Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

With all there is to see and do, you’ll want to make sure that Georgia is on your mind

There isn’t a single amazing thing about Georgia. There are about ten zillion. So start poking around and figure out what to put at the top of your list.

Gorgeous Georgia is mostly known for being home to charming historic cities filled with leafy squares and oak-lined streets, sprawling farmlands, towering mountains, and Southern charm. That’s not forgetting the amazing beaches and coastline, sleepy rural settlements, roaring rivers, jaw-dropping parks, and clear sparkling lakes—to say this southeastern state is diverse would be an understatement. It sure is a tough task, but we’ve managed to narrow done to eight of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Georgia…

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Isles

Along the incredible 100 miles of Georgia’s coastline lies the magical seaside retreat of the Golden Isles. Nestled along stretches of sand dunes and salt marshes, the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beloved barrier islands—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Islands—offer breathtaking landscapes, a variety of recreational pursuits, and inherent tranquility.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah

Constantly ranked amongst one of the “friendliest cities in the world”, Savannah’s colorful history attracts millions of visitors every year. Situated along the bubbling Savannah River, this strategic port city is Georgia’s fifth-largest city. With a history of almost 300 years, the cobbled and oak-lined streets, beautiful parks, and archaic buildings, the historic city retains its essence.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the 22 park-like squares in downtown Savannah or get intrigued with the Telfair’s Academy of Arts and Sciences, the South’s first public museum. A pretty and sophisticated city with delicious food, this place exudes natural beauty and beautiful locales.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park near Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lookout Mountain

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Georgia, Lookout Mountain is a wonderful and striking mountain ridge located at the northwest corner of the state. As well as offering truly stunning views and beautiful surroundings it’s also the place where you can view the most states at once. Located 25 miles from three different states, when the skies are clear (and with a good set of binoculars handy) you can see up to seven different states if you try hard enough—visit and see for yourself! 

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon

Located about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta, Macon is the perfect destination for Southern adventure. A pretty city with a rich history, incredible architecture, and music heritage, Macon is “Where Soul Lives”. Hike to the area’s 17,000 years of heritage at Ocmulgee National Monument which includes a reconstructed earthen lodge or stroll the streets and discover the state’s largest collection of African-American art in Tubman Museum. At every landmark, you’ll discover the untold stories of the Civil War. Pay tribute to Macon’s native son, Otis Redding, at his life-size statue.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeast Georgia Mountains

Northeast Georgia Mountains’ picturesque beauty, countryside, tumbling waterfalls, and gentle-mountains provide a much-needed escape from the bustling city. One of the oldest mountain chains that end in Georgia is the Blue Ridge. Tucked in Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge offers excellent hiking, scenic drives, and farm-fresh produce. Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains is known to display the season’s first fall colors. Hike to the top for a panoramic 360-degree view and witness the four states from the visitor center. With sublime views and lush forests, the Brasstown Bald offers a secluded retreat.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of the Blood Mountain. Four hiking trails of varying difficulty offer opportunities to observe spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains scenery year-round, most popular during the autumn months as leaf-watching routes. A 22-acre lake is also open for boaters, along with a seasonal swimming beach available.

Appalachian Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Also referred to as Appalachian Trail or A.T., this marked hiking trail extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Extending about 2,200 miles, the trail traverses scenic woods, pastoral, and wild lands of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Established in 1937, today the trail is managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and numerous state agencies. Passing through 14 states and 8 national forests, hiking the entire trail takes five to seven months.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island

A ferry ride of about 45 minutes from St. Mary’s and you’ll head to Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. The Cumberland Island covers approximately 36,000 acres of land with unspoiled beaches, wide marshes and white sands with a variety of wildlife is a national seashore. With a deep history of the inhabitants and settlements you can have a glimpse of the Ruins of Dungeness and Greyfield Inn. It’s also a great place to visit in Georgia if you’re an animal lover—the island is home to a band of beautiful feral horses living and wandering free. 

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee

The Okefenokee is an area of swampland in southern Georgia, covering more than 770 square miles. It is a maze of watercourses, cypress swamps, and swamp grassland. Interesting features are the “floating islands” which quake under foot but nevertheless support whole forests and in the past provided protection for Indian settlements. The swamp is home to many endangered species as well as an estimated 10,000 alligators. From the little town of Waycross there are boat trips into the swamp.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park offers a large campground, golf course, and Sportsman’s Cabins as well as kayak rentals, playgrounds, and trails. The park is designed to allow visitors to get the most out of the time they spend in nature. It surrounds Laura S. Walker Lake and sits just to the north of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park spans 80 acres anchored around the gorgeous Okefenokee Swamp. Park visitors can canoe, kayak, and boat on the Spanish moss-lined swamp’s waters or embark on guided fishing and boating tours.

