We’re continually on the hunt for opportunities to add richness to our lives. In the time of the road trip revival, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston that make for a great getaway. We feel that our worldly and devoted readers will find these places interesting.
North Georgia Mountains
Driving 6 1/2 hours southwest of Charleston brings you to the North Georgia Mountains, Young Harris, to be exact. I know this is a long distance, but with inflation and the gas prices we’ve dealt with all year, it can be the last hurrah for summer, a fall getaway, and sight of sore eyes when you can see the spectacular scenery. It’s also a place that isn’t outrageously priced, so I feel comfortable suggesting this unique area as a road trip destination that will surely please anyone that needs a change of pace. Here is what I recommend you to see in the northeast corner of Georgia, comprised of the towns of Young Harris, Hiawassee, Blairsville, Blue Ridge, Ellijay, and Helen.
**Of course, you can’t do it all, so I’m highlighting the big attractions in some of the towns.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN THE NORTH GEORGIA MOUNTAINS
Hiking, chasing waterfalls, and getting out on Lake Chatuge are popular things to do in the North Georgia Mountains, as are apple picking, wine tasting, and photo ops.
Get out on the water with a boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard rental from Young Harris Water Sports. Hiawassee is my top pick for finding waterfalls: Blue Hole Falls and High Shoals. Reward yourself after an energetic hike with a Cherry Cordial Stout from Hiawassee Brew. A close second would be Anna Ruby Falls in Helen, where a $5 admission fee will get you within one-half mile via the paved trail of the 150-ft tall plunging twin falls.
Test your wits on the drive to Bell Mountain, one of the most remarkable attractions that overlook the North Georgia Mountains. You’ll feel like you’ve navigated a video game driving course, but the payoff is 360-degree panoramic views of Lake Chatuge and the miles surrounding it, plus the graffiti-painted boulders that are worth the trek.
If you like 360-degree views, the highest point in Georgia is in Blairsville. Brasstown Bald Mountain offers incredible overlooks and can even see four states. Leashed dogs are allowed.
Blue Ridge is the place to go for taking a train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, or you could spend hours just wandering around the darling downtown area filled with great shopping opportunities and superb restaurants. Alexander’s, off the beaten path in Blairsville, is also worth a gander. You’ll be shocked at the wide variety and amount of merchandise in this 50,000-square-foot shop. Stop at Sunrise Grocery on your way for a quirky roadside attraction with hot boiled peanuts.
Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris offers a gorgeous setting for leaf-peeping and sampling a flight of impressive wines. If you are down for making this a weekend of wine tastings, Helen offers Habersham and Sweet Acre Farms, and Ellijay’s Engelheim, Cartecay, and Ott Farms Vineyards are great tasting rooms to add to your list.
The North Georgia Mountains are primarily known for apple production; apple houses are plentiful, which means fried pies. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge is one of the most popular. Try the fried pies in various flavors—peach and pumpkin cream are not to miss.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Ellijay has yummy Cuban breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Country Corner Kitchen, or you can get a traditional breakfast or Eggs Benedict from Sundance Grill in Hiawassee.
In Helen, experience the tastes of Bavaria in the town that looks like a counterpart for the popular German region. Heidelberg and Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe for excellent for German and Czech dishes.
If you’re craving pizza, indulge in the creative combination of quality ingredients from Ellijay Wood-Fired Pizza, though the wood-fired fondue-of-the-day is another tasty option. Enrico’s Italian in Young Harris serves palate-pleasing pasta dishes and garlic rolls; reservations are recommended.
For a special occasion or date night, steaks and specialty dishes from the dining room at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa are exceptional. I loved the Brasstown Meatloaf and the Steak Au Poivre with a brandy cream sauce.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE NORTH GEORGIA MOUNTAINS
Brasstown Valley Resort is the premier accommodation of the North Georgia Mountains. You’d hardly believe it was state park lodging because it is high-end, and the amenities are lengthy, including golf, horseback riding, tennis, a spa, and hiking trails. The hotel lobby with the massive stone fireplace is worth seeing, whether you are staying at the property or not.
The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee is another place with big offerings and an abundance of scenic beauty. This is the only mountain lake resort in North Georgia, and also a popular wedding venue