Add the Most Beautiful Places in Georgia to Your Bucket List ASAP

You won’t believe these stunning spots are just a short drive from Atlanta.

Georgia is home to more than 50 state parks, nine National Wildlife Refuges, one state forest, and (potentially) the country’s newest national park, meaning there’s a whole lot of beautiful places in our state. With the state park system covering more than 84,000 acres and stunning things to see even beyond those confines, there are plenty of ways to get outside and take in the state’s natural beauty.

Regardless of the season, there’s something to do for every kind of explorer—whether you want to connect with nature in the forest, take in the tranquility of the coast, or challenge yourself to a grueling backcountry adventure. Beauty abounds in the Peach State, so here are the most beautiful places in Georgia to add to your bucket list.

Westside Park
Westside Park | Photo courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine

If you are looking for an urban escape right in the heart of Atlanta, head over to Westside Park, the largest greenspace within the city limits at around 280 acres. The park contains a 350-foot-deep reservoir holding 2.4 billion gallons of emergency water reserves and is also home to a biking track, playground, and a pavilion for events and festivals. The perfect spot to spend a weekend or afternoon just soaking up some Vitamin D. The overlook area offers panoramic views of the reservoir and Atlanta skyline, so bring your camera for some epic shots.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park | EWY Media/Shutterstock

Did you know that one of the most significant prehistoric Indigenous mounds and archeological sites in the country is less than two hours from Atlanta? It may even become Georgia’s first national park later this year. It was once home to the ancient Mississippian civilization and their descendants, the historic Muscogee Creek Nation, who built the mounds you can explore in the park. They also have North America’s only restored ceremonial Earth Lodge with original clay floors carbon dating back more than 1,000 years. For an immersive history lesson, don’t miss the museum in the park’s visitor center that houses more than 2,000 artifacts.

The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island
Photo courtesy of The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island
This island off the Georgia coast is very popular among locals and visitors alike for its stunning natural beauty and incredible hospitality. It is only accessible by boat and limited to a maximum of 32 overnight guests per night, resulting in that feeling of being a world away from everything. Picture this: Seven miles of untouched, pristine beaches and 11,000 acres of wild, undeveloped wilderness just waiting for you to explore and unwind. You can take a dip in the refreshing Atlantic Ocean, go on a thrilling boat ride along the Altamaha River, or try your luck at fishing in Mosquito Creek. And this place is a haven for birders, whether you're a die-hard enthusiast or just enjoy casually watching these beautiful creatures because it is located right along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, which is a major route for migratory birds in North America.

Mountain City
Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia’s highest elevation state park at 3,625 feet. Therefore it's no surprise it offers sweeping views of the stunning Blue Ridge mountains from various viewpoints all along the park. If you want to kick your adventure into high gear, opt for the advanced Jams E. Edmonds Backcountry trail which is 7.2 miles of grueling hiking along lengthy and steep ascents, especially on the latter half, but the views of the scenic Wolffork Valley, streams, and lakes are well worth the effort. Spring and summer are particularly beautiful as the valleys are bursting with wildflowers like flaming azaleas, deep-purple trillium, and pale-pink mountain laurel.

Sapelo Island
Sapelo Island | Joanne Dale/Shutterstock

McIntosh County
The more you explore, you’ll quickly realize that some of the most stunning places in the world are pretty difficult to reach—but Sapelo Island is an amazing example of why you shouldn’t let such challenges deter you. The destination is both a National Estuarine Research Reserve and Georgia’s fourth largest barrier island. Since there aren’t any roads or bridges connecting it to the mainland, you’ll need to catch a ferry to access it. Fortunately, nonresidents, researchers, or workers can still visit Sapelo Island by going on a tour of the reserve or booking a stay at either the Reynolds Mansion or Cabretta Campground. Once you’re there, fill your time exploring the expansive salt marshes, dense forests, and intricate ecosystems that house a diverse array of plants and animals. Also check out the historic Sapelo Lighthouse, Nanny Goat Beach, and Reynolds Mansion.

Amicalola Falls State Park
Amicalola Falls State Park | JayL/Shutterstock

Georgia’s natural waterfalls are sights to behold, and although we can’t decide whether or not Amicalola Falls qualifies as the state’s most beautiful waterfall, we can safely say that it is the tallest and third-highest east of the Mississippi River. The 729-foot-tall wonder alone is worth the drive, but there are plenty of other things to do while visiting like zip lining and participating in GPS scavenger hunts. With 829 acres of pristine North Georgia wilderness to explore and 10 trails that start right inside the park, hiking opportunities abound including the popular 8.5-mile Approach Trail that ends at Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the famous Appalachian Trail.

Driftwood Beach
Driftwood Beach | Kevin Ruck/Shutterstock

Jekyll Island
While most people know Jekyll Island for its stunning Driftwood Beach, there is so much more to this 75-year-old destination. With more than 1,000 acres of lush maritime forest, 10 stunning miles of pristine shoreline, and enchanting marshes, you can hike and bike your way around for hours. Of course, Driftwood Beach has its unique charm with miles of tree-clad shores and unique driftwood formations. But that’s not all—you can learn about sea turtles and the rehabilitation efforts at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, get up close with an alligator with the Gatorology experience, and take an educational tour led by a park ranger to learn about the island’s natural resources and ecology.