Keep Georgia on your mind as you plan your next RV trip.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

The Absolutely Most Amazing Winter Road Trips

Historically, winter RV trips are not the norm—but this year has been anything but normal

At a time when many industries are experiencing record lows and astronomical budget cuts, recreational vehicle sales are up—and not just by a little bit. Year-end totals for 2020 are predicted to hover around 425,000 units—nearly a 5 percent gain from 2019. And, 2021 predictions are looking even brighter with most estimates creeping near a 20 percent increase over 2020.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pandemic has introduced a new audience to the world of RVs, once the province of the baby boomer generation. Younger folks are driving the trend, gravitating toward smaller camper vans and vehicles under 30 feet in length. The new buyers don’t often have experience, either.

Sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the first time we’re seeing people buy the products sight unseen. They’re paying for the vehicle online, getting it delivered to their home, and getting out there for the first time in their lives.

But there is another significant difference, too: Buyers are interested in extending the travel season. According to a 2020 impact survey conducted by Thor Industries, nearly 50 percent of respondents said they were still planning trips in October and November, a clear indication that consumers are eager to make up for lost time.

Blanco State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter road trips are possible, as long as travelers take the necessary precautions. Plan ahead when looking for places to camp since many designated campgrounds close for the winter. This means many travelers will boondock or camp off-the-grid without connections to power or water sources. If you’ll be adventuring in extremely cold conditions, consider adding additional insulation to holding tank areas and running your thermostat higher to keep the vehicle warmer and avoid frozen water lines. It’s a good idea to take a cold-weather practice run to understand the capabilities of your new RV.

Santa Fe, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To get you started in planning a winter journey, check out the five winter RV road trip destinations listed below. Each highlights natural beauty and ample opportunities to get outside for some fresh—and potentially brisk—air.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Big Five, Southern Utah

Named as such by the state of Utah, the Big Five are the five national parks spread throughout the southern half of the state: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. Each park boasts a unique look at the state’s famed geologic formations and scenery ranging from Angel’s Landing (a popular hike in Zion) to the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile wrinkle in the earth’s surface in Capitol Reef. For RVers, this stretch of canyon country is a perfect winter journey thanks to the smaller crowds and ephemeral views of dazzling snow on red sandstone.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

New Mexico tends to be a drive-through state for many RV travelers, and that is a shame. RVers should spend a week in Santa Fe before directing their rig toward Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the winter home of 12,000 sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese, and nearly 40,000 ducks. Continue south to White Sands National Park, the newest addition to the National Park Service’s lineup after its re-designation from a national monument in late 2019. Tucked away toward the southern border of the state shared with Texas, it is easy to see why White Sands is dubbed “like no place else on Earth.” Stark-white gypsum sand dunes fill a 275-square-mile region that amounts to a veritable (and socially distant) playground for those willing to explore.

Verde Valley near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Verde Valley, Arizona

Located in the ‘heart’ of Arizona, the Verde Valley is ideally situated above the heat of the desert and below the cold of Arizona’s high country. The beautiful red rocks of Sedona, the quirkiness of an old mining town (Jerome), and the mysteries of stone (Montezuma Castle) left by those who once thrived here but have now vanished. Down the hill from Jerome is Clarkdale, an old copper mining company town now best known for the Verde Canyon Wilderness Train that takes you on a four hour tour of the stunning Verde River Canyon. You’ll find all this and more in the Verde Valley, 90 miles north of Phoenix.

Chattahoochee National Forest along Brasstown Bald Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeast Georgia Mountains

Northeast Georgia Mountains’ picturesque beauty, countryside, tumbling waterfalls, and gentle-mountains provide an escape away from the bustling city. One of the oldest mountain chains that end in Georgia is the Blue Ridge. Tucked in Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge offers excellent hiking, scenic drives, and farm-fresh produce. Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains is known to display the season’s first fall colors. Hike to the top for a panoramic 360-degree view and witness the four states from the visitor center. With sublime views and lush forests, Brasstown Bald offers a secluded retreat.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country

Characterized by tall, rugged hills of limestone and granite, Texas-sized ranches, and refreshing swimming holes, the Hill Country is an outdoor retreat like no other. Get inspired to relax, explore, and enjoy the great outdoors. Settled by Germans and Eastern Europeans, the Texas Hill Country has a culture all its own. Storybook farms and ranches dot the countryside, and you may even still hear folks speaking German in Fredericksburg, Boerne, and New Braunfels. You’ll also find some of the best barbecue in Texas, antique shops on old-fashioned main streets and celebrations with roots in the Old World.

