Zip line over Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Zip line over Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

5 Best Towns for Active Family Getaways in Georgia

Head to these outdoor adventure towns for amazing hiking, biking, paddling and more.

From riverside cities on the Alabama border to tiny towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia’s varied terrain offers a range of picturesque outdoor settings ideal for fun, family-friendly getaways. Whether you want to zip line across the Chattahoochee River, mountain bike on technical single-track, or enjoy a scenic lakeside picnic or swim, these five destinations are must-visits for adventure-seekers and naturalists alike.

Jump to: Clarkesville | Rome | Woodstock | Columbus | Milledgeville


 

Clarkesville

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Clarkesville is small in size, but big on fun.

Sunburst Adventures
Sunburst Adventures
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Head to Lake Burton: its 62 miles of coastline make it the largest lake in North Georgia. Rent a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard at Moccasin Creek State Park. For beach access, head to the white sandy shores of Timpson Cove Beach for a swim or a picnic. At nearby LaPrade’s Marina on Lake Burton, rent a boat, book a guided fishing trip, eat at one of four restaurants, or kick back with a drink and enjoy live music.

Just past the marina, Wildcat Road offers excellent gravel bike riding. Head west and make a stop at Wildcat Creek Sliding Rock to cool off.

At Sunburst Adventures, ride horses, take an ATV tour, or experience the park’s main attraction: a nearly two-mile zip line course through ridgeline tree canopy. Other area highlights include fly fishing on the Soque River at Brigadoon Lodge, renowned by anglers from around the world for its tranquil setting, pristine waters, and stream-raised, trophy-sized trout.

Tiny cabin at Bleu Canoe in Clarkesville, Georgia
Bleu Canoe in Clarkesville, Georgia
Stay & Eat

For a laid-back home base, opt for the Bleu Canoe, a 23-acre campground with tiny home RV and historic, pet-friendly fish camp cabins for rent. Each property includes charcoal grills, linens and toiletries, mini fridges and microwaves, communal seating and fire pits, free WiFi, and complimentary, pre-stocked continental breakfast. With yard games like cornhole and badminton, hiking trails, a stargazing field, and an onsite restaurant serving Cajun-inspired favorites such as jambalaya and crawfish etouffee, you don’t even need to leave the property to enjoy the great outdoors.

Or, you might like to stay at the elegant Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and decorated with locally made furniture, antiques, and luxury linens. Glen-Ella’s on-site restaurant has been recognized as one of the top dining destinations in Georgia, as well as one of the best Clarkesville restaurants.

Visit Clarkesville


Paddleboarding in Rome, Georgia

Rome

Like its Italian namesake, Rome, Georgia, is perched on seven hills. The largest city in Northwest Georgia also has three rivers, making it ideal for an outdoor, adventure-packed getaway.

Biking at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Photo by @lookout_photo
Biking at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Photo by @lookout_photo
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Your first stop? The Downtown Heritage Trail network, with nearly 17 miles of trails that wind through downtown and other points of interest, including Berry College and Heritage and Riverview Parks.

While at Berry College, pedal, run, or walk the paved, three-mile Viking Trail, which connects the college’s main and mountain campuses, or take a walking tour of the arboretum, with more than 100 species of trees. Don’t forget to snap that perfect Instagram photo at the college’s iconic old mill wheel.

Rent a stand-up paddleboard or river raft, or book a guided excursion with River Dog Outpost to explore the area’s rivers. Then, settle into the company’s beer garden for local brews and riverfront views, plus outdoor fitness classes, live music, and other special seasonal events.

Outdoor seating at River Dog Outpost in Rome, Georgia
River Dog Outpost in Rome, Georgia
Eat

Fuel up for your adventures with food at Schroeder’s New Deli, which serves up classic sandwiches like the Reuben and the French dip alongside family favorites like pizzas, calzones, nachos, wings, and salads.

Head to Harvest Moon Cafe for burgers, salads, sandwiches, and Southern-style dishes like the Soul Rolls, sauteed collard greens, hickory smoked bacon, apples, and honey chipotle sauce wrapped in a crispy wonton.

Finally, Jamwich offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and chili bowls using ingredients from local farms and garnished with house-made jams and jellies.

Stay

Stay at either the pet-friendly Courtyard Rome Riverwalk or the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Rome, both of which offer free bike shares to pedal around the city’s many paths and trails.

Visit Rome


Old Rope Mil Park
Old Rope Mil Park

Woodstock

Just 30 miles north of Atlanta, Woodstock is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

Mountain biking at Rope Mill Park in Woodstock, Georgia
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Cycle the Taylor Randahl MTB Trails at Old Rope Mill Park, which offer everything from advanced terrain for experienced mountain bikers to paved, flat paths like the Raceway, ideal for beginners and families with small children.

