The Southern region of the United States flaunts many adorable small towns that attract visitors from all parts of the country. History, picturesque landscapes, sensational cuisines, a sense of community, nature, and serenity all combine to make up the character of these small towns. Beyond the grandeur and bustle of cities, they offer a nest for anyone seeking a retreat from the noise and even a perfect setting for relocation. From the vibrant Pier of Fairhope in Alabama to the Zoological parks in Dahlonega, these small southern towns have something for anyone visiting. Here are 14 of the top-rated small towns in the South.
Paducah is an exotic southern city located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. While the Ohio River is a beautiful destination for boating here, the town also charms visitors with its many parks and recreation centers, notably Noble Park, Brook Stadium Park, and Stuart Nelson Park. These parks feature a wide range of facilities, from amphitheaters to golf courses, swimming pools, and tennis and basketball courts, among other facilities. Visitors can get the best experience here by hiking the 5-mile Greenway Trail that runs through many of the town's parks, residential neighborhoods, and riverfront. The National Quilt Museum is a great stop for history lovers as it houses over 500 quilt artworks. The town is also famous for its murals at the UNESCO Creative City Floodwall overlooking the river. Some of the best accommodations in the town include The 1857 Hotel, Holiday Inn Paducah Riverfront, and Hampton Inn and Suites.
Dunedin is a postcard-perfect waterfront city along the Gulf Coast renowned for its Scottish heritage and stretch of inviting beaches. The town is home to the Dunedin Causeway, a 2.5-mile sand beach route and an ideal destination to fish, sunbathe, swim, walk, and kayak. It also boasts two captivating islands - Honeymoon Island and Caladesi, with gorgeous unspoiled beaches and mangrove forests. Both islands share a lot in common. They are linked by a ferry and are designated state parks, offering fishing, boating, snorkeling, kayaking, and birdwatching opportunities, including picnic pavilions for relaxation. Best weekend accommodations in the town include Meranova Guest Inn and Best Western Plus Yacht Harbor Inn.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Bay St. Louis is a small city that offers a laid-back landscape for anyone seeking a relaxing retreat. Visitors are usually drawn to this town's gorgeous white sand beach, a great place to watch the sunset, embark on a cruise, and stroll around the beachside paths. Kayak rentals are also available for those who want to paddle on the water trails. The Jimmy Rutherford Fishing Pier is ideal for visitors who want to fish. Also, the old town of Bay St. Louis, off Beach Boulevard, calls out to every visitor to indulge in its shops, restaurants, beach boutiques, and art galleries. Bay Town Inn and Carroll House Bed and Breakfast are some of the best accommodations to spend the weekend in this town.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Shepherdstown is a highly-rated town in the South with so much to offer. It is the oldest town in West Virginia, founded in 1762, and to reflect its historical wealth, it boasts many museums and historical sites, where artifacts and exhibits from three centuries ago offer a peek into its vibrant past. These include the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, Little House, and James Marshall House. In addition, Shepherdstown is home to Morgan's Grove - a historic district renowned for its springs, notably Falling Spring, as well as a string of historic buildings and a green park for relaxation and picnics. Beyond its history, the town is located on the bank of the Potomac River, which is excellent for kayaking, tubing, boating, and fishing. For the best experience in this town, stay in some of its best accommodations, like the Quality Inn and Suites and Thomas Shepherd Inn.
Mount Dora, Florida
Mount Dora in Lake County, Florida, is a highly rated small town in the south, thanks to its many natural endowments. This town overlooks Lake Dora, a 4,500-acre photogenic cobalt blue lake, where fishing, boating, birdwatching, kayaking, and paddling can be done. The lake also houses some of the town's outdoor parks, such as Palm Island Park, notable for its wooden Boardwalk that winds through a small forest and offers impressive views of nature and the lake. The park also offers three picnic pavilions, hiking trails, and a fishing pier. Grantham Point Park is another scenic park on the lake, with a 35-foot lighthouse, which is the only freshwater inland lighthouse in Florida. Visitors can spend the weekend night at the Lakeside Inn or Grand View Bread and Breakfast Inn.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is hard to beat in the South when it comes to history, astounding beauty, and culture. This magnificent town, founded in 1565, is renowned as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. Visitors can soak in the city's iconic history by visiting the many forts, colonial houses, and museums dotting its landscape. Some of these include Fort Mose Historic State Park, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Colonial Quarter, Lighthouse Museum, Shipwreck Museum, and Gonzalez Avera House, among others. But St. Augustine is not all about history. It is located on the Atlantic Coast of Northeast Florida and has several idyllic beaches, such as St. Augustine Beach, Anastasia Park Beach, Crescent Beach, and Pointe Vedra Beach. The town has many superb accommodations, including Pointe Vedra Inn and Club, Magic Beach Hotel, and North Beach Camp Resort.
For many reasons, the vibrant small town of Dahlonega in Lumpkin County, Georgia, is a top-rated southern destination. First, it was the hub of the first significant gold rush in the US around 1829, which earned her the "Gold City" nickname.
Today, the town is home to the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, a remarkable destination for learning about the town's gold heritage. Furthermore, this gold museum is situated in the Historic Downtown Square, the town's highlight attraction, bustling with shops, restaurants, art galleries, cafes, and green spaces. For wildlife lovers, the city is home to North Georgia Wildlife Zoo and Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and Zoo. Both zoos feature over 180 species of animals, including wildcats, monkeys, zebras, kangaroos, and water buffalo.