Worth Pondering…

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

―T.S. Eliot

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Atlanta

There are so many fun road trips to take from Atlanta

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

Atlanta has so much to do, but sometimes you just want to get out of the city and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer! Or possibly, like us you’re an RV and can’t locate a decent campground within 50 miles.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a little road trip bucket list with mini itineraries for a variety of interest. Best of all, you won’t even need to be on the road that long: we’re talking three-hour drives, tops. These places are all perfect for a day trip from Atlanta or as a means of avoiding the Metro area altogether.

South of the City

Head down south from the city, and get your fill of small towns, beautiful gardens, a train, and maybe even an indoor water park.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon

Distance from Atlanta: 83 miles

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oh, Macon! Home of the Cherry Blossom Festival and all things PINK! Macon is home to a downtown area that’s got so much to do. Visit Amerson River Park and walk the paths while watching the kayakers paddle by on the Ocmulgee River. A visit to the Ocmulgee National Monument is a must-do, take a hike or bike the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or spend the day on Lake Tobesofkee.

North of the City

Head north for beautiful mountain hikes, waterfalls, awesome views, or to visit a Bavarian village.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen

Distance from Atlanta: 92 miles

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive north to the town of Helen and you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country—Germany to be exact. There are so many outdoor adventures to participate in while you’re visiting the Bavarian village of Helen. And they also have amazing restaurants, and the best little downtown shops too. Tubing the Chattahoochee in Helen is a great way to cool off from the Georgia heat. Try even more adventure with a ride on the new Georgia Mountain Coaster.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is so much great hiking nearby, but a favorite is Anna Ruby Falls. You’ll find a paved trail to the viewing platforms that get you so close to the falls, and the picnic area along the river is the best place for lunch. Visit a nearby state park, take a carriage ride through downtown, or visit the city during one of their extraordinary events, like Oktoberfest or Christmas in Helen. This town has it all.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brasstown Bald

Distance from Atlanta: 102 miles

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head on up—and I mean UP—to the highest point in the state with a visit to Brasstown Bald in northeast Georgia. This favorite of ours is located near Blairsville, and you can take a shuttle or take the steep but short hike (.06 miles) to the observation tower. It’s paved and has a huge payoff at the end. At the tower, you can take in the 360 degree views atop the 4,784-foot bald—and maybe even see four states.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blairsville

Distance from Atlanta: 116 miles

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 2 hours north of Atlanta, you’ll find Blairsville—an outdoor lover’s paradise! Blairsville is home to Brasstown Bald, Lake Nottely, Sleepy Hollow Fairy Gardens, Helton Creek Falls, Vogel State Park, and Blood Mountain.

Out of State

Chattanooga and Tennessee River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: 117 miles

Incline Railway at Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just over the Georgia border, Chattanooga has something for everyone. Here outdoor adventures abound along with amazing BBQ pits, and a thriving downtown area with community events throughout the year. Chattanooga has an aquarium, a minor league baseball team, an incline railway, beautiful river views, Ruby Falls—plus, you can see Rock City while you’re in town.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville, South Carolina

Distance from Atlanta: 145 miles

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly things to do, wonderful eateries, or just a new place to unwind—Greenville is that place. Greenville is home to Falls Park—a nature lover’s paradise. You can walk to it from downtown and it’s a great place to explore and spend the day. Speaking of the downtown area—it’s great with numerous restaurants and shops. Greenville is a just a really pedestrian-friendly city.

Clingman Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Distance from Atlanta: 162 miles

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take the 3-hour trip on up to the Cherokee, North Carolina entrance of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and you’ll spend your whole day happy. There is truly so much to see and do, you could make daily trips up there for a year and still find new things to explore.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check out the Oconaluftee Visitor Center 2 miles north of Cherokee, and explore the Mountain Farm Museum to see what life was like in the mountains long ago. Hike one of the trails—you’ve got 800 miles of them to choose from. Take a driving tour of the park. Bike! Go fishing! Bring a picnic! Observe animals! There is so much to do.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Best Georgia State Parks: Plan Now for a Spring or Summer Getaway

Chilly February is the perfect time to start daydreaming about warmer weather and weekend escapes

The newly published 2020 Guide to Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is a helpful resource for planning many kinds of trips. It’s filled with tips on the best hiking trails, favored spots, pet travel, golf courses, cabins, campsites, and glamping yurts.

