Fitzpatrick Hotel in downtown Washington, Georgia. Photo by Chris Greer
9 Small Towns Dripping with Georgia Charm
These delightful destinations are some of the most charming small towns in the country.
The Peach State is home to bustling cities, but it's also filled with some of the most charming and bucolic small towns in the country. From Georgia's own Boston to the hometown of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Plains, these delightful destinations offer the best of two worlds, taking visitors back in time while featuring up-to-the-minute amenities.
Drive along streets lined with picture-perfect historic homes in Madison, and visit an organic farm in an environmentally friendly planned community in Chattahoochee Hills. Explore the oldest English fort on the Georgia coast in Darien, and embark on outdoor adventures from Royston.
Treasures like those and many more can be found throughout Georgia's small towns. Start exploring with this list of nine towns that are worth a detour.
Home to the University of Georgia, the Classic City was named the South's Best College Town by Southern Living in 2020. As a college town, Athens has an abundance of free and cheap attractions. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a 300-acre site with numerous display gardens and miles of nature trails. Walk around town and find the landmarks that have made Athens the music mecca it is today.
Grab a bite at the outpost of The Varsity, the famous Atlanta-based drive-in, for hot dogs and hamburgers with frozen drinks. Mama's Boy is open for breakfast, lunch, and brunch, known for its Georgia peach French toast. Set in a former grocery store, White Tiger Gourmet has popular barbecue sandwiches and daily specials.
Stay the night at the Graduate Athens, located right outside of campus with an in-house spa, coffee shop, music venue, and decor inspired by its college town surroundings. The Hotel Indigo Athens is another favorite, inspired by the area's covered bridges.
Find more things to do in the Guide to Athens.
Once a tiny stagecoach stop in southwest Georgia, Boston is the smallest town in the country with a Carnegie Library — the Boston Carnegie Library, built in 1913. Located on the town’s recently revitalized Main Street, the library is just one of many attractions that make Boston’s 1,315 residents proud.
Antique stores abound, and restaurants, including Boston Main Street Cafe, serve up delicious fare with a side of Southern hospitality.
And for those with a sweet tooth, the renowned, family-owned Dillon Candy Company has offered a wide variety of gourmet brittles and specialty nut confections for 90 years.
Northwest Georgia's Cave Spring, a city of 1,161 residents, is best known for one thing: water. It's not just any water, though — folks say it's the purest, best-tasting water around. Found in the 57-degree limestone Cave at Rolater Park, the water comes from a spring that produces 2 million gallons per day and overflows into a reflecting pond and shallow stream.
And the water is not just for drinking; it also feeds into Rolater Lake, a community swimming pool shaped like the state of Georgia.
Rolater Park is located just off the revitalized village square, known as Veterans Plaza, which is home to charming shops like the Peddler, which sells home decor such as oil paintings, lamps, and prints.
Adventurers will enjoy exploring the multi-use Georgia Pinhoti Trail System, which connects long-distance trails in Alabama to the Appalachian Trail.
Located less than 35 miles southwest of Atlanta, Chattahoochee Hills is one of the metro area's newest cities, incorporated in December 2007 and home to more than 2,200 residents. Chattahoochee Hills comprises 40,000 protected acres of rural land that are being developed slowly using environmentally sound practices.
At the heart of this development is Serenbe, a 1,000-acre community with four hamlets; each hamlet features EarthCraft and LEED-certified homes, as well as commercial centers offering shopping and dining, cultural events, and health and wellness activities.
It's also home to Serenbe Farms, a source for local organic food, that was named as one of the Best Farms in Every State by Food & Wine in 2020.
Once a great port, Darien is now a quiet fishing town of 1,880 people situated 50 miles south of Savannah. Oglethorpe-designed squares, framed by stately churches and historic homes, welcome visitors to the second-oldest planned city in Georgia.
Explore Darien's significant history at Fort King George Historic Site, home to the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia's coast, and the Burning of Darien Museum, describing the epic events featured in the movie "Glory."
Stop by the Old Jail Art Center for more history and works by local artists, browse the specialty shops, or tour nearby Ashantilly to learn about cotton plantations and printmaking.
At the end of the day, dine on local shrimp at Skippers' Fish Camp, relax on a wine cruise, or take a sunset stroll along Darien Waterfront Park; all offer gorgeous views of the river. Those who visit in April can enjoy the popular Blessing of the Fleet Festival.
It's the town General Sherman considered too pretty to burn, and has even been named one of the South's Prettiest Towns by Southern Living. Madison in east Georgia is home to beautiful historic residences, a picturesque downtown square, and nearly 4,000 residents.
Madison's antebellum homes, which comprise one of the state's largest designated National Register of Historic Districts, draw visitors from around the world. Each year, the city hosts the Madison in May Tour of Homes and Gardens, which includes such historic residences as the Honeymoon 1851 Mansion and Serenata Farm. The annual Holiday Home Tour is equally popular.
Daily tours also are available at Heritage Hall, a Greek Revival home that was built in 1811, and the Rogers House & Rose Cottage, the latter of which was built by a former enslaved woman in 1891. Additionally, exhibits referencing Madison's rich history and cultural arts can be found at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, which is housed in a restored 1895 Romanesque Revival building that once was the first graded public schoolhouse in the Southeast.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is proud of his southwest Georgia hometown of Plains, and it's easy to understand why. The rural town, which is home to 755 residents, maintains the same charm it had when the 39th president was just a boy.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have been involved in the revitalization of downtown Plains, helping to develop the Plains Historic Inn & Antiques Mall located on Main Street. Offering seven suites — each themed after one of the decades between the 1920s and the 1980s — the Historic Inn serves as the heartbeat of the reinvigorated city.
Visitors can grab a cone of peanut ice cream from Bobby Salter's Plain Peanuts on Main Street or pay a visit to the 13-foot-tall Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue, one of the best roadside attractions around.
At the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, you'll find three National Park areas: the Boyhood Farm in the nearby unincorporated community of Archery, which offers a look at Carter’s childhood home; Plains High School, which serves as a visitor center and museum about Carter's life and accomplishments; and the Plains Depot, now a self-guided museum focusing on Carter's 1976 presidential campaign.
Located in the foothills of the Northeast Georgia Mountains, Royston, population 2,574, is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. One of its key attractions is Victoria Bryant State Park, with 502 acres of rolling hills and breathtaking scenery, including a winding stream, eight miles of hiking and biking trails, and two fishing ponds. Also nestled within the park is the challenging 18-hole Highland Walk Golf Course.
Disc golfers can enjoy a nine-hole course at Royston Wellness and Community Park, a 43-acre development with walking trails and several fitness stations.
For visitors who love America’s favorite outdoor pastime, the Ty Cobb Museum is a must-see, honoring the memory of the greatest baseball hitter of all time with photographs and artifacts from a legendary career.
With the largest number of antebellum homes in Georgia (more than 100), Washington is replete with Southern charm. Its 4,042 residents welcome visitors year-round to explore the historic residences and buildings that are synonymous with this east Georgia town.
Miss Fanny's Tours takes participants on entertaining two-hour tours of more than 50 historic homes, while the Washington-Wilkes Tour of Homes, held twice annually, features select private homes from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Robert Toombs House, once owned by the U.S. senator and legendary secessionist, reveals the city's significance during Civil War times.
And 12 miles from downtown sits Kettle Creek Battlefield, the site of one of the Revolutionary War's most important battles.
After a full day of exploring, treat yourself to an old-fashioned cherry Coke at Fievet Pharmacy's popular soda fountain in the historic downtown square.