Best Road Trips in the USA: Georgia

We’re headed to the mountains, beaches and greatest attractions in the Peach State.

Illustrated map of Georgia, including locations for Atlanta, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Savannah, and Helen. Map is not to scale. This map is not to scale and is not intended for use in navigation ©Kelsey Davis,

Whether you’re looking to experience the hustle and bustle of downtown Atlanta, the thrills of the Georgia Mountain Coaster in Helen or the history of Savannah, the Peach State offers something for everyone and provides a great place to take one of the best road trips in the US.

So, pack your bags and come along with us on a road trip through Georgia that is full of adventures, in big and small towns, just waiting to be had.

Atlanta, GA

We’re beginning our Georgia road trip in the capital city of Atlanta. It is Georgia’s largest and most populous city, with 5.16 million residents. Our first stop is in the center of downtown at Centennial Olympic Park, which famously hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. This 22-acre public park is where you’ll find a photo-worthy statue of the Olympic rings, as well as the Fountain of Rings, which boasts an impressive show at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

Exterior view of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights at dusk National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Here are three can’t-miss museums in Atlanta:

  • National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which celebrates the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement through immersive exhibits—viewing personal papers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and joining non-violent protestors at a 1960s lunch counter sit-in—to inspire visitors to reflect on today’s important human rights issues and create positive change.
  • World of Coca-Cola, a museum dedicated to the iconic soft drink company. 
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum, where you’ll learn about America’s 39th president, who served from 1977 to 1981.

Finally, take some time to stop and smell the roses at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This 30-acre park has a variety of areas and exhibits to entertain the whole family. Younger guests will enjoy The Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, which features beautiful flowers as well as a play structure, a rope bridge and a splash pad. And a stroll through the Japanese Garden or Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory is perfect for horticulturalists looking for inspiration.

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Aerial view of terrain and greenery at Cloudland Canyon State Park iStock

From Atlanta, travel north for about 120 miles to Cloudland Canyon State Park. This is one of the largest and most scenic parks in Georgia, offering unparalleled access to sweeping vistas of the great outdoors just a few hours from the city.

Located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, a highlight of the state park is Cloudland Canyon, which features thousand-foot-deep gorges, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, abundant wildlife and ample outdoor activities. Visitors can hike 64 miles of trails or rent a bike to explore the 30 miles of bike trails.

Those seeking out the park’s iconic Cherokee and Hemlock waterfalls will have to conquer a strenuous 2-mile hike, which includes climbing 600 metal stairs. For a more moderate hike, try the Meadowlands Trail, which takes you by a fishing pond and, in late June and early July, has meadows full of wild blackberries ready for picking.

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

Waterfall surrounded by rocks and trees iStock

Heading east from Cloudland Canyon State Park, it’s 84 miles to our next stop, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Georgia’s only national forest, where you can enjoy 867,000 acres of the great outdoors.

Track Rock Gap is considered one of the most significant archeological sites in the southeastern United States, featuring 1,000-year-old rock carvings, or petroglyphs, created by the Creek and Cherokee people.

Looking to strike it rich? Almost all the creeks in north Georgia are said to contain gold. Don’t miss the gold-panning experience at Crisson Gold Mine or the Dahlonega Gold Museum, which commemorates one of America’s first gold rushes in this part of the state.

Helen, GA

Red roofed buildings of German architecture with mountains in background Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

Helen is a small town set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and known for the unique Bavarian-style architecture of its downtown. This quaint alpine village is also home to the longest-running Oktoberfest in the United States—it lasts from the first weekend in September through the last weekend in October.

A stop at the Georgia Mountain Coaster is a must for thrill-seeking travelers. This mountain coaster reaches top speeds of 28 mph and is a mile long with twists, turns and 360-degree loops. Each car comes with hand brakes so you can control how fast or slow you go—so no matter your speed, you’re sure to enjoy the ride!

