Travel

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Georgia

Get some fresh air.

We don’t know about you, but a temporary escape from the troubles of 2020 sounds lovely. With the pandemic still raging on, being cooped up at home is making these uncertain times even more difficult to push through. For a change of scenery and a much-needed refresher, escape your neighborhood and appreciate some of Georgia’s beautiful outdoor spaces.

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 breathtaking places for you to visit, explore, and recharge.

Anna Ruby Falls

Helen
Since the drive from Atlanta to Helen takes a little under two hours, a day trip to North Georgia may 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 closed due to COVID-19. However, you can still take a paved one-mile hike and have your breath taken away at Anna Ruby Falls.

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. And oh yeah -- Allatoona Lake is one of the filming locations for Netflix’s latest sensation 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 safe due to COVID-19 -- 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.

Lullwater Park

Atlanta
Despite being smack dab in the middle of the city, Lullwater Park is a total retreat. You can't hear the cars zipping by over the quiet sounds of leaves rustling in the trees, but you can zone out and enjoy exploring the old water mills. When it comes to parks, Lullwater really has it all: shade and sun, hills and open fields, multiple trails, peaceful running water and fishing ponds, and beautiful serenity. It’s basically nature’s answer to a stiff after-work drink.

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. Although you can’t enjoy the resort’s amazing spa services at the moment, much of its indoor and recreational activities have reopened as well, so don’t forget your mask.

panther creek falls
kurdistan/shutterstock

Panther Creek Falls

Clarkesville
Despite being landlocked, Atlanta has some really gorgeous bodies of water nearby, including the stunning Panther Creek Falls, a cluster of multi-tiered waterfalls that drop into a pool of clear, beautiful water below. Oh, and if you want to do more than simply bask in the falls’ cool serenity, you can enjoy the nearly 6-mile Panther Creek Trail that runs alongside.

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

Florida-Georgia border
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. Recently, Cumberland Island has made important changes in response to the pandemic, so be sure to review those and pay your admission in advance.

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With everything happening, Atlanta-based contributor Joshua Robinson could really use a beautiful outdoor getaway right about now.