Lookout Mountain
Lookout Mountain | nos.studios/Shutterstock

Lookout Mountain
Right near the border of northwest Georgia and Tennessee is Lookout Mountain and Rock City Gardens, which rests atop the mountain. There, visitors can marvel at ancient rock formations, lively gardens, and breathtaking panoramic views. The highlight of Rock City Gardens is undoubtedly the legendary "See Rock City'' barns, which dot the countryside. As you venture into the gardens, a network of trails will lead you through a maze of towering ancient rock formations, aptly named for their unique shapes, such as Lover's Leap and Fat Man's Squeeze. The area also offers thrilling adventures like the Swing-A-Long Bridge, a suspension bridge that sways gently as you traverse it, adding an extra dose of excitement.

 Tallulah Gorge
Tallulah Gorge | JayL/Shutterstock

Tallulah Falls
At 1,000 feet deep and nearly two miles long, Tallulah Gorge is the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River and sits next to a nearly 2,700-acre Georgia State Park. With six waterfalls causing the river to drop 500 feet over a single mile, an 80-foot-high suspension bridge, and ample hiking and biking, this area is awe-inspiring to say the least. For a special treat, visit during dam release days in April and November to watch adrenaline-chasing skilled kayakers braving the churning waters.

Allatoona Lake
Allatoona Lake | Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

Northwest Georgia
Nestled among rolling hills and lush greenery, Allatoona Lake is a 12,000-acre body of water that offers a variety of water-based activities for you to enjoy. Whether you want a peaceful day of fishing, cruising along on a boat, or simply lounging on the shores with a picnic, this lake provides endless opportunities for relaxation. It is surrounded by beautiful forests and abundant wildlife, so pack your swimsuit, some sunscreen, and get ready for an outdoor adventure.

Arabia Mountain
Arabia Mountain | Sean Pavone/shutterstock

Arabia Mountain is one of only 49 National Heritage Areas in the country, making it a must-visit for both Georgia natives and tourists. This natural phenomenon offers a unique landscape of exposed granite outcrops and vibrant rock formations that rise above the surrounding flatlands. With hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the countryside, delicate flora that survives in this rugged terrain, and colorful wildflowers that grow during the spring and summer months, it is a great place to escape life for a while and rejuvenate in nature.

Callaway Gardens
Photo courtesy of Callaway Gardens

Pine Mountain
A public garden and resort on 14,000 acres of beautiful Appalachian foothills near Pine Mountain, Callaway Gardens is a getaway for all generations. There’s no shortage of fun things to do: Explore the flower gardens and butterfly center, recharge at the wellness spa, play a few rounds on the golf course, and traverse 10 miles of hiking and biking trails. All that plus a variety of lodging options make this the place for a weekend getaway, no matter who you’re traveling with.

providence canyon state park
Providence Canyon State Park | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Yes, it’s in Georgia. While some people may think that 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. Numerous streams flow along the canyon floors, and there are more than 10 miles of scenic hiking trails meandering through all nine inner canyons. There are various overlooks along the way for picture-perfect vistas that will have you wondering if you are still in the peach state.

Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island | Stacy Funderburke/Shutterstock

St. Marys
Step off the ferry on Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island and you’ll immediately feel like you’re on your private beach. Once you’re there, you can swim, take quiet strolls, fish, or go bird watching. All of these activities take place amidst ancient, twisted trees draped in Spanish moss, and you’re almost sure to see at least a few 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 and accessible only by ferry from the mainland city of St. Marys. There are more than 50 miles of marked trails and 18 miles of beach access, so you will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors here.

Okefenokee Swamp
Okefenokee Swamp | Vadim 777/Shutterstock

The largest intact freshwater and black water wilderness swamp in North America, Okefenokee Swamp has to be seen to be believed. This area around the swamp is called “The Land of Trembling Earth”, and is a thriving habitat for numerous species of birds, reptiles, bears, and around 10,000 American alligators. You can kayak, canoe, or boat and float through the almost crystal-clear swamp waters to soak in all the beauty of this pristine wilderness. If you are looking for a bit of a workout, hike up the 90-foot observation tower to get a panoramic view of the whole swamp. Stick around until after dusk because this gold-tier International Dark Sky Park is the perfect place to stargaze—you can even sleep on an open-air platform over open water for an over-the-top camping experience.

Etowah Indian Mounds
Etowah Indian Mounds | Jeffrey M. Frank/Shutterstock

If you want to explore the state’s Indigenous history, head on over to Etowah Indian Mounds, about three hours from Macon. This 54-acre site is the most intact Mississippian culture site in the Southeast and features six earthen mounds, plus a plaza, village site, borrow pits, and defensive ditch. You can walk along a nature trail that hugs the river and see artifacts of how the early civilizations lived off the land and the forest. They even have huge, hand-carved stone effigies that still retained some original pigments.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Karthika Gupta is a contributor to Thrillist.