There is so much to love about Georgia. Its juicy peaches, sweeping mountain vistas, cascading waterfalls, and mossy oaks. While places like Atlanta ‘burb Decatur and the ever-enlivening Athens are always top-of-list, it’s Georgia’s small-town gems we’re mining for today. Thomasville has its roses; Elijay, its apples; and Covington, its Hollywood fame. Here are five more small towns in Georgia worthy of a road trip detour or a weekend getaway.
Enticing sights, smells, sounds, and tastes fill the quaint Appalachian town of Dahlonega. The site of the United States’ first “gold rush” in 1828, miners and entrepreneurs flocked to the riches of the North Georgia Mountains. Today, wine whizzes, waterfall wanderers, and folk music followers are lured to the area’s textured culture. Dahlonega has a slew of quaint inns and b&bs like the luxurious new Inn at Blackberry Hill, the historic Smith House, or the rustic Long Mountain Lodge.
Punctuate your itinerary with tastes of the town’s fabulous fare. Book a candle-lit table in Hideaway Restaurant’s secret garden dining room. Enjoy farm-focused cuisine and endless views at Montaluce Winery & Restaurant. Pick up scratch-made pastries and sandwiches at Corner Kitchen before hitting a trail — North Georgia is home to more than 120 waterfalls and the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
Canopy + The Roots is a plant-filled listening room and social house that offers everything from live music and comedy shows to wine and coffee to yoga and workshops. Aside from its lively downtown, Dahlonega also has a butterfly farm, gold mines, orchards, u-pick farms, a meadery, wine tours, an astronomical observatory, and a wildlife preserve. What’s not to love?!
Located just outside of Augusta and a little over an hour from Atlanta and Athens, Thomson is a quintessentially Southern small town with a lot of character. Two big seasonal events attract visitors from near and far. The Belle Meade Hunt (the first Saturday of November) evokes the pomp and circumstance of pastoral English Cotswolds. Think traditional fox hunt garb, floppy-eared hunting dogs, shiny horses, and lively post-hunt parties.
The annual Blind Willie McTell Music Festival celebrates the life and legacy of blues guitarist Blind Willie McTell. Thomson’s year-round mild climate beckons you outdoors. Walk through the Thomson Farmers Market, take a boat out on Clarks Hill Lake, or tour White Hills Farm — an 1890s restored farmhouse harvesting lavender and other crops.
Gathering Grounds Coffee will fuel a day of local shopping and antiquing for one-of-a-kind finds. After sunset, snag a table at family-owned Ivery’s for melt-in-your-mouth Southern cuisine. Stay in Augusta, find a cozy cottage on Airbnb, or book the Red Oak Manor in nearby Harlem. Whether you’re there for fox hunts, blues music, or funky finds, Thomson has some down-home revelry for everyone.
A college town and former 19th-century capital of Georgia, Milledgeville (cutely called “Milly” by locals) is filled with historic character, a charming downtown district, and outdoor adventure. Take the trolly tour (or the ghost tour!) and visit the town’s landmark gems like Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion and Andalusia Farm, home of renowned American writer Flannery O’Connor.
Once you’ve hit the town’s cultural highlights, Oconee Outfitters will get you ready to pedal and paddle. Water sports abound on Lake Sinclair and the Oconee River. On foot, you can ogle the giant pines of Bartram Forest, walk the Oconee River Greenway, and explore the 50-acre gardens at Lockerly Arboretum.
After you’ve pedaled, paddled, toured, or shopped, unwind at a Milledgeville eatery. The Reel Grill serves up a killer happy hour and sophisticated steak and seafood dishes from inside an old bank — you can even dine in the vault! Other local favorites are Blackbird Coffee, The Brick, and Aubri Lanes on Lake Sinclair. Time your visit with the Deep River Music Festival at Specht Farm, or pick any weekend for a cozy getaway. “Milly” is ready for you.
Nestled between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Cartersville is the gateway to the North Georgia mountains, but it just got an impressive new designation. The town of about 23,000 is the smallest in the United States, with three Smithsonian Affiliate Museums: The Booth Museum (western art of all kinds), the Tellus Science Museum (120,000 square feet of hands-on natural history and science), and the new Savoy Automobile Museum (celebrating the beauty and history of automobiles).
After you’ve checked off three acclaimed museums, learn about Georgia’s early cultures at the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site. The 54-acre archaeological site was built and occupied from 1000 to 1550 AD! Quench your thirst with a local brew by the firepit at Drowned Valley Brewery, then head to Appalachian Grill for dinner. Go early — this charming eatery is getting some major press, and they don’t take reservations. Largos, a new chef-driven player on Cartersville’s culinary scene, is a bit brighter and more modern but equally as buzzy.
Cartersville is home to the stately Barnsley Resort — one of the South’s most luxurious resorts — but other overnight options are plenty. Book Pine Acres Retreat on Allatoona Lake or a yurt in Red Top Mountain State Park for more rustic, secluded quarters. You may need to make it a long weekend with all there is to do in and around Cartersville!
St. Marys, GA
Many know St. Marys as the port town connecting Georgia to Cumberland Island, but this town is a worthy stop itself! It’s a cute coastal village with tree-lined streets, ample green space, and lots to do. Molly’s Old South Walking Tour or the visitor center’s self-guided tour will uncover the area’s rich history as a seaport and naval submarine base.
Spencer House Inn and Goodbread House are two romantic b&bs, or you can hop over to the splurge-worthy Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island. Whether or not you stay on Cumberland Island, it’s worth taking the ferry from St. Marys to spend a half or whole day there. You can meander the Carnegie mansion ruins, spot wild horses and loggerhead sea turtles, and stroll the unspoiled white sand beaches.
Nearby Crooked River State Park and the Okefenokee Swamp are outdoor lovers’ dreams. Take a guided boat tour or explore by foot to see reptiles, birds, and other wildlife up close. If retail therapy is more your cup of tea, antique shops, bookstores, and art galleries dot St. Marys’ downtown. Come sundown, order a crisp glass of wine, and the day’s fresh catch at Locals Dockside on the river. St. Marys is full of surprises and friendly locals ready to help you make the most of your visit.
If Georgia’s on your mind, explore some of its small towns. Let us know your favorites on Instagram!
For more Southern travel inspiration, visit our Travel Archives HERE!