It’s a fast-growing, rapidly changing state, but one that’s maintained the charm and style of the old south. Georgia boasts everything from beautiful beaches and coastline to soaring Appalachian Mountains. Join us as we hit the road and explore the seven best small towns in Georgia.
The 7 Best Small Towns in Georgia
While these towns may not be as big or well known as Atlanta or Savannah, they have just as much charm and style and plenty of fun things to do and see. Let’s take a closer look.
#1. Blue Ridge
About Blue Ridge, GA: About 90 miles north of Atlanta, Blue Ridge came to be in the late 19th century thanks to the railroad. The Marietta and North Georgia Railroad put the mountain town on the map, but Blue Ridge didn’t stay a tiny whistle-stop for long. Instead, it became known as a high-end health-focused resort, thanks to the pure mineral spring waters that flowed from the ground nearby. Today, the small town boasts a variety of shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation.
Things to Do in Blue Ridge: Railroads helped make Blue Ridge, and they’re still a major attraction. Hop on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for a four-hour round trip ride along the Toccoa River. You’ll get to hop off and experience other small towns like McCaysville, Ga., and Copperhill, Tenn. Throughout the area, you’ll have opportunities for scenic drives, hikes, fishing, and water sports. In Blue Ridge itself, you’ll enjoy quaint antique shops and a variety of fine dining. Add in a thriving arts scene, and you’ll likely have more things to do than time.
What Makes Blue Ridge Special: Blue Ridge offers a great view back into the history of small towns in Georgia. You’ll have the unique opportunity to explore the region by train, allowing you to leave the car behind and truly immerse yourself in the journey. It’s also a perfect home base for exploring the mountains and other scenery of northern Georgia.
About Helen, GA: Take an authentic trip to Germany without ever leaving Georgia’s borders in the northern town of Helen. Home to just under 600 residents, it’s nevertheless the third most visited city in the entire state. Once you see it, you’ll understand why. Bavarian-style buildings fill the entirety of the town (it’s the law), creating a whimsical and one-of-a-kind atmosphere. It’s also ideally located for exploring the varied landscapes of northern Georgia.
Things to Do in Helen: Visitors come from far and wide to see this little slice of Europe nestled in northeastern Georgia. Stroll the streets and take in the unique buildings. Also, check out Charlemagne’s Kingdom, the world’s largest alpine model railroad museum. The outdoor activities in the area also draw many visitors. Anna Ruby Falls and Unicoi State Park are can’t-miss spots. Visit in the fall for the town’s famous Oktoberfest or the beautiful changing leaves.
What Makes Helen Special: Helen is a fascinating story about how a town can remake itself and begin thriving. Between the fantastic architecture and scenery and tons of outdoor activities, it’s an experience you won’t find in many other places.
#3. Tybee Island
About Tybee Island, GA: Tybee Island is a small barrier island located along Georgia’s northeastern tip, just outside Savannah. Since its discovery by European explorers more than 400 years ago, it’s played a crucial role in Georgia history. It was the scene of Revolutionary and Civil War action. Later, Tybee Island became a popular vacation destination for Savannah residents looking to escape the summer heat. It remains a major tourist destination today.
Things to Do in Tybee Island: The beaches are the main attraction here, and with good reason. The small island is home to more than three miles of beaches, each with different moods and styles. There are also great activities for history lovers who can visit Tybee Island’s historic lighthouse or Fort Pulaski. Those looking to get outdoors will love Tybee’s easy fishing access or a cruise around the neighboring Little Tybee Island. The island is also home to extensive shopping and dining options.
What Makes Tybee Island Special: This unique beach town combines history, culture, and excellent outdoor recreation opportunities, all just a short drive from Savannah. As one of Georgia’s more accessible barrier islands, it makes a great day trip from the city or an adventure on its own.
About Dahlonega, GA: Feeling lucky? Take a trip to Dahlonega, nestled in the mountains of northern Georgia. It was the site of one of the nation’s first gold discoveries, predating California’s famous gold rush by about two decades. It was so popular with miners that it even housed a now-closed branch of the U.S. Mint. Dahlonega has become a popular tourist destination and regional wine center in more recent years, with tasting rooms showcasing Georgia’s best wines.
