Georgia is a southeastern state that is known for its famous capital city, Atlanta, and charming southern haven, Savannah. It is also full of rich history that spills from every nook and cranny of the state. With lush variety that ranges from coastal beaches to farmlands and mountains, why not get out of the cities and explore some of Georgia’s fabulous hidden gems?
Whether you’re exploring a ghost town or hiking through virtually untouched nature, Georgia will find a way to entice you to stay even longer.
I’m a Georgia local currently living in Atlanta. I’ve been traveling around the state my entire live so I’m sure you’re gonna like my list of the best hidden gems in Georgia!
1. Sleepy Hollow, Blairsville, Georgia
Ever feel like getting lost in a wonderland much like the ones you dreamed of when you were a child? Blairsville offers the rare opportunity to tour a secret garden and relive the magic of your youth! This garden, Sleepy Hollow, is so obscure that not even all Georgians know about it, and is the perfect place to regain the touch of whimsy so many of us miss from our childhoods.
Sleepy Hollow is filled with gnomes, fairies and their magical houses. The houses are designed by Authur Millican Jr, who was a former Disney artist, who keeps that special touch of magical is kept alive in the air here. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon here exploring; you’ll notice no two buildings are the same, thanks to the creativity of their artist. Relive childhood wonder as you discover the gnomes hidden among the gardens and enjoy the opportunity to feel like a kid again!
2. Secret Air Force Plant, Dawson Forest
If exploring the deep, dark woods of Dawson Forest wasn’t adventurous enough for you, why not head out to the remnants of a nuclear testing facility nicknamed Air Force Plant #67? The woods have artfully hidden this plant from the public eye for decades, and if you don’t know what you are looking for, you won’t notice anything amiss!
However, if you’re interested, head out past Dawson Forest Road East and begin your trek. No official address exists for this place, but if you keep an eye out, you’ll spot the cell building and foundations of what used to be a top-secret facility that worked on a nuclear-powered aircraft. While no radiation is detected today, it’s an eerie, hidden place that is sure to spark any intrepid conspiracy theorist’s appetite. The government still hasn’t disclosed the details of what went on, leaving room for the imagination to go wild.
Related: 15 Amazing Waterfalls In Georgia
3. Beach Paradise at Jonesboro
Georgia boasts some great coastline and beaches along the Atlantic, but often those are crowded and popular with both tourists and locals alike. The Beach at Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro has it all – the ambience of a Caribbean getaway and the quiet surroundings that you crave to relax.
Entrance fees are shockingly affordable and once you’re in, there is something to keep you entertained the whole day, from the waterslides to the beach volleyball areas. Catch up on your tan on the white sandy beaches and relax here in this man-made paradise. Hiking and fishing are also close by if you’re in the mood!
4. Abandoned Castle in Menlo, Georgia
Ever dreamed of European style castles, filled with beauty, luxury and mystery? The stuff Disney made movies out of when you were a kid. Well, in the heart of Menlo is a castle that looks like it comes straight from a fairytale, complete with high walls, drawbridges, and a tower!
Come tour the castle and its sprawling lands, which will feel like you’ve stepped right into a movie or the set of Game of Thrones. Whether or not you’re interested in buying this unfinished and mysterious structure, it’s worth a visit. Stop off Highway 157 and spend a day wandering the Medieval Ages. There’s even a dungeon to fascinate you!
Further reading: 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Georgia
5. Crypt of Civilization, Oglethorpe University, Georgia
Oglethorpe University in Atlanta hides a curious mystery – a time capsule that was sealed in 1940 with strict instructions to not be opened for 6,000 years. This is perhaps the world’s first official time capsule -who doesn’t want to see the steel door welded shut for a future generation whose existence we can’t even imagine at this point?
The Crypt of Civilization is a 20×10 waterproof room designed to create a running narrative of human life from the 1930s and was the brainchild of Dr. Jacobs, who was inspired by the Egyptians’ habit of preserving their history. What did the good doctor consider to be vitally important to preserve for 6,000 years? Literature, newsreels, flower seeds, and dolls, just to name a few examples. While you cannot tour the vault, take an afternoon and tour the campus whilst pondering the future. It’s one of Georgia’s more offbeat hidden gems, for sure.
6. Airport Runway Burial Grounds, Savannah/Hilton Head
At first glance, Savannah/Hilton Head Airport is just another airport for commercial flights. You’d never guess, even if you’ve flown in or out of here, that it is also home to 2 gravestones! Creepy, no? The airport is built on former farmland that was purchased, which had small family cemetery plots, most of which were moved prior to construction.
However, Runway 10 has two small gravestones marking the resting place of Richard and Catherine Dotson, who were married for 50 years and owned and farmed the land on which the runway rests today. The families refused to move the bodies of this couple who wanted to rest for eternity in the land that they loved, so the airport worked around them and built over top. To this day there are rumors of ghosts haunting Runway 10, but regardless, it’s one of those unique hidden gems in Georgia that makes the state such a constant surprise.
7. Ghost Town beneath Lake Thurmond
What is now the idyllic Lake Thurmond used to be 72,000 acres of dry land upon which many built their lives and dreams before the Army Corps of Engineers flooded it, thus burying these peoples’ histories in an underwater ghost town. It used to be called Petersburg, Georgia, a river market town that was once the third-largest city in Georgia!
