Turn off the highway, and set out on the back roads. This is where the real adventure begins.
I’ve spent many hours driving through the back roads of Georgia. Often I’m headed up from Florida to Auburn, Alabama to satisfy our lust for college football. Other times I’m popping up to Athens, Georgia to take in the brewery culture and great eats of that college town. I carry on from Athens to visit Charleston, South Carolina, making a virtual triangle over the state of Georgia. And all along the way I try to steer clear of I-75 and I-20 as much as humanly possible.
Because it’s only off the main interstates that the true beauty of Georgia unfolds.
Rolling hills, luscious farmlands, beautiful landscapes… and charming small towns. These are a few of my favorites along the way.
The 8 to 9-hour drive from my hometown up to Auburn covers a lot of ground. We usually get off the highway in Valdosta, and have about 4 hours of country driving through Georgia. Here are the small towns we pass through:
Doe Run is the very definition of a tiny town – according to the 2010 census, only 774 people called this place home. It’s a place where time stood still, and the downtown area invites you to stop and take a look around.
Sasser doesn’t really have much to see as far as the town goes, but we make a stop here every trip for a different reason: Mark’s Melon Patch. This road-side farmer’s market has THE BEST peaches. We never leave the state without picking up a basket.
A “big” small town in relation to this list, Dawson boasts over 5,000 residents as of the 2000 census. Again, charming downtown, and was the birthplace of American singer-songwriter Otis Redding.
One of the smallest small towns with only 156 residents as of the 2000 census. It’s a beautiful little spot for a wander around the old-time downtown – perfect for photo ops if you’re not in a hurry to reach your destination.
The town of Richland isn’t directly on the route, but it would be worth the slight detour. The Richland Main Street hosts a variety of interesting events year-round, including the Kansas City Barbecue Society contest. They are also home to Richland Rum – the Richland Distillery Company facilities. They are open to the public for tours and tastings.
Americus isn’t on the usual route we take to Auburn (there are several once you get into Georgia) but we have passed through on previous trips. It is a lovely town, a bit larger than the others with more than 17,000 residents. Being bigger, it offers many options for curious visitors. You can visit Americus to see all it has to offer – fans of President Jimmy Carter will especially want to poke around a bit.
Much of this route involves interstate driving, but you do get to pass through Lexington. It’s teeny tiny with only 239 residents as of the 2000 census, but it’s cute nonetheless. It’s also home to Shaking Rock Park, which is popular with the outdoorsy types and rock climbing enthusiasts.
This is another town of just over 3,500 residents that offers visitors a range of activities. The downtown area is beyond charming, and hosts events throughout the year. Check the downtown Madison calendar and plan your trip accordingly.
At 6,480 residents as of the 2010 census, Eatonton is the second largest small town on this list. There are plenty of attractions, and the city really embodies its southern “Briar Patch” traditions. It’s the hometown of Joel Chandler Harris of Br’er Rabbit and Disney’s “Song of the South” fame. The county was also home to Alice Walker (author of “The Color Purple”), S. Truett Cathy (Chick-fil-A founder), Vincent Hancock (Olympic shooter) and Zac Brown (lead singer of the Zac Brown Band).
And that’s my little tour of tiny Georgia. Proving you don’t have to have a humungous population or big-name buzz to have appeal.