The 21 Best Road Trips from Atlanta, from Popular Destinations to Little-Known Gems

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Atlanta is such a destination on its own, you might not realize how much of a jumping off point it can be for other sightseeing adventures. Turns out, there are a ton of must-experience destinations within driving distance of The Big Peach. With Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas all within your radius, let’s just say there is *a lot* of ground to cover. 

From charming small towns in Georgia to picturesque state parks and bustling cities like Nashville, Charleston, and Orlando, you can find destinations for any vibe or occasion. Buckle up and scroll on to find the best road trips from Atlanta. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip, a weekend getaway, or a longer vacation, there’s something on this list for you.

15 Charming Small Towns in Georgia

1. Chattanooga, Tennessee

A two-hour drive from Atlanta, Chattanooga makes an excellent weekend destination. You could spend an entire weekend exploring Chattanooga’s River Walk alone, with miles on end of restaurants, shops, and bars. There are also museums, tours, river cruises, and an aquarium that is not to be missed. But if you visit in fall, when the foliage is in full force, you must take one of the trails up to Lookout Mountain for an Instagram-worthy photo opp.

2. Augusta, Georgia

Walk up and down Broad street, wandering in and out of local galleries, cafes and small shops. In the summer, make sure to check out the Riverwalk and have lunch at one of the many restaurants along the scenic Savannah River. Fun fact: Augusta is actually the second-oldest town in Georgia (after Savannah) and is home to many classic buildings and monuments.

3. Greenville, South Carolina

If you’re looking for a bustling small city with eclectic boutiques, beautiful galleries, and unique dining experiences, add Greenville, South Carolina to your travel list. Now known as “that Greenville,” it is one of the fastest growing cities in America and is attracting more visitors each year. There’s always something going on in downtown Greenville, so you can’t go wrong no matter what time of year you visit—simply head to Main Street and join the fun.

4. Blue Ridge, Georgia

You don’t want to miss Blue Ridge in the fall, when the mountains are alive with color and the temperatures are starting to cool off. Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for a four-hour journey along the Toccoa River and through the North Georgia Countryside where you can take in all the charm this town has to offer. Don’t feel like sitting? Walk around historic Main Street or spend the day at a local orchard instead. 

5. Lake Lanier, Georgia

For a quick escape from Atlanta, check out Lake Lanier. Located in Gainesville, Georgia, just one hour North of Atlanta, Lake Lanier is a summertime getaway that will keep the kids busy and the adults happy. Visit the Olympic Park, home to a public beach and a public boat launch, along with a picnic area and access to beginner classes for rowing or paddling. If you’re traveling with kids, spend at least one day at the Water Park at Margaritaville.

6. Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham has a significant place in Civil Rights history as the city where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his letter from prison. There is no shortage of museums, galleries and attractions, with some of the most noteworthy being the Birmingham Museum of Art, the McWayne Science Center and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. And while you’re at it, add the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to your itinerary—and if you are with kids, don’t miss the Birmingham Zoo.

7. Helen, Georgia

Chock-full of hiking trails and water activities, Helen is for adventurous travelers who want a break from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta. You can also check two state parks off your list, with Smithgall Woods State Park and Unicoi State Park (where you could easily spend an entire weekend ziplining, kayaking, paddle boarding and more) both located in Helen. Visit Anna Ruby Falls for jaw dropping views or embark on a longer hike to the stunning Raven Cliff falls. And if you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer, make sure to go tubing down the Chatahoochee River for an unforgettable experience. Then head to Main Street for shopping, eating and more.

8. Orlando, Florida

Orlando is so much more than just Disney World (although, that’s certainly a can’t-miss). A longer trip from Atlanta, Orlando is still doable by car if you want to make a longer vacation out of it—see: Universal Orlando, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, etc. Since Disney can get pricey, if you’re looking for deals, we suggest heading out there in the spring (March through May), so you can nab lower prices for hotels and lodging while still getting some good weather.

9. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and make Gatlinburg your homebase. You will want at least a day or two at the park, but you can easily fill another couple days exploring Gatlinburg’s local distilleries, downtown area and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Don’t miss the Gatlinburg Sky Lift Park, an open-air chairlift ride to the top of an 1,800-foot overlook with views of the Smoky Mountains. (Might be time to work on your fear of heights.)

10. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston may be a longer drive from Atlanta, but the juice is well-worth the squeeze with this one. Make it a long weekend and spend your time slowly perusing the cobblestone streets, indulging in the city’s signature eats (from fresh-caught seafood to smoky barbeque), and simply basking in the Southern hospitality. The historic downtown is dripping with charm and full of colorful buildings, gorgeous boutiques and delicious restaurants. The French Quarter and the Charleston Harbor waterfront also belong on your Charleston travel itinerary. 

