Georgia, being one of the United States of America’s original 13 colonies is a wonderful place for travelers wanting to go somewhere with a rich history, hospitable culture, and incredible natural scenery. Its landscape spans through beaches, mountains, farmland, and big cities. Georgia is famous for being the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the U.S.A.’s greatest civil rights activists and for its production of juicy peaches.
Many travelers make the mistake of only visiting Georgia’s big cities like Atlanta and Savannah, without paying homage to the rest of the sites that make Georgia so special. Those who solely see the big sites miss out on what makes Georgia such a well-rounded and fantastic state. You can visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, venture along the Historic Heartland on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, look for gold at old mining towns, and enjoy the peacefulness of small town life.
A great way to see the state of Georgia is from the windows of a good old-fashioned road trip, where you can stop at any of these small towns on your way to other destinations. Though there are hundreds of noteworthy small towns in Georgia, there are some that stand out above the rest.
I’m a Georgia local and have traveled a lot throughout the state. I’m proud to show you my list of the best small towns to vist in Georgia:
Madison, one of the prettiest small towns in America, is one place in the country that invests in preserving its history and it shows. It has one of Georgia’s largest collections of 19th century architecture of stunning colorful historic buildings. Madison is also part of the Historic Heartland on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, a 100-mile path that weaves through some of Georgia’s best preserved towns. Madison is one of the best stops on the trail, where you can easily enjoy more than a few days seeing all of its beauty.
For those who are into finding treasures from the past, there are over 150 antique shops to browse through. You can also spend time at the parks, restaurants, and local parks.
The small town of Dublin is a gateway to wonderful wildlife and home to vibrant culture.
Watch a performance at the Theatre Dublin, known for hosting great musicians and artists of all types.
And, to pay homage to the town’s namesake, Dublin has an Irish themed festival every March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, complete with Irish music, dancing, theatre performances, food, and beer! If you love places that are quirky, lively, and unlike anywhere else, then Dublin should be a must-see small town in Georgia.
3. Peachtree City
Peachtree City is the perfect getaway for travelers who love to go all-out both relaxing and exploring. In Peachtree City, golf carts are the preferred method of transportation and you can easily spend entire days hiking along its nature trails, playing golf, watching performances at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater, and picnicking along the shores of Lake Peachtree.
Visit Peachtree during one of its festivals for the most exciting experience. The Shakerag Arts and Crafts celebrates handmade work and local artisans – all to the background tune of Bluegrass. The McIntosh Trail Complex offers a full day of music and art as well. Every year, there is also the Dragon Boat Taces and International Festival, where international exhibitions come to display exotic food, dance, and race their dragon boats!
For history buffs and cultural tourists, Cartersville is a must-see stop in Georgia. Travelers can learn about how the country expanded west at the Booth Museum and all about the local county of Bartow at the Bartow History Museum and the Rose Lawn Museum. For scientific discoveries, there’s the Tellus Science Museum, perfect for visitors of all ages.
After exploring the town center and the museums, head to the Red Top Mountain State Park, renowned for its fiery colors in the fall. There, you can hike, picnic, and even swim. There is also the Pine Mountain Recreation Area for even more hiking in nature. As a reward for all of the activity, grab a sweet treat at the retro ice cream parlor before hitting the road again.
The small town of Toccoa is one of my favorites, on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has beautiful natural sites and offers a glimpse into Southern military history.
Toccoa was once a World World II paratrooper camp that visitors can still check out today. At the Currahee Military Museum, you can discover more about the paratroopers and soldiers who trained at the camp. There is also the Stephens County Historical Museum with interesting archeological discoveries and exhibits on notable people from Stephens County.
Nearby natural wonders include the cascades at Toccoa Falls, hiking trails, Henderson Falls Park, the Currahee Vineyards, or the Traveler’s Rest Historic Site.
6. Jekyll Island
Even Georgians venture to Jekyll Island for vacation, a small town amidst beaches, marshland wildlife, and oak trees. This town is perfect for active travelers who can kayak, birdwatch, hike, go boating, learn about the local gators, go horseback riding, and golf at one of the four award-winning golf courses.
Jekyll Island hosts Georgia’s only endangered turtle rehabilitation center, where children and adults can volunteer with rescuing turtles. The center takes visitors on sunrise and sunset patrols, where volunteers search for recently hatched turtle nests. Volunteers collect the remnants from the shells for data after all of the hatchlings have made their way back to sea.
7. St. Marys
St. Marys is a coastal town in Georgia with a sharp focus on preserving its history through beautiful architecture and harbor. Though it was recently hit by Hurricane Matthew, nearly all businesses and attractions have reopened. The town has a variety of accommodation, dining, and entertainment venues to choose from, all offering a relaxing getaway from the typical city life.