Below are ten ideas for a memorable and affordable spring or summer getaway.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: Forty-one parks offer more than 2,700 campsites including tent-only areas, RV pull-through sites, primitive camping, and group camping areas. Rates average $30–$35 per night. Most state parks have laundry facilities and sell camping supplies. All campgrounds have water and electric hookups, hot showers, and site-specific reservations. For more information and to reserve a camping site visit GaStateParks.org/Camping.

Hiking at Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike the Trails: Explore the trails and discover the wonders of nature. Georgia’s State Parks offer a variety of hiking and biking paths from easy paved loops to challenging backcountry trails. Families will experience Georgia’s diverse landscape as well with canyons and waterfalls, salt marshes and streams. Energetic explorers can join the Canyon Climbers Club or Muddy Spokes Club to earn a members-only t-shirt. Bring Fido along for a full circle adventure via the Georgia State Parks Tails on Trails Club. Learn more at GaStateParks.org/ParkActivities.

Enjoying nature at Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glamping Yurts: For a unique and affordable getaway, book a “glamour camping” yurt. These funky wood and canvas structures are a blend between a tent and cabin with furniture inside and fire rings outside. Guests can even walk to nearby hot showers. Yurts are available at Cloudland Canyon, Red Top Mountain, High Falls, Fort Yargo, Sweetwater Creek, and Tugaloo state parks. For more information visit GaStateParks.org/UniqueAccommodations.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Junior Rangers: Explorers of any age will have fun learning in the outdoors as they work toward earning a Junior Ranger badge. By following guidelines in activity book or attending ranger-led camps, they will experience nature first-hand and delve into Georgia’s fascinating history. The experience builds as children earn 59 park-specific badges. Download the free book at GaStateParks.org/EducationalResources.

Exploring history at Fort Frederica National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Geocache through History: Love a treasure hunt? Georgia’s revamped History Trail offers new challenges, new locations, and a new reward. This mystery tour offers geocachers of all levels a chance to travel back in time and earn an exclusive trackable coin. Answer questions about each historic site you visit and discover the code to unlock hidden caches. Download and print a Time Travel Ticket prior to participating. For more information visit GaStateParks.org/Geocaching.

Fishing at Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go Fishing: Grab your rod and reel and head out for a day of fishing. For families who would like to take their adventure up a notch, many state parks rent boats by the hour. Great places to try include High Falls, Reed Bingham, and Seminole state parks. For more information visit GaStateParks.org/ParkFishing.

Travel back in time at Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel Back in Time: Step back in time at Georgia’s state historic sites. Explore colonial times at Fort Morris and Fort King George or Civil War bunkers at Fort McAllister. To learn about Native American history visit Kolomoki Mounds, New Echota, Chief Vann House, and Etowah Indian Mounds. Even more historic sites are listed on GaStateParks.org/History.

Canoeing at Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go Paddling: Explore Georgia’s waterways through a variety of paddling adventures. Canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and aquacycles may be rented seasonally, or visitors may bring their own boats. Many parks offer guided tours including Stephen C. Foster’s tour of the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp. For a challenge, join the Park Paddlers Club which takes explorers to six state parks as they show off their members-only t-shirt. For more information visit GaStateParks.org/Paddling.

Canoeing at Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cozy Cabins: For an affordable and cozy staycation, book a cabin or cottage surrounded by beautiful scenery. Ranging from one to three bedrooms, state park cabins come with fully equipped kitchens, screened porches, and a wide range of activities right outside the door. Choose from mini golf, nature trails, ranger programs, archery, disc golf, and more. Bring the four-legged family members along when you reserve a dog-friendly cabin in advance. For more information visit GaStateParks.org/Cottages.

Boating at Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tee Off: Tee off at one of Georgia’s eight state park golf courses offering a family-friendly atmosphere surrounded by sparkling lakes and scenic forests. Lessons, putting greens, pro shops and cabin packages are available. Green fees are as low as $20. To learn more visit GaStateParks.org/Golfing.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Georgia Is On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind

