Elohee in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland
When Eve Cook was battling an aggressive cancer in her mid-30s, she escaped to her family’s plot of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia and watched her health mirror the seasons: first barren, then bursting with life. She now runs Elohee, a retreat center on that land, near Helen and the artsy town of Sautee Nacoochee. Elohee’s upscale cottages and meeting spaces welcome visitors for meditation, yoga, art, empowerment, worship (all faiths welcome), and restorative rambles among ferns and hemlocks.
Browse Elohee’s retreat lineup to plan a getaway that focuses on rest and relaxation, mindfulness, yoga, empowerment and much more. While you’re there, explore more than two miles of trails through diverse ecosystems, featuring a more than 400-year-old Grand Hemlock and a 100-foot waterfall. Be sure to carve out time to treat yourself to a massage or Reiki session during your stay.
A stroll around the community of Serenbe reveals free-roaming sheep, miles of wooded footpaths, blueberry bushes planted along sidewalks for easy foraging, and a farm that fuels local restaurants and a CSA. The wellness community, located on the outskirts of Atlanta, is designed to connect humans with nature, and visitors can embrace that intention with horseback trail rides, yoga classes, and visits to the weekly farmers market. Rent a house, stay in the gorgeous Inn at Serenbe, recharge at a brand-new retreat center, or attend events like wine dinners in the garden.
Plan your getaway around Serenbe’s event calendar, which includes a variety of activities, such as goat yoga, wellness retreats, dinners with renowned chefs and more. Enjoy exploring boutique shops like The Ballog, General Store, and Hills & Hamlets Bookshop while you sip coffee and nibble on baked goods from Blue Eyed Daisy Bakeshop. Chat with residents about the unique retreat-like community thriving just minutes from downtown Atlanta.
Oyster Fine Bamboo Fly Rods
Coming home with an heirloom-quality fly rod is just a perk of Bill Oyster’s rod-making classes, which the celebrated craftsman holds 22 weeks a year at his Blue Ridge studio in the North Georgia mountains. The real reward is six days of laser-focused, leave-it-all-behind handiwork, starting with splitting and shaping raw bamboo into a hexagonal rod. The work is so engrossing, says Oyster, students often need to be coaxed to stop for lunch. Sessions sell out more than a year ahead (though you can join a waitlist and hope for a cancellation) and conveniently end on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for losing oneself on a nearby trout stream.
Plan to stay in town a few extra days to try out your new rod. Join trips with fishing guides in Blue Ridge, such as Cohutta Fishing Company, located next door to Oyster’s shop. Enjoy great food and drinks at downtown restaurants and local breweries. And, be sure to return in April for the Blue Ridge Trout & Outdoor Adventures Festival.
Stephen C. Foster State Park
You hear the swamp in the grunts of pig frogs and gurgling hoots of barred owls, but you don’t see it. A flashlight might reveal the red eyes of a gator, but you’re safe on land, at a clearing where the main road ends and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge takes over. The tiny town of Fargo in south Georgia is home to one of only two Gold-Tier International Dark Sky parks on the East Coast, where visitors can stay overnight at an on-site cottage or campsite.
Pack a folding chair and gaze into space for breathtaking views of the Milky Way, streaking meteors, and the show-stealing clutter of a thousand stars. When the sun rises, enjoy hiking, biking, and fishing, and be sure to explore the rest of the park with a guided boat tour around the swamp.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit
A deer inclines its head in the pine forest as a bell tolls, breaking the silence that is a way of life in this monastic enclave in Conyers, located less than 30 miles from Atlanta. Atop a hill dotted with chestnut trees, the noon sun streams through stained glass, bathing the Gothic archways of the abbey church in twilight blue.
Twenty-eight Trappist monks call this place home, but day-trippers are welcome to picnic by the duck pond, browse the museum and gift shop (the brothers make a heavenly biscotti), sign up for a retreat, or simply observe a moment of contemplation in the sanctuary. An on-site retreat center allows for longer stays centered on prayer and personal growth.
Little St. Simons
The ferry ride to Little St. Simons from Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island is just 10 minutes, but it’s enough time to shake off civilization. Instead of beachfront condos, you’ll stay at The Lodge on Little St. Simons, with only 16 guest rooms on 11,000 wild acres. Instead of shopping centers and golf courses, you’ll get to explore raised bird blinds over the salt marsh and dirt bike paths under live oaks.
Exclusivity at this eco-resort on the Georgia coast comes from privacy, and “all-inclusive” means locally sourced meals shared with fellow guests and a team of naturalists to take you fishing, kayaking, and turtle-spotting. The well-appointed rooms feature high-quality amenities but no telephones or TVs, and cell service and Wi-Fi might be limited. Be ready to immerse yourself in the natural environment. It’s island life in the most immersive way.
River Trail at Hundred Acre Farm
This mile-long trail at The Farmhouse Inn in Madison, located midway between Atlanta and Augusta, is not meant for hiking but for paying attention: to deep rifts marking a creek’s journey to the Oconee River, the contorted stems of a Flying Dragon citrus tree, the stretch and snap of a spiderweb on your skin. Numbered signs mark meditative stopping places, a product of the trail’s certification with the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy, the first such designation in the United States. Similar trails abound in Japan and Korea, where scientists study trees’ tangible benefits to human health (like the release of compounds called phytoncides that enhance our immune function). To get your dose, book a stay at the newly renovated inn, or call to reserve a day trip.