For an easy day hike, opt for the Old Rope Mill Little River trail, a two-mile out-and-back path that winds along the river and features scenic mill ruins, rapids, and an old train trestle. Located one exit up from Old Rope Mill Park, Blanket’s Creek MTB network of trails offer additional miles of cycling and mountain biking, including the beginner-friendly four-mile Mosquito Flats and Mosquito Bite Loop. Directions for cyclists and walkers switch daily, so be mindful of posted signs.

More into water sports? Call Murph’s Surf for kayak delivery to the park’s boat launch and paddle to the Creek waterfall or on to Little River Marina on Lake Allatoona and back. Murph’s will pick up kayaks and even shuttle you back to the park if you paddled too far.

Reformation Brewery in Woodstock
Reformation Brewery in Woodstock
Eat

At the end of the day, wind down with local craft beer, dinner from food trucks, and live music on the shaded patio at Reformation Brewery downtown. Fans of “Ozark” will want to check out J.D.’s on the Lake (Blue Cat Lodge in the TV show). Or, sip a cocktail or organic wine while snacking on house-made pimento cheese, tapas plates, or cheese and charcuterie while listening to live music under the stars at Rootstock’s Vintners Rooftop.

Stay

Wind down for the night at the Holiday Inn Express, which has a bike wash station for guests and is close to the city’s trails and entertainment district. Or stay at the centrally located Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, or Comfort Inn.

Visit Woodstock


Columbus, Georgia, Riverwalk

Columbus

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Explore this riverfront city on the Alabama border via the Dragonfly Trails Network, a 34-mile greenway that connects into several other trails, including the RiverWalk, the Fall Line Trace Rail Trail, and Flat Rock MTB park. Bring your own bike or rent one from Ride-On bikes, or enjoy a stroll while exploring the city’s many museums and points of interest, including the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and the Columbus Museum.

Located in the heart of downtown Columbus, the Chattahoochee Whitewater Park is the largest urban whitewater course in the world, with a 2.5-mile stretch of rapids. Book a beginner-friendly guided whitewater rafting tour with Whitewater Express, which also offers kayak, raft, and bike rentals. For a bird’s eye view of the river, take an aerial tour with Blue Heron Adventure and zip across the Chattahoochee River to Phenix City, Alabama, and back again at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour.

Southern Caprese at 11th and Bay in Columbus, Georgia
Southern Caprese at 11th and Bay
Eat

Dine with a riverside view at 11th and Bay, which serves seasonal, Southern-inspired dishes such as smoked oysters, shrimp and grits, and scallops with celery root puree, seasonal greens, Shitake, bacon, and beetroot relish. Or enjoy dinner at EPIC, an intimate, upscale spot with four- and five-course tasting menus with options ranging from a pecan and mustard pork loin to blackened redfish, plus an extensive wine list.

Or pedal to Nonic Beer Bar & Kitchen, just one block off the Riverwalk. Rack your bikes inside and grab a table outside for a burger, fries, and local beers.

Rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo in Columbus, Georgia
Rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo in Columbus, Georgia
Stay

Rest up for another day of adventures at either the Hotel Indigo and Marriott Courtyard, both within steps of the city’s trails.

Visit Columbus


Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Milledgeville

Bordered by the Oconee River and home to the 15,300-acre Lake Sinclair, this middle Georgia town is a go-to spot for water sports enthusiasts.

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Rent a boat or jet ski from Sinclair Marina, Twin Lakes Jet Ski, or Jere-Shai Lakeside, or head to the Lake Sinclair Recreation Area for beachfront access, boat launches, fishing piers, picnicking spots, and overnight campsites. Float, paddle, or kayak along the river with rentals from local outfitters including Oconee Outfitters, Krazy Dave's or Mac's Yak Kayak Rental.

Prefer to stay on dry land? Walk or pedal along the river on the three-mile, paved Oconee Greenway, or go hiking or cycling at Bartram Forest WMA, a wooded preserve with miles of trails ranging from gentle, beginner-friendly routes to advanced, technical single-track. At Lockerly Arboretum, stroll through 50 scenic acres of gardens with camellias and azaleas, oaks, magnolias, hardwoods, and wildflowers.

Aubri Lane's at the Club in Milledgeville, Georgia
Aubri Lane's at the Club in Milledgeville, Georgia
Eat

Pack provisions like coffee and pastries from Blackbird Coffee. Or, get wings, power bowls, or a seafood basket from Pickle Barrel Café & Sports Pub and settle in by the shady pond for a picnic.

Other food options include Bollywood Tacos, which offers a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and other Tex-Mex specialties. Aubri Lane’s at the Club has a menu of appetizers (think pimento cheese and crispy calamari), soups and salads, pastas, and hearty Southern main plates like pecan-crusted Carolina trout, a smoked brisket sandwich, and boneless buttermilk chicken.

Stay

Book a rustic cabin, charming cottage, or other waterfront retreat with Lakeside vacation rentals. For a more traditional hotel experience, opt for the conveniently located Holiday Inn Express & Suites, La Quinta Inn & Suites, or the Comfort Suites.

Visit Milledgeville


 

Published: June 2021
Written by: Laura Scholz