Visiting the Mountain Towns of North Georgia
Why is it that at 51 years old, I am just discovering the impressive mountain towns of North Georgia? This stunning area of adorable small towns, each with different flair and fun, is a great escape from the heat and humidity of my South Florida home and gives me a dose of mountains—my favorite. On a trip with my daughter, Peyton, to the town of Young Harris to check out a luxury lodge, we found so much fun and beauty. Here are some of the things we did in the mountain towns of North Georgia.
On this trip, the mountain towns of North Georgia that we visited were Hiawassee, Young Harris, Helen, and Blue Ridge. We were only in Helen about an hour before a torrential downpour came, and Blue Ridge on our way home. I would love to see more of Blue Ridge—it’s a charmer.
Great Food and Drinks
Sundance Grill (Hiawassee) is perfect for breakfast dishes such as a Gyro Omelet, Breakfast Sandwiches (with double sausage and cheese!), and Stuffed French Toast. They serve lunch and dinner, too.
For lunch, we ate at Mary’s Southern Grill in Young Harris. This restaurant specializes in southern cooking and has a menu loaded with burgers, sandwiches, salads, home-cooking entrees, and a long list of vegetables and starches. I did the 4-vegetable plate and chose the dill potato salad and stewed tomatoes. If you like potato salad, you might taste the best you’ve ever had at Mary’s Southern Grill.
The Happy Hawg, in Hiawassee, is the top-rated Trip Advisor restaurant in the area, serving smoked meats, pulled pork, fried corn-on-the-cob, and hot dogs.
An excellent place for dinner is the Dining Room at Brasstown Valley Resort (more below) in Young Harris. The Brasstown Meatloaf, a chef’s specialty, is bursting with flavors from the three-meat combination (bison, ground veal, and Wagyu beef) and covered with mouthwatering mushroom gravy. It comes with two side items, all for $19. I loved the ambiance at this restaurant and the attentive staff. There is outdoor porch seating that has the most stunning backdrop between the mountains and golf course.
Sand Bar (a more relaxed offering) is a sandy beach eatery with lake views, a food truck, live music, corn hole, and kid’s activities. Try the Pimento Cheese Dip with tortilla chips or Boneless Wings, both tasty choices.
Drop by Hiawassee Brew for a funky Cherry Cordial Stout or Hop Dang Diggity IPA. They have an inviting outdoor patio and serve food, as well. Enjoy a glass of wine from Crane Creek Vineyards, with award-winning varietals: Hellbender Red, Seyval Blanc, and Villard Noir Rosé.
Hiking (especially the Appalachian Trail) and chasing waterfalls are the top things to do in North Georgia. Some falls can be seen from a walkout area, but others require hiking to get there. Blue Hole Falls is a one-mile hike through an amazing landscape, and even some climbing over tree trunks, ducking under branches, and fantastic photo-ops. A swimming hole at the bottom of the falls provides a refreshing drink or cool-down spot at the bottom. You’ll find a second waterfall, High Shoals, on the same trail.
You will experience an exciting drive and amazing 360-degree panoramic views as you wind your way up rugged Bell Mountain, a park and historic site in Hiawassee.Once you park your car at the top, you can walk up the steep hill to the plateau for epic views of Lake Chatuge. The landscape is surrounded by enormous rock formations that have been spray painted with graffiti through the years. While I read many complaints about the “vandalism”, I thought it looked pretty and interesting. Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 elevation, is another must-see overlook in North Georgia, only minutes from Bell Mountain.
You can rent pontoon and ski-boat, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and jet skis from Young Harris Water Sports to spend time on Lake Chatuge, a recreational hotspot. Fishing is supreme in North Georgia, where spotted and hybrid bass are abundant. Don’t be surprised if you catch dozens of fish without really trying.
Kids (and adults, too) will love Splash Island at Ridges Resort, an on-water obstacle course with inflatables, slides, swings, and bouncing platforms. There are river tubing and zip line places around the area, as well, especially in the direction of Helen, dubbed “Georgia’s Little Bavaria”.
A Highlight of Our Trip
Brasstown Stables (Young Harris) offers horseback riding in a charming country setting. Whether you are a newbie or a professional rider, they have just the right horse and guide for your ride around five miles of trails. You can select a one or two-hour ride or hand-led rides for children under seven. The facility is really beautiful and you are free to pet and photograph the horses while there. I sat the ride out due to a back issue, but had as much fun as my daughter on her ride just admiring the beauty and horses. For those wanting a more tame ride, Sassy Susan and Rockin’ Ronnie, two rocking barrel (wooden) horses, offer some amusement.
Other Things You Do
Do some shopping in North Georgia at roadside antique shops (each loaded with treasures and trinkets), C&J Mountain Outfitters, TATA on Main, and Hometown Quilt Studio. One of the best Christmas stores you could imagine is Always Christmas, connected with other nice clothing, home decor, collectibles, and souvenir shops.
Peyton and I drove across the wildest mountains to reach Helen, Georgia, a mountain town that resembles the whimsical flair of Bavaria. Neon lights are abundant and the town reminded me of Gatlinburg meets the Vegas Strip. There are cheesy souvenir shops all through town, and plenty of photo-ops. German restaurants and biergartens are also abundant, as are sweet shops, gifts, and knickknacks, amongst the selections.
On our way home, we drove through Blue Ridge, a town I read about as being the jewel of the North Georgia mountain towns. It was—I agree wholeheartedly. The caliber of shops in Blue Ridge are more sophisticated than the other mountain towns we visited, and its a walkable area where you can park your car and just wander for hours on foot.
If you want to sample wine, do a beer flight, taste gourmet fruit pies, have a treetop canopy adventure, or ride on the scenic Blue Ridge Railway, it’s all there in this charming place. Mercier Orchards is a must, with slap-yo-mamma delicious fruit pies. I sampled both apple and peach. Blue Ridge is also the Trout Fishing Capital of Georgia. I’ll definitely be back for more in that town.
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A Luxury Stay
The premier place to stay in Young Harris is the Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa. This rustic lodge has a choice of luxurious accommodations (lodge, cottages, spa suite), 18-hole championship golf course, tennis, fishing, hiking trails, spa, and a plethora of amenities. The staff is friendly and helpful, and you could honestly just nestle yourself in front of the stunning stone fireplace in the lobby, with gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains views, and never leave. The deck is lined with inviting rocking chairs to enjoy the 503-acres of natural setting and manicured lawns and golf course.
My accommodations and meal at Brasstown Valley Resort were complimentary from the hotel in exchange for writing this post. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
Brasstown Valley Resort has onsite restaurants with romantic and private seating arrangements, which are excellently adhering to social distancing suggestions and guidelines. The food was really good, reasonably priced, and served by an attentive waitstaff. One of my favorite parts of staying at the resort was the art gallery and small museum located on the lower level, just outside the first-class sundries and golf shop. The selection to shop from was superb, and besides every golf item you could need, there was a variety of kid’s clothing and toys, home decor and accessories, giftware, and apparel.
Discover the Mountains Today
If you’re concerned about traveling with COVID, North Georgia is a seemingly safe place, with plenty of fresh mountain air, room for social distancing, and businesses following suggested measures. The affordability and flexibility of the area only enhance the amazing outdoor attractions and picture-perfect scenery that will be good for your soul. I am so thrilled to have visited this breathtaking region and can’t wait to get acquainted with even more North Georgia mountain towns.
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