Whitewater rafting, mountain hiking, beachside biking, music and art festivals, local shops and boutiques, history, and southern hospitality…there’s so much to experience in the Peach State. Keep Georgia on your mind as you plan your next RV trip.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History buffs will find plenty to see and do in Georgia, including history and heritage museums, historic homes, as well as tours and trails. The Ocmulgee National Monument is dedicated to the 12,000 years of human habitation in the Macon area. Earthen mounds and a ceremonial lodge are available for viewing.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk down the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s first city in Savannah, a place filled with southern charm and the largest historic district in the country. Steeped in history, antebellum beauty and architectural treasures, Savannah begs to be explored on foot and by trolley. Much of Savannah’s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them. Along the way, you’ll happen upon numerous historic homes like the Mercer Williams House, popularized by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the home of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe came to St. Simons Island to establish a town that would serve as a bulwark against the Spanish in Florida who still claimed the coastal islands now being settled by the English. To achieve this goal, he established Frederica.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the incredible 100 miles of Georgia’s coastline lies the magical seaside retreat of the Golden Isles. Nestled along stretches of sand dunes and salt marshes, the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beloved barrier islands—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Islands—offer breathtaking landscapes, a variety of recreational pursuits, and inherent tranquility.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore is the largest and southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands, offering a wild escape in a natural landscape of dunes, marshlands, maritime forests, and wild horses roaming its beaches. The National Seashore spans more than 36,000 acres, nearly a third of which is designated wilderness.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved Macon

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, discover the more than 400 Civil War sites offering a wealth of battlefields, cemeteries, arsenals, museums, mansions, and stories.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee is an area of swampland in southern Georgia, covering more than 770 square miles. It is a maze of watercourses, cypress swamps, and swamp grassland. Interesting features are the “floating islands,” which quake under foot but nevertheless support whole forests and in the past provided protection for Indian settlements. The swamp is home to many endangered species, as well as an estimated 10,000 alligators. From the little town of Waycross there are boat trips into the swamp.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia’s 47 state parks offer opportunities for outdoor adventure. Go rafting or kayaking on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus. Hike the Appalachian Trail that starts at Springer Mountain in the North Georgia Mountains.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park offers a large campground, golf course, and Sportsman’s Cabins, as well as kayak rentals, playgrounds, and trails. The park is designed to allow visitors to get the most out of the time they spend in nature. It surrounds Laura S. Walker Lake and sits just to the north of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Stephen Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park spans 80 acres, anchored around the gorgeous Okefenokee Swamp. Park visitors can canoe, kayak, and boat on the Spanish moss-lined swamp’s waters or embark on guided fishing and boating tours.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of the Blood Mountain. Four hiking trails of varying difficulty offer opportunities to observe spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains scenery year-round, most popular during the autumn months as leaf-watching routes. A 22-acre lake is also open for boaters, along with a seasonal swimming beach available to visitors of all ages throughout the summer months. With all there is to see and do, you’ll want to make sure that Georgia is on your mind.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

4 Best Georgia State & National Parks

From the Chattahoochee National Forest to the still waters of steamy swamps and coastal seashore, there’s so much to explore in Georgia

Several of Georgia’s parks preserve attractions known as the state’s Seven Natural Wonders, including the picturesque Okefenokee Swamp. Excellent fishing opportunities abound throughout the mountain lakes and manmade reservoirs while hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails provide unique vantage points to observe the scenery of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain regions.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore is a spectacular National Park Service-managed national seashore located along Cumberland Island. The seashore is only accessible via boat from the park’s visitor center in the nearby mainland town of St. Mary’s. Stunning sand dune, salt marsh, and freshwater lake habitats are preserved throughout the seashore area which also includes the 9,886-acre Cumberland Island Wilderness and several historic sites related to the Carnegie family.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seashore visitors may bring their own bikes to the island or rent bikes from the Sea Camp Dock for daily exploration. Overnight camping is offered at the park’s public campsites, including a full camping area with restrooms and facilities. Back on the mainland, the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum showcases exhibits on the region’s indigenous history and Antebellum-era plantations.

Laura S. Walker State Park

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wander among the pines at Laura S. Walker, an oasis where you can enjoy the serene lake, play rounds on a championship golf course, and stroll along the trails and natural communities in this southeast Georgia haven. Located near the northern edge of the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp, this park is home to many fascinating creatures and plants including alligators and carnivorous pitcher plants.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walking or biking along the lake’s edge and nature trail, visitors may spot the shy gopher tortoise, numerous oak varieties, saw palmettos, yellow shafted flickers, warblers, owls, and great blue herons. For years, the lake has remained popular with boaters, skiers and jet skiers, but recently the area has become a hit with bass and crappie anglers. 

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park spans 80 acres anchored around the gorgeous Okefenokee Swamp. The park, which is located within the broader 402,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2016 to protect its unique and sensitive swamp ecosystem.

Stephen Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park visitors can canoe, kayak, and boat on the Spanish moss-lined swamp’s waters or embark on guided fishing and boating tours. Wildlife watchers can enjoy chances to catch glimpses of the park’s population of more than 12,000 American alligators along with black bears, deer, herons, wood storks, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Exhibits on the park’s wildlife are showcased at its Suwannee River Visitor Center which also offers interpretive programming.

