Stay and Play in Georgia
There’s so much to do and explore in Georgia — you don’t even have to leave the state to see amazing views, play in the water, learn about history and so much more!
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Georgia has so many one-of-a-kind vacation destinations. These six spots are tops for their beauty, activities and outdoor fun. Put them on your family’s summer bucket list!
Cloudland Canyon State Park. It took millions of years for nature to form the awe-inspiring canyons and caves in one of Georgia’s most scenic parks. Walk or hike over 64 miles of trails, from easy to challenging routes, and enjoy great views from any location. The park is also a popular spot for fishing, hiking and horseback riding; overnight camping options include cottages, tents, trailer sites and even yurts.
Rock City. Located atop Lookout Mountain, Rock City is a true marvel of nature with ancient rock formations, gardens with more than 400 native plants and a panoramic view where you can see seven states. Explore natural areas, including Hall of the Mountain King, Grand Corridor, Mushroom Rock and Fat Man’s Squeeze. Kids will love the whimsical Gnome Valley, Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village.
Tallulah Gorge State Park. As one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, this spectacular canyon is two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. Hike rim trails to several overlooks, or if you’re looking for more of an adventure, obtain a permit to hike to the gorge floor. Other activities include archery, biking, fishing, geocaching, swimming and more.
Radium Springs Gardens. Radium Springs Gardens pumps 70,000 gallons per minute of 68-degree water from an underground cave, and in the 19th and early 20th century, many believed bathing in mineral water had healing properties. Walk through a courtyard where the former Radium Springs Casino once stood to view natural foliage, crystal clear waters and beautiful flora. This spot is also considered one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders.
Georgia’s Barrier Islands. Georgia’s barrier islands are one of the state’s top summer vacation spots, and for good reason — they offer something for everyone: sandy beaches, historical sites, upscale resorts, wildlife and pristine expanses of marshland. Four main barrier islands, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island and Little St. Simons Island, make up the Golden Isles. Enjoy a range of outdoor activities, including camping, kayaking, horseback riding, nature tours, hiking and boating, all in one of the state’s most beautiful settings.
Okefenokee Swamp Park and Okefenokee Adventure. Considered the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers, this fascinating swamp provides habitats for threatened and endangered species, more than 600 plant species and contains 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area. Explore the area with a boat or train tour, and view live wildlife shows and exhibits.
From short and easy trails to more challenging hikes, Northeast Georgia has a wealth of beautiful waterfalls. Enjoy a day trip to one of these family-friendly falls or spend a weekend exploring the area.
Anna Ruby Falls. Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Anna Ruby Recreation Area is a short drive from Helen. An easy half-mile paved trail leads to the foot of a rare set of double waterfalls. Be sure to stop at the visitor center, which offers a variety of educational programs and activities throughout the year.
Toccoa Falls. Located on the beautiful campus of Toccoa Falls College, this spectacular attraction is one of Georgia’s hidden gems. An easy, accessible pathway leads to the 186-foot, free-falling Toccoa Falls. It’s ideal for beginners or families with younger kids.
Dukes Creek Falls. A moderately challenging 1¼-mile hike leads to Dukes Creek Falls in the Chattahoochee National Forest, where several large waterfalls are formed at the convergence of Dukes Creek and Davis Creek. The main fall is a majestic 150-foot, multitiered cascade. Viewing platforms make it easy to get a panoramic view.
Hurricane Falls. This series of six falls cascades through the 1,000-foot deep Tallulah Gorge. The 2¼-mile round trip hike takes visitors over a dizzying 80-foot suspension bridge before ending at Hurricane Falls. Spectacular views make this state park one of Georgia’s most popular.
Panther Creek Falls. For families with a little more hiking experience, this seven-mile round-trip trail in the Panther Creek Recreation Area crosses sandy floodplains, smaller creeks and rock outcrops through the Chattahoochee National Forest. The multi-tiered falls end in a sandy shoreline area, perfect for resting up for the return hike.
Lakes We Love
Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to canoe, a sunny beach or a place for watersports, Georgia’s beautiful lakes have it all! Here are a few of our favorite spots.
