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By Dawn S.

With its rich history, arts, culture, entertainment, and national sporting events, Atlanta offers all of the amenities of a modern metro area but served up with a helping of southern hospitality. What I loved most about living in the suburbs was that I didn’t have to drive very far to find excellent camping, fishing, hiking, biking, and paddling destinations. Here are some Atlanta road trip ideas and activities to inspire you to plot your own road trip adventure starting right from Escape Campervan’s new Atlanta, Georgia, location!

Head to the Mountains

With waterfalls, abundant wildlife, spring wildflowers, mild summers, and the warm colors of autumn, a trip to the mountains is much closer than you think.

  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Drive The Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Chimney Rock State Park – Where “The Last of the Mohicans” was filmed
  • Grandfather Mountain

Sunset Over Lake Sumter National Forest South Carolina

Where to Camp

Some of the best camping in the southeast is found in the National Forests and State Parks.

  • Red Top Mountain State Park, GA
  • Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, GA
  • Sumter National Forest, SC
  • Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, NC
  • Cherokee National Forest, TN

Winter Sports – Skiing and Snow Tubing

  • Stone Mountain Park, GA
  • Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area, TN
  • Sapphire Valley Ski Resort, NC
  • Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Zipline, NC
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain, NC
  • Cataloochee Ski Area, NC
  • Snowshoe Mountain, WV

Backpacking in Providence Canyon Georgia

Take a Hike

  • Stone Mountain Park, GA
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, GA
  • Red Top Mountain State Park, GA
  • Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area, GA
  • Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA
  • Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, SC
  • Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, NC – Giant Poplar Trees

Go Coastal

  • Amelia Island, FL – Home of the Concours D’Elegance  car show in March
  • Jekyll Island, GA – Campground, bike rentals, historic district, driftwood beach,
  • Travel along scenic HWY 17 toward Savannah, GA
  • Savannah, GA – Historic homes, churches, fountains, and squares. Watch the cargo ships from River Street, eat pralines and beignets.
  • Camp at Skidaway Island State Park
  • Visit Tybee Island Lighthouse
  • For an extended trip continue north to Hilton Head and Charleston, SC

Lighthouses – Outer Banks, North Carolina

OBX offers plenty to see and do from the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk to fishing, parasailing, and paddling. A fun trip is to visit each of the unique, historic lighthouses that famously dot the coast.

  • Currituck Beach Lighthouse
  • Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse
  • Bodie Island Lighthouse
  • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  • Ocracoke Island Lighthouse

Kayaking Summersville Lake West Virginia

Go Jump in a Lake

Unlike the big round spring fed lakes in Florida, the lakes in and around Georgia are these long man-made bodies of water with lots of fingers and coves to explore. Most are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which means the water levels are regulated seasonally, and recreation facilities, including campgrounds, are abundant. Here a few to explore:

  • Allatoona Lake, GA
  • Lake Lanier, GA
  • West Point Lake, GA – This is the most peaceful place in nature that I have ever found myself
  • Lake Hartwell, SC
  • Lake Glenville, NC
  • Fontana Lake, NC – Near the bike trails of the Tsali Recreation Area
  • Summersville Lake, WV – Rock climbing, paddling, snorkeling, scuba diving

TRAFFIC TIP – Avoid Atlanta traffic at all costs during the morning and evening rush hours. Use the HOV carpool lanes when available, stay tuned to local traffic reports, or Google Maps for the best route through or around Atlanta during your visit. Check carefully before changing lanes for aggressive drivers who know where they are going and want to get there, fast.

Kayaking Upper New River West Virginia

Whitewater Rafting and Tubing

It’s easy to find a mild section of river suitable for first-timers and young kids, or a stretch that is more wild and fun for those who are more adventurous. If you already know how to paddle hard, don’t miss the extreme Class V+ rapids of the Fall Gauley, one of the top whitewater runs on the planet, and it’s found in West Virginia. River trips in the southeast are usually a half day or full day, with a few overnight options. However, you won’t find the multiday expedition type river trips that you do out West.

My favorite outfitters are Ace Adventure Resort in West Virginia (a destination in itself) and Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina.

  • Chattahoochee River Tubing, Helen, GA
  • Chattooga River, GA/SC – Where “Deliverance” was filmed
  • Ocoee River, TN
  • Nantahala River, NC
  • New River, WV
  • Gauley River, WV

RIVER GUIDE TIP – DON’T FORGET TO TIP YOUR GUIDE! Your river guides work really hard, they don’t get paid much, and may be living in a tent for the season. Yet, they made sure you had a great time while getting you safely down the river. So plan ahead and stick a couple of $20’s in your dry box, or your car, and please, don’t forget to tip your guide (or give it to the trip leader). $10-$20 per person is the norm.

Callaway Resort & Gardens

Pine Mountain, Georgia

Don’t miss the azaleas in springtime. With 2500 acres of gardens and nature trails, Callaway Gardens offers everything from bike trails, a butterfly conservatory, and a birds of prey show, to a beach, water sports, zip lines, spa, and golf. Excellent camping is available at the nearby FD Roosevelt State Park. 

The Deep South

If you have the time, you could also head south through the cotton fields, peach, and pecan groves to the Florida panhandle to visit Florida Caverns State Park, the beaches of Destin, and St. Andrews State Park. Travel west through the moss-draped oaks and southern plantation homes of Mississippi on to the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Biking at Jekyll Island Georgia

Other Fun Places to Visit

  • Helen, GA – Tourist town that replicates a Bavarian Village
  • Anna Ruby Falls, GA
  • Unicoi State Park, GA
  • Raccoon Mountain, TN – Spelunking/wild cave tours, campground
  • Lost Sea Caverns, TN – Boat ride on an underground lake
  • Lookout Mountain, TN
  • Ruby Falls, TN
  • Tennessee Aquarium – Love those Jellies
  • Biltmore Estate, NC

SPEED TRAP: Pay close attention to all posted speed limits especially for school and construction zones in Macon GA and the small towns south of there, or you may be facing a hefty fine.

New River Gorge Cliff West Virginia

There are adventures waiting for you in every direction from the Atlanta, GA, depot, and the road trip possibilities are endless. So use that PTO, take a long weekend, and plan your campervan Escape today!

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