Vogel State Park

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park is a 233-acre state park that was one of Georgia’s first two state parks at its founding in 1931. The park which is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of the impressive Blood Mountain is also one of Georgia’s highest-altitude parks sitting at elevations of over 2,500 feet above sea level.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four hiking trails of varying difficulty offer opportunities to observe spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains scenery year-round, most popular during the autumn months as leaf-watching routes. A public visitor center museum focuses on the park’s history and construction by the Civilian Conservation Corps with features detailing the park’s connection to the Great Depression. A 22-acre lake is also open for boaters along with a seasonal swimming beach available to visitors of all ages throughout the summer months.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Stephen Foster State Park: Land of Trembling Earth

What better way to begin a winter southern adventure than a stop at Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Stephen C. Foster State Park, named after the popular Southern songwriter, is one of the primary entrances to the famed Okefenokee Swamp, a peat-filled wetland in the southeast corner of Georgia.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface.  Here, paddlers and photographers enjoy breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife. Inhabiting the lush vegetation of the Okefenokee are 223 species of birds, 41 of mammals, 54 of reptiles, and 60 of amphibians.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In an earlier post we explored the East (main) Entrance to Okefenokee, located 11 miles southwest of Folkston. Using Okefenokee RV Park in Folkston as our home base we continued our exploration of Okefenokee with a day trip to Suwannee River Visitor Center at Fargo and Stephen C. Foster State Park (West Entrance), a distance of 160 miles return. Both entrances to Okefenokee are located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest national wildlife refuge in the eastern United States.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park is located on Jones Island, 18 miles northeast of Fargo on State Highway 177. The Suwannee River, which flows past this park, is the main outlet of Okefenokee Swamp. Stephen Foster, who wrote the song “Way Down Upon The Suwannee River,” is the namesake for this preserve.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is the only entry point to Okefenokee Swamp with overnight RV accommodations. The campground at Stephen Foster State Park offers 64 campsites with water, electrical, and cable TV hookups. Amenities include rest rooms with hot showers, laundry facilities, fire rings, picnic tables, and a small store. There are numerous sites suitable for large rigs; however, extreme care is required when navigating the interior roads. The park offers nine overnight cabins for your non-RVing friends as well as a marina with rental boats and a trading post that supplies fishing and picnic paraphernalia.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A half-mile wheelchair-accessible nature trail includes a boardwalk and a sampling of the trembling earth so characteristic of the Okenfenokee. A visitors center has interpretive exhibits. But the best way to see the swamp is by water. There are 25 miles of well-marked water trails within the swamp. A horsepower limit applies to water craft.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can take a guided tour of the swamp or rent a powered johnboat to see Billy’s Island, once the site of the Okefenokee’s largest settlement during the cypress-logging era. It is estimated that more than 431 million board feet of timber was taken from the area between 1909 and 1927. The only remnants of the logging today are rusted and ruined equipment. But the swamp is still alive.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also a popular fishing area, anglers try for jack fish, bream. and catfish.

A water trail also leads to Minnie’s Lake, another popular fishing area amid the towering cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure to stop by the Suwannee River Visitor Center, where you can learn about the area wildlife. Located in Fargo, southwest of Stephen Foster State Park and backed by Spanish-moss draped trees, the Suwannee River Visitor Center overlooks a bend in the black-water river where people can fish and launch boats.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inside, visitors learn that tannic acid produced by decaying vegetation is what gives the river its tea color, and that unlike other reptiles, mother alligators actively care for their babies. Animal displays include a black bear, bobcat, fox squirrel, otter, snakes, fish, and numerous birds, including a wood stork.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A short film takes visitors on a leisurely trip through the river and swamp, highlighting flowers, insects, misty morning fog, and the many creatures that call the waters home. The center also includes exhibits on the timber industry, local history, and energy efficiency.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Suwannee River Visitor Center is operated by Stephen C. Foster State Park.

Worth Pondering…

Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away
That’s where my heart is turning ever
That’s where the old folks stay
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam
Still longing for the old plantation
And for the old folks at home

—Stephen Foster, 1851

Laura S. Walker State Park: A Place to Reconnect With Nature

Wander among the pines at Laura S. Walker, the first state park named for a woman

Situated deep in South Georgia just outside of Waycross and a short drive from the Okefenokee Swamp, this grass-filled blackwater lake sprawls for roughly 120 acres inside of the beautiful Laura S. Walker State Park.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park is home to many fascinating creatures and plants including alligators and carnivorous pitcher plants. The park is an oasis that shares many features with the unique Okefenokee Swamp where you can enjoy the serene lake, play rounds on a championship golf course, and stroll along the trails and natural communities in this southeast Georgia haven.