Lake Allatoona. Located northwest of Atlanta, Lake Allatoona makes an ideal day trip. Visit one of its many parks, with beaches, picnic spots, playgrounds and other facilities. Cauble Park on Lake Acworth (which flows into Lake Allatoona) is popular for its beach and amenities. Red Top Mountain State Park also has biking and hiking trails, beaches and a historic Civil War site.
Lake Lanier. It’s one of the state’s most visited lakes, and one visit will tell you why. Lanier Islands Resort and its waterpark are popular destinations; the lake also has plenty of day parks with beaches, boat access, picnic areas, and fishing. Visit Don Carter State Park for activities like paddling, horseback riding and 15 miles of hiking trails.
Lake Blue Ridge. Much of this lake’s shoreline is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest; Morganton Point Recreational Area has a great family beach as well as kayak and paddle board rentals. The Dayuse Area offers hiking, a paved walking loop and scenic lake views. Lake Blue Ridge Recreation Area has great views of the dam, with an accessible park, swimming and other amenities.
Lake Hartwell. Located on the border of Georgia and South Carolina, Lake Hartwell is known for its great fishing. Not an angler? The lake has nine campgrounds and a wide variety of family-friendly things to do, including beaches, biking, canoeing and waterskiing. Opportunities for walking and hiking abound, including a paved and accessible trail leading to the Hartwell Dam.
Lake Sinclair. Spend a weekend — or a week — on Lake Sinclair, located near 1-20 in Milledgeville. Little River Park and Scenic Mountain campgrounds have RV and pop-up camper sites, tent camping and cabin rentals. Explore the lake’s quiet coves in a canoe or kayak, float in a tube, rent a boat or go jet skiing. Hike or walk the nearby trails and enjoy the public fishing area and sandy beaches.
Lake Blackshear. Plan an upscale vacation at Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club, where you can rent a villa or cabin and enjoy golfing, restaurants and other amenities, or camp lakeside at Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park, with fishing, biking and hiking trails, water sports and sandy beaches. The park’s military museum pays tribute to veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present day.
Tubing and Rafting
Traveling by inner tube or raft is a great way to cool off in the summer. Enjoy an adventurous or relaxing day on the river at these spots.
Appalachian Outfitters. Meet at the Dahlonega outpost for a tube ride on the Chestatee River. A shuttle will take you to the start site for a 30-45 minute float. If you want to do the trip again, take a 10-minute walk back, or pay a $3 shuttle fee for each additional ride. You can also rent a canoe and kayak for trips on the Chestatee and Etowah Rivers.
Cool River Tubing. This tubing company sits right in the German-inspired town of Helen. After snaking down the Chattahoochee River on a one- or two-hour ride, explore the town and have a taste of German food. Along with tubing, their Aerial Adventure Park offers ziplines, aerial adventure courses and a climbing wall.
Toccoa River Tubing. This tubing adventure is worth the trip to the scenic Blue Ridge area. The Toccoa River is nestled in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains for a relaxing 1.5-mile trip.
Helen Water Park & Tubing. This family attraction in Helen offers a 2.5-hour tube ride from Highway 75 North to Edelweiss Strasse. At the end of your tubing trip, enjoy the full service restaurant and bar. While you’re there, enjoy the water park’s slides and activities.
Nantahala Outdoor Center. Plan an outdoor adventure with NOC. They offer whitewater rafting, tubing, ziplining, mountain biking and more. Head to Clayton for a 5-6 hour rafting trip, or float down the Chattahoochee River in a tube. Kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals and guided trips are also available; book tickets online.
Southeastern Expeditions. The beginner rafting trip includes incredible scenery and stretches of whitewater for an overall relaxing trip along the Chattooga River. Canoes and kayaks are also available, and you can learn paddling skills and techniques with clinics.
Whitewater Express. Head to Columbus for the RushSouth Whitewater Park on the Chattahoochee River, the longest urban whitewater rafting in the world. The Classic Trip is best for beginners, where rafters will take on Class 1-3 rapids on a two-hour trip. After, visit the Blue Heron Adventure Park for a ziplining adventure to Phenix City, Alabama.
A Taste of History
Georgia is rich in fascinating history! You don’t have to travel far from home to find heritage museums or historic landmarks that will appeal to the whole family.
Augusta Canal. Float through history on a guided tour of this historic canal, built in 1845, where you’ll see 18th-century textile mills and the Confederate Powder Works. See what it was like to be a canal worker during the immersive “Canal to Cloth” experience. The scenic towpath is a popular spot for walking and cycling.
