Take ‘The Scenic Route’ Through Georgia’s Antebellum Trail

Georgia’s Antebellum Trail is full of historic, southern treasures, one of the most well-known being classic Antebellum architecture.  Drive the backroads of Georgia, stroll past grand Antebellum homes and explore our thriving, historical downtowns. Take ‘The Scenic Route’ as you explore some of the Antebellum Trail’s most unique treasures known only to the South.

Athens: The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

2450 S. Milledge Avenue, Athens, Georgia 30605

As you begin your journey on Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, start your first adventure in Athens, GA, home to the University of Georgia and a town cultivated on Southern charm. The Athens Welcome Center is located in a historic house museum that offers guided heritage tours in the downtown district on East Dougherty Street where you can pick up brochures on Athens’ music scene, critically acclaimed restaurants and a full range of must see attractions. 

Outside of downtown on South Milledge Avenue, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia rests on 313 acres on the Middle Oconee River serving as a cultural, educational and recreational facility. Themed displays can be explored throughout the garden including the Flower Garden, International Garden, Heritage Garden, Shade Garden, and the new Children’s Garden along with many others. The garden is an All-American Selections Garden, Southeastern Conifer Society Reference Garden, American Daffodil Society Display Garden and Audubon Society Important Bird Area. You can travel 5 miles of nature trails while experiencing the natural beauty of habitats and plant communities found in the Georgia Piedmont region. The grounds feature the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory which contains a collection of tropical and semi-tropical plants providing the perfect backdrop for concerts, lectures and art exhibitions.

After a long day of adventures, rest at the Colonel’s Bed and Breakfast, less than 10 minutes from the State Botanical Garden. Established in 1860, the columned rural mansion is  furnished with European antiques imported from an old chateau featuring 7 bedrooms and 3 suites. The bed and breakfast sits on over 30 acres of land with a pond where guests can enjoy walking trails with direct access to Rock and Shoal Outcrop Heritage and Natural Area, horses at Angel Oaks Farm, and much more. 

Watkinsville: Thomas Orchards and Greenhouse

6091 Macon Highway, Bishop, GA 30621

Take Business 441 through the heart of historical downtown Watkinsville. Upon entering Watkinsville, you will travel down Historic South Main Street which is on the National Register of Historic Places. See homes along this historic corridor in the Queen Anne, Greek Revival and Gothic Revival style, including the “Lady on the Hill” Ashford Memorial Methodist Church (Gothic Revival). Visit the Oconee County Welcome Center and make the most of your stay in Oconee where you can pick up the Downtown Watkinsville Historical Walking Tour brochure and other local and regional information. Also before you leave you can take a tour of the Eagle tavern Museum; a 1801 stagecoach stop, inn and tavern. Learn about life on the early Georgia frontier, travel, local history and much more.

On your way out of Watkinsville, headed south on the Macon Highway, visit Thomas Orchards and Greenhouse in Bishop, GA. You can’t visit a small town and not try their homemade peach ice cream! Experience some southern charm and hospitality as you browse through the greenhouse and gift shop where you will find unique plants, outdoor art, pottery and fresh picked peaches all while enjoying a true southern ice cream treat.

A few miles down the road from the orchards and greenhouse, you can experience Bishop’s Antique Row. Bishop was incorporated in 1890 and originally known as Greenwood Crossing. Now known as Antique Row, offering over 10,000 sq feet of antique shopping to choose from, you are sure to find an unique item from Tracks of Time, Back in Time Antiques, Frosted Lion, Mustard Seed Antiques or Old Rags.

Needing a place to rest after your adventures? Rest your head at Pine Lake Campground, a luxury campground that offers full hook-up RV sites and cabin rentals. Pine Lake reflects the spirit of camping and provides a wide variety of amenities to meet guests’ needs. Offering large, shady, level campsites in a peaceful, natural setting. Amenities include bathhouses, free WiFi, hot spots, pay-for-use television, on-site laundry facilities, fishing dock, wildlife viewing, camp store and more. Call for reservations 706-769-5486.

