Aerial view of Gatlinburg, Tennessee within the Smoky Mountains.

8 Picturesque Small Towns in the Southern United States for a Weekend Retreat

The Southern United States is renowned for beautiful balmy weather, picturesque wetlands, and bountiful fruit harvests. From Georgia peaches to the Florida Everglades and the great Bayou of Louisiana, there are endless opportunities for adventure. Other than the big cities of Charlotte, New Orleans, and Richmond, many picturesque small towns in the South are perfect for a weekend retreat. They offer natural sights, cultural charm, and amazing eateries without urban hustle and bustle. Learn more about eight of the most picturesque ones to check out for a weekend retreat.

Oxford, Mississippi

Buildings in downtown Oxford, Mississippi.
Rustic buildings line a street in downtown Oxford, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Feng Cheng /

Home to more than 25,000 people, Oxford is a gorgeous town home to the University of Mississippi. This small town has many serene attractions, such as Rowan Oak, the home of William Falkner, who wrote books such as As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! Learn about the history of Oxford at the University Museum or African American history in the South at the Burns-Belfrey Museum located at the historic Burns Methodist Episcopal Church. Nearby, one can go shopping at the beautiful Square or see one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, such as Saint Peter's Cemetery or the Confederate Cemetery. After taking in local tales, tourists can retreat to one of many great hotels in the area, including Tru by Hilton, Oliver Hotel of Oxford, and Graduate Oxford.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Aerial view of the shoreline at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Aerial view of the shoreline at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

If you want a relaxing beach vacation, Myrtle Beach is the place for you. Home to more than 35,000 people, this small town on the Atlantic coast is a beautiful spot to bask in the sunshine and relax at the beach. The Myrtle Beach State Park is an excellent place to start, but one of the truly hidden gems is Huntington State Park, with serene, clean beaches in nearby Murrells Inlet. Here, one can spend the day hiking, wildlife viewing, or sunbathing in stunning surroundings.

Back in town, Myrtle Beach has many indoor activities, such as Ripley's Aquarium and the Hollywood Wax Museum. Further along, the downtown area is a bustling spot to visit, featuring many restaurants and the world-famous Gay Dolphin Gift Cove. For accommodations, consider one of the many resorts in the area, such as Bay View Resort Myrtle Beach and The Caravelle Resort.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Buildings on Bay Street in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Vibrant buildings along Bay Street in Beaufort, South Carolina. Editorial credit: Stephen B. Goodwin /

Beaufort is another South Carolina city, located on Port Royal Island. Home to just over 13,000 people, this town has a rich history dating back more than 500 years. Visitors can see the town's history on display at the Beaufort Historic District, with many buildings that predate the American Civil War. Some notable landmarks are the 1776 Anchorage, 1816 William Barnwell House, and 1863 Beaufort National Cemetary.

One can also opt to learn about the past at the Beaufort History Museum, which uses exhibits to showcase Beaufort's history. Those looking for an outdoor experience can take a tour of the Cypress Wetlands or look for dolphins at Beaufort Dolphin Adventures with a private tour. Adventurous souls can take it a step further with a biplane ride by Beaufort Biplane Tours. After all the fun, consider staying at the relaxing Beaufort Inn for your weekend retreat.

Fairhope, Alabama

Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama.
Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama and surrounding greenery.

Fairhope, a town on Mobile Bay, is known for its beautiful views and artisanal delights. The small town was founded in 1894 by the utopian Georgists and today has just over 22,000 residents. The best place to visit is the Fairhope Municipal Pier, where visitors can go fishing, swimming, walking, or simply smell the flowers in the rose garden. Learn about the unique history of Fairhope at the Fairhope Museum of History or visit the Henry Stuart House in Tolstoy Park, an early 20th-century concrete hut built by Henry Stuart.

Outside these museums, one can continue the rustic experience at sites such as the French Quarter, with a cobblestone courtyard and many boutique shores to explore. When it's time to hit the bed, there are various local inns in the area, such as Key West Inn or Malaga Inn, that offer a comfortable stay.

St. Augustine, Florida

Aerial view of St. Augustine, Florida.
Aerial view of colorful buildings and the waterfront in St. Augustine, Florida.

St. Augustine is a history lover’s dream, as it was founded in 1565, making it the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the United States. Today, St. Augustine has more than 14,000 residents, but this city is no slacker when it comes to beautiful historic sites. For example, the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

The old city is also home to the St. Augustine Light lighthouse, constructed in 1874, and the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park, which has a whopping 24 recognized species of crocodilians. For other historic sites, check out the Oldest Wooden School House, dating back to the early 18th century. After taking in the endless tales abound, spend your stay at St. Augustine at the Casa Monica Resort & Spa.

Covington, Georgia

The old Courthouse in Covington, Georgia.
The historic Old Court House in Covington, Georgia. Editorial credit: Williams Photography 365 /

Continue the historic journey in Covington, a rustic town named after Brigadier General and U.S. Congressman Leonard Covington. First incorporated in 1821, the beautiful town became famous as "The Hollywood of the South" for the many films and shows that were shot here, including Vampire Diaries, Sweet Home Alabama, and Remember the Titans. Taking the Mystic Falls Tour, you can see landmarks from The Vampire Diaries and visit historic locations such as the Lockwood Mansion.

The town hosts the Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast in a home built in 1836 and has many great restaurants nearby, such as the Mystic Grill Restaurant, Town House Café, and The Social Goat Tavern. Before hitting the bed, the truly brave can consider taking a ghost tour of the many haunted places in the town, such as the Gaither Plantation.

Jefferson, Texas

Buildings along a street in Jefferson, Texas.
Buildings along a street in downtown Jefferson, Texas. Editorial credit: NicholasGeraldinePhotos /

This riverport city on the Red River was a bustling place in the mid-1800s that became a major center for immigrants in Texas. Founded in the early 1840s, Jefferson today is a historic town with many places listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. You can take a historic walking tour to see many of these spots, such as the 1913 Jefferson Masonic Temple, the 1890 Old Post Office, the 1872 House of the Seasons, and much more.

Learn about the history of this boom town at the Jefferson Historical Museum or enjoy a relaxing day of hiking at the Port Jefferson Nature Center. For spots to grab a bite to eat, consider 1852 on Austin or Austin Street Bistro. Lastly, the Historic Jefferson Hotel is a Victorian spot that is a great place to stay during your trip to Jefferson.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Busy street with tourists in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Busy street full of tourists and shops in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Editorial credit: Miro Vrlik Photography /

This small Tennessee town is a hidden treasure in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, more popularly known as the Smokies. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for countless opportunities to hike through the mountains or see Black Bears in the Cade's Cove area. Some of the most popular landmarks include Clingman's Dome, Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, and Chimney Tops.

There are plenty of things to do in town as well, such as seeing the largest pedestrian Skybridge in North America or visiting one of the many boutique shops in town. For moonshine lovers, Gatlinburg is a must-visit as it hosts multiple moonshine companies, including Ole Smokey. When it comes to accommodation, one can consider renting a cabin such as the Tucked Inn or Above the Smokies.

The Southern United States is a region filled with natural beauty and history, so it's no wonder many people call these small communities home. From historic buildings to mountains, bayous, and rivers, visitors always have an adventure traveling in the South. Moreover, thanks to these many small communities, one can kick back and take in the views of many picturesque places. Thus, the next time you are traveling in the south, consider adding these towns to your travel plans.

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