Secret Camping Spots at Georgia State Parks

While pitching a tent at one of the Georgia State Parks is a popular activity, the parks still harbor secret camping and glamping spots and unique accommodations known only to those willing to travel off (or even above) the beaten path.

Panola Mountain State Park – Treetop Bivouac Camping

The adventurous camper can sleep like a log with Panola Mountain State Park’s treetop bivouac camping program, called ZZZ’s in the Trees. Secured by harnesses for the night, campers can safely scale the majestic trees in the park to get to their quarters: canvas “treeboats” (sturdy hammocks) suspended high above the ground. The treeboats are open, not enclosed like a tent, and sway gently in the breeze, providing a relaxing canopy getaway for those comfortable with heights. Reservations for the treetop camping are required and can be made by calling the state park.

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham and High Falls State Park – Paddle-In Camping

Reed Bingham State Park, 20 minutes east of Moultrie offers paddle-in camping on Eagle Island for up to 30 campers. Eagle Island sits in the middle of the park’s 375-acre lake, popular with boaters, fishermen and skiers, and provides privacy from passing boaters. The island is only a 15-minute paddle from the shore, and campers may rent canoes or kayaks or bring their own.

High Falls State Park provides paddle-in camping to a secluded peninsula. The paddle-in takes about 30 minutes. The campsite can sleep up to 25 people and comes with five canoes.

Unicoi Squirrel's Nest Camping

Unicoi Squirrel’s Nest Camping

Unicoi State Park – Squirrel’s Nest Camping

Forget bird’s eye view. Campers can have a squirrel’s eye view at Unicoi State Park, just north of Helen. The park’s 16 squirrel’s nest camping shelters feature raised and covered wooden platforms with open sides that allow campers to spend the night side-by-side with the local wildlife. Each nest sleeps four.

The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls State Park – The Hike Inn

A five-mile hike from the top of Amicolola Falls will bring visitors to the 20-guest room Hike Inn. Guests have access to hot showers, but there are no outlets at this backcountry getaway. The Hike Inn serves breakfast and dinner every day in a family-style setting and is perfect for Appalachian Trail hikers or families looking for a wilder kind of vacation.

ChattBendBoatInCamping

Chattahoochee Bend State Park – Paddle-In River Camping and Adirondack Shelters

The new Chattahoochee Bend State Park, near Newnan provides seven paddle-in, riverside campsites for boaters traveling down the Chattahoochee River. The park also offers campers the unique experience of spending the night in a screened Adirondack shelter.

Smithgall Woods Luxury Cottage Camping

Smithgall Woods State Park – Luxury Cottage Camping

If you have never seen a chandelier in the middle of the woods, stay a night at Smithgall Woods State Park’s Smithgall Cottage. Rustically opulent and built of smooth Montana lodge pole pines, the cottage features immaculately decorated rooms, including a great room with a large stone fireplace, an exercise room, a kitchen, a dining room and four bedrooms (2 Kings; 1 Queen; 1 Double/Double) with private baths. Nestled at the heart of the park, the cottage’s large decks overlook the surrounding bubbling brooks and gorgeous forest scenery.

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park – Suwanee River Eco-Lodge

Run by Stephen C. Foster State Park, the Suwanee River Eco-Lodge in Fargo, consists of 10 cottages and a conference room that can seat up to 100 people. Perfect for hunting or paddling vacations, business meetings, retreats, reunions and weddings, the eco-lodge sits just 18 miles from the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp.

Fort Mountain – Back Country Camping

Situated two miles apart from each other deep in the woods outside Chatsworth, Fort Mountain State Park’s four backcountry campsites offer visitors private and secluded campsites. While each campsite comes with a fire ring, visitors must bring all camping gear to these rustic sites. Fort Mountain’s backcountry sites number 3 (called Moonshine) and number 4 (called Rock Creek) offer visitors gorgeous seasonal views looking out over the Chatsworth valley area. Backcountry sites are also offered at many other state parks, including as Tugaloo and Ft. McAllister, which have primitive campsites that do not require a long hike.

