11 Georgia Outdoor Wonders Captured on the Big Screen
Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah
Made famous in the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," Bonaventure Cemetery is the eternal home of several noteworthy individuals, including Academy Award-winning lyricist Johnny Mercer; his uncle, Hugh W. Mercer, a Civil War Army officer and Confederate general; and novelist and poet Conrad Aiken. Located in Savannah on a scenic bluff east of the Wilmington River, the cemetery was originally established on Bonaventure Plantation in the late 1700s. The Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., with walking tours offered every second Sunday.
Chattooga River, Northeast Georgia Mountains
Local paddlers Claude Terry and Payson Kennedy knew the Chattooga River better than most in 1971 and became the main advisors and stunt men during the filming of "Deliverance." Standing in for Ned Beatty and Burt Reynolds, they spent many hours canoeing and swimming rapids. Following filming, Payson Kennedy opened the Nantahala Outdoor Center on the Nantahala River in Bryson City, N.C. The following year, he began running trips on the Chattooga, as well. Claude Terry bought the rafts and other river equipment from Warner Brothers and began running Southeastern Expeditions out of his home in Atlanta. Several years later, he opened an outpost in Clayton, one mile from the river. Today, three different outfitters — Southeastern Expeditions, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Wildwater Chattooga Adventure Center — all run professionally guided trips on the “Wild and Scenic” Chattooga River, one of the South’s most precious resources.
Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, Dahlonega
"Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" features Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega in the exterior scene in District 13 where Katniss and Gale encounter the elk while hunting. The Chestatee Wildlife Preserve is open every day and is home to a great variety of rescued animals: cockatoo, alligator, ball python, tortoise, bearded dragon, hedgehog, lions, tigers, leopards and more. Chestatee Wildlife Preserve is a Georgia 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation staffed by volunteers.
Chippewa Square, Savannah
The original bench Tom Hanks (as "Forrest Gump") rests on with his box of chocolates at the edge of Chippewa Square in Savannah now resides in the Savannah History Museum. But, the square remains a popular destination for visitors, both film and history buffs. There is seating and plenty of good shopping close by, so it's definitely worth a stop!
Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain is the world's largest piece of exposed granite, and it is the centerpiece of the 3,200-acre Stone Mountain Park. With miles of walking and jogging trails, a beach, golf, paddle boats, a train and much more, the park is a popular destination for families across the metro Atlanta area. In the 2007 film "Stomp the Yard," the crew runs up the mountain while training for the big dance competition. In the 1996 film "Fled," Stephen Baldwin and Lawrence Fishburne fight in the Summit Skyride buckets while riding to the top of the mountain. The TV pilot for JJ Abrams' "Revolution" also filmed in the park, as did "The Vampire Diaries" and feature film "The Killing Season."
Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville
Spectacular scenery and hiking trails make Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge in Dawsonville one of Georgia's most popular state parks. At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Visitors have choices on how to best view the tumbling waters, ranging from an accessible pathway to a challenging trail with staircases. An 8.5-mile trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. Numerous other trails provide shorter day hikes. A mountain-top lodge is popular, and the lobby area can be seen in the Robert Redford and Nick Nolte movie “A Walk in the Woods.” The park's Maple Restaurant is known for its spectacular views and Sunday brunch buffet. For those seeking adventure, a 5-mile hike leads to the Len Foote Hike Inn, Georgia's only backcountry lodge.
Berry College, Rome
Founded by Martha Berry in Rome in 1902, Berry College is the world's largest college campus and boasts historic buildings and homes of many architectural styles. Sites include one of the world's largest wooden overshot waterwheels, historic chapels and miles of mountain trails for hiking and biking. Several feature films, including "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Remember the Titans," were filmed on this magnificent campus. Campus is open daily during daylight hours.
Sweetwater Creek State Park, Lithia Springs
Sweetwater Creek State Park is just outside of Atlanta but an entire world away from the city. Georgia has beautiful creeks and shoals all over the place, but Sweetwater Creek is one of the few locations that also has the ruins of an old mill. The combination of these features made an excellent location to film scenes with Katniss and Gale out hunting in District 13 in the third installment of The Hunger Games series, “Mockingjay Part 1.”
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Folkston
Scenes in the 1971 film "Swamp Girl" were filmed in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston. The movie's depiction of the swamp doesn't match the refuge's perspective. Everyone at the time thought the swamp was scary, bad, dreary, full of alligators and snakes – and not what it actually is. It's beautiful out there. The Okefenokee Refuge is popular with paddlers, nature photographers, hunters and fishermen. Canoeists can follow water trails deep into the 354,000-acre wilderness, and visitors can tour a restored homestead to discover how “swampers” once made their home here.
Toccoa Falls College encompasses the whole of Toccoa Falls. This beautiful waterfall is 188 feet high and is commonly said to be the highest single drop waterfall east of the Mississippi, and is located only a few miles outside of downtown Toccoa. In 1977, torrential rains breached the Kelly Barnes Dam, sending a 30-foot wave of water through the campus and killing 39 people. The falls offer a reflection of both the beauty and the savagery of mother nature. Most recently, "Heritage Falls," which was shot entirely in Toccoa, used the falls in a scene.
Georgia's Tybee Island was the backdrop for Disney's 2009 movie “The Last Song,” which was based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. Many of the movie scenes are readily identifiable. Tybee Island is a barrier island on the Georgia coast, 20 minutes east of Savannah. Offering a relaxed lifestyle within an unspoiled habitat, Tybee has miles of beaches, salt marshes, and other natural resources and wildlife to explore, including sea turtles, endangered birds and nature trails for hiking. History and culture buffs will enjoy Fort Screven, Fort Pulaski, the Tybee Lighthouse and Museum, Cockspur Lighthouse, and nearby Savannah. There is also the Marine Science Center, Tybee Pier & Pavilion and Little Tybee Island.