Nestled away in Dahlonega is a Montaluce, a stunning winery (and upscale restaurant!) that offers not only artisanal wines, but also breathtaking views of both the North Georgia Mountains and the sprawling vineyards responsible for all that sweet vino. It also offers events such as deluxe wine tastings, nature hikes, tours, holiday festivities, and more. Splurge on a meal and at least a case of wine.
The largest intact freshwater and black water wilderness swamp in North America, Okefenokee Swamp has to be seen to be believed. It’s full of vegetation and animals you’ve probably never seen before, like alligators and cranes. Check it out via paddleboat/motorboat on water trails that are the sweetest way to explore the indigenous creeks called “The Land of Trembling Earth.”
Yes, that’s in Georgia. While much of the state thinks little, if anything, south of Atlanta is noteworthy, Providence Canyon State Park proves them wrong. The 1,000-plus-acre park contains Providence Canyon, which is known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon” because the massive, up-to-150-foot gullies resemble the real thing so closely. They definitely look like nothing else you’ll find in the Peach State.
Step off the ferry on Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island and you’ll immediately feel like you’re on your own private beach, where you can swim, take quiet strolls, fish, and bird watch. Do this all amidst ancient, twisted trees, lush vegetation, similarly ancient turtles, and beautiful roaming wild horses. The best part, especially for anyone who’s sick of Atlanta traffic? Cumberland Island is a car-free zone. As the pandemic has continued, Cumberland Island has made plenty of important changes, so some tourist attractions have reopened while others remained suspended.