Historic Westville. This living history museum explores 19th-century life in the South. Learn the history of the Muskogee Creek people that lived in the Chattahoochee Valley. In the historic village, tour authentic homes, shops and churches and hear from costumed interpreters.
William P. Wall Museum of Natural History at Georgia College. A great stop for science-loving kids, this museum holds one of the largest selections of fossils on display in the Southeast, covering the last 500 million years. It’s also home to a full-dome planetarium featuring state-of-the-art graphic projection, where you can see shows about astronomy and the night sky.
Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Site. This carefully preserved retreat was built in 1932 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who traveled to Warm Springs to treat his polio. Take a tour of the house, guest house, servants’ quarters and garage, then visit the Memorial Museum and Historic Pools. Picnic and enjoy scenic views at Dowdell’s Knob, visit the fish hatchery and stroll through the town of Warm Springs.
Coastal Georgia: Play in the Sand
Our state’s coastline and islands offer family fun for play in the sun and sand, historical exploration, interactive exhibits with animals, attractions and more.
Jekyll Island. Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which is actually a hospital for sick and injured turtles; check out exhibits about sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation and even adopt one and track its progress. Fish from the pier, bike the trail system, take a horse-drawn carriage in the National Historic District and get wet at the Summer Waves Water Park. Explore Driftwood Beach for a family photo op.
Cumberland Island. Ride the ferry to Cumberland Island and explore 18 miles of undeveloped beaches (pack a lunch as there are no concessions on the island.) Go see the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum and if your kids like submarines, the St. Marys Submarine Museum, with displays including a working periscope, models of torpedoes, a deep-sea diving suit and submarine uniforms. St. Marys Waterfront Park has a playground for kids.
St. Simons Island. Climb to the top of the St. Simons Lighthouse, and see as far as Jekyll Island, Brunswick and the south end of St. Simons. Stop by Christ Church, Frederica, one of Georgia’s oldest parishes, dating back to 1736. Watch for dolphins from the pier. Play in Neptune Park near Pier Village or go for a family bike ride around the island looking for tree spirits — kids love to find faces carved into the beautiful oak trees all over the island.
Tybee Island. Take an ecology tour with a marine biologist to examine tide pools, comb the beach and pull a net from the ocean to see cool marine life. At the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, go on a self-guided tour offering a behind-the-scenes view, observe underwater creatures and more. Catch the sunset at the Tybee Island Light Station, Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse. Families can climb 128 steps of the lighthouse tower to see the breathtaking views.
Glamping and More
Put a spin on camping in these interesting shelters and environments.
Nacoochee Adventures. Relax in the serenity of the forest in a red or green gypsy wagon or in a pioneer covered wagon.
Suwannee River Eco-Lodge. Located near the Okefenokee Swamp, this lodging site features eight cottages with kitchens, meeting space, a barbecue shelter and commercial kitchen.
Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge. The Len Foote Hike Inn is reached only by hiking a scenic five-mile trail through national forest. Meals are provided, so guests only carry their personal items.
Mistletoe State Park. This park has an all-wooden, rustic tent cabin that is 12’x24’, 8’ of which faces the Clarks Hill Lake.
Unicoi State Park & Lodge. Bring your hammock or a sleeping bag for a night under the stars at Squirrel’s Nest covered primitive camping platforms. This site also offers furnished Safari Tents for a glamping getaway.
Stay Dahlonega. Enjoy a treehouse escape with these three luxury, high-design experiences.
Historic Banning Mills. Stay in a cozy rendition of the Swiss Family Robinson’s rooms but with all of the modern conveniences with a Tree House Room.
Little Raccoon Key. Glamp on your own private island with this vacation including a solar-powered Luxury Canvas Tent.
A yurt is a covered, insulated and circular shelter. You can stay in one at these spots:
- Cloudland Canyon State Park
- Red Top Mountain State Park
- High Falls State Park
- Fort Yargo State Park
- Tugaloo State Park
- Skidaway Island State Park
- Sweetwater Creek State Park
- Stone Mountain Park
–Emily Webb and Mary Williams
Amanda Miller Allen and Elsa Simcik contributed to this story.