Other unique opportunities include:

Yurt at Tugaloo State Park

Yurt at Tugaloo State Park

Yurt “Glamping”

There’s no need to pitch a tent when High Falls, Tugaloo, Red Top Mountain, Fort Yargo and Cloudland Canyon State Parks offer the glamorous camping (“glamping”) option of yurts. Made of wood and canvas, yurts sleep up to six people and come with beds, futons, screened windows and locking doors, as well as an outside deck, picnic table and grill/fire ring. Yurts will also soon be added to Sweetwater Creek State Park.

First-Time Camper Program

For those who have never ventured into the woods, 13 state parks offer loaner gear through the First-Time Camper program. The program’s equipment was donated to the parks by Coleman, REI and The North Face, and, for just $50, first-time adventure seekers can spend two nights in a modern campground with a tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a camp stove, lantern and marshmallow-roasting sticks. Park staff and volunteers can help set up the tents and provide “Camping 101” instructions.

 

10 Prime Picnic Spots in Georgia

Grab your blanket and head to these prime picnic spots in Georgia. Food just tastes better outdoors! 

Piedmont Park photo courtesy of atlanta.net.

Piedmont Park. Photo courtesy of atlanta.net.

Piedmont Park in Atlanta: Piedmont Park has hundreds of great picnic spots, including pavillions, brickstands, tables and more. Want to grill? There are 22 grills provided throughout the park for your use and enjoyment.

Forsyth Park. Photo courtesy of visitsouth.com.

Forsyth Park. Photo courtesy of visitsouth.com.

Forsyth Park in Savannah: This beloved 30 acre park is nestled in the heart of Savannah’s Landmark Historic District, making it the perfect Savannah picnic locale.

University of Georgia. Photo courtesy of Online Athens.

University of Georgia. Photo courtesy of Online Athens.

University of Georgia North Campus in Athens: Spread out a blanket underneath a magnolia tree or next to Legacy fountain on this historic college campus.

Manchester Railfan Platform in Manchester: This picnic locale was made for train enthusiasts! Each picnic table provides an excellent view of the North-South and East -West mainlines and comes equipped with a scanner, rail line map and electricity.

Augusta Canal. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tourism.

Augusta Canal. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tourism.

Augusta Canal National Heritage Area: After walking, biking, canoeing or kayaking through the Augusta Canal National Heritage area, stake out a picnic spot for a peaceful lunch by the water.

Dodge County Public Fishing Area in Eastman: Work up an appetite while fishing this 104-acre lake stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill (bream), redear sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish. Picnic areas are a short walk from the pier.

Help yourself to a drink of delectable water flowing from this cave, and take a tour inside.

Cave Spring. Photo courtesy of J. C. Boehm, Tumlin House.

Rolater Park in Cave Spring: Enjoy a picnic lunch next to a natural limestone cave and the city’s namesake mineral spring. No need to pack a beverage in your picnic basket, Cave Spring is known for its 99.9 percent pure water. Learn more about Cave Spring here.

Lake Chehaw in Albany: The Georgia Power Dam, built in 1921, forms this 1400 acre lake. After canoeing Lake Chehaw, enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake in the covered picnic area.

Watson Mill Bridge. Photo courtesy of Sussman Imaging.

Watson Mill Bridge. Photo courtesy of Sussman Imaging.

Watson Mill Covered Bridge in Comer: Eat alongside the longest covered bridge in the state which spans 229 feet across the South Fork River. Find more Georgia covered bridges here.

Georgia State Parks: All 63 of Georgia’s state parks and historic sites offer perfect picnic spots.

LaurenLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!

Where to Eat Pecan Pie in Georgia

Gooey, crunchy and packed full of nuts — pecan pie hits all the right spots. Whether you prefer classic pecan pie, served à la mode or with a special kick, Georgia has a slice that won’t disappoint.