Madison: Southern Cross Guest Ranch

1670 Bethany Church Rd., Madison, GA 30650

Just 20 minutes south of Watkinsville, you’ll arrive in the historic small town of Madison, Georgia. You’ll find time runs just a little bit slower in Madison; not much has changed in the town’s beautiful architecture since its founding in the early 1800s and the friendly residents love sharing what has made this small community thrive for more than 200 years. Your first stop in the heart of downtown Madison is the Madison Welcome Center, where local guides will be happy to show you how to use the town’s free audio tour app or encourage you to disconnect completely with a printed walking tour of one of Georgia’s largest Historic Districts and tips on all the best attractions, shops and eateries in town.

Madison is sure to leave you wanting to discover more small southern towns, and just 9 miles east of Madison you’ll find the quaint town of Rutledge with a population under 800. Grab a boxed lunch from downtown Rutledge’s old-time Caboose, enjoy the patriotic murals about town showing what makes Rutledge “Small but Special,” and continue on to Hard Labor Creek State Park, Georgia’s second-largest state park. Here you can enjoy lunch under the state park’s glorious pines, sun at the lakeside sand beach, paddle a canoe, play golf, or hike. With tent and RV sites as well as beautifully appointed cabins, this is the perfect place to spend the rest of your day and night. 

After a night at the park, you’ll be inspired to continue your adventures at the Southern Cross Guest Ranch, which has received accolades from Travel + Leisure magazine as “One of America‘s Best Dude Ranches”. It is best known for its exceptional hands-on horseback riding programs and unguided riding opportunities. You don’t have to be a guest to enjoy trail rides on one of the Ranch’s more than 150 quality Paint and Quarter horses. They also serve three delicious, buffet-style meals a day that feature a delicious mix of international cuisine as well as local favorites.

Eatonton: Rock Hawk Effigy and Trails

Lawrence Shoals Rd., Eatonton, GA 31024

As you enter the city of Eatonton, GA, on North Jefferson Street, you will come upon Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch. A pollinator habitat created by local volunteers to support and encourage butterfly reproduction while offering a sanctuary for native species throughout their life stages, the ability to monitor migrating monarch butterflies & to educate the public on how to incorporate larval host plants in their own gardens. The park offers a .25 mile walking trail, picnic tables, benches, and is pet friendly (must be on a leash). This is truly a one-of-a-kind park that demonstrates the beauty of nature.

In the square of Downtown Eatonton, you can find the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center.  While visiting the Welcome Center, pick up a Self-Guided Historic Walking Tour brochure. The brochure showcases more than 75 well-preserved and beautiful historic homes and buildings throughout the historic district of Downtown Eatonton. The residential section of the city and county features more than 100 antebellum and Victorian era structures, as well as many historic commercial buildings. High-style examples of Greek revival, Queen Anne, Folk Victorian and Gothic Revival homes can also be observed. Downtown Eatonton offers two museums featuring famous authors from the area. Inquire about the Georgia Writers Museum and the Uncle Remus Museum while on your visit at the Welcome Center for more information regarding their locations and hours of operation. As you immerse yourself in the history and atmosphere of the town, you will begin to understand the unique Southern experience.

Heading East 15 minutes from Downtown Eatonton on the Sparta Highway, discover Rock Hawk Effigy and Trails. This outdoor classroom displays hundreds of educational indoor and outdoor interpretive centers that cover a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as 12,000 years of the area’s history, including a history of Putnam County’s unique large effigies along the 15 miles of trails that surround and lead to the Rock Hawk Effigy. You can view the effigy from a tower. The historical educational experience is enhanced by the combination of a lake, a river, wetlands and forests that attract a variety of wildlife, including more than 200 bird species. Many trees and plants on the three-mile Blue trail are labeled. Static archery ranges are available as well, but bring your equipment. Rock Hawk park is adjacent to Lawrence Shoals Park, with a full-service campground and day-use area, and picnic pavilion for groups of 30+. The park is equipped with playgrounds, boat ramps and a beach including a beach house with bathrooms.

Before heading out on your next adventure, unwind and rest at Dot2Dot Inn. Dot2Dot Inn is a bed and breakfast in historic Eatonton owned by the Garrett Family. This unique Antebellum home was built in 1844. This serene find features three luxury rooms, Cordon Bleu gourmet breakfasts, Sunday Brunches and personal service making for an enjoyable rest. In the heart of the Antebellum Trail, nestled between Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair and centered between Atlanta and Augusta, we are close to everything and next to perfect!

