As the most significant state east of the iconic Mississippi River, Georgia is as quaint as it is charming. This charm is especially highlighted in its small towns, which are filled with historic landmarks and have some of the most unique natural views compared to neighboring states. Some of the biggest cities in Georgia are Atlanta, Savannah, and Augusta, all known for their bustling nightlife and entertainment options. However, for a more laid-back, relaxed experience, there's nothing quite like visiting some of the state's smallest towns. Here is a look into 13 of Georgia's most quaint small towns that everyone should add to their travel bucket list.
One small town in Georgia known for its incredible waterfalls and one-of-a-kind scenery is Tallulah Falls. This resort town is a nature lover's paradise in the northeastern state. Tallulah Falls has a population of just 200 residents, making it a perfect escape from how crowded cities like Atlanta can be, especially during peak tourist seasons. This quaint town is also home to the Tallulah Gorge, a vast canyon with a 1,000-foot deep chasm and several waterfalls, including the Tallulah Falls itself. Spring and fall are some of the most popular seasons to visit the falls due to the whitewater paddling and the "aesthetic water releases," where extra water is added to the falls to increase the flow.
Visitors can take in the sights by stopping at the Tallulah Gorge State Park, where they can swim and hike, though it is important to note that some hiking trails in the park require a gorge floor permit that must be purchased in advance. However, guests can still see the falls without having to hike by taking a stroll on the rim walking trails, all pet-friendly with unobstructed views. After visiting the park, stop at Goats on the Roof, a roadside attraction where visitors can feed the goats, eat at delicious food trucks, and go mining for gems.
Woodstock, Georgia, is located in Cherokee County and has one of the largest populations for this destination, with over 35,000 residents. Despite its size, Woodstock maintains a small-town feel with a downtown area perfect for strolling and exploring the 30+ locally-owned shops. The town's history dates back to the late 1800s and is believed to have acquired the name Woodstock from a novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott. Yet, others believe the name is derived from the busy Woodstock Depo, a train station that transported the town's wood supply. Today, the historical station functions as a restaurant in downtown Woodstock called Freight Kitchen and Tap.
Nature lovers should schedule a time to visit Olde Rope Mill Park, where they can hike or bike through nearly 20 miles of trails, sit along the Little River, or even fish for trout. The Olde Rope Mill Park is also a historical landmark for Woodstock, as it was once the site of a thriving cotton mill during the 1800s. The park is also located just a short drive from The Outlet Shoppes in Atlanta, a premiere destination for some of the best retail therapy in the area, and a large selection of restaurants. For those looking to eat at a location with history, similar to the train station restaurant, the Century House is a historic building that has been refurbished and now serves American dishes and old-fashioned cocktails.
Brunswick is a historic port town and part of the Golden Isles, a collection of islands located on the coast of Georgia. This town has a population of around 15,000 and has a unique layout that mimics the squares and classic names found in the city of Savannah. Much of the town's history lies in the seafood industry, which is still a significant part of the local culture today. Visitors can walk the streets to admire classic-style houses and properties from the early 1800s, including the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation. This plantation is open for tours and allows visitors to walk through the Antebellum home, which is decorated with family heirlooms from the period.
Another point of interest for visitors in Brunswick is Lover's Oak. This historic tree dates back to the 12th century and is believed to have ties to the Native American tribes once inhabited the land. Another must-see location is the Earth Day Nature Trail, a boardwalk trail that winds through wetlands and salt marshes. It is the perfect spot to photograph local wildlife or bird watching. After a day of sightseeing, try out Basil Thai and Sushi, a popular place for sushi and pho.
Looking to visit a place known for its healing properties and relaxation? Just 18 miles from Savannah lies Tybee Island, a small coastal town with a year-round population below 3,500. Tybee Island has been inhabited since the 1500s, with the town name being tied to the Euchee tribe. Today, Tybee Island is one of 14 islands that make up the coastline and is known for its miles of calm beaches and historical gun batteries. Those who want to visit Tybee Island should know that the spring and summer months are best for tourists, as some local businesses shut down in the off-season.
One popular visitor attraction is Captain Derek's Dolphin Adventure, located conveniently on Old US Hwy 80 on Tybee Island. The dolphin adventure tours take guests to watch dolphins in their natural habitats during the afternoon or the beautiful sunset hours. There are also affordable historical attractions that are great for day trips on Tybee Island. The Tybee Island Light Station & Museum is a colonial-era lighthouse that overlooks the Savannah River Entrance and allows visitors to tour the light station's museum and climb to the top of the lighthouse for a small admission fee. There's also the Fort Pulaski National Monument on neighboring Cockspur Island, a preserved Civil War structure with a lighthouse and Battery Hambright.
