Georgia's Old Capitol Building in Milledgeville

Georgia's Old Capitol Building in Milledgeville

Sunsets Along Georgia's Antebellum Trail

What's more inspirational than experiencing an awe-inspiring sunset? When that sunset highlights beautiful and serene landscapes and architecture like those along Georgia's Antebellum Trail.

Those who travel the Antebellum Trail discover the stories, lives and legacy of 19th century Georgians. The 100-mile route winds through seven historic communities east and south of Atlanta that escaped Sherman's burning march across Georgia.


Herty Field at UGA in Athens at sunset. Photo by @amandahomeskilly
Herty Field on North Campus, site of the early UGA Bulldogs football games. Photo by @amandahomeskilly

Athens is the northern gateway to the Antebellum Trail and is named after the ancient Greek center of higher learning. The town is home to the University of Georgia, the birthplace of public higher education in America (1785). Early presidents and administrators of UGA designed North Campus after Yale, their alma mater. Buildings on North Campus are among the oldest in Athens and date back to 1801. Stately trees, gardens and fountains contribute to the lovely setting. Herty Field, shown here with its fountain highlighted at sunset, is the unlikely site of early UGA Bulldogs football games. What a far cry from Sanford Stadium's current capacity of over 92,000!

UGA's Historic North Campus sits just across Broad Street from downtown Athens, whose restored Victorian-era buildings house a world-renowned music scene plus acclaimed restaurants and plenty of local products to savor in the boutiques and vintage shops. Heritage tours of Athens are offered daily.


Sunset over Watkinsville-Oconee County. Photo by Chris Greer, @upabovegeorgia
Sunset over Watkinsville-Oconee County. Photo by Chris Greer, @upabovegeorgia

Watkinsville, known as the Artland of Georgia, is the county seat of Oconee located approximately 8 miles south of Athens and 60 miles east of Atlanta. Watkinsville was named the Artland of Georgia for having more artists per capita than any other city in the state. Supported by numerous artists, art galleries, museums, and events, visitors can discover the ultimate art experience in Watkinsville by shopping galleries, viewing exhibits, touring studios, witnessing demonstrations and even creating their own art. The largest pottery show in the state, and arguably the Southeast, is hosted in Watkinsville annually. Perspectives: Georgia Pottery Invitational displays and sells thousands of pottery pieces and hosts gallery talks, pottery demonstrations and workshops throughout the three-week event. In addition, Oconee Chamber hosts their annual Fall Festival with over 200+ booths and 20,000 in attendance. This one-day, outdoor festival is the largest arts & crafts venue in the area.

Art isn't all that Watkinsville and Oconee County have to offer. Located on Georgia's Antebellum Trail, Watkinsville is home to the 1801 Eagle Tavern and the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, one of the few functional covered bridges in Georgia.


Madison's Grand Dame, Heritage Hall
Madison's Grand Dame, Heritage Hall. Photo credit: Madison-Morgan County CVB

Taking a sunset stroll in Madison – the town General Sherman refused to burn – is stepping back in time to enjoy the grace and grandeur of homes built to impress. Visitors to this authentic Southern town often begin their stay by popping into the Welcome Center for tips on local favorites or to pick up a self-guided walking tour of Madison's renowned historic district, with all stops conveniently located within a one-mile radius of the charming downtown square. A free audio walking tour app also is available to offer an educated, neighborly guide to the dramatic history and architecture of the homes, churches and more dotting the path. Just one of the many sites that entices visitors to stop, snap and share is the beautiful “Grand Dame” of Madison - Heritage Hall (pictured above), which is open daily to welcome guests. Visit Madison to discover even more of one of Georgia's largest designated historic districts.


Alexander Sydney-Reid House (1855)
Alexander Sydney-Reid House (1855). Photo credit: Eatonton-Putnam Chamber

This remarkable three-story Greek Revival home reportedly took seven years to build and is a favorite among visitors and locals of Downtown Eatonton. It is noted for its excellently preserved plaster medallions, wood graining, marbleizing and hand-carved Corinthian capitols. The landscaping around the home is equally beautiful, particularly the garden extending to the back of the property which includes ponds, fountains and a rose harbor. Eatonton has a beautiful, well-preserved historical district in downtown. Stop by the Welcome Center to pick up a Self-Guided Historical Walking Tour brochure that showcases more than 75 antebellum homes and buildings throughout Eatonton!


Georgia's Old Capitol Building in Milledgeville
Georgia's Old Capitol Building in Milledgeville

Founded in 1803 around a series of beautiful squares and wide streets, Milledgeville was designed as the new Capital of Georgia. The highest point in the city was reserved for the Statehouse Square, and in 1805 the Old Capitol Building became the first public building ever designed in the United States in the Gothic Revival style. For more than 60 years, Milledgeville remained the capital. Many area homes and structures survived the periodic fires and willful destruction of the Civil War. For on a bitterly cold November day, General William T. Sherman and 30,000 Federal troops marched in Milledgeville.

Today, Milledgeville is a polished blend of pre-Civil War history paired with the youthful vibrancy of a bustling college town. The trolley tour is a must for history lovers, and tours of the legislative chambers at the Old Capitol Building are included. Recreational enthusiasts may spend an afternoon floating down the Oconee River. Lake Sinclair isn't far, and the picturesque downtown is brimming with antiques, boutiques and restaurants. Small town charm, antebellum architecture and lakeside sunsets combine to offer a quintessential Southern experience.


Coleman Hill Park in Macon, Georgia, at sunset. Photo by Chris Greer, @upabovegeorgia
Coleman Hill Park in Macon, Georgia, at sunset. Photo by Chris Greer, @upabovegeorgia

Situated between Macon’s historic College Hill neighborhood and downtown district is Coleman Hill Park. The park was originally known as Cowles Hill after the family who lived on the 4-acre plot at the very top during the 1830’s. Today, sunset chasers enjoy beautiful views of Macon surrounded by historic antebellum homes like the original Cowles estate, now known at the Woodruff House, the Cannonball House and the Hay House. Find your perfect spot on the hilltop to get a glimpse of the sunset glow on Macon’s downtown and historic district. Visitors of Coleman Hill Park also enjoy moon watching after the sun sets, especially when it is full.

Inspired yet? Grab a blanket, your favorite snacks and beverages, and someone special to you. You’ll love discovering these enchanting finds along Georgia's Antebellum Trail.

Published: September 2019
Written by: Hannah Smith