Skip to main content
  • The Atlanta BeltLine and the Atlanta, Georgia, skyline
    View more

    Atlanta: Exciting Gateway to the Southeast

  • Couple walking a dog past Forsyth Park's iconic fountain in Savannah, Georgia
    View more

    Savannah: History, Beauty and Entertainment

  • Sunrise over Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia
    View more

    Golden Isles: Barrier Island Paradise

Strolling the oak-lined pathway at Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah, Georgia
View more

Culture Capital, Historic Squares and Tranquil Islands: 3 Captivating Stops in Georgia

By Elizabeth Cox

  • Route distance:
    1,055 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Explore top attractions in urban paradise Atlanta, charming historic sites in Savannah and coastal beauty in the Golden Isles.

Like much of the southeastern USA, Georgia is known for its warm hospitality, bucolic small towns and delectable cuisine. You’d expect nothing less from a state with a nickname as delightful as “The Peach State.” While this is certainly a place where you can take it slow and explore at your own pace, Georgia is also packed with charisma, variety and excitement. Starting in the state capital of Atlanta and heading southeast toward the Atlantic Ocean coast, this route is all about experiencing abundant culture, family fun and natural beauty. Fly into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and rent a car to start your journey.

01
The Atlanta BeltLine and the Atlanta, Georgia, skyline
View more
©2017 Gene Phillips/Atlanta CVB & AtlantaPhotos.com

Atlanta: Exciting Gateway to the Southeast

You’ll quickly realize why there’s so much hype surrounding Atlanta. It’s a major urban destination and boasts famous landmarks, captivating street art and a global food scene that will leave you wanting more. Start your explorations downtown around Centennial Olympic Park. Marvel at the cityscape from SkyView Atlanta, a 20-story Ferris wheel with enclosed climate-controlled gondolas. Next, walk to nearby popular attractions such as Georgia Aquarium (one of the world’s largest) and World of Coca-Cola museum. Atlanta is also an historic center. Tour Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park to see the famed civil right leader’s former home, as well as the church where he preached. Then, visit the King Center and National Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn about the city’s civil rights legacy.

To truly get a feel for the city, the Atlanta BeltLine is one of the best ways to explore like the locals do. This pedestrian- and bike-friendly path circling much of the city cuts through vibrant neighborhoods and is dotted with public art, restaurants, markets and more. Start in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood at Ponce City Market, featuring a food hall where you can sample local and international flavors and a festive rooftop complete with bars and a miniature golf course. Nearby, artsy Cabbagetown has a food hall of its own in the Krog Street Market, but is also known for the ever-changing, graffiti-inspired street art in its Krog Street Tunnel. Another neighborhood to explore is the historic West End, home to the Atlanta University Center, a cluster of historically Black colleges and universities. Stop by campus art museums and the Hammonds House Museum to see a wealth of African American art on display. It’s an enriching way to spend an afternoon in Atlanta before driving to your next stop.

400 km
3.75 hours by car
02
Couple walking a dog past Forsyth Park's iconic fountain in Savannah, Georgia
View more
Geoff’s Photos

Savannah: History, Beauty and Entertainment

Take Interstate 75 and Interstate 16 to Savannah, and notice how the hills gradually flatten out as you approach this riverfront city. Dating to 1733, Savannah is known as “America’s first planned city” for the wide avenues and public parks that founder Gen. James Oglethorpe envisioned. Savannah is practically synonymous with history, beauty and hospitality. The feeling exudes from the warmth of the people you meet as you stroll manicured squares ringed by elegant homes. As Georgia’s oldest city, Savannah is full of historic sites, including its largest and oldest public park, Forsyth Park, home to an iconic fountain that is one of the city’s most photographed spots. Venture a short drive from the city center to see Bonaventure Cemetery, a tranquil Spanish moss-draped cemetery with ornate monuments made famous in the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Next, head to Wormsloe State Historic Site, where a wide lane lined with more than 400 live oak trees provides a wealth of photo opportunities. This lane leads to Savannah’s oldest standing structure, the ruins of a home made from tabby (a concrete mix of crushed oyster shells, lime, sand and water) that dates to 1745.

Back in the heart of the city, seek out history paired with water views on River Street, a cobblestone street with brick sidewalks where you’ll find bars, restaurants, art galleries and shops in former warehouses. For more dining, shopping and entertainment, head to the artsy and hip Starland District or the Plant Riverside District, a chic destination for fun in and around a refurbished 1912 power plant. Before you head south, take a day trip to explore Tybee Island, a coastal escape featuring sandy beaches, a fishing pier and Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse.

More information
142 km
1.5 hours by car
03
Sunrise over Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia
View more

Golden Isles: Barrier Island Paradise

You’ll start to spot marshes and winding rivers as you drive south along Interstate 95 toward the Golden Isles, a region with four barrier islands and a historic mainland city. The name evokes the richness of the islands’ offerings, but especially their golden-hued sands and coastal marshes. The largest of the Golden Isles is the family-friendly St. Simons Island, home to one of five surviving lighthouses in Georgia (a white structure that seems to reflect the color of the sky), a variety of restaurants and 32 kilometers of bike paths ideal for pedaling with the kids. Just to the east, Sea Island is the only resort in the world to receive four Forbes Five-Star awards for 12 consecutive years. This is a place where you can relax in style, play three championship golf courses and bask on 8 kilometers of pristine, private beach.

Only accessible by boat, Little St. Simons Island beckons with a gorgeous eco-resort set within a sprawling undeveloped wilderness. Here, you can kick back on 11 kilometers of private beach or immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors on naturalist-led excursions such as hiking, fishing, kayaking and bird watching. The southernmost of the barrier islands is Jekyll Island, a state park and National Historic Landmark District featuring 34 historic structures. Don’t miss the aptly named Driftwood Beach, a hauntingly beautiful stretch of sand dotted with dozens of weathered trees that is sure to fill your camera roll. Just inland is Brunswick, where a lively downtown boasts Victorian-era architecture, local boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and even a rum distillery. It’s a colorful place to spend an evening before undertaking the 4.5-hour drive back to Atlanta for your flight home.

More information