Far from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan, miles from the swarms of clicking cameras found along Hollywood Boulevard, the towns of the American South continue to lure travelers from across the globe with their old-world charms. Experience the famed Southern hospitality by visiting one or all of these charming towns in the Southern United States! Dig into soul food platters, traipse through the bayou, and experience the full tapestry of southern culture through architecture, museums, and nature. A trip to one of these charming townships promises to be full of amazing eats, lovely scenery, and welcoming residents all around.
St. Augustine, Florida
Beginning in the Sunshine State in the town of St. Augustine, named after the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians. The subject of Florida’s status as a southern state is hotly debated, but what is not up for debate is the magnificent coastline and splendid natural beauty waiting to be taken in here. The town was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, and St. Augustine’s quaint brick-lined streets are a product of its distinct Mediterranean roots. Explore the battlegrounds of Castillo de San Marcos left behind by Spanish explorers or spend the day on the white sands of Ponte Vedra beach and relax to the sound of waves. Foodies will love the dining scene here, as St. Augustine is purported to be The South’s Best Food Town, according to Southern Living Magazine!
Beaufort, South Carolina
Not to be confused with the North Carolina town of the same name, Beaufort (pronounced Bee-you-ford) is a South Carolina gem with a population below 13,000. Beaufort has scenic views and lowcountry beauty in spades. Take a bike ride beneath the shade of oak trees and Spanish Moss in this sumptuous seaside town. Visit the lagoon in Hunting Island State Park and its remarkably unblemished beaches and revel in its untouched natural wonder and incredible views. The park’s lighthouse offers an unmissable lookout over the Atlantic. Visit the Port Royal Farmer’s Market for fresh-baked crab cakes, and stop by nearby farms such as Ambrose Family Farm offer self-service fruit picking for a family-oriented outing!
The town of Gatlinburg, population 3,726, is a sleepy southern island in a sea of narrow spruce trees and wildflowers that lies at the foot of Mt. LeConte in eastern Tennessee. This quaint Appalachian haven is a favorite among nature enthusiasts and hiking lovers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the nation, and for good reason: the park boasts of having over 150 official hiking trails. Take a walk during peak budding season in springtime to see the mountain flora in all its glory. During the winter, Ober Mountain Adventure Park is a favorite locale for skiers looking to shred the slopes of Mt. Harrison!
Visit Dahlonega at the heart of Georgia wine country for an invigorating getaway in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the site of the first major American gold rush, Dahlonega today attracts tourists with both its brick sidewalks and rugged natural beauty. Waterfalls, sweetwater brooks, and rolling hills are just a few of the reasons why Southern Living magazine called Dahlonega Georgia’s Best Small Town in 2023. Go swim at Dick’s Creek Falls and hike the Appalachian Trail for self-guided adventures! Looking for something less demanding? Take a relaxing walk around Lake Zwerner before partaking in a wine tour at one of Dahlonega’s eight wineries and five tasting rooms.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
The town of Blowing Rock is named after a rocky outcropping above a nearby gorge 4,000 feet above sea level. Prevailing winds blow through the gorge towards the ramp-shaped outcropping, launching the powerful winds upwards at forty-five degrees. However, visitors will be delighted to find the town is so much more than this geological oddity. Blowing Rock is the type of town where narrow streets seem made for foot traffic, while the ice cream scoops seem to come exclusively in extra-large! Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for a winding, scenic journey out of town or trip up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for jaw-dropping majesty, which may have helped inspire the work of author Jan Karon. Stop by Price Lake, the largest body of water on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where delightful canoeing and kayaking is available for those looking for some water activities.
Residents of Fairhope, a town buffeted by easy breezes of the tropical Gulf Coast, know that they are sitting on what may be the state’s best-kept secret. Despite the lack of pristine beaches lauded by others, Fairhope overlooks Mobile Bay, where the fishing is just as good as the views. The town is made to be explored by bike, so visitors are encouraged to bring their own; however, they are also available for rent in town. Nature lovers will surely appreciate the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, over 260,000 acres of wondrous wetlands waiting to be canoed!
Founded by German immigrants to the New World in 1846, Fredericksburg has not forgotten its European roots but instead blended with Texan flavor and evolved into one of the most engaging southern towns today. Try either the mouth-watering Texan barbecue or authentic German dishes in a town that does a masterly job of balancing its past and present. Deep in Texas wine country, Fredericksburg boasts over 100 wineries either in or around town. Want to experience Oktoberfest without crossing the Atlantic? Fredericksburg is the place for you as the town sprouts fully-stocked biergartens every year. Take a stroll down the main street and visit Fredericksburg’s state-of-the-art National Museum of the Pacific War before heading to Lyndon B. Johnson State and National Historical Parks.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Curious and quirky, Eureka Springs is an off-the-beaten-path type of destination, but one that is sure to entertain tourists of all stripes. The town is an outdoor paradise with Costa Rican-style ziplining and classic outdoor activities like axe throwing on offer at the Frisco Sporting Club. Hike through Pivot Rock Park with its puzzling rock formations, and visit White River and Beaver Lake for boating and paddleboarding. Bathe in the town’s cold mineral springs to unwind and amble through the Victorian-era city center. Pro tip: Take an evening to enjoy the array of impressive public art Eureka Springs has to offer!
The name Ponchatoula comes from the language of the Choctaw Peoples who inhabited what is now known as Mississippi and Alabama. The word Ponchatoula means “hair to hang,” referring to the Spanish Moss, which festoons the blackjack and southern red oaks that grow there. Known as “America’s Antique City,” quiet Ponchatoula is littered with scores of establishments selling antiques occupying some of downtown’s many historic brick buildings. Indeed, the well-preserved town is somewhat of an antique itself. Visit one of many farms in the area and sample some of the famous Louisiana strawberries during the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. Adventurous visitors might be interested in stopping by Kliebert & Sons alligator farm and say hi to the dinosaurs’ distant southern cousins.
This picturesque town found on the banks of the Ohio River is an undeniable treasure. The town has not one, but two historic theaters in its downtown core. Visit the Washington Opera Theater, the fifth oldest operational theatre in the US, which features live productions all year. Afterward, take a trip to the Old Pogue Distillery, where six generations of the Pogue family have been distilling the finest small-batch Kentucky bourbon since 1876. American history buffs are also in for a treat in Maysville. The town was a hotspot for Underground Railroad operatives, spiriting slaves to freedom due to its proximity to the Ohio River. Swing by the National Underground Railroad Museum to learn about a pivotal moment in Southern history.
As the oldest city on the Mississippi, Natchez is an antebellum beauty that deserves mention on any list of charming American towns. This southern jewel has over 100 well-maintained edifices for exploration. If this interests you, look out for Longwood, considered the most eye-catching of the mansions. Natchez also has plenty in store for fitness-oriented visitors. With lakes on both sides of the Mississippi River and lush cypress trees on both banks, boating in Natchez comes highly recommended. For a spectacular sunset, either stop by Bluff Park overlooking the river or grab a rocking chair and a drink at Under-the-Hill Saloon.
Each of the above-mentioned towns delivers its unique take on southern hospitality, and any charming locale would make for a choice vacation visit. From small-town whimsy discovered on a stroll down Main Street to the rugged beauty of the Appalachian mountains, the South is bursting with wonderful towns waiting to welcome first-time visitors and returning tourists alike!