Fox Brother’s Bar-B-Q in Atlanta: The chocolate pecan pie at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is topped with cinnamon whipped cream and served warm.

Photo courtesy of Ellis Bros. Pecans

Photo courtesy of Ellis Bros. Pecans

Ellis Brothers Pecan Farm in Vienna: These folks know pecans – and their pies prove it. Their pie features caramelized pecans atop a filling that is gooey, sweet, and rich with flavor.

Jaemor Farms in Alto: Visit the pie kitchen at this 350-acre family-owned and operated farm for a dessert that will make you squeal with delight.

Chester Brunnenmeyer’s in Blue Ridge: Order their Southern Bourbon Pecan Pie if you prefer your desserts with an extra kick.

The Olde Pink House. Photo courtesy of http://flavorsforfriends.com/

The Olde Pink House. Photo courtesy of http://flavorsforfriends.com/

The Olde Pink House in Savannah: This beloved Savannah restaurant serves up slices of pecan pie that will make you come back for more…and more…and more!

Dovetail in Macon: The Cracked Pie features a crust made of fresh baked oatmeal cookies that is filled with pecan filling and topped with home made salted caramel ice cream.

Burt’s Butcher Shoppe & Eatery in Columbus: Get a $2 slice of perfect pecan pie (yes, you read that correctly – only $2) at this Columbus institution.

Pecan pie & lemon cupcake. Photo courtesy of Lisa M. via Yelp.

Pecan pie & lemon cupcake. Photo courtesy of Lisa M. via Yelp.

Smallcakes: A Cupcakery in Evans: Get your pecan fix with this pecan pie-inspired cupcake. The cream cheese icing is light and the cake is deliciously moist – a true pecan lover’s dream.

The Pie Hole in Roswell: This downtown Roswell pie shop offers pecan, of course, but they also have variations: lemon pecan, orange pecan, and pineapple coconut pecan.

Chophouse on the Bricks in Thomasville: Although thinner than more classic versions, this Thomasville treat packs a flavor punch – especially when accompanied with cinnamon ice cream.

Bay South Restaurant in Statesboro: Call ahead to make sure this nutty treat is on the menu before you visit this meat and three restaurant.

LaurenLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!

RECIPE: Reynolds Plantation’s Root Beer Braised Lamb Shanks

Reynolds Plantation Lamb Shanks

By Chef Edward G. Leonard, CMC

Ingredients

6 lamb shanks from Quality Lamb like Colorado

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 Sweet Maui onions diced medium

3 large red or yellow carrots, cut into 1/4″ rounds

6 cloves garlic (sliced)

2 tablespoons whole butter

2 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 bottles Artisan Root Beer

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup lamb broth

15 small roma tomatoes (peeled)

2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme

2 teaspoons chocolate mint (minced)

Method

  1. Season shanks with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in heavy bottomed SS pot (medium-high heat).
  3. Working in batches, brown shanks nicely on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Transfer shanks on a platter and reserve.
  5. Add oil, onions, carrots and garlic to pan and sautee until golden brown (about 6-8 minutes).
  6. Add butter, stir for about a minute.
  7. Add flour and tomato paste, stir and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  8. Add root beer and deglaze pan.
  9. Add tomatoes whole, plus herbs.
  10. Return shanks to pan, dredge in sauce.
  11. Cover and place in a 325-degree oven for 2.5 hours or until shanks are tender.
  12. Remove shanks and reserve in a warm oven.
  13. Take liquid and vegetable and puree in a blender until smooth.
  14. Place in a sauce pan, whisk in four tablespoons of whole very cold, diced butter.
  15. Transfer shanks to platter
  16. Spoon sauce over shanks, top with fried onions and serve with olive oil mashed potatoes.

Where to Pick Strawberries in Georgia

Whitley Farms strawberries - Whitley Farms

Pick fresh strawberries at these Georgia farms

Due to climate differences, some farms will be open before others. We highly encourage you to call the farm for information about their season, hours, etc.

Photo courtesy of Elliott Farms

Photo courtesy of Elliott Farms