Walking or biking along the lake’s edge and nature trail, visitors may spot the shy gopher tortoise, numerous oak varieties, saw palmettos, yellow shafted flickers, warblers, owls, and great blue herons. The park’s lake offers opportunities for fishing, swimming, and boating.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lakes, a championship 18-hole golf course, features a clubhouse, golf pro, and junior/senior rates. Greens are undulating rather than tiered. Each fairway and landing area is defined with gentle, links-style mounds that accent the course’s three large lakes.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park’s namesake was a Georgia writer, teacher, civic leader, and naturalist who loved trees and worked for their preservation. Laura Singleton Walker was born in Milledgeville, Georgia in 1861. She was both an author and a conservationist. Her friends included military and community leaders as well as presidents and governors. Her civic works and commitment to helping the environment led her to outline a forestry activity program that made many local conservation and beautification projects possible.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

She worked to educate the public about the importance of protecting the environment and maintaining forestry programs. She also had the distinction of being the only living person with a state park named in her honor. Ms. Walker worked tirelessly throughout Ware County and the surrounding areas until her death in 1955 at the age of 94.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is designed to allow visitors to get the most out of the time they spend in nature. For those who want to see wildlife, they won’t be disappointed. The park is home to owls, great blue herons, gopher tortoises, alligators, and many other animals. It also hosts a variety of activities each year with the Friends of Laura S. Walker State Park volunteering their time to maintain the area and perform fundraisers.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For years, the lake has remained popular with boaters, skiers, and jet skiers, but during the last couple of years the area has become popular with bass and crappie anglers. 

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 44-site campground offers numerous sites suitable for big rigs. All sites include electric service. Site-specific information is available on the park’s website. Other facilities available for rent include six Sportsman’s Cabins (sleeps 6), seven picnic shelters, four group shelters (seats 75-165), one group camp (sleeps 142), and one gazebo. Other related amenities include a playground, a dog park, boat ramp, kayak and bike rentals, four miles of hiking trails, wildlife observation platform, and Wi-Fi.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ranger Dave Jordan has been with the Department of Natural Resources for 25 years. He was appointed as the Ranger of Laura S. Walker State Park several years ago. He says, “One of the greatest opportunities we have at this park is to continue our public outreach to the folks in the community.”

Ranger Jordan relies on the Friends of the Laura S. Walker State Park to volunteer their time and help raise money that is needed to cover the extras. They meet on the first Monday night of the month. The Friends group raises money, purchases needed items, and donates them to the park.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2017, the park received the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is well-known throughout the area for its amenities and friendly staff.

The park is located at 5653 Laura Walker Road in Waycross, Georgia.

Worth Pondering…

If the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.

—Eleonora Duse

Black-Water Country: Okefenokee Swamp

Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface

Imagine a place where unusual creatures swim through mirror-top waters and exotic plants sprout from floating islands. A place where thousands of creatures serenade the setting of the sun each day.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picture waters so dark and still that the surface seems to reflect images from another world, another time. It is a world more peaceful and more beautiful than any other place on earth. Almost a half-million acres of wetland, uninhabited by mankind, and still as it was thousands of years ago.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now imagine that this place, this natural wonderland is just a road trip away, a place just off the main road, but light years away from this time. It is black-water country, the Okefenokee Swamp.

The Okefenokee offers so much, one could spend a lifetime and still not see and do everything. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, while cypress knees rise upward from the glass-like surface. Here, paddlers and photographers enjoy breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alligators, turtles, raccoons, black bears, deer, egrets, ibis, herons, wood storks, owls, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and numerous other creatures make their homes in the 402,000-acre refuge (that’s roughly 300,000 football fields in size).

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As many as 20,000 alligators consider this spongy peat bog home, so the odds of spotting the reptiles during a visit are high, though there’s no guarantee. To safely view these creatures, visitors should admire them from a distance and keep hands and feet inside boats. Pets are not allowed in boats, even privately owned vessels.  