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Wooden walkway leading towards a suspension bridge that crosses over the Tallulah River in Tallulah Gorge State Park iStock

It’s a 29-mile drive east from Helen to Tallulah Gorge State Park. This 473-acre park is home to one of the eastern United States’ most spectacular canyons, which measures 2 miles long and almost 1,000 feet deep.

Be sure to arrive early at the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center on the day of your visit to nab one of the 100 daily permits to explore the gorge floor. If you miss out on the day’s permits, don’t fret: Both the North and South Rim Trails offer scenic overlooks and Instagram-worthy views of the canyonlands below.

Savannah, GA

Oak trees line each side of path leading to Forsyth Park Fountain iStock

Savannah is an iconic Georgia destination oozing Southern charm with its decadent food, colorful architecture and plentiful history. Start your Savannah journey with a tour of the Historic Landmark District to experience the beauty of the city.

The 30-acre Forsyth Park in the historic district is an ideal place to start. The white-stone Forsyth Fountain, a memorial dedicated to the Spanish-American War and the 300-year-old Candler Oak Tree are all tourist hot spots within walking distance, as is the Mercer Williams House Museum, which covers some of the area’s antebellum history.

Make your way to River Street and the cobble stone-lined Savannah’s Waterfront for shops, galleries and restaurants overlooking the Savannah River. On the way, you’ll pass Chippewa Square, where the famous Forrest Gump scene was filmed. You can sit on the bench where Forrest says the iconic line, “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

History buffs will appreciate Old Fort Jackson, a national historic landmark that was built in 1808 and manned during the War of 1812. This brick outpost was used as a Confederate fort during the Civil War and was eventually abandoned in 1905. It has since reopened as a museum, offering exabits, education and daily cannon and musket firings.

The final stop is Tybee Island, about a 20-minute drive from Savannah’s historic district. The Tybee Light Station and Museum and the sea turtles of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center are must-sees—and a leisurely stroll along the beach with the cool Atlantic Ocean breeze on your face is also not to be missed.

The Golden Isles

St Simons Island Lighthouse with boulders in foreground iStock

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.

The Golden Isles are full of activities, from deep-sea fishing to sunbathing on one of the many area beaches. Looking for some more family-friendly fun? Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island is just what you need. Ride the waves at the Frantic Atlantic wave pool or scream your way through the twists and turns of Nature’s Revenge water slides. This water park has rides varying from high to low thrill, making it perfect for all ages.

Discover Jekyll Island’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center—the state’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility—to learn about work being done to save these endangered animals from extinction. Nature enthusiasts will also want to experience Little St. Simons Island, which is a 11,000-acre nature preserve where you can see up to 330 bird species and kayak the area’s tributaries and marshlands. The only way to visit the island is by booking a stay at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island—be prepared for the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the untamed Georgia coastal wilderness.

Columbus, GA

Downtown Columbus GA with blue sky in background iStock

The final stop on our Georgia road trip is a 265-mile trek west to Columbus. History buffs will love the National Civil War Naval Museum, which focuses on the naval history of the Civil War; exhibits there include a replica of the USS Hartford.

The Coca-Cola Space Science Center, part of Columbus State University, is dedicated to educating the public about the wonders of space. Exhibits highlight NASA artifacts from the Space Shuttle Program, and there’s also a space mission simulator and a planetarium.

Finally, Whitewater Express is the largest urban course for whitewater rafting. The dam releases water on a schedule, with lower-flow, milder rapids in the morning and higher-flow, wilder rapids later in the day. Visitors can choose the class of rapids they want to experience by the time of day they visit.

Traveling to Georgia? AAA saves you time and money.

Ready to book your own road trip through Georgia? Be sure to use your AAA Membership discounts to save money during every stop on your journey, from gas stations and hotels to attractions and restaurants. Want to add additional stops to your route? Work with your AAA Travel Advisor to take the headache out of travel planning or use AAA TripTik Travel Planners to find gas stations, rest stops and campgrounds along your route.

Keep reading in: