Fun Atlanta Road Trip Ideas
National Parks, Trip Ideas & Guides
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 one of Escape Campervan’s campervan rental locations!
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.
The Great Smoky National Park is a great place to check out on your Atlanta road trip. This park happens to be one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S. There are tons of beautiful views and things to do while visiting the park. If you’re lucky you may be able to spot a black bear in the distance.
Another great activity is to experience one of America’s favorite drives; the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are so many ways to enjoy this drive including eco-friendly sites, hiking, markets and orchards, and much more.
If you are looking for a place with spectacular views, be sure to check out Chimney Rock State Park. This location was also where “The Last of the Mohicans” was filmed. There are several hikes and trails to go on that are kid-friendly, moderate, and challenging to fit all nature lovers.
Be sure not to miss out on one of the best mountains and parks in the area, Grandfather Mountain. Not only are there hikes and trails that take you to the top, but also a mile-high swinging bridge to enjoy and show you all viewpoints.
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
If you’re interested in winter sports, we have some skiing and snow tubing attractions that you will want to see.
- 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
Take a Hike
See below for some of the hiking hotspots for any Atlanta road trip.
- 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
Check out some of the top recommended places to see on the coast during your Atlanta road trip.
One of the most popular places to visit is Amelia Island, Florida. This island paradise has many things to explore including their gorgeous beaches, golf courses, and resorts. Amelia Island is also home of the Concours D’Elegance car show every March.
Another fun place to make sure you stop at is Jekyll Island, Georgia. Some of the top things to do include their campground, bike rentals, historic district, and driftwood beach.
A can’t miss opportunity is to make sure you drive along the scenic HWY 17 towards Savannah, Georgia.
While traveling to Savannah, make sure to take a pit stop to check out the historic homes, churches, fountains, and squares. Some favorites of mine is to watch the cargo ships from River Street, eat pralines and beignets.
If you enjoy camping, be sure to camp at Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah on your Atlanta road trip.
Located 20 minutes outside of Savannah, you should also go visit the Tybee Island Lighthouse. Known for their historic lighthouse and clean beaches, you will not be short of activities or things to do.
If you are on an extended trip, I recommend continuing 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.
One of Outer Banks most historic lighthouses, Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a must see if you get the chance. You will be able to check out the Corolla village and get expansive views of the Currituck Sound, Atlantic Ocean, and the northern Outer Banks.
While the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is often overlooked due to its small stature and remote location, the unique lighthouse is still worth checking out. You can find the lighthouse at the quiet east end of the Manteo waterfront.
Another popular lighthouse to visit is the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Just south of the town of Nags Head, you can climb the lighthouse in just 214 steps. Many travelers will stop there before heading to Hatteras island.
Once you are at Hatteras island, you can stop at one of the most famous and recognizable lighthouses in Outer Banks, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Be sure to climb to the top of the black and white candy-striped lighthouse since it also happens to be the world’s tallest brick lighthouse at 208 ft tall.
Lastly, you will not want to miss visiting the oldest lighthouse in Outer Banks, the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse. While the lighthouse is not open to climbers, it’s the perfect area for walking and biking tours with friends or family.
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:
The Allatoona Lake in Georgia is a great place to spend your day with the lake covering over 12,000 acres and 270 miles of shoreline. You will definitely have plenty of space on the lake to yourselves to enjoy.
Only 45 minutes north of Atlanta, another amazing lake in Georgia to go see is Lake Lanier. Not only is the lake beautiful, but there is also plenty of things to do at the resort and shops to keep you busy.
The most peaceful place in nature that I have ever found myself is West Point Lake in Georgia. The lake is surrounded by deep forests and is the perfect place to go fishing, camping, and other recreational activities.
Moving up from Georgia, you can also take a pit stop to Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. With over 115 paved campsites for RV or tent camping along the shores of Lake Hartwell, there is a superb spot for every camper enthusiast to enjoy.
If you plan to pass through North Carolina, be sure to check out Lake Glenville. Located 8 miles from Cashiers, North Carolina, This lake is a getaway in itself including 7 islands and 3 waterfalls to explore.
Known for being the best-kept secret in the mountains, Fontana Lake in North Carolina is the ideal spot for fishing and boating. Located near the bike trails of the Tsali Recreation Area, the lake has been known for being home to a variety of fish with visitors catching recored sized muskie and walleye on their trips.
Lastly, if you are wanting to do something adventurous, the Summersville Lake in West Virginia is the place for you. A few activities I enjoyed while visiting the largest lake in West Virginia were rock climbing, paddling, snorkeling and scuba diving.
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.
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.
Here are a few places you can check out:
- 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.
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.
There are adventures waiting for you and the Atlanta road trip possibilities are endless. So use that PTO, take a long weekend, and plan your campervan Escape today!