Regional Road Trips From Atlanta

Discover culinary treats, history, quirky art and natural wonders along the road to these popular destinations from Atlanta.

By: Lori M Brown
More people are once again discovering the art of the American road trip. Whether the reasons are economical or born from curiosity, road trips offer the chance to make the journey as adventure-filled and memorable as the destination. Discover culinary treats, history, quirky art and natural wonders along the road to these popular destinations from Atlanta.
Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head Island welcomes golf enthusiasts and beachcombers alike. Its close proximity to other popular destinations makes it easy to enjoy a day trip to Charleston; Bluffton, SC; Savannah; and Tybee Island, GA.

About a third of the way to Hilton Head from Atlanta, Macon, GA, is an ideal place to explore and stretch your legs. If you are traveling with Fido, be sure to head to Macon Dog Park, a 6-acre off-leash enclosure complete with a stream and agility area. Once home to legends such as James Brown, Macon is also steeped in music history. You can visit the Big House, where the Allman Brothers Band lived in the early 1970s; it’s now a museum displaying memorabilia from the group’s past. Macon also has one of the most unusual museums in Georgia, the Museum of Arts and Science, which houses science exhibits as well as fine art and more than 70 native and exotic animals.

Make your trip home an adventure all to itself. Detour off the highway about 30 minutes before Macon to Fort Valley, GA. From mid-May through August, you can’t miss a trip to Lane Southern Orchards for fresh, right-from-the-tree peaches. If you are lucky enough to be there on a harvest day, you can watch the harvest-to-packing process while perched atop the viewing catwalk. Be careful, though: Store-bought peaches may never again be acceptable.

Destin, FL

Which route to take to reach the azure waters of the aptly named Emerald Coast is a widely contested topic in Atlanta. Choosing to drive toward Columbus, GA, allows for a stop in Pine Mountain, where you can steer right on into Wild Animal Safari, a drive-through animal park. Unexpected rolling mountains present a scenic overlook at F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park, where you can get a photo sitting next to a life-size sculpture of its presidential namesake. On the other end of the park is the town of Warm Springs, GA. Visit FDR’s home, the Little White House, or take a tour of the mineral springs complex where he sought relief in the constantly 88-degree waters.

Myrtle Beach, SC

As you make your way to the boardwalk and beaches of Myrtle, Augusta, GA, is a must-do. Stroll along the Savannah River as the Augusta Riverwalk meanders through gardens and even a children’s playground. Find unique artwork while exploring the galleries and art studios of the creative community known as Artists Row. If you are lucky enough to find yourself there during dinner hours or Sunday brunch time, then head to the Bee’s Knees. The pup-friendly outdoor seating of this tapas restaurant makes it a perfect choice for those traveling with dogs. Don’t miss the pan-seared scallops, garlicky shrimp and smoked Gouda nachos.

Gatlinburg, TN

Known as the “Gateway to the Smokies,” Gatlinburg, TN, is a popular destination for fall leaf-viewing pilgrimages, as well as for those seeking a cooler respite from the heat of the Southern summer. The scenic route along Highway 441 demands a stop in Tiger, GA, at the eclectic Southern souvenir complex of Goats on the Roof. Yes, there are actually goats on the roof. You can feed them via one of the cable-delivery systems using a stationary bike or hand pulley.

The alternate route is less scenic but has a time advantage, as it runs mainly along Interstate 75N. A 30-minute detour at Adairsville will lead you to the town of Summerville, GA. Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden is a homage to the roadside rock gardens and tourist attractions popular in early-20th-century rural America. The maze of magically created folk-art sculpture and architecture is a one-of-a-kind place that he created from a vision he claims to have received from God.

Chattanooga, TN, is a convenient place to stop for lunch before hanging an eastward turn toward Knoxville. Don’t let the paper plates at Champy's Famous Fried Chicken fool you. Its fried chicken and tamales are memorable. Then, a trip to Lookout Mountain will take you right by Ruby Falls, a waterfall once unknown to almost everyone, as it is located 1,120 feet underground. Ride the glass elevator down to the constantly 60-degree caverns as your guide shares history and geological facts on the nation’s deepest and largest underground waterfall that is open to the public.

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