The best places to visit in Georgia range from sprawling cities to lesser known hidden gems tucked away in nature.
Not many states in the US can boast the sheer diversity of places that Georgia has to offer: bustling cities, cool and quirky towns, scenic mountains, beautiful beaches and rolling farmlands, to name a few. Regardless of what type of traveler you are, one thing is certain – you won’t run out of cool things to do when you visit Georgia.
As a peach-state native, I’ve compiled a “must visit” list for when you find yourself down south. Here are the best places to visit in Georgia that you should add to your bucket list.
Guest Post by Anna Parks (IG: @natureofannastravels)
Best Cities to Visit in Georgia
Located in the North Georgia Mountains, this small city is home to the first major Gold Rush in the United States!
Here, you can enjoy small town vibes without ever feeling bored. From nearby hiking trails, mountain peaks, and waterfalls, to local vineyards and tasting rooms, to even mining for gold, Dahlonega is a city filled with unique experiences and breathtaking views. It’s definitely among the best places to visit in Georgia any time of year.
Tip: Be sure to check out the Dahlonega Square for local shops and dining.
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Have you ever dreamed of visiting Bavaria, Germany? Well, this town is a close(ish) second.
With Bavarian-styled architecture, visitors feel like they are visiting a small German town. Local restaurants also offer popular German foods and beverages like schnitzel, pretzels, sausage, and beer. Dine while overlooking the Chattahoochee River as you wave to people “shooting the ‘hooch.”
For an even more exciting experience, visit Helen in October while Oktoberfest is being celebrated with dancing, eating, and drinking. There are also mini golf courses, campsites, hiking trails, zip-lining, and river tubing companies nearby that make Helen a family-friendly town to visit.
If you’re looking for European charm in the US, Helen has got you covered. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Georgia.
As a top-ranked college town, sometimes people don’t realize that there’s more to Athens than the University of Georgia. While the campus is stunning and there is nothing quite like a “Saturday in Athens”, there are other notable qualities about this city.
For starters, the bar scene is quite impressive. There are so many bars in town that there is bound to be one that you enjoy. But if you prefer a night-in, no worries, there are still so many unique quirks about this town that make it worth visiting.
Athens is known for its music scene and is home to the bands R.E.M., the B-52s, and many others. Catching a concert at the historical Georgia Theater is something every visitor should experience.
In addition to the music, Athens is home to some amazing restaurants. If you’re feeling fancy, try out the Last Resort, South Kitchen + Bar, or The Place. If you want quality food at an affordable price, Cali ‘n Titos, Raising Canes, or Clocked Diner are great options too. Also, be sure to check out The Grill. Built in 1981, this is a diner-styled restaurant open 24 hours a day that serves burgers, milkshakes, and more.
When in Athens, also be sure to check out The Tree that Owns Itself. Bet you didn’t know an oak tree could be a property owner, did ya?
And if you want to experience the best sunset or sunrise, drive about 20 minutes over to Watkinsville and visit the Iron Horse—a horse monument made of iron that stands tall in the middle of a corn field.
With historic Southern charm, and great food, music, and people, Athens is a place you don’t want to miss during a visit to Georgia.
As the oldest city in Georgia, Savannah is teeming with historic charm and picturesque architecture.
Located on the Savannah River, this city is known for its famous River Street. With stunning views of the river that transports ferry boats and cargo ships, River Street is full of quirky shops and delicious restaurants. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on River Street is a legendary experience.
As you make your way towards the city center, you’ll be surrounded by Spanish moss, oak trees, and antebellum architecture. You will find yourself immersed in Savannah’s Historic District, known for its living history and cobblestone streets. Within this district, you can explore the City Market, take a ride on a trolley or a horse-and-carriage, view historic homes, visit museums, and take a stroll through Forsyth Park.
The largest park in the city, Forsyth Park is filled with music, greenery, a magnificent fountain, and much more. If you like spooks and thrills, take a ghost tour of the city after the sun goes down and hear about the stories and paranormal activity that makes things go bump in the night.
Other notable features of Savannah include the Wormsloe Historic Site and the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.
This picture-worthy city makes a great weekend trip full of history, salt-water taffy, and breathtaking architecture. It’s no wonder why this city is among the coolest places to visit on the East Coast of Georgia.
Welcome to Atlanta where the… well, you know the rest. As the number one city in Georgia, the state capital has it all.
On the touristy side of things, there are numerous attractions for all ages. A must-see attraction is America’s #1 aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium. From penguins, to sea lions, to whale sharks, this is a place you can’t miss.