11. Asheville, North Carolina

There are so many great things to do in Asheville, and it’s only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Atlanta. From national forests and wildlife preserves to swanky hotels, salt caves and vineyards, there’s truly something for everyone. It’s also home to the Biltmore Estate, America's largest privately-owned residence (which you can tour while you’re there). Whether you’re spending your day immersed in nature or you’re touring the local breweries, you won’t regret making the trip to Asheville.

12. Athens, Georgia

Athens is one of the best college towns in America and is home to historic buildings, great bars and a tailgate experience that is not to be missed (if that’s your thing). The University of Georgia is reason alone to visit this small-but-bustling town, and even if you’re not the biggest college sports fan, there’s nothing quite like a UGA football game. The downtown area has great restaurants and boutiques and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

13. Nashville, Tennessee

You could spend your entire trip doing nothing but eating your way through Nashville, and it would still be worth the four hour drive from Atlanta. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, Husk and Biscuit Love all belong on your list. That said, it’s called Music City for a reason—and the music scene is *not* to be missed. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and take in the rich history Nashville has to offer. Country and bluegrass not really your thing? You just wait and see: by the time you leave this city you’ll be tapping your foot and tipping your cowboy hat. 

14. Brasstown Bald Mountain (Blairsville, Georgia)

Brasstown Bald Mountain is located just over two hours North of Atlanta, in Blairsville, Georgia. This hike is strenuous and not for the faint of heart, but once you make it to the top you’ll be at the highest point in Georgia, where you can see all four bordering states. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also take a scenic drive to the top of the mountain along steep, winding roads with beautiful lookout points along the way. 

15. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Especially beautiful in the summer, Myrtle Beach is a lovely destination for a week-long vacation from big city. Aside from the beach, other must-see attractions are Ripley’s Aquarium, the Hollywood Wax Museum and the SkyWheel, now a full-service destination with its 200-foot observation wheel, miniature golf course, ropes course and snacks. The city has plenty more to offer from restaurants and bars to a slew of activities and events throughout the year. But summer is definitely when the magic happens.

16. Pine Mountain, Georgia

Best known for the Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia is a quick and easy 90 minute drive from Atlanta. Callaway Gardens is open all year long, but if flowers are your thing, spring is arguably the best time to visit, when the azaleas (pictured) will be in full bloom. That said, the fall also offers gorgeous foliage (particularly on the 18-hole golf courses) and a festive pumpkin festival. Along with the two golf courses and extensive gardens, you can also check out the lake, the butterfly house, and the birds of prey exhibits.

17. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

You’ll fall in love with the wide beaches and gorgeous landscape of Hilton Head Island.  Summer is peak season to visit if you want to spend your days on the beach, but, honestly, Hilton Head is beautiful any time of year—and a winter trip means a calm escape with thinner crowds. There are plenty of public beaches, and most resorts also have pools. Harbor Town and Shelter Cove are both great places for shopping, eating and exploring. For those who like being active on vacation, Hilton Head is also full of paths for walking, biking or running.

18. Savannah, Georgia

In need of a romantic getaway? Savannah is the place to go. Less than a four hour drive from Atlanta, this city has so much to offer--including all the Southern charm you need in a romantic getaway. Savannah is rich with history and you could spend entire days walking through the town, stopping at Bonaventure Cemetery, Forsyth Park and taking in the 19th-century houses that have been transformed into museums or spooky enclaves. For a one-of-a-kind experience, be sure to sign up for one of Savannah’s famous ghost tours and then enjoy a meal at The Olde Pink House.

19. Stone Mountain, Georgia

If you just want a quick dose of nature and fresh air, Stone Mountain Park is the place for you. Just a quick 30-minute drive from Atlanta, this is one of the best day trips you can take from the city. There’s a gorgeous view of the Appalachian Mountains from the top of the summit, and you can also see downtown Atlanta—best of both worlds! We recommend visiting in September when the leaves are just starting to change and you can also witness the Yellow Daisy Festival. 

20. Lumpkin, Georgia

Just over two hours from Atlanta is a small town called Lumpkin, Georgia—and if you’ve ever heard of it, it’s likely because of Providence Canyon State Park. Often called “The Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon is a gorgeous state park with jaw-dropping views.  

21. Golden Isles, Georgia

Between Savannah and Jacksonville, the Golden Isles of Georgia are made up of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, and they make wonderful destinations for family getaways (especially in the summer months), with a ton of events taking place from June through August. Each island has beautiful beaches, but St. Simons in particular is a must-visit. There are activities year-round from horseback riding and golfing to kayaking and paddleboarding. There are also a number of different museums, theaters, parks and trails.

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