Hogpen Gap on the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. Photo by @trevorjonesphoto

Fill your Georgia road trip with amazing views like Hogpen Gap on the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. Photo by @trevorjonesphoto

Discover the Hidden Gems off Georgia's Scenic Byways

Take these scenic routes in Georgia and make time to stop for great local food, shopping and activities along the way.

Georgia's Scenic Byways are more than just state routes with captivating picturesque landscapes. Many of these roadways have been used by the traveling public for a long, long time and hold historic significance, as well as a glimpse of Georgia's diverse natural beauty.

However, the best part of getting off the beaten path is discovering the hidden gems, the locals-only places that travelers crave but tourists just blow past without notice. For that, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) looked to our statewide districts to help us find the little-known treasures that take an ordinary scenic drive into a truly extraordinary adventure into Georgia culture. Here are 25 road trip stops along six of Georgia's scenic byways.

Shrimp boats on the river in Darien, Georgia
Stroll along the riverfront in Darien, Georgia

Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway

Following State Route 99 and US 17 in southeast Georgia, the Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway runs for 17 miles through McIntosh and Glynn counties. Start in Meridian and plan to stop in the City of Darien to stretch your legs at the Sapelo Island Visitor's Center. Sapelo Island is only reached by ferry, so that isn't on the itinerary, but after viewing the visitor center exhibits, you're sure to put this unique coastal island on your bucket list. Walk the 1.1-mile loop for a little exercise before heading to Darien for some history and a first-class meal.

If you are traveling with kids, or kids at heart, visit Fort King George in Darien, the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia's coast. The small museum is very well done, but the real fun is outside in the reconstructed fort that includes a blockhouse, officer's quarters, a guardhouse, moat and palisades. Kids will especially like the blockhouse with its gun ports, musket loopholes, and climbing through "secret doors" in the flooring, or hiding in the corner sentry boxes of the fortress and pretending to load and fire.

Fort King George Historic Site in Darien, Georgia
Fort King George Historic Site in Darien, Georgia

After the battle, head into downtown Darien for some delicious shrimp right off the boat at Skipper's Fish Camp. The shrimp boats are literally docked next to the restaurant. Another choice is the Waterfront Wine and Gourmet, a charming locally owned wine and cheese shop. Grab a delicious charcuterie and your favorite bottle to go.

Scenic view of Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Georgia. Photo by @carlosphotography
Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Georgia. Photo by @carlosphotography

Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway

There are lots of unusual adventures along this 54-mile route in North Georgia. In the warmer months, get off the beaten path for snorkeling in the Conasauga River. Yes, snorkeling. Located off Old Hwy 2, this river is home to 70 different species of fish and is one of the most biodiverse river basins in the world.

End your day with any number of different hikes at the beautiful Fort Mountain State Park. History buffs will be intrigued by the mysterious 855-foot-long wall viewed from the Fort Mountain Trail. It is believed the wall was constructed between 500 and 1500 A.D. Romantics will want to climb the stone fire tower to see the heart stone laid by mason Arnold Bailey for his sweetheart Margaret. Or take an easy stroll along the Lake Loop, a 1.2-mile, kid-friendly jaunt.

Enduring Farmlands

The Enduring Farmlands Scenic Byway is 65 miles of beautiful pastoral landscapes in south central Georgia. Start your adventure in Hawkinsville, the Harness Racing Capital of Georgia. Call ahead to book a tour of the harness racing facility and watch the horsemen train the trotters and pacers.

Harness racing in Hawkinsville, Georgia
Harness racing in Hawkinsville, Georgia

Be on the lookout throughout this drive for local roadside produce stands like Copeland Strawberry Farms, where in season you can pick your own strawberries or buy pre-picked. No matter which you choose, go ahead and splurge on some strawberry ice cream, too.

Live oaks lining a road in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Philip Wages
Drive along tree-lined streets in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Philip Wages

Historic Dixie Highway

The Historic Dixie Highway runs 62 miles through several charming South Georgia towns and is bookended by two that you could spend a whole weekend exploring on their own. The first is downtown Albany, home of the Flint RiverQuarium, a wonderful way to get a feel for the ecology of the area in one place. Across the street is Riverfront Park, where you can listen to songs by hometown legend Ray Charles. Don't miss the history behind The Bridge House, which now serves as the welcome center for the Riverfront. Horace King was well known for the bridges he built in Georgia and Alabama, including the one that stood on this spot. Not a unique story until you learn that King was a former slave who purchased his freedom. Before you get on the road, grab a hot dog from Jimmie's. This iconic dog joint has been in operation at the same location (across from the bus station) for almost 100 years.

