Travel

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Georgia

Get some fresh air.

Waterfall at Rock City Gardens
Waterfall at Rock City Gardens | Angel Chun/Shutterstock
Waterfall at Rock City Gardens | Angel Chun/Shutterstock

Some swore it would never happen, and others speculated that it was inevitable. Regardless, here we are in 2021 still enduring COVID-19. Life has changed a lot since the start of the pandemic, but one thing remains clear—we’re not quite out of the woods yet. So maybe it’s time to go into them. Exploring Georgia’s gorgeous outdoor spaces is one of the best things we can do in our free time. Sure, you could head over to the BeltLine, Piedmont Park, or Stone Mountain, but there are several other lowkey (and likely less crowded) places to check out. From relaxing weekend road trips to cascading waterfalls only accessible by hike, the Peach State has no shortage of alluring locales and stunning scenery. Here’s your guide to the most beautiful places for you to visit in Georgia.

Driftwood Beach

Jekyll Island
With warmer months slowly creeping in, you’re going to need a few waterside getaways on your list, and Jekyll Island’s Driftwood Beach is one of the most stunning beaches in Georgia. 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.

Rock City Gardens

Lookout Mountain
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.

The Greenbelt Trail
The Greenbelt Trail | Venuz/Shutterstock

Carrollton Greenbelt

Carrollton
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 University of West Georgia’s campus, making it easy to explore the rest of what Carrollton has to offer as well.

Little Tybee Island

Tybee Island
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 less 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.

Radium Springs Garden

Albany
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.

Anna Ruby Falls

Helen
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.

Cochran Mill
Cochran Mill main falls | David Grano-De-Oro/Shutterstock

Cochran Mill Park

Chattahoochee Hills
Waterfalls. That’s it. That’s the tweet. But seriously, Cochran Mill Park is a 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 the sun sets, because experiencing a sunrise/sunset by Henry Mills is unmatched.

Allatoona Lake

Northwest Georgia
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. Plus, Allatoona Lake is one of the filming locations for Netflix’s sensational lakeside drug drama Ozark.

Meeks Park

Blairsville
On the west 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 Water Wheel.

Andersonville National Cemetery
Andersonville National Cemetery | Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Andersonville National Historic Site

Andersonville
While Andersonville National Historic Site requires a two-hour southbound trek form Atlanta, the site serves as a history 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 is extremely insightful and unfortunately closed due to COVID-19. The Andersonville National Historic Site features a national military cemetery and an abundance of gorgeous green space.

 Tallulah Gorge
Hurricane Falls at Tallulah Gorge | JayL/Shutterstock

Tallulah Gorge

Tallulah Falls
A 1,000-feet-deep gorge that’s nearly two miles long, TG 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 wait times and entry limits.

arabia mountain
Isaenko/shutterstock

Arabia Mountain

Lithonia
Arabia Mountain is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the country, i.e., places recognized by Congress for their peerless contribution to the nation’s history. 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.

Callaway Gardens

Pine Mountain
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 flowers 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.

Morningside Nature Preserve

Morningside
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.

Etowah Indian Mounds

Cartersville
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’ve ever had.

Montaluce Winery and Restaurant
Montaluce Winery and Restaurant | Montaluce Winery and Restaurant

Montaluce Winery

Dahlonega
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. You won’t regret it.

Okefenokee Swamp

Waycross
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 paddle boat/motorboat on water trails that are the sweetest way to explore the indigenous creeks called “The Land of Trembling Earth.”

Providence Canyon State Park

Lumpkin
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.

cumberland island
Paula Stephens/shutterstock

Cumberland Island

St. Marys
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.

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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based entertainment critic and lifestyle writer for Thrillist.
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