Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site
Four Historic Trip Ideas in Georgia
Travel through time on themed trips to Georgia Historic Sites.
In a state that has seen the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, a gold rush and the erection of a "Little White House," there's no shortage of fascinating historic sites. The Department of Natural Resources and Georgia State Parks maintain 18 such spots around Georgia. Travel with your family to a few story-filled favorites before checking into a nearby state lodge.
In 1838, 17,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly relocated westward on the Trail of Tears, which began in Calhoun, Georgia. But before those dark days, their thriving capital was nearby New Echota, where visitors can still tour the courthouse, an 1805 store and the print shop where a bilingual newspaper was produced.
Near New Echota is the Chief Vann House, where Cherokee leader and wealthy businessman James Vann built a beautiful estate in 1804 that has been painstakingly preserved. As you tour the home, you might be startled to discover many Cherokee plantation owners had black and Indian slaves.
South of those sites stand the Etowah Indian Mounds. These six large domes resembling J.R.R. Tolkien’s hilly Shire were home to several thousand Native Americans from 1000 to 1550 A.D.; view artifacts such as feathers, copper ear ornaments, shells and paint.
After a day of touring this trio, check into the Lodge at Amicalola Falls, situated inside the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest. The property is steps from the 729-foot-tall waterfall from which it gets its name.
The Trail of Tears was actually sparked by fierce "gold fever" in North Georgia. The discovery of nuggets in Dahlonega took place 20 years before the 1849 frenzy in California, making it America’s first gold rush.
Between 1838 and 1861, the U.S. Branch Mint in Dahlonega coined $6 million in gold. Today, the Dahlonega Gold Museum, located in the former Lumpkin County Courthouse, tells the story of those days. Numismatists can spy rare coins, while kids can ogle a nugget weighing more than five ounces. Naturally, gold panning establishments are available all around the area for those still looking to find fortune.
Northeast of Dahlonega, in the Chattahoochee National Forest, is Unicoi State Park & Lodge. This rustic respite has well-appointed guest rooms, lofts and cottages with wood-burning fireplaces; some accommodations have views of the state park.
From the French and Indian War to the Civil War, the Peach State is no stranger to bloody battles. Journey to the southeast corner of Georgia to see coastal Colonial and Civil War forts where the military held off the British and those damn Yankees, respectively.
A straight shot down I-95 takes you by Fort McAllister, the final stop on Gen. William Sherman’s March to the Sea. Under the shade of moss-covered live oaks, the earthwork fortification is perfectly preserved with cannons, barracks and Civil War artifacts overlooking the Ogeechee River.
A 30-mile drive south on I-95 brings you to Fort Morris on the Medway River in Sunbury, a structure once filled with 200 patriots who stood against the British. In 1779, it fell to the Redcoats, and locals still perform reenactments for onlookers.
A bit farther down the coast, you’ll come upon Fort King George in Darien. From 1721 until 1736, this was the southernmost outpost of the British Empire in North America.
Reachable by ferry, the Reynolds Mansion on nearby Sapelo Island is an exclusive, uncommon overnight excursion. Formerly the home of plantation owner and tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds, it was built in 1912 and has 13 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms for guests. It's surrounded by untouched dunes and unpopulated beaches for a visit that's nothing short of serene.
A smaller home worth seeing, with no less distinction, is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s retreat in Warm Springs. Dubbed the Little White House, the 1932 home now has a museum that houses dozens of his canes, his hand-operated 1938 Ford convertible, and the famous "Unfinished Portrait" for which he was sitting when he suffered a fatal stroke.
Sixty years before FDR traveled to Georgia to soak in the warm waters he believed helped his polio affliction, Gen. Sherman also traveled this way, but for a hostile reason. His infamous march left much of Georgia ablaze; only a few plantations and historically significant homes on his path still dot the state map. Head toward the Atlantic Ocean to tour two that remain: the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation and Wormsloe Historic Site. The former is an antebellum rice plantation and museum; the latter includes ruins of Savannah’s oldest Colonial estate.
Move west to Thomasville to discover the Lapham-Patterson House, an 1884 Victorian home that featured gas lighting and indoor plumbing when both were novelties.
A short drive from Thomasville lie two exquisite southwest Georgia lodges run by the State Parks system. The first, George T. Bagby Lodge, resembles a ski lodge with 60 guest rooms, five cottages, and a pristine golf course. The other is Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club at Georgia Veterans State Park, an impressive resort on the water with an on-site museum featuring items that date back to the Revolutionary War.