A historical bank building in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Editorial credit: clayton harrison / Shutterstock.com

7 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in the Southern United States

Many locals say that the entire American South is underappreciated, but big cities like New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta, and Jacksonville certainly get their due. This list is about small Southern communities that plenty of Americans, including some Southerners, have not even heard about. And yet, these places are percolating with beaches, parks, caves, springs, museums, restaurants, sea turtles, and spaceships. Here are seven such gems hidden deep in the Deep South.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Editorial credit: clayton harrison / Shutterstock.com.

The forgotten coastal state of Mississippi has more than 60 miles of Gulf of Mexico coastline stuffed with scenic communities. The best of these is Bay St. Louis. Named for the adjoining Bay of St. Louis, this 9,000ish-person "city" has one of the state's highest-rated beaches and many associated activities. Beachgoers who do not skip Mississippi in favor of Texas or Florida can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, boating, fishing, and beachcombing on the gorgeous Bay St. Louis waterfront. Then, they can head downtown for sights at the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum and bites at The Blind Tiger. Lastly, if you thought Bay St. Louis could not be any less Mississippi-like, it sits about 20 minutes away from NASA's Stennis Space Center. This astronomically amazing facility can be toured on certain days.

Port Royal, South Carolina

Port Royal Sound, Port Royal, South Carolina
Port Royal Sound, Port Royal, South Carolina.

Considered the most underrated town in South Carolina, Port Royal makes Beaufort seem like Charleston. Though Port Royal and Beaufort have similar populations and sit side by side on the SC coast, the former gets less attention and respect, according to Port Royal town manager Van Willis. It also gets less respect than other Beaufort County neighbors like Hilton Head and Bluffton. This is despite Port Royal having a mix of aesthetic homes, excellent amenities, and beautiful nature. Visitors can tour the Old Village, dine at Fishcamp, glimpse birds and gators at the Port Royal Cypress Wetlands and Rookery, and then crash at Cabana Madrid. Port Royal's downtown streets are elegantly named Madrid Avenue, Paris Avenue, and London Avenue.

Magnolia Springs, Alabama

Magnolia Springs, Alabama
Magnolia Springs, Alabama.

Is there anything quainter than receiving your mail by motorboat? Magnolia Springs, a riverside town in Alabama, is the only residential community in America with year-round USPS water delivery. Between mailboxes lining the Magnolia River and sprawling oaks lining Magnolia Springs' streets are lots of attractions for a town of approximately 800 people. Delectable eateries include The Mag: Dive Bar & Grill and Jesse's Restaurant, while comforting inns comprise the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast. That cozy retreat sits inside the Tunnel Of Trees, where the aforementioned oaks are so immense as to wrap their limbs around multi-story buildings. Appropriately, the tunnel is on Oak Street.

St. Francisville, Louisiana

Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana
Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana.

Another Southern town enmeshed in Spanish moss-draped oak trees, St. Francisville, has some of Louisiana's prettiest buildings in its verdant clutches. This 1,500ish-person community thrived during the Antebellum era, so when slavery ended, its prosperous plantations were preserved as historic sites or turned into bed & breakfasts. Visitors can tour the Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site and then stay at The Myrtles, an expansive 18th-century estate with a hotel, restaurant, cafe, and even a lake. Although underrated to most Americans, The Myrtles is perhaps overrated to ghost hunters since it has been named the most haunted house in America.

After a hauntingly scenic survey of St. Francisville, you can cleanse your mind at numerous nearby refuges like the Afton Villa Gardens, Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area, Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Clark Creek Natural Area, the last of which is in Mississippi.

Wimberley, Texas

Wimberley, Texas
Colorful shop with artwork on display in Wimberley, Texas. Editorial credit: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com.

A true Texas oasis, Wimberley is home to the Blue Hole, a natural spring-fed swimming pool centering the scenic cypress forest of Blue Hole Regional Park. In addition to swimming, visitors can go hiking, biking, picnicking, sunbathing, and swinging from a rope to plunge into the blue-tinged water. But that is not the only colorful lagoon in the Wimberley area. Just north of town sits Jacob's Well, another blue, spring-fed hole connected to an enormous underwater cave system. It, too, has its own nature preserve for recreation and sightseeing, but the well is closed for swimming.

Colorful in a much different way, Wimberley proper has around 2,800 residents, who join smatterings of tourists at the EmilyAnn Theatre, Pioneer Town, Creekside Vintage, and Lodge at Cypress Falls, all of which pay homage to different American eras.

Juno Beach, Florida

Pelican guarding Juno Beach Pier. Juno Beach, Florida
Pelican guarding Juno Beach Pier in Juno Beach, Florida.

Still serene despite constant encroachment from its Krameresque neighbors, Juno Beach has roughly 4,000 residents and arguably the most pristine beach in Palm Beach County. The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is partly responsible for keeping West Palm Beach bums at bay since it protects a large portion of the waterfront for sea turtles, especially during the nesting season from March to October. Turtle walks and beach cleanups are available for environmentally conscious tourists, as are private hikes in the Juno Dunes Natural Area at the north end of town. For commercially inclined visitors, Juno Beach offers delicious restaurants like Captain Charlie's Reef Grill and Cathy's Beach Connection, plus recreation at Seminole Golf Club and Bert Winters Park.

Cave Spring, Georgia

Cave Spring, Georgia
General Store with antiques in historic Cave Spring, Georgia. Editorial credit: JNix / Shutterstock.com

Sure enough, Cave Spring has both a cave and a spring. Yet neither of those breathtaking attractions, which are located in Rolater Park, have turned the "city" into a tourist trap. Instead, Cave Spring is called "A Hidden Gem Off The Beaten Path."

After spelunking in the 57-degree cave and collecting mineral-rich spring water, travelers who were lucky enough to find Cave Spring can mine more of its gems downtown. There, they can dine at Linde Marie's Steakhouse on the Square, A&B Creekside Restaurant and Catering, Lee’s Donut Shop or Local Joe's before they decide to shop at Evergreen on Broad or Cave Spring Market. Lastly, they would be wise to stop at the Vann Cherokee Cabin, which was built in 1810 by Avery Vann of the Cherokee Nation and is located on the Trail of Tears. This place in Georgia will definitely be on your mind.

The American South is a diverse and dynamic region that can be underappreciated, especially outside of urban centers. In those vast areas between cities lie small, scenic haunts perfect for a real deal getaway with real deal Southern charm. Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, Port Royal in South Carolina, Magnolia Springs in Alabama, St. Francisville in Louisiana, Wimberley in Texas, Juno Beach in Florida, and Cave Spring in Georgia can fill the holes in your wannabe Southerner's heart.

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