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From white water lilies to red holly berries, more than 600 plant species reside in Okefenokee and reflect the season. Buds and blossoms burst each spring for the biggest annual display. Bugs are thickest in hot summer months, though the early hours of the day are generally comfortable. Fall brings subtle color changes, like the cypress needles’ transformation to burnt orange and the appearance of the delicate yellow tickseed sunflower.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Migratory birds visit in winter months, which happen to be the best season for serious bird-watching.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now this place, where earth, air, fire, and water continuously reform the landscape, is preserved within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1936 to protect wildlife and for you and future generations to explore.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okefenokee Swamp can be explored in many different ways. There are scenic drives, boat tours, hiking trails, canoe and kayak trails, interpretive centers, guided walks, and more. The various parks and recreation areas feature amenities ranging from boat, canoe and kayak rentals to camping, cabins, and picnicking.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guided boat tours take visitors through cypress forests, historic canals, and open prairies. Water trails and platforms allow people to canoe for the day or stay overnight deep within the 354,000 acre wilderness. Winding boardwalks and trails lead through unique habitats to observation towers and viewing platforms.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opportunities for nature photography, hunting, and fishing are readily available. One can even drive a car or ride a bike to a restored homestead to discover how “swampers” once made their home here.
So come and explore the world renowned Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It is yours to visit. You’ll be glad you did. 

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Way down south in Okefenokee
The sun goes down
And the air is cool

Okefenokee, Okefenokee
Choowa, choowa, choowa

Come on, Georgia

—Freddy Cannon

Fort Frederica National Monument: Georgia’s Second Town

Georgia’s fate was decided in 1742 when Spanish and British forces clashed on St. Simons Island

Located on the interior coast of Georgia’s St. Simons Island, Fort Frederica National Monument preserves the remains of one of the most impressive British settlements ever carved from the American forests. In the early 1700s, Georgia was the epicenter of a centuries-old imperial conflict between Spain and Britain.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe came to St. Simons Island to establish a town that would serve as a bulwark against the Spanish in Florida who still claimed the coastal islands now being settled by the English. To achieve this goal, he established Frederica.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Named for Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales (1702-1754), Frederica was a military outpost consisting of a fort and town that for a time was one of the most important settlements in the American Colonies.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forty four men and 72 women and children arrived to build the fortified town, and by the 1740s Frederica was a thriving village of about 500 citizens. Colonists from England, Scotland, and the Germanic states came to Frederica to support the endeavor.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town’s site at the bend of the Frederica River allowed the British to control the important inland passage leading up the Georgia coast. This powerful bastioned fort protected both the river and the town from the Spanish. Armed with heavy cannon and enclosed by thick walls of earth and timber, the fort was one of the strongest in the South.

In addition, the town itself was surrounded by stout walls of earth and timber which in turn were enclosed by a deep moat. Within this defensive barrier, the town soon became one of the most prosperous in the colony.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A smaller work, Fort St. Simons, was also built at the site of today’s St. Simons Lighthouse. The establishment of the forts took place just before the outbreak of the oddly-named War of Jenkin’s Ear (named for an English sea captain who was captured and lost his ear to the Spanish).

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oglethorpe led expeditions into Spanish Florida from Fort Frederica, but was repulsed by the powerful fortress Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Led by Governor Don Manuel de Montiano, a Spanish force moved north on a campaign of  reprisal during the summer of 1742. Arriving on July 5th, Montiano moved first against Fort St. Simons, which the English evacuated before it could be attacked.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Fort St. Simons as a base, Montiano sent troops up the Military Road to scout the situation at Fort Frederica. This force was met by a party of Oglethorpe’s scouts at Gully Hole Creek about one mile down the road from Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driven back after a sharp fight at Gully Hole Creek in which they lost 12 men killed, the Spanish began to retreat up the Military Road. Montiano moved up additional troops to cover this withdrawal, but they were defeated by English forces at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. Despite the name, casualties were light. Although both sides claimed victory in the battle, the Spanish soon gave up their campaign and returned to Florida.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This British victory not only confirmed that Georgia was British territory, but also signaled the beginning of the end for Frederica.

Frederica remained a flourishing town for another 10 years, but the end of the site’s use for military purposes also spelled an end to the community as well. Most of the surviving structures were destroyed by fire in 1758.
Today the archeological remains of colonial Frederica are protected by the National Park Service.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Frederica is a small colonial site. The terrain is mostly level and the park is beautifully decorated with large oaks and pecan trees draped with Spanish Moss. Ruins of the original fort and barracks can be seen and archaeological investigations have  exposed the foundations of many of the homes.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the activities at Fort Frederica include a 23-minute park film “History Uncovered”, self guided explorations through the archeological site, and a museum area with artifacts found at Frederica.

Fort Frederica National Monument is located at 6515 Frederica Road on St. Simons Island and is currently a fee free park.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven

Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,

Emerald twilights,

Virginal shy lights,

The wide sea-marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)