At the other end of this trail is the charming town of Thomasville. After your drive, get out and walk a bit through downtown, browsing in the many locally owned shops. Two favorites are The Hare and The Hart gift shop and SouthLife Supply, where you'll find gorgeous handmade leather goods. South Georgia is known as quail country. Go quail hunting for statues of the tiny birds throughout downtown.

Hart and the Hare in Thomasville, Georgia
Hart and the Hare in Thomasville, Georgia

Thomasville is also known as a foodie town. You can't miss George & Louie's giant green retro sign that is a landmark in this town. The fried green tomatoes and Greek salad are as legendary as George's sports writing career. You can see his old columns on the walls of the restaurant.

For something a bit more upscale, head to Liam's and ask owner Rhonda Foster to put together an out-of-this-world cheese board for you. Don't offer any suggestions, just trust her judgement, you won't be sorry.

Central Station Bakery & Eatery in Springfield, Georgia
Stop for a bite to eat at Central Station Bakery & Eatery in Springfield, Georgia

Historic Effingham-Ebenezer Scenic Byway

The Historic Effingham-Ebenezer Scenic Byway is just north of Savannah on the edge of the South Carolina border. This byway is a 60-mile journey on state and local roads through the communities of Ebenezer, Guyton, Springfield and Rincon.

Begin your journey off Interstate 16 at Georgia State Route 17, winding your way to the town of Guyton for a stop at Butterducks Winery. Butterducks offers tours a few times a year, and the outdoor patio called the Duck Blind is a wonderful spot for a quick break. Grab a bottle of Butterducks wine and a few snacks from the gift shop for later.

Just 10 minutes from Guyton is the quaint town of Springfield. Plan to spend a little time here perusing the downtown shops, like Wright Wicks, where you can purchase hand-poured candles.

Ebenezer Creek in Rincon, Georgia
Ebenezer Creek in Rincon, Georgia

Grab a bite at one of the local cafes. Daisy Mae's is a locally owned-and-operated favorite. The chicken salad is an excellent choice, according to locals. Paddles Coffee is the place for an amazing cup of joe and a handmade scone.

The latest addition to Springfield's culinary scene is Central Station Bakery & Eatery, which is in a restored 100-plus-year-old wood construction building. Inside you'll find antiques from the area in glass cases, including an assortment of items from different decades that were found under the building during construction.

If you'd rather get off the roadways and onto the riverways, Ebenezer Creek at Long Bridge Road near Rincon is a perfect place to put in a kayak or paddleboard. The 12.4-mile out-and-back river trail has a low current, isn't too deep and is perfect for beginners.

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway in North Georgia
Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway in North Georgia

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway

This 41-mile loop goes through the Chattahoochee National Forest in northeast Georgia. As you would expect, there is amazing scenery all along this route. We've picked out three places to park the car for a bit and stretch your legs, as well as the ideal picnic spot.

But first, stock up on picnic supplies at Betty's Country Store, an independent grocery in the alpine village of Helen. Betty has everything you need for the perfect picnic and a few things you don't but you'll get anyway.

Dukes Creek Falls in Helen, Georgia. Photo by Wander North Georgia
Dukes Creek Falls in Helen, Georgia. Photo by Wander North Georgia

A few miles up the road from Helen is the first stop, Dukes Creek Falls. It's a short 2-mile round trip hike to the viewing platform where you'll have stunning views of the multi-tiered falls dropping 150-feet. Want something a little more challenging? Take the five-mile hike at nearby Raven Cliff Falls.

Next stop on your adventure is a picnic at Hogpen Gap. Enjoy views from the overlook or do an easy out and back hike to the gap. Hogpen crosses the Appalachian Trail, so in springtime, there is a good chance you'll meet some thru-hikers, too.

Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville, Georgia
Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville, Georgia

As you start to wind down the mountain, there is yet another short, easy just over a one-mile round trip waterfall hike to Helton Creek Falls. This is wonderful if you have young kids in tow.

For information and maps of all 15 scenic corridors, visit the Georgia Department of Transportation website. To learn more about well-known attractions along the routes, visit Explore Georgia, the state-sponsored tourism website.

Published: March 2021
Written by: Sue Rodman, GDOT