Top weekend accommodations in Dahlonega include The Smith House, Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard, and Dahlonega Inn on Main.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort is a small city in South Carolina that effortlessly combines a rich history and spectacular scenery in one destination. Founded in 1711, it is the second oldest city in South Carolina, and relics of its glorious past are lavish at Beaufort History Museum in downtown Beaufort. More of its historic allure is in the Beaufort Historic District, where antebellum architecture and many buildings erected before the Civil War are located. On natural beauty, it is situated in the heart of the Sea Islands, and its river channel - Port Royal Sound, sets the stage for cruise expeditions and dolphin-watching tours. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the nearby Spanish Moss Recreational Trail of 10 miles with views of saltwater marshes and neighborhoods drenched in Spanish moss. After a day of adventures, visitors can spend the night in some of the town's best accommodations, like the Hilton Garden Inn and Rhett House Inn.
Fairhope is one of Alabama's finest small towns on Mobile Bay, home to the Fairhope Pier. This scenic pier is the town's most famous attraction and unofficial town square. It is a hub for fishing, sightseeing, swimming, nature walks, picnics, and relaxation, and it even has a beach. The town is also home to many art galleries, notably Eastern Shore Art Center and Seeley's Gallery by the Bay, with mind-blowing art exhibitions. History buffs can check out the Fairhope Museum of History to browse artifacts and learn about the town's founders who championed a single-tax colony. For those looking for where to spend the night, the Holiday Inn Express and Key West Inn are some of the best accommodations in town.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Blowing Rock in North Carolina is a small village with picturesque natural charm. It is on the breathtaking Blueridge Parkway, America's longest linear park. Visitors can head to the nearby Parkway through Moses Cone Memorial Park to capture the magnificence of the neighboring Blue Ridge mountains. This park also houses Bass and Trout Lakes for fishing, boating, and paddling. The Blowing Rock is a famous attraction in the town, a dramatic rock formation spearing out from Johns River gorge at 1,500 feet (460 meters). From this rock formation, views of the Blue Ridge Mountain are jaw-dropping. Whistle Pig Adventure Park within Blue Ridge Mountain is another town attraction for adventurous travelers. Visitors can enjoy the thrill of zip-lining 300 feet above the jungle. When it comes to accommodation, Blowing Rock has a long list to choose from, some of which include - Chetola Resort and Meadowbrook Inn.
Natchitoches is a scenic waterfront town in Louisiana, positioned on the banks of the Cane River, and renowned as the oldest settlement in the state. The National Historic Landmark District reflects much of the town's age with ancient architecture in 33 famous blocks occupied by restaurants, shops, and cafes, stretching down to the Cane River. Visitors can roam about this district, shop, eat, and, most importantly, taste the famous Natchitoches meat pie. One can access the Cane River from the historic district and indulge in paddling, kayaking, and boating activities. For history buffs, the Cane River Creole National Historic Park houses French Creole cotton plantations - Oakland and Magnolia, offering a peek into the lives of the Creole people. Top accommodations for a weekend stay in this town include Hampton Inn, Chateau Saint Denis, and Church Street Inn.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is a charming southern jewel situated within the imposing Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas. This small town is remarkable for its Victorian-era charm and backdrop of the Ozark Mountains. The Eureka Springs Historic Museum is a fantastic destination to learn more about the town's roots, victorian heritage, and its founders. Beyond its historic enticement for history buffs, Kings River is a top outdoor attraction for fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing. In addition, there is the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, where you can see rescued lions, cougars, bobcats, and tigers. Yet, the town has breathtaking caves, such as Onyx Caves, Grotto Cave, Spring, and Civil War Cave, to explore and wonder. Lastly, a weekend getaway in this town is not complete without a stay in one of its top accommodations, such as the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, Regency Inn, or Tall Pines Inn.
Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Broken Bow is one town that has continued to score high in southern charm in Oklahoma due to its scenic lake with the same name and the Ouachita Mountains. This town's beautiful lake, which is more than 14,000 acres, is fenced by pine trees, featuring small islands and exciting hiking trails like Big Oak and Beaver Nature Lodge Trails. The Lake is surrounded by parks such as Beavers Bend State Park and Hochatown State Park. These parks offer picnics, scuba diving, and camping facilities, including rental equipment for fishing, kayaking, boating, canoeing, and even hunting wildlife such as deer and wild turkey. Places to spend the night in town include Beavers Bend Lodge, Rodeway Inn, and Microtel Inn by Wyndham.
Gatlinburg ranks high among southern destinations in the US as it serves as a vacation resort town filled with many natural and man-made attractions. It is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains, a popular hiking destination with over 800 miles of trails. Some of the best trails lead to waterfalls just outside Gatlinburg. They include Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, and Abram Falls trails. The 2.1-mile-long Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is also a top attraction in this town as it ferries tourists above the spellbinding Great Smoky Mountains, dropping them off at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park. However, more mesmerizing views of the mountain scenery come in riding a yellow Chairlift to cross the Gatlinburg Skybridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America. Top accommodations in Gatlinburg for a weekend stay include Gatlinburg Falls Resort, River Edge Inn, and Holiday Express Inn.
Small Towns with Big Hearts
The Southern United States is one of the most blessed regions of the country when it comes to rare, inexplicable natural beauty, history, serenity, and wildlife. These features are often seen in the small towns sprinkled across the region, which people often use as getaways from the noise. These small towns are highly rated across the United States for several factors. Beaches, architecture, historic downtowns, and unbeatable records like the freshwater lighthouse in Mount Dora make them inevitable subjects of conversations about small-town charms across the US.