Roughly two minutes away is the World of Coca-Cola. Did you know that the Coca-Cola brand originated in the state of Georgia? Here, you can taste different Coke products from all around the world.
Then, right across the street is the CNN Center where you can grab a bite to eat and tour the CNN headquarters and studios.
Connected to the CNN Center is State Farm Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks NBA and Atlanta Dream WNBA teams.
Next to State Farm Arena is Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons NFL team and the Atlanta United MLS team. Mercedes-Benz is also the site of the SEC Championship game held each December.
If you’re an animal lover, be sure to check out the Atlanta Zoo located in Grant Park. Grant Park is the oldest city park in Atlanta, and you can also explore the Victorian-styled house in the surrounding neighborhoods.
There are also two other notable parks in Atlanta: Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Park. Centennial Olympic Park is the site of 1996 Olympic Games, and Piedmont Park is great for dog walking, frisbee throwing, and picnicking.
Atlanta is also home to many other interesting places to visit, including the MLK National Historic Park, the Belt Line, Ponce City Market, and Oakland Cemetery. While this list only covers the main attractions, there are so many other unique sites to visit while you’re in town.
Top Coastal Places to Visit in Georgia
Tybee Island is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia full of history and family-friendly things to do.
With nearly 5 miles of sandy beaches, this island is a great place to spend a day at the beach.
In addition, be sure to check out some of the old forts, like Fort Screven, and learn some Georgia history. Also, there is an 18th-century lighthouse (still operating) that’s definitely worth checking out.
Jekyll Island is one of the best places to visit in Georgia
Another barrier island, Jekyll is full of charm and history.
Here, there are numerous walking and biking trails for all ages and nearly 10 miles of beach for relaxing.
Be sure to check out the historic district and get a glimpse into life on Jekyll going back to the 1700s! The most picturesque spot on Jekyll Island is hands-down Driftwood Beach. Explore the ancient driftwood trees throughout one of America’s most romantic beaches.
In addition to being one of the best places to visit in Georgia, Jekyll Island is also among the best hidden gems in the US.
Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. This underdeveloped island is full of secrets and surprises. You’ll have to take a ferry to get to the island, and once you’re there, be ready to start exploring!
The historic charm and natural tranquility of this island will captivate you. Be sure to wear some hiking shoes or rent a bike to enjoy the full natural experience of the island. Guided Jeep tours are also available.
As you explore the island, you may run in to some wild horses. Fun fact: Cumberland Island is one of the few places in North America where you’ll encounter feral horses!
Another spot to check out is the Dungeness Ruins. Once a Carnegie family mansion, it’s now a unique, can’t-miss spot on the island.
Whether you visit for a day, camp overnight, or stay at the fancy Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island is a Georgian treasure. It truly blends together history and nature to create a once in a lifetime experience for visitors.
St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island has it all! This coastal destination has everything from sandy beaches to salt marshes to fishing piers. Full of southern charm, this island is known for its huge oak trees with draping Spanish moss and Antebellum-era architecture. It’s truly mesmerizing to see.
Explore miles of beaches, golf courses, tennis courts, biking trails, and unique shops and restaurants that make this island so special. Also, be sure to check out the St. Simons Island Lighthouse, a working lighthouse that helps ships navigate the St. Simons Sound. Built in 1810 and later destroyed during the Civil War, this lighthouse was rebuilt in 1872 – guiding ships ever since. Saint Simons Island is certainly one of the best places to visit in Georgia for people of all ages.
Best Nature Spots to Visit in Georgia
Providence Canyon State Park
Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” this state park is one of the lesser known spots in Georgia that deserves some recognition.
Located in Southwest Georgia near Columbus, these canyons are filled with layers of orange, yellow, pink, purple, and red walls that make this such a picture-worthy spot.
Be sure to reach canyons four and five so that you can see the full beauty of the walls up close with less obstructing trees and greenery. Backpackers can stay overnight along the backcountry trail, or this state park makes an awesome and adventurous day trip.
George L. Smith State Park
This state park is extremely unique and offers a secluded getaway for its visitors.
Located in southeast Georgia, this park was established around Parrish Mill and Pond. It encompasses a gristmill, a saw mill, a covered bridge, and a dam all dating back to the 1880s.
Here, visitors can camp and kayak through tupelo and cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. Be sure to keep your eyes open for wildlife life blue heron, white ibis, and gopher tortoises.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
In the top west corner of Georgia, we have Cloudland Canyon State Park. This park is full of hiking and biking trails, canyons, waterfalls, fishing ponds, horseback riding trails, and much more. This park is full of outdoor recreation opportunities, including disc golf or mountain biking, and scenic spots you can access from easy, moderate, or strenuous hikes.
