15 Charming Small Towns in Georgia
Keen to get your travel fix, but not ready to bust out your passport just yet? Consider a domestic getaway. Enchanting towns exist in every corner of the U.S., from California to Connecticut.
Perhaps it’s the promise of biscuits with honey or lazy afternoons spent rocking on an open-air porch. Whatever the reason, the majority of our travel fantasies of late feel very southern. These sweet tea-scented daydreams are what prompted us to do a deep dive into vacation-worthy destinations in the Peach State. Our research revealed some of the cutest little gems ever. Scroll on for 15 charming small towns in Georgia.
Editor’s note: While most experts agree that home rentals are relatively safe, please remember to follow all social distancing guidelines and local travel recommendations. You may also want to reach out to your host or hotel to ensure that they are using additional cleaning and sanitation practices.
1. BLUE RIDGE, GA
Crisp, fresh air and scenic views await in Blue Ridge. Located just 90 miles north of Atlanta, this quaint mountain town makes a distinct impression with its stunning scenery and array of outdoor pursuits. Hiking trails crisscross Chattahoochee National Forest. And the Ocoee River is fantastic for whitewater rafting. Another great way to see the area? Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Beyond high-altitude escapades, travelers can take in a show at the Blue Ridge Community Theater or visit one of local craft breweries.
Where to stay: For the full alpine experience, hunker down at Grand View Cabin. Perched at an elevation of 2,200 feet, this woodsy refuge flaunts a hot tub, over-sized deck and gorgeous vistas of the surrounding peaks.
2. GREENSBORO, GA
Halfway between Atlanta and Augusta sits Greensboro. Its most obvious selling point is, without question, the sparkling majesty of Lake Oconee. This storied body of water provides ample opportunities for boating, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. While the area’s championship 18-hole courses lure golf enthusiasts from across the country. Founded in 1786, Greensboro also brims with antebellum mansions, historic churches and heritage-rich sites like the Old Gaol, a penal structure dating back to 1807.
Where to stay: Splurge on a few nights at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, a ritzy resort that wows guests with its enchanting setting, elegant ambiance and exemplary service. Simply put, it’s the epitome of a five-star getaway.
3. MADISON, GA
Long referred to as “the most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans,” Madison—named after Founding Father James Madison—has tempted travelers since way back when. Today this Morgan County treasure (which you might recognize from My Cousin Vinny) continues to woo architecture aficionados with its enduring antebellum homes and Greek Revival-style buildings. Other highlights include the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center and quail hunting at nearby Burnt Pine Plantation (if you’re into that sort of thing). There are also some adorable antique shops downtown.
Where to stay: We’re big fans of Southern Cross Ranch, where guests can fuel up for the day with a hearty buffet breakfast and enjoy guided horseback riding excursions.
4. DARIEN, GA
Don’t sleep on Darien. Tucked between Savannah and Brunswick, this idyllic coastal enclave is best described as snoozy—but in the best possible way. It’s the perfect, mellow spot for a laid-back weekend away. Leisure activities run the gamut from fishing and sunset boat tours to birdwatching and biking. Of course, there’s no need to do much of anything. Blissful days pass by while sitting under the shade of an ancient oak, listening to the swamp sparrows singing and gazing at the mesmerizing tidal vistas.
5. SENOIA, GA
Senoia might seem vaguely familiar. That’s because this picturesque town served as the backdrop for blockbuster hits such as Sweet Home Alabama and Fried Green Tomatoes. More recently, scenes from The Walking Dead were filmed here, too. Movie and television clout aside, what’s truly special about Senoia is the unhurried place and welcoming atmosphere. Between the friendly locals, antique shops, family-run eateries and the buggy museum, it really does harken back to a bygone era.
Where to stay: Soak in every drop of old-world splendor at the Veranda Bed & Breakfast Inn. History and hospitality are hallmarks of the 1906 Greek Revival mansion turned nine-key B&B that features original pine floors, tin ceilings and period chandeliers.
6. HELEN, GA
A Bavarian-inspired village with alpine charm in spades, Helen has heaps of character and enchanting architecture. Given its Germanic roots, we were hardly shocked to learn that Oktoberfest is hugely popular. Vineyards, breweries and an array of shops attract year-round travelers. For a sweet treat, stock up on confections at Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen. Speaking of food, the köstlich (German for delicious) and authentic dining scene also deserves a shoutout. Nearby Unicoi State Park offers 53 acres of forested trails, plus numerous campsites and a lake.
Where to stay: You’re obviously going to want to shack up in a chic chalet-style lodging. We’re particularly fond of this riverside cabin that comfortably sleeps six and sits within walking distance of town.
7. COVINGTON, GA
Situated a mere 35 miles east of Atlanta—but entirely removed from the hustle and bustle of the city—Covington oozes pastoral charm. That’s just one of the reasons the aptly nicknamed “Hollywood of the South” was selected as the filming location for The Dukes of Hazzard, Sweet Magnolias and many other flicks. Marvel at the enchanting ambiance while strolling the tree-lined streets and visiting the iconic Newton County Courthouse. Don’t leave without getting spooked courtesy of Covington Ghost Tours.
Where to stay: Our top pick is the Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast. Housed in a gorgeous 1836-built antebellum mansion, it exudes southern elegance.
