Beginning life as the last of the British colonies to be established in 1733, Georgia is a southeastern state that packs a punch when it comes to history. Towns here epitomize the South with their white-washed, clapboard churches, mansions, and plantations – wealth from farming and mining reflected in almost every one.
With a whole lot of nature to explore, from the peaks and foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the beaches and marshes of the Barrier Islands on the coast – and all the creeks, gorges, and forests between – Georgia is never going to get old.
Settlers started arriving in Brunswick in 1738. This town boasts an Old Town Historic District to match its long history. Featuring beautiful old houses oozing Southern charm, there are also grand examples of the town’s civic heritage, like the Victorian style Old City Hall (1889), the Neoclassical style Old Glynn County Courthouse, and even the impressive New City Hall – both built in the early 1900s.
If you feel like getting out of town, head to Blythe Island Regional Park, boasting lakes, hiking trails, rivers and even picnic pavilions for a good old fashioned family day out.
One of the coolest things about this town in North Georgia is that it features the region’s only drive-in cinema. Dating back to 1955, this old-school drive-in is a classic slice of Americana and even boasts its own retro snack bar serving up – you guessed it – burgers, amongst other things.
With a thriving artistic community, the town of Blue Ridge also has a walkable downtown district, where you’ll find restaurants alongside craft breweries. But one of the best things to do around Blue Ridge is to ride the historic Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. As the name implies, there’s a whole lot of beautiful scenery to soak up if you catch a ride on this heritage railway.
First explored by Spanish settlers in the mid-16th century, St. Marys is an old town, but it also boasts a more modern heritage related to the US Submarine Force. In fact, the aptly named St Marys Submarine Museum charts the history of submarines throughout the history of America. Speaking of history, you will find plenty more of that in St. Marys Historic District, where plenty of buildings point to the old past of this place, including the First Presbyterian Church (1808), amongst other pretty structures.
Being the largest town of the Georgia Coast Barrier Islands, access to nature is easy; you can head to nearby Campbell Island for more historic buildings and even a glimpse of wild horses.
Briefly the capital of the state of Georgia, Washington is infamous as the place where the southern states of the Confederacy voted to dissolve itself, an action which ended the American Civil War in 1865. Elsewhere, this town has a lot on offer regarding historic buildings – from the striking Wilkes County Courthouse – built in 1904 – and the recently restored 1898 Fitzpatrick Hotel to the Washington-Wilkes Historical Museum, set in a handsome home dating back to 1835. You can also pay a visit to the Callway Plantation nearby, now an open-air museum where you can learn about this large plantation which began life in 1785.
Pretty Madison, set in Morgan County, is a town that’s on the historic Georgia Antebellum Trail and famed for its architecture. Walking around Madison Historic District, you can easily see why; the buildings here are stunning and unique, from the classical style early 19th century Lanier Mansion to the castle-like Syracuse Lodge.
To properly get to grips with the history of Madison, head to the town’s Heritage Hall, a museum which is itself set in a heritage building. If the arts are more your thing, take a stroll through the Madison Museum of Fine Art, which boasts a surprising collection of artworks from giants like Picasso and Dali, as well as North American greats such as Whistler.
This tiny town in North Georgia took shape in the 1880s as a place for tourists to stop when they came to see the impressive Tallulah Gorge. One of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia,” this gorge boasts waterfalls to soak up, interesting forested terrain to hike, and rapids for adventurous kayakers to tackle.
The most impressive waterfall, Hurricane Falls, features a suspension bridge you can walk out on to properly appreciate the power of the water. All encompassed within Tallulah Gorge National Park, head to the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center to learn about the ecology of the area. Portions of the 1972 thriller Deliverance were also filmed around Tallulah Falls.
Boasting two nationally designated historic districts, Dublin is certainly awash with buildings that make it feel like a blast from the past. There’s the neoclassical Carnegie Library and the 1912 First National Bank Building, amongst others, in the historic commercial district.
Over in the Stubbs Park–Stonewall Street Historic District, you’ll find beautiful homes and mansions that effuse a sense of Southern Americana into the air. If you plan to visit in March, you will be interested to know that Dublin, Georgia celebrates St Patrick’s Day – just like its namesake back in Ireland.
The second-oldest planned settlement in Georgia, Darien was founded by Scottish Highlanders in 1736 and was originally called New Inverness. With its long history, you can be sure to find some architecture to reflect that and make you feel as though you’re walking through another time.
One of the most interesting places to visit is the reconstruction of Fort King George, initially built in 1731 on the same site and predating the town of Darien itself. Nearby, you can explore a walking trail and museum at the old Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, which produced rice between 1800 and 1915. The Darien River Waterfront Park & Docks is a pleasant riverside area to stroll around, too.
Dahlonega is famous as the site of the first significant gold rush in the United States. That was in 1828, and subsequently, this settlement became the major boom town for what was known as the Georgia Gold Rush. You can visit the old Consolidated Gold Mine or the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site to learn more about the history of this town.
Interestingly, the name “Dahlonega” comes from the Cherokee word for yellow – or gold. In recent years, of course, it’s become less about mining in this area. Today, Dahlonega has been recognized as “the heart of the North Georgia Wine Country” – thanks to three vineyards and multiple wineries in the area.
Though Dahlonega might have been where the Georgia Gold Rush began, neighboring Blairsville has a different claim to fame: its gold was better. Assayers in Washington D.C. could tell – just by looking – that gold was from the Blairsville area because it was, apparently, “the yellowest gold.”
The nearby Vogel State Park is a great place to get out and enjoy the natural surroundings, including the serene Lake Trahlyta. Also close by is Brasstown Bald, the tallest peak in Georgia. For hikers, Blairsville is just over 30 miles from the terminus of the Appalachian Trail; if you want to start somewhere that’s less challenging than the whole trail, this is a good place.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Canton is located in what was known for a long time as the heart of Cherokee territory. This all changed when European-American settlers moved into the area following the beginning of the Georgia Gold Rush.
There are a few historic buildings that dot the town, like the 1911 Canton Theatre on Main Street, and the County Courthouse dating back to 1928. But really, this town is all about nature. There is the Etowah River Park to stroll along in town, or you can hit the waters in a kayak.
Once a logging town, Helen remodeled itself after a Bavarian village when the industry began to decline. It was a success. Today, walking around the buildings of Helen, you could imagine yourself to be in a Bavarian alpine village. There’s even an Oktoberfest, not just in October, but also in September and November!
The classically south German style is present on every single building – even the Wendy’s looks authentic. Out of town, the Smithgall Woods State Park offers thousands of acres for hiking and a river that’s ripe for fishing. Dukes Creek provides good hiking too, with mountain views and a waterfall to reward walkers at the end.