What happened to this successful, popular town? The main economic staple, the tobacco plant, succumbed to the cotton industry, and this once flourishing community suffered dwindling numbers and poverty. Instead of leaving its failures open to scrutiny, this town was quietly covered up and turned into a beautiful lake, taking with it the melancholy tale of the rise and fall of the fortunes of so many. Take a boat out on the lake and imagine what it would have been like, so long ago.
8. Indian Springs State Park
Georgia is home to a true hidden gem, Indian Springs State Park, which is also one of the oldest state parks in the country. It’s nestled in the tranquil backdrop of the Georgian countryside and is filled with rich mineral water that is still popular with visitors.
In years past, Creek Indians used this mineral water to heal their ailments and bask in nature’s glory. Come out to this well-kept secret and camp along McIntosh Lake, enjoy a warm campfire, or reserve a cottage. It’s out of the way and the perfect place to relax and focus on reinvigorating yourself, whether you drink the mineral water or simply let nature soothe you.
9. New Manchester Mill Ruins, Sweetwater Creek State Park
Take a trip out to Sweetwater Creek State Park for some lush green scenery and to view the New Manchester Mill Ruins. These ruins are reminiscent of monastery remnants or the like, tucked away in the green forests right on the edge of the gurgling creek.
Hike out and explore this tract of wilderness just outside of Atlanta. The mill used to be a textile mill until it burned in the Civil War, and is now part of a park with winding trails that traverse forest, magnolias and fields. Rent a kayak in the summer and enjoy this charming piece of wilderness. The serenity and beauty make the hike well worth the effort.
10. Cloudland Canyon State Park
Tucked away in Cloudland Canyon State Park is a mesmerizing world of wonderful nature and breathtaking views seen the edges of the canyon walls. Be sure to bring your camera to commemorate this underappreciated yet gorgeous hidden Georgian gem. You will definitely want to bring your camera for this one.
Follow Sitton’s Gulch train for some of the best views down into the canyon and bluffs that stretch thousands of feet away. There are some magical creeks also gentling curving through the abyss and adding to the enchantment of the park. What are you waiting for? Try the road less traveled and prepare to be amazed by this unassuming state park.
11. Chateau Elan Winery and Resort
Sometimes, you just need a weekend away from everything to disconnect and relax. While you can do that anywhere, getting out of the big cities and into the quiet of the countryside can be just what the doctor ordered. Chateau Elan has all the charm of a classic French chateau without costing you an airline ticket to France! Enjoy some quality alone time or take a partner to this remote resort and enjoy the scenery.
The chateau itself is a reproduction of a French chateau and is filled with green gardens and secluded vineyards. Enjoy a glass or two of wine and even take a tour or go to a tasting to complete your stay. Whether you’re reconnecting with nature outside in the gardens or appreciating its beauty from a wine glass, Chateau Elan offers a peaceful secluded vacation opportunity that awaits your next visit!
12. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Lilburn, Georgia
Have you ever dreamed of seeing temples like the Taj Mahal, but they all seemed so far away? Well, Lilburn, Georgia is hiding a gem of a palace that could rival even one as majestic as the Taj Mahal! Head just outside of Atlanta to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan and prepared to be wowed.
The temple is built of 36,000 pieces of sculpted limestone, Italian marble and sandstone, which come together to form a truly striking place of peace. It is open to all and does not celebrate any 1 religion, leaving you to be inspired by its architectural beauty. Head out to a place of acceptance and spend some time thinking or taking a breather from life. With a location this calming and beautiful, you won’t find that so hard.
13. Minnehaha Falls, Lake Rabun
Usually you have to earn views of majestic falls by hiking through the wilderness or up mountains to experience these cascading torrents of water. However, Minnehaha Falls is one of the few impressive waterfalls that doesn’t require a lot of strenuous hiking. Park your car and walk just a quarter of a mile to appreciate this 100 foot waterfall.
Just because it is close by doesn’t mean the space isn’t magical – these falls are glorious, with water flowing over layer upon layer of rock. The sound of the water will relax you as you enjoy a quiet afternoon at the base of the falls. Bring a lunch and spend some quality time or a camera to capture the beautiful scenery.
14. East Palisades Trail
Explore the banks of the Chattahoochee River when you hit the trails of the East Palisades Trail. This hidden gem offers beautiful views from tall bluffs and an enchanting bamboo forest. Known for the striking, angular rocks rising from the river, this is an ideal place for a run or hike, and conveniently located close to Atlanta!
Bring your camera and hiking shoes, or, if you’re a kayaking enthusiast, check out the white water rapids Class 1 and Class 2 on the river. The Trail itself lines the less popular eastern banks, providing more challenging outdoors activities and quieter surroundings. Snap a photo of the towering bamboo stalks and enjoy this active past-time.
15. Dive into the Chattahoochee
Head downstream from Charlie’s Island and leave the kayakers and tubers behind to find the tall chunk of granite overlooking the river. It’s called Diving Rock and has been an often forgotten nook along the Chattahoochee River for years, frequented by adventurous kids seeking to prove themselves or those looking to enjoy the cool waters below the rock.
If you’re brave enough, come out on a warm summer day and take the plunge – responsibly, of course. The water below the ledge is 15 feet deep, and one of the quietest corners along the river. Enjoy this cool, shaded area regardless and relax at one of the hidden, daredevil destinations in Georgia.