For travelers who love the arts, cultural events, and Antebellum homes, Madison, Georgia, is the ideal destination. Located in Morgan County with just under 5,000 residents, this town has roots in stagecoach travel and agriculture. Today, Madison is known for its small-town charm and quaint downtown area, complete with numerous antique shops. Madison is often called one of Georgia's "authentic southern towns" thanks to its unique, locally-owned restaurants. The Hart And Crown Tavern remains a popular spot for visitors and locals, serving British-style pub food in a historical atmosphere.
Madison is a top destination for those who want to learn more about the area's rich history, and the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center is a great place to start. The center is housed in the 1895 Romanesque Revival Building, once the first graded school system to operate in the Southeast. Today, visitors can enjoy a show in the theater, view an art exhibit by local creatives and students, or look at the unique gifts in the museum shop. Another popular location is the Hard Labor Creek State Park, just a few miles outside Madison. This park has a beach, rental cabins, and small cafes with food and drink options.
Braselton may be a small town, but has a booming local business scene and is a popular tourist destination. There are over 800 businesses in Braselton alone, with most being small and locally owned establishments, creating an excellent opportunity for shopping and dining experiences. Many of these shops can be found on "The 1904," a set of stores and restaurants in the downtown historic Braselton Brothers Store building. However, Braselton is also home to some big names in the automotive industry, including the famous Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. This 2,540-mile raceway course holds numerous events annually and is a must-see destination for any motorsports enthusiast.
In addition to its business and racing scene, Braselton has the Four Corners Monument. This charming and unique small statue is located at the Braselton Mulberry Riverwalk and sits where Barrow, Hall, Jackson, and Gwinnett counties all meet and overlap. It is a short walk to the monument, accessible for all ages and gives visitors a fun way to see the area's nature. After a long day of shopping in the town, try a French-inspired dish in the glass-top atrium at Versailles Restaurant & Bar.
Darien is the state of Georgia's second oldest city known for having a rich Scottish heritage. This town was first inhabited in the early 1700s by Scottish Highlanders and has since become known as a historical port town with roots in the rice, lumber, and cotton industries. Today, many people know Darien for its commercial fishing and reputation as a top tourist destination. The town's location in the Golden Isles of Georgia helps give Darien its unique and beautiful coastal landscape, featuring delicious seafood restaurants like Skippers' Fish Camp and B&J's Steaks and Seafood. These seafood hot spots are located on the Darien waterfront and offer guests beautiful views while they eat fresh-caught menu items.
There are plenty of nature attractions in Darien for those who want to take in the scenery, including being a part of the Colonial Coast Birding Trail. This trail is situated along miles of wetlands where visitors can see numerous bird species, including various migratory birds and birds of prey. There is also the Fort King George historic site, where visitors can learn more about Georgia's ties to the colonial war. The historical landmark is open year-round to visitors and offers tours around the colonial structures.
With a population of just under 1,500, Dahlonega is one of the smaller towns on this list, but it's packed with history and natural beauty. One of its most notable claims to fame is that it was the heart of the start of the US gold rush in Georgia, dating back to 1828. Today, Dahlonega is known for being at the center of Georgia's wine country and for having many amenities of larger cities while keeping the rural charm due to its location in the mountain foothills. When visiting this quaint town, one of the must-see attractions is the Dahlonega Gold Museum at the historic Old Lumpkin County Courthouse. Tickets to the museum are affordable, with children under six receiving free admission. There is also an informative movie for guests before they start the self-guided tour.
The Dahlonega General Store is another historic location in the town. This store allows guests to step back in time and experience the atmosphere of a classic general store that would function in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition to traditional items, the store also has local t-shirts, fresh coffee, and children's books. Another hands-on, family-friendly attraction for visitors is the Consolidated Gold Mine, known as Georgia's only underground mining tour. The Crisson Gold Mine is another local favorite, offering gemstone mining and gold panning for all ages. After a day of searching for gold, try some locally grown wine at Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery, offering educational tours of the wine-making facility.
Known as the "Hollywood of the South," Covington is the pulse of movie and television production in Georgia. With over 100 film and TV productions in the town since 2000, it's clear why Covington has become a popular tourist destination for fans of these productions. Driving through downtown Covington, visitors can see familiar storefronts and buildings from popular shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Dukes of Hazzard, and most recently, Netflix's Sweet Magnolias. Fans can also take a guided tour to get an inside look at some of these famous filming locations with the locally-owned Main Street Trolleys and Tours' 'The Covington Movie Tour' and 'Epic Tour.'