St. Marys also makes a great home base for Cumberland Island, where you can take a ferry to an incredible conservation reserve that was once an important point in history. You can also walk along the St. Marys History Walk, a loop that weaves through where the Timucua Native Americans once lived and to where old ships were built.
Also read: 15 Amazing Hidden Gems in Georgia
There are many historical sites like The Buggy Shop Museum, the Senoia Area History Museum, Victorian era inns, and the Callaway Gardens in and nearby Senoia. The town takes pride in preserving its heritage through its architecture and events. Even the downtown area is well maintained, with some buildings hosting family-owned businesses that have been there for over 100 years! Tourists can spend their days admiring the buildings, browsing boutiques, antique shops, and eating hearty southern cooked meals at the town’s restaurants.
Fans of the TV show, The Walking Dead, will love visiting Senoia, one of the main filming locations. Visitors can take their picture next to the Alexandria Wall. Footloose was also filmed in this charming small town.
9. Blue Ridge
Tired of the city life? Stop and rest at Blue Ridge, a small mountain town surrounded by waterfalls, trees, rivers, and wildlife in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Nearly everything there is to do here brings you back to nature and allows you to enjoy the peacefulness of a forest setting. Explore the nearby trails, pick fruit at the nearby orchards,
On Lake Blue Ridge, you can relax with a cold drink on a pontoon boat, kayak, SUP, fish for trout, and swim. The waters surrounding Blue Ridge are even thought to have healing properties, because of its mineral content – and the only way to discover whether that’s truth or tall tale is to see for yourself.
Washington is a slow-paced small town with strong ties to its part in the Revolutionary War – the buildings, shops, and food all seem to be from a long-gone era. Here, you can watch battle reenactments, celebrate mule-power, and shop in many of the antique stores that line the main square.
The nod to the Revolutionary Era is even in the name of the town. Washington was of course named after the first U.S. President, George Washington. The region was the site of one of the Revolutionary War’s most famous battles, The Battle of Kettle Creek, that pushed back British forces in Georgia.
When you first come to Helen, you might be surprised that you’re still in the United States! Helen is a small town located amid Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and is made up of interesting Bavarian-style wooden structures along cobblestone streets. It’s picturesque, and has even embraced this German reputation by holding celebrations during Oktoberfest! So if you’re able I’d definitely visit during the months (September through October) this takes place.
Helen is a great base for hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking, and exploring the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains – if you can muster the self-control to leave such a sweet town behind. You have to visit the Anna Ruby Falls, the Unicoi State Park, the Chattahoochee River, and the Dukes Creek Falls Trail while in Helen.
Read more: 15 Amazing Waterfalls In Georgia
12. Tunnel Hill
For a truly unique experience in the heart of the South, head to Tunnel Hill. This small town of less than 1,500 residents is friendly, slow-paced, and has one very cool attraction, the Western and Atlantic Tunnel. This tunnel was built in 1850 as the first major railroad tunnel in the Southern U.S. Today, you can walk or take a golf cart through the tunnel.
You can also visit the Tunnel Hill Museum, that reveals all the interesting tidbits about the Great Locomotive Chase, a military raid that took place during the Civil War. Every September, residents reenact this battle in front of everyone interested in the history that took place here.
Dahlonega makes the perfect getaway trip from Atlanta as a short weekend trip or retreat. This small town was the site of the first U.S. Gold Rush, where hundreds of men flocked to the town in hopes of striking it rich. Today, some visitors still try their luck at panning for gold in the rivers that flow from the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
Dahlonega is also one of the state’s best producers of wine. You can spend time trying each variety at the local wineries, or order a glass at any of the local restaurants. The downtown area has boutique shops, live music performances, frequent festivals, and many more attractions set to the backdrop of historical architecture.
In the middle of Georgia, Perry is a slow paced small town with just enough modern venues to keep up with the times. Perry takes pride in serving Southern hospitality. After all, it was once a major stagecoach stop for travelers venturing between the north and south. Today, Perry hosts the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, a facility that services all types of tradeshows and livestock fairs.
The recently renovated downtown area is also perfect for walking around window shopping through the specialty shops where you can stop and look at whatever catches your eye. But don’t expect to rush, Perry shopkeepers are known for their friendly demeanor and love of small talk.
Those who love beautiful architecture should beeline it to Maysville, home to Victorian era buildings, log cabins, old churches, and antique railroads. The town itself is making a slow, modern revival while preserving its charm.
At History Village, you can get an up-close glimpse of life in the early 1900s, when Maysville had four cotton gins and was a huge player in the cotton production market. Cotton bales would be loaded on the trains and sent away to become textiles.
Though Maysville might not be the same community it once was, it’s an important touchpoint for U.S. history.