Georgia's Antebellum Trail of Historic Towns

From rolling hills and pastures to striking pre-Civil War homes, the Old South comes alive along the Antebellum Trail.

Antebellum Trail Bicycle Route

Antebellum Trail Bicycle Route

Meandering through the rich red clay of Georgia’s heartland, the Antebellum Trail traces towns that remarkably escaped the wrath of Union General Sherman during his March to the Sea.

The journey down the Antebellum Trail leads more than 100 miles, to a time and place far away — to the genteel, slow-moving Old South.

Athens

T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens
T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens

Languishing in the shadows of the Blue Ridge, Athens is the gatekeeper for the trail and is filled with antebellum architectural gemstones, including the T.R.R. Cobb House and The Taylor-Grady House.

Downtown pops with snazzy restaurants, so try grits, fried chicken and barbecue. Sleep at the Graduate Athens for stylish elegance. Don’t miss the State Botanical Garden of Georgia with its five miles of verdant trails.

Watkinsville

Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville
Eagle Tavern in Watkinsville

Just below Athens is Watkinsville, a quiet town that’s home to the Eagle Tavern Museum, one of Oconee County’s earliest surviving structures, and Elder Mill Covered Bridge, perched over rumbling Big Rose Creek.

Feast at Chops and Hops or Hot Thomas BBQ for regional fare. The Ashford Manor Bed and Breakfast beckons in the heart of downtown. Don’t miss the Haygood House and Chappelle Gallery showcasing local and national artists.

Madison

Heritage Hall in Madison
Heritage Hall in Madison

Myriad legends explain why Madison, the next stop, survived Sherman’s march; one is that it was simply too beautiful to burn. Madison stuns with its array of antebellum homes, tree-lined streets and rows of columns.

Heritage Hall is an excellent place to begin discovering Madison. Dive into Town 220 for steaks and seafood, and also stay at one of several inns, including the The Farmhouse Inn.

Don’t miss a leisurely stroll through the historic district, which is drizzled with dogwoods and oaks.

Milledgeville

Antebellum Inn in Milledgeville
Antebellum Inn in Milledgeville

Farther south is Milledgeville, once Georgia’s capital. The best way to see the old city is by trolley, where you’ll stop at Lockerly Arboretum and St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Afterward, see Flannery O'Connor's Andalusia Farm.

Milledgeville is filled with great restaurants like The Brick and Aubri Lane's.

Stay at the Antebellum Inn for its gourmet breakfasts. Don’t miss the stately Old Governor's Mansion, home to Georgia’s governors from 1839 until 1868.

Eatonton

Jarrell Plantation
Jarrell Plantation

Eatonton’s shaded streets showcase antebellum homes. After a walking tour, savor the shrimp and grits at Smith's Coastal Grill before staying at The Lodge at Lake Oconee. Don’t miss the Uncle Remus Museum for tales of B’rer Rabbit.

Passing through Jones County, visit Jarrell Plantation, once a working cotton plantation, and Old Clinton, once a bustling frontier town.

Macon

1842 Inn in Macon
1842 Inn in Macon

Close out the journey in Macon, which enchants with historical architecture like the Hay House and Sidney Lanier Cottage. In spring, clouds of pink blossoms from thousands of cherry trees cloak the city.

From soul food to gourmet, Macon pleases the palette.

The 1842 Inn, in the historic district, commands attention with wide verandahs.

Macon’s don’t-miss list is extensive but includes Rose Hill Cemetery and the Ocmulgee National Monument for Native American history.

Published: April 2014