Stay overnight in one of the campsite locations, in a cottage, in a yurt, or in a group lodge. The beauty and natural wonder of this park cannot be fully expressed in writing, so you will just have to check it out yourself to see why it’s so popular!
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Okefenokee Swamp is one of the top places to visit in Georgia
Down near the border of Florida is one of the coolest and most unique features of the state of Georgia: the Okefenokee Swamp!
A piece of America that has been here long before any human population, this swamp offers visitors a chance to experience other-worldly natural sites that are home to expansive ecosystems. Explore the swamp by foot on the walking trails, by canoe or kayak, or by boat on guided tours through the refuge. Be sure to be on the lookout for wildlife from reptiles and amphibians (yes, which means alligators!) to bears and otters.
Tallulah Gorge State Park
Tallulah Gorge State Park is a very popular hiking destination in the state of Georgia. The gorge is roughly two miles long, 1,000 feet deep, and is filled with numerous hiking trails, paved and unpaved, with spectacular views.
To hike to the gorge floor, you must obtain a permit on the day you are visiting, but there are plenty of other trails that lead to waterfalls and rim overlooks.
While you’re here, be sure to check out the breathtaking suspension bridge that sways 80 feet in the air providing incredible views of the river and waterfalls! There are also sports for kayaking, camping, picnicking, and geocaching throughout the park.
Top Hiking Spots to Visit in Georgia
Yonah Mountain Trail
– 4.4 Miles Round-Trip
– Moderately Strenuous
If you love exhilarating hikes with steep drop-offs and scenic views, check out the Yonah Mountain Trail! The journey to the summit of this mountain is filled with boulders, streams, wildflowers, and multiple campsites that offer stunning views of the surrounding areas. As you make your way up the winding gravel road, be sure to stay hydrated and be extremely careful if you decided to explore the summit without the proper gear. You can find the trailhead to this hike right outside of the city of Helen.
– 4.3 Miles Roundtrip
– Moderately Difficult
This hike is a must-do because it takes you up to the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia! A heart pumping 2.15 miles to the summit provides you with amazing views as you trek alongside streams and pine trees while navigating over tricky rock scrambles.
There is a rich history regarding this mountain. The name is said to come from a battle between the Creek and Cherokee Indians that left the mountain red with blood. As one of Georgia’s most popular hiking spots, you are sure to encounter breathtaking scenes of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Amicalola Falls is among the most beautiful places to visit in Georgia
– 2.1 Miles Roundtrip
If you love a good waterfall, then this hike is perfect for you! Check out Amicalola Falls, Georgia’s tallest waterfall at 729 feet. A short, one-mile hike to the top of this waterfall will leave visitors with breathtaking, misty views surrounded by vibrant wildflowers and greenery.
The name Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “tumbling waters,” so be sure to listen to the rumble of the falls when you get there. What’s really cool about this hike is that it doesn’t just end at the waterfall. As a looped trail, you will pass smaller waterfalls, bridges, boulder beds, and a serene pond that makes a great place to stop for snacks and water.
– 2 Miles Roundtrip
– Moderately Easy
As one of the most family-friendly and scenic hikes in Georgia, Preacher’s Rock is a must-do! This trail starts out relatively flat and then quickly becomes steeper as you approach some switchbacks near the last third of the mile. Watch out for rocks and roots as you climb to the top (be careful if it’s wet, the rocks can be slippery!).
Once you make it to the top, you are greeted with a large area of exposed rock to sit on as you enjoy the spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the horizon. There is never a bad time for this hike either—from the lush green forest of trees in the spring and summer to the colorful leaves in the fall, this hike always offers the best views of the surrounding mountains.
Also, be sure to check out a sunrise or sunset from Preacher’s Rock if you can. You won’t regret it!
Panther Creek Falls
– 7 Miles Roundtrip
– Moderately Difficult
If you love a true adventure, then this hike is definitely for you!
After trekking through a forest, past moss-covered boulders, and over some wooden bridges, you will find yourself at a series of cascading waterfalls that spill into a deep swimming pool surrounded by a big, sandy beach. This hidden oasis is the perfect place to relax and hangout in the summer sun—but also a beautiful hike in the winter!
There are multiple campsites along the trail which makes this hike a great backpacking trip. Although this is a longer hike, you are sure to be fully immersed in the beauty of the nature of North Georgia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anna Parks is a freelance writer and travel enthusiast native to the state of Georgia. She loves exploring new places to find the hidden gems and less touristy spots. Follow her adventures on Instagram @natureofannastravels or on her main account @annautumn!
Are there any other beautiful places to visit in Georgia that aren’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
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