View of Port Isabel, Texas, overlooking South Padre Island.

12 Cutest Small Towns in the Southern United States

The Southern United States is designated as 16 states with various topographical and cultural landscapes. Some states are landlocked, while others are located along the coast. What these 12 towns have in common is their historical significance, beautiful scenery, and architectural style.

Learn more about 12 of the cutest towns in the Southern United States and what makes them special. These towns stand out because of their exceptional architecture, historic districts, and neighborly atmosphere.

Sanibel, Florida

Sanibel Lighthouse, also known as Point Ybel Light, located in Sanibel, Florida, USA.
Sanibel Lighthouse, also known as Point Ybel Light, located in Sanibel, Florida, USA.

Sanibel, on Florida's Gulf Coast, is one of the most charming towns in the South. The island and its sister isle, Captiva, are accessed via the Sanibel Causeway. Looking down at the island from the Causeway is a spectacular sight. Views of the 19th-century lighthouse set against the clear waters of the Gulf are simply enchanting. 

Many beachcombers visit here because Sanibel is the  "seashell capital of the world" because of the abundance of seashells on the beach. The island is intentionally local, and you will not find chain stores or restaurants here. The buildings are not allowed to be taller than the tallest tree to preserve the island aesthetic. 

Opelika, Alabama

 Historic Downtown sign near railroad tracks with downtown Opelika traffic in the background, Opelika, Alabama, USA.
Downtown Opelika, Alabama, USA. Editorial credit: JNix /

Walking downtown, you can almost hear a train whistle blow in this former railroad town. The Montgomery and West Point Railroad completed a railway from Montgomery to Opelika in 1848, and the original tracks can be found in the downtown district. You can visit the historic tracks after a day of discovering the local shops.

Another historical landmark is the Northside Historic District. The neighborhood homes from the early 20th century are especially fun to visit during the Christmas season during the Victorian Front Porch Christmas Tour. Murals and street art decorate the outside walls throughout town, and seeing how many you can discover has become a pastime in Opelika. 

Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Aerial view of the Shepherdstown Pike Bridge, connecting Sharpsburg, MD to Shepherdstown, WV.

Aerial view of the Shepherdstown Pike Bridge, connecting Sharpsburg, MD, to Shepherdstown, WV.

The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Potomac River are the backdrop to West Virginia's oldest town, Shepherdstown. This charming town, with its Victorian-era homes, is where the first steamboat was invented in 1787, and there is a plaque honoring this feat at the river bank. Other landmarks include the Little House and Barn, relics from a miniature farm in the 1920s, and the Historical Museum, highlighting the town's origins and Civil War history.

The buildings downtown are mostly brick, and walking (and shopping!) in the downtown region is a major draw for visitors. You can also rent a bicycle and enjoy the C & O Towpath, originally designed to transport coal in the 1930s. The Bavarian Inn is an eleven-acre European-style resort that offers fine dining and a brewery that sweetens your weekend stay.

Jonesborough, Tennessee

Aerial view of Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town, founded in 1779 and once the capital of the failed 14th State of the US, known as the State of Franklin.

Aerial view of Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town.

Jonesborough is the oldest town in Tennessee and the "storytelling capital of the world." These stories come alive at the  International Storytelling Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre. The storytelling tradition started in 1973 when a group gathered at the town square to hear Appalachian stories, and the tradition continues today.

Main Street, the main strip through town, has been hosting vendors for over 200 years and is where the town's soul can be found. Legends like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Andrew Jackson once walked this historic street, and little has changed since then. Also on Main Street is the Historic Eureka Inn, built in the late 19th century, which offers nine rooms and convenient access to the historic region. 

Port Isabel, Texas

Aerial drone cityscape of Port Isabel on the Texas Gulf coast.
Aerial drone cityscape of Port Isabel on the Texas Gulf coast.

Port Isabel is a charming coastal town 25 miles from the Mexican border at Brownsville. It was established in the 18th century and boasts the only lighthouse in Texas. Lighthouse Square is quaint, filled with shops, restaurants, and salty breezes from the Gulf of Mexico, and is popular among tourists and locals. 

The Pirate's Landing Fishing Pier is the longest in the state and is a popular spot for sundowners and anglers. Another popular destination is the Port Isabel Historical Museum, which exhibits artifacts and information from the Mexican-American War and highlights the significant history that helped make up this small town. Port Isabel is a family-friendly destination with beautiful sea views, markets, and nice lodging.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia, USA downtown from above at dusk.

Downtown Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, captured from above at dusk.

Williamsburg is a charming and historic town in Virginia. It was the original capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780, and today, it is part of the Historic Triangle, connecting it to Jamestown and Yorktown. The biggest attraction is Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living museum replete with period actors and historic buildings like the Courthouse and George Wythe House.

Part of the charm of Williamsburg is the horse and carriage rides through the historic area. There are art museums that contain whimsical art from local artisans and other exhibits. Visiting Williamsburg is visiting the past, and this historic site should top your list if you are planning a trip to Virginia.