Things to Do in Dahlonega: Wine lovers should check out one or more of the numerous tasting rooms around town. Or drive the Dahlonega Wine Trail to visit vineyards throughout the area. The town is also a great hub for exploring the outdoors, including via hiking, horseback riding, tubing, and more. You can even get in touch with Dahlonega’s history and do some panning for gold.
What Makes Dahlonega Special: Dahlonega offers something for everyone, whether you’re a history lover or an outdoor junkie. It’s also a perfect spot to learn more about Georgia’s growing wine scene and try a variety of different vineyards.
About Athens, GA: For one of the liveliest small towns in Georgia (and the one that’s possibly had the biggest impact on the rest of the world), head to Athens. The town may be best known as the home of the University of Georgia. The school provides an influx of new residents every year and draws tens of thousands on football Saturdays in the fall. This bustling college town is also home to an eclectic art and music scene that’s produced well-known bands like R.E.M., The B-52s, Drive-By Truckers, and Neutral Milk Hotel.
Things to Do in Athens: Many of the attractions in Athens revolve around the University of Georgia. It’s worth checking out the school’s sprawling campus. Sports fans will love getting a peek at Sanford Stadium, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. Art lovers can check out the Georgia Museum of Art. You can also explore the 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Athens also has a thriving downtown with extensive dining and shopping options, in addition to art galleries and local businesses. For more outdoor fun and a day at the beach, check out Sandy Creek Park a bit north of the city.
What Makes Athens Special: Few other towns in Georgia (or anywhere else, for that matter) boast the unique combination of small-town intimacy, college-town energy, and art. Plus, with proximity to both Atlanta and the more rural, mountainous areas of the state, it offers an ideal location.
About Washington, GA: It may not look like it, but little Washington, Ga., is a history lover’s dream. During the Revolutionary War, armies fought the Battle of Kettle Creek just a few miles away. The town also claims to be the first in the entire country to name itself after our first president. Decades later, Washington was the site of the last meeting of the Confederate government at the end of the Civil War.
Things to Do in Washington: Most of the attractions in Washington revolve around the numerous historical sites in the area. The Kettle Creek Battlefield is just a few minute’s drive out of town, where you can take a self-guided tour of this critical battle. The Washington-Wilkes Historical Foundation also operates a variety of sites, including the Historical Museum, the Callaway Plantation, and the Robert Toombs House.
What Makes Washington Special: Washington may not be well known, but this small town set between Athens and Augusta can provide an amazing look into several eras of America’s past.
About Darien, GA: Enjoy beautiful coastal scenery and fascinating American history in tiny Darien, Ga. One of the oldest towns in Georgia, Darien has stood for nearly 300 years and was once one of the top ports on the east coast. Darien is also home to rich antebellum and Civil War history. The town is also the gateway to a huge swath of rivers, islands, marshlands, and other distinctive coastal habitats.
Things to Do in Darien: Start exploring Darien by taking a trip back in time to the early 18th century, when Fort King George was established. Explore this reconstructed settlement, which once served as the southernmost outpost of the British Empire in the Americas. You can also visit the infamous Butler Island Plantation just south of town. Here, a British author’s description of the lives of slaves may have turned England against the Confederacy. Get in touch with the area’s natural beauty at nearby Sapelo Island. This protected land is dedicated to research and education and offers tours and a visitors center. You can also simply enjoy the views from the downtown Waterfront Park.
Traveler’s Tip: We’ve already planned out how to spend a delightful day in Darien, check it out!
What Makes Darien Special: It’s hard to find small towns in Georgia with as much historic character and natural beauty as Darien. Whether you prefer exploring the past or nature, you’ll find something for everyone you’re traveling with.
While Atlanta and Savannah may get most of the hype, there are some truly amazing and diverse small towns in Georgia that are worth a visit. From the beach to the mountains, from wine hubs to college towns, and from unique German-style to original American history, you can find it all in the Peach State. The hardest part may be picking which one you’ll visit next. Where are you hoping to go?