8. ELLIJAY, GA
Sure, Georgia is famous for its juicy peaches, but that’s far from the only fruit worth sampling. The state’s apple capital, Ellijay abounds with orchards and hosts the annual Georgia Apple Festival in October. Gilmer County is lauded for its agriculture and, yes, that means tasty farm-to-table grub. Ellijay also puts travelers within minutes of all sorts of outdoor recreation. Give bass fishing and pontoon boating a whirl at Carters Lake. Cap off your day with a frosty pint at Cartecay River Brewing Co.
Where to stay: Lean into the northern Georgia mountain-ness of it all with a few nights of serenity in the woods. This country cottage is the ideal place to kick back, relax and roast marshmallows by the fire.
9. THOMASVILLE, GA
The self-proclaimed "Rose City" is synonymous with fragrant blooms. Every April, visitors descend upon Thomasville for the annual Thomasville Rose Show & Festival. (This year marks the centennial celebration, so expect the organizers to pull out all the stops!) For a relatively small town, Thomasville boasts an impressive variety of shopping and dining destinations, including a local favorite called Jonah's Fish & Grits. Rounding out the list of must-see attractions are Pebble Hill Plantation, the sherbet-hued Lapham-Patterson House and the historic big oak tree.
Where to stay: What Thomasville lacks in high-end hotels, it more than makes for in charming rentals like this adorable (and affordable) bungalow that's walking distance to everything.
10. WASHINGTON, GA
A tiny town—we’re talking a population of 3,971—that doles out a mega-dose of heritage, Washington (named after the first president of the United States) has a legacy dating back to 1780. Here’s an interesting fact: it briefly served as the state capital during the American Revolutionary War. Not surprisingly, there’s an abundance of historic architecture. Stately churches and antebellum homes dot downtown Washington. Tours of Kettle Creek Battlefield and the 3,000-acre Callaway Plantation are another drawcard.
Where to stay: Washington doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of accommodations. The Fitzpatrick Hotel is a pleasant place to rest your head for a few evenings. For something a bit plusher, try expanding your search parameters to the surrounding towns.
11. ST. MARY'S, GA
Many folks pass through St. Mary’s on their way to Cumberland Island. But this seaside gem is more than just a place to kill a few hours between ferries. Shops and eateries cluster around the picturesque waterfront. (Swing by Lang's Marina Restaurant for mouthwatering crab cakes.) The St. Mary's Submarine Museum entices visitors with an extensive collection of memorabilia and photographs. And you’d probably be surprised to learn this postcard-worthy port can lay claim to the oldest continuously operating church in Georgia.
Where to stay: Planning to spend the night? Make a reservation at Goodbread House. The individually designed rooms give it such a special feel.
12. DAHLONEGA, GA
A former gold rush mecca, Dahlonega’s sparkle continues to shine bright all these years later. You can learn about all the town’s gilded history at the Dahlonega Gold Museum. There’s even an underground mine! Afterward, lace up your hiking boots for a trip to Amicalola Falls or hit the trails in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Did we mention that Dahlonega sits in the heart of Georgia wine country? The downtown tasting rooms near Public Square are the perfect place to imbibe.
Where to stay: Manicured grounds, a convenient location and reasonable rates earn The Dahlonega Square Hotel & Villas rave reviews. The Smith House is another splendid option. Alternately, you could always opt for a rental like this 1950s creekside cabin.
13. BRUNSWICK, GA
Imagine an idyllic seaside town overflowing with history and maritime charm. That pretty much sums up Brunswick. A great home base for exploring the neighboring Golden Isles, this mainland port on the southeast coast of Georgia has a lot going for it. Definitely check out Mary Ross Waterfront Park and the towering Lover’s Oak. Don’t leave without sampling a bowl of Brunswick stew. Maggie Mae's and Twin Oaks BBQ top the list of the most famous spots to gobble up this hearty local specialty.
Where to stay: If the idea of a mid-range hotel chain like the Embassy Suites doesn’t float your boat, we’d recommend going to the rental route. This grand Victorian home with a brick courtyard and fountain is one of our faves.
14. PLAINS, GA
For travelers looking to trade the trapping of the city for something more bucolic, you can’t beat Plains. An agrarian town in Sumter County, this rural refuge is best known for farming and as the birthplace of Jimmy Carter. To that end, there are quite a few attractions honoring the 39th president of the United States—including his boyhood farm, high school and the railroad depot used as a campaign headquarters during the 1976 election. Travelers can also visit Maranatha Baptist Church, where the former commander-in-chief sometimes attends Sunday service.
15. ST. SIMONS, GA
Nestled midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, St. Simons falls into the category of hard to define—but oh-so easy to love. Whether it’s more accurately classified as a barrier island or a coastal town doesn’t much matter. One thing is for sure: St. Simons rivals just about any seaside resort in the state. Pristine salt marshes and miles of sandy beaches are just the beginning. Don’t forget to add Fort Frederica National Monument, Cannon's Point Preserve and the St. Simons Lighthouse to your itinerary.
Where to stay: The Sea Gate Inn is a condo-hotel hybrid with suites featuring kitchens, jacuzzi tubs and spacious balconies.