Georgetown, South Carolina

View looking down Front Street with shops and the old clock tower in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Front Street with shops and the old clock tower in Georgetown, SC. Editorial credit: Andrew F. Kazmierski /

Georgetown is a coastal town and the oldest in South Carolina. The key characteristics are the oak-lined streets, historic district, and waterfront dining on Front Street. The historic district has only local shops like The Cottage and Waterfront Books.

The walkable historic district also has museums like the Art Harbor and Georgetown Art Gallery. There are many museums like the Maritime, County, and Gullah Museum. This gorgeous town is meant for strolls to take in the scenery and historical beauty of the homes and businesses.

Covington, Louisiana

Aerial perspective of condominiums in Covington, Louisiana.

Aerial perspective of condominiums in Covington, Louisiana.

Covington is a small town near New Orleans at the fork of the Bogue Falaya and the Tchefuncte River. It is best known for its art culture, displayed in the historic district.  Covington sits between two distinct cultures- French-Catholic to the south and Anglo-Protestant to the north. The exhibits found at Saladino, Abby Sembera, and other galleries are representative of this unique heritage.

The St. John District is on the National Register of Historic Places and made up of grids. Colorful picket fences line the vintage structures, and this is where you will find unique shops like HJ Smith and Sons General Store and Museum. The store has been family-operated since 1876 and is an institution in Covington. After walking around St. John, stop at the English Tea Room for afternoon tea and scones.

Guthrie, Oklahoma

Old business district on Oklahoma Avenue in Guthrie, Oklahoma, USA.

The old business district is on Oklahoma Avenue in Guthrie, Oklahoma, USA. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

Guthrie, Oklahoma, is a frontier town and boasts the most extended contiguous historic district in the nation. The Victorian-era architecture and red brick buildings are reminiscent of the 19th century, and visiting here is like going back in time. Stop by the Oklahoma Territorial Museum and the Oklahoma Frontier Drug Store Museum to learn more about Guthrie's history. 

Downtown Guthrie looks like a Hallmark movie set and is called Oklahoma's "Christmas Capital." The town has hosted the Territorial Christmas event for 35 years, and it is a traditional expression of the holidays and a beautiful time to visit. A stay at the Guthrie Retreat puts you in a bed and breakfast in the center of the historic downtown. 

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Light trails at the Minor Basilica in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Light trails at the Minor Basilica in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase and home to Northwestern State University. The Cane River runs through town, adding to the charm. The downtown area is registered as a national landmark because of the French Creole architecture and historic buildings.

The oldest building in town is the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, built in the 19th century. Another historic downtown landmark is the Minor Basilica, built in 1728 and consecrated in 1854. The two-story buildings that make up the town are full of southern appeal. The movie Steel Magnolias was filmed here, and the perfect southern aesthetic makes this one of the cutest towns in the South. 

Oxford, Mississippi

Statue of James Meredith, walking through an open door, in Oxford, Mississippi, USA, honoring the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi.
Statue of James Meredith, walking through an open door, in Oxford, Mississippi, USA. Editorial credit: James Kirkikis /

Oxford, Mississippi, is home to the University of Mississippi or "Ole Miss" and is considered one of the best places to live in the state. Part of the reason is the vibrant culture of the town. It is known as the "literary center of the South" because of its appeal to famous authors like William Faulkner and John Grisham. Faulkner's idea for the fictional Yoknapatawpha County was born out of Wxford.

The clean and walkable downtown district attracts foodies due to the nationally acclaimed culinary scene. City Grocery, owned by James Beard Winner John Currence, put Oxford on the map. Other restaurants like Boure, Snackbar, and Saint Leo are worth a destination road trip. The Oliver and The Old Bank Hotel are two sophisticated hotels downtown, so you can remain close to the town's pulse throughout your stay.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Victorian homes in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Victorian homes in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Eureka Springs is named for the abundance of natural hot springs surrounding this small town in the Ozark Mountains. The town's appeal is punctuated by the Victorian buildings in the Historic District, like The Palace Bath House and the Basin Park Hotel. Another must-see landmark is the Flatiron Building, which separates Spring and Center Street and is the most photographed in town.

The best way to see Eureka Springs is on foot. Spring and Main Streets are filled with underground dining like the award-winning Mud Street restaurant. You can also book a guided underground walking tour to understand what makes this town unique. The hot springs, historic architecture, and the underground river make Eureka Springs one of the most exciting towns in the southern United States. 

Discover Southern Charm

The southern US has notable towns full of history and charm. These 12 towns are among the best whether you are looking for tropical vibes, rural communities, or underground rivers. They offer many historical and modern attractions and are fun to explore. The literature history of Oxford, the classic architecture of Natchitoches, and the white sand beaches of Sanibel showcase the versatility that makes up the Southern United States.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 12 Cutest Small Towns in the Southern United States

More in Places