200 West Hancock Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

As you travel on into Milledgeville, be sure to roll your windows down and take in the lake breeze as you cross the waters of Lake Sinclair. Nestled a few miles south, you’ll enter into the quaint downtown of Milledgeville and you may notice a diverse range of architectural artistry as many area homes survived the periodic fires and willful destruction of the Civil War. Founded in 1803 around a series of beautiful squares and wide streets, Milledgeville was the Capitol of Georgia for more than 60 years. 

Begin your visit with a stop at the Visitor’s Information Center to pick up the Historic Self-Guided Walking Tour. Showcasing structural styles like Gothic and Greek Revival, you will be immersed in the beautiful architecture of over 40 of our Antebellum homes and history-filled stories.

You’ll begin your stroll at the highest point in the city which was reserved for the Statehouse Square. In 1805 construction began and The Old Capitol Building became the first public building ever designed in the United States in the Gothic Revival style. Significant expansions were added to the building with north and south wings built c. 1828 and 1834. The beautiful east and west porticoes with their granite steps were added in 1835, completing the building to the appearance it maintains today.

Continuing, you will meander past countless well-preserved Greek Revival, Victorian, Classic Revival and Milledgeville Federal houses. English-born architect, John Marlor, moved from Charleston in 1815 to master his own artistic mark, developing a new American architectural style known as Milledgeville Federal.  Marlor’s work can be seen at the c.1825 Brown-Stetson-Sanford House, c. 1825 Newell-Watts House, c. 1823 Stovall-Conn-Gardner House and the oldest Masonic Hall still in use in Georgia. Architecture enthusiasts will want to take note of his signature fan-lighted front entrances and spiral staircases.

The c. 1839 Old Governor’s Mansion is another important architectural marvel that housed Georgia’s chief executives for 30 years and is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of High Greek Revival architecture. The four story tall Mansion looms over Milledgeville with its stately columns, imposing façade and interior gold Rotunda.  During the Civil War, the Mansion was claimed as a “prize” in the “March to the Sea,” when General William T. Sherman headquartered in the building on November 23, 1864.

Small and picturesque, Milledgeville welcomes architecture enthusiasts and history lovers with a quintessential dose of southern charm. If you have worked up an appetite, the downtown features a vibrant restaurant scene from traditional bar-b-que and brick oven pizza to house roasted coffee and international delicacies.

1207 Emery Highway, Macon, GA 31217

Macon, GA, is the southernmost city along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail. Be sure to stop by the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in the downtown district for more information about the city’s history and must see local attractions. 

Explore the only Earth Lodge and Early Mississippian temple mounds in North America just minutes from Downtown Macon. Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park features the Great Temple Mound, the Funeral Mound, a boardwalk, bicycle and walking trails, covered picnic tables, a museum and a gift shop that includes pottery replicas, Native American inspired jewelry, fresh clay for crafts and a great selection of books on the Native American history of Middle Georgia. The grounds are occupied by a wetland environment and the Ocmulgee River floodplain wilderness. This site also features Macon’s two battlefields from the Civil War and a plantation house. Step back in time and immerse yourself in the beauty of one of Georgia’s “Fall Line” most preserved prehistoric American Indian sites.

Before heading home from your explorations along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, conclude your day at the 1842 Inn. One of the finest historic inns in the South, The 1842 Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to be a member of Historic Hotels of America. This distinctive, romantic and elegant inn offers 19 guest rooms, parlors and a library that dwell within a Greek Revival antebellum house and an adjoining Victorian house sharing a quaint courtyard and gardens. The classic southern ambiance and grand antebellum style inn is tastefully designed with fine English antiques and paintings, oriental carpets, tapestries and elaborate draperies. Enjoy an evening of hospitality hour featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages from an attended cash bar daily. Savor a full breakfast the following morning before your departure. Rated as One of the Top Romantic inns in the Country by American Historic Inns, the 1842 Inn is a four-diamond AAA and American Bed & Breakfast Association award winner. This is an experience you do not want to miss out on.