By Andrew Ward
From my decade or so serving on the Advisory Board at the Georgia Tourism Foundation, I learned early on all about the charms Georgia has to offer the visitor or local traveler. Did you know that we have 100 miles of coastline, which ranks us 16th in America for most oceanfront – okay, now I know there are only 23 States that touch the ocean, but that’s still really cool right? There are not many States that have mountain ranges, ocean breezes and a metro capital with over 5.5 million people enjoying life.
This is a fun State!
A little history first
with a lot of help from Wikipedia…
Georgia was established back in 1732, that’s 283 years ago for those of you adding this up on your fingers, and was one of the original thirteen colonies. It was named after the United Kingdoms’ King George II, and was the fourth state to ratify the US Constitution, some 56 years later in 1788.
It would be another 73 years before Georgia would then declare its secession from the Union in 1861, and was therefore one of the original seven Confederate States. Georgia then became the last of those seven States to be restored into the Union in 1870.
Life in the South, bless your hearts, we live in the perfect State. Looking for Travel, Music and the Arts? Then look no further than Atlanta itself, as it truly has it all. There may only be 450,000 people living in the city, and I know those of you that travel home, either north, south, east or west of Atlanta between 4pm and 7pm on a weekday probably think all 450,000 residents are on the roads with you – but setting aside the rush hour traffic, what’s not to love?
So come travel with me as I take you on a speedy visit around Georgia on my 2007 Heritage Softail Harley Davidson. As we zip up and down our beautiful state, maybe you will read something here that tempts you to explore Georgia further, by car or by motorbike…
I begin my journey in the magnificent city of Atlanta of course. Did you know our capital city used to be called Marthasville? I head north on I 75/85 and roll with thunder into Downtown. I find myself in the first of 9 Georgia tourism regions, “Metro Atlanta.” This is a shining example of sustainable development where environmental concerns are an essential part of the city’s growth plan. Atlanta is actually the 5th city to be named capital of Georgia. It was preceded by Savannah, Augusta, Louisville and Milledgeville respectively. As I continue my ride, I get lost heading for Peachtree Street… There are 55 streets with the name Peachtree in Georgia, and most of them appear to be in Atlanta according to my GPS!
Where do I visit? The Varsity of course, for the best but unhealthiest food in Midtown! There’s too much to see here, so I head an hour north into the “High Country” region. The small town of Ballpark is where you find Gibbs Gardens, as spring is the amazing time of year when their flowers and the Japanese maple collections explode into life.
Next stop is Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, the “NE Mountains” region, as I ride just a short two hours to the state’s tallest peak at 4,784’ above sea level. From here I can see for miles and it takes my breath away. Another place that takes my breath away in this region is our Currahee Golf Club and Lakefront residential community in Toccoa. Currahee is the #1 rated Best Golf Club in Georgia, and one of the final four Best Golf Clubs in America, according to the National Golf Course Owners Association in 2015 – now that’s worth seeing!
I then drive to the “Classic South” region, with my longest stretch, a long 380 mile ride down wonderful Highway 441. I then take I-20 and arrive at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area, where I hike, and paddle in a canoe. I end my afternoon with a stroll along the Riverwalk in downtown Augusta.
My travels then take me on a short 80 mile ride to the “Magnolia Midlands” where I arrive in Statesboro, and find the Meinhardt Vineyard and Winery. Unfortunately, I can’t partake of a glass of vino while I am riding, which is a shame because this was the first of a kind Muscadine winery in Georgia.
Next, I continue on to a popular area as I head further south for 130 miles into the “Coastal” region. I stop off at Folkston to tour the famous Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – and then on to the Brunswick Isles for sea breezes. And who can pass up a trip on the sea to go fresh Georgia shrimp fishing? – Yummy!
Six down and Three to go…
With the coastal breezes at my back, I head for the “Presidential Pathways” region, and ride 150 miles into Albany to visit the Flint Freshwater Aquarium, as I then wander down the Flint River to stretch my legs. Next stop is Warm Springs, a mere two hour, 110 mile ride, where I enter the “Plantation Trace” region of Georgia. Here I find the famous Little Lighthouse, and then visit the place that President Roosevelt came to enjoy the warm mineral waters which were rumored to help with his polio during his Presidency.
The last leg of my journey is just 75 miles away as my trusty Harley takes me into the “Historic Heartland,” a particular familiar region, because I lived here for almost thirteen years. The area is full of lakes, golf courses and tourism hot spots. While I have kept a keen focus on travel in my write up this month, to match theme in this issue of Southern Distinction, you will see that music too is also well covered inside this issue; as both Athens and Macon exude music scenes and long music history. The Historic Heartland is a big hit. For my pick, I ride by the Big House Museum in Macon that houses the Almond Brothers Museum; I lose myself in their unique 1970’s music library.
After resting my Harley, I set out the next day to journey back to Atlanta and end my epic 820 mile Georgia trip downtown, at the Coca Cola museum for a refreshing conclusion to an awesome trip. Along the way I met the friendliest southerners around, enjoyed a variety of sweetness in my sweet tea, enjoyed stone ground grits, and experienced a plethora of amenities, sights, scenes, and the wonderful residents Georgia has to offer. If you go to the tourism section of www.Georgia.org, you can order one of the free, annual Georgia Travel Guide Magazines and have it delivered to your home. If you like the online version, it’s also easy to download and view.
Inside you will find, divided into the nine tourism districts, all of the fun and interesting things there is to see – and where to stay along the way. I look forward to getting mine every year – have you got yours? Go travel Georgia, there is no finer state in the USA, which is why we always have Georgia on our Minds in the Ward household!
Travel safe my friends,