Covington also has Academy Springs Park, a perfect location for families with children. This park offers a playground and plenty of room for young kids to run around while older children and adults can learn about the town's history in the stonework. Turner Lake is another location for nature enthusiasts that offers dog-friendly paved walking trails, picnic tables, and an outdoor batting cage perfect for sports fans. For food and drinks, head to Mystic Grill, another popular The Vampire Diaries filming location that locals consider one of the best restaurants in town.
Another quaint Georgia town known for its historic downtown section is Senoia, a "frozen in time" location with a small population of around 5,000 residents. Senoia first became an official town in 1905, though its history dates back to the early 1800s when Creek Indians and settlers first arrived. Today, Senoia perfectly balances a leisurely, slow-paced, small-town feel with modern amenities, making it a famous filming location for popular TV shows like The Walking Dead and several others. Those who want to learn more about Senoia's roots can check out the Senoia Area Historical Society History Museum, located close to downtown and offering self-guided property tours.
The Woodbury Shoppe is another historical museum showcasing items from The Walking Dead. It is a must-visit for show fans in town, and guests can purchase souvenirs related to their favorite characters from the series. When it comes to food, Senoia has an incredible blend of restaurants that feature cuisines from across the globe. Some popular spots include Mexican dishes at Chapultepec Mexican Restaurant and Irish pub dishes at Maguire's. After a delicious meal, head to the City Of Senoia Seavy Street Park for a relaxing sunset view.
For travelers who want to visit a quaint town with truly one-of-a-kind views, Blue Ridge should be number one. Blue Ridge is an artistic mountain town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains that features over 12 waterfalls within a 30-minute drive. The city is situated roughly 90 minutes from the center of Atlanta. However, visitors will feel like they are in a world with a small population and countless natural attractions. While visiting Blue Ridge, there's no better way to start the day than Royal Waffle King, a 24-hour diner housed in an old schoolhouse. The town is also known for its BBQ, with Blue Ridge Mountain Bar-B-Q being a popular spot for tourists and locals.
In addition to the BBQ restaurants, Blue Ridge has the annual Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ Festival, held every autumn in the town's downtown section. Blue Ridge also has a network of famous hiking trails, such as part of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. If you're looking for a way to unwind after a long day of hiking or sightseeing, stopping into one of Georgia's last remaining drive-in theaters, the Swan Drive-In, is a must. With an affordable price and classic drive-in snacks like popcorn and burgers, it is the perfect way to end a day in Blue Ridge.
Ellijay is another mountain town filled with hiking trails, wineries, orchards, and stunning views of the North Georgia Mountains. This town dates back to 1834 and lies on the site of a historic Indian settlement. This is where Ellijay gained its official name, which loosely translates to "green earth," "green place," or "new ground." Today, the town is called the "apple capital" of Georgia and holds the yearly Georgia Apple Festival. The festival has been carried over two weekends in October since 1971 and features vendors, a parade, and an antique car show. The local Red Apple Barn offers tractor rides and affordable apple picking each fall.
History buffs should try to visit the Tabor House & Civil War Museum in downtown historic Ellijay. This remarkable historical landmark is a Civil War site and is now one of the South's most extensive Civil War libraries and 1800s replica homes. The museum has informative movies, a vast book collection, and several staged rooms for visitors to explore. Ellijay has a thriving music and restaurant scene, a popular spot being River Street Tavern. This bar offers locally brewed beer and live music performances for guests.
Often rated one of the best places to live in the US, Peachtree City is a master-planned community with over 100 miles of golf cart paths that wind through forests, lakes, and parks. Peachtree City was first settled by the Woodland Era indigenous people thousands of years ago before being chartered as a newly developed city in 1959. This incredibly quaint town has a unique way of life worth experiencing today. Visitors can rent golf carts, the main form of transportation in town, and explore the city's numerous shops and restaurants. Visitors can work with the tour company Golf Cart Paths Through Peachtree City to explore the city via a tour on its golf cart paths.
Those who want to learn more about the history behind Peachtree City can stop by the Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing Museum. This museum displays several military aircraft and offers visitors educational flights and tours. The Southern Hollywood Film Tour is another popular attraction for tourists to the area, as it takes participants on a drive through the town's iconic filming locations for movies like Fried Green Tomatoes and Sweet Home Alabama. Stop into Big Daddy's Oyster Bar for freshly shucked oysters and snow crab.
Georgia is a state packed with quaint small towns, each offering a unique history and different attractions that showcase what the state has to offer. From Senoia and its famous filming locations to Blue Ridge's mountain views, these towns will provide visitors with a relaxing yet informative and unforgettable experience. Next time you plan a trip to the Peach State, do not forget to explore some of these small towns and learn what makes them unique.