Bike from Athens to Macon on the Antebellum Trail

Biking in Georgia

Savor spectacular scenery while biking the Antebellum Trail in Georgia.

One of Georgia’s newest bicycle trails travels through some of Georgia’s most historic communities on the Antebellum Trail. Cyclists can ride along sun-dappled country roads, past grand antebellum homes and quaint downtowns at just the right pace to take in the rich history of the old South. The Antebellum Trail Bicycle Route winds through seven historic communities that escaped Sherman’s march of fire and destruction through Georgia.

From Athens to Macon, the communities of Watkinsville, Madison, Eatonton, Milledgeville and Gray make up a collection of Georgia’s most beautiful towns and impressive architecture.

Fuel up for a long ride at Mama's Boy in Athens. Photo courtesy Mama's Boy, Facebook.

Fuel up for a long ride at Mama’s Boy in Athens. Photo courtesy Mama’s Boy, Facebook.

When exploring the Antebellum Trail by bicycle, you will experience an abundance of unique history, much tied to the American Civil War as well as Georgia’s Native American heritage. For fuel, finger-lickin’ good Southern cuisine just like Grandma made can be found in many locations along the path.

The cities of Athens and Macon, the largest along the route, anchor the trail at the north and south ends. In Athens, home of the University of Georgia, you will find one of the most vibrant biking, music and culinary destinations in the state. Bike lanes, wide shoulders, bike riders and considerate motorists are in abundance in the city limits. A stop at Mama’s Boy, outfitted with bike racks that cater to cyclists, is a must do for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Sit and stay to savor options from the “Southern fun” menu, such as chocolate cake for breakfast or Georgia peach French toast for lunch.

Traveling south, the next community on your way is the “Artland of Georgia,” Watkinsville. This friendly town has a thriving artists’ community known for its small-town charm. Make time to stop at The Eagle Tavern Museum, a stagecoach stop and tavern built in 1801.

Bike through beautiful Madison, Ga., on the Antebellum Trail.

Bike through beautiful Madison, Ga., on the Antebellum Trail.

As you continue to ride south, catch a glimpse of the Clydesdales running along the rolling countryside to Madison. A picturesque community and host to Bike Ride Across Georgia’s Spring Tune Up (April 15-17, 2016), this Southern gem survived General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” and is the second largest National Register Historic District in Georgia.

Carrying on over the scenic countryside, through a section of the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll arrive at the beautiful town center of Eatonton, the hometown of authors Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. As you pass the residential district, featuring more than 100 antebellum and Victorian era structures, keep your eyes open as you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Sylvia the ghost at Panola Hall.

See the South on the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia

See the South on the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia

Now you are ready for the most challenging terrain leading in and out of Milledgeville, but it will be worth the sweat. The First Lady of Georgia, Milledgeville, was the Capital of Georgia during the Civil War. The town’s stately antebellum architecture, Civil War history, vibrant town center, nightlife, college culture and restaurants are welcome sights for cyclists. Park your bike at the Welcome Center and rest your legs as you hop aboard a guided trolley tour through town.

As you roll further south, follow the path of the Union soldiers during the March to the Sea down the streets of historic Old Clinton. You can tour the one-room school house museum and a Methodist cemetery, where many notable Georgians are buried. Gray, established in 1908 as the county seat of Jones, has antique and collectible shops, as well as local eating spots and a hotel. Enjoy the peaceful, easy feeling of these two countryside communities.

Sample soul food favorites at H&H in Macon.

Sample soul food favorites at H&H in Macon. Photo courtesy H&H, Facebook.

The southernmost point of the Antebellum Trail Bicycle Route concludes at the Visitors Center in Macon. Nearly 22 miles from Gray, Macon is known for its soulful music history and also offers opportunities to explore Native American, African American and Civil War heritages. Refuel at H&H Soul Food, an Allman Brothers Band favorite. They serve up plates of delicious smothered fried chicken; after all, you earned it.

The 170-mile Antebellum Trail Bicycle Route can be covered all at once or divided into shorter segments. Follow the 50-mile, three-day itinerary for the northern section of the trail, or the 130-mile, four-day itinerary for the southern section. More information on planning a bicycling tour of Georgia’s Antebellum Trail is available at www.bikeantebellum.com, including turn-by-turn directions from Georgia Bicycle Adventures.

Or drive the vehicle; we won’t tell anyone.

bonnie-webBonnie Simmons is the social media voice, website whiz and project coordinator for the Milledgeville-Baldwin CVB. Bonnie fell in love with the communities along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail while she attended Georgia College in Milledgeville and worked at the downtown staple establishment, The Brick. Now married and chasing a toddler, she appreciates the area’s family-friendly adventures, from walking at the Oconee River Greenway and touring the Uncle Remus Museum to attending all the local farmers markets.

April’s Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage is a Walk Through Time

Ezell Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Ezell-Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Middle Georgia’s 100-mile Antebellum Trail of seven communities offers an abundant look into 19th century life and earlier. Visitors can travel the trail year-round, but many choose April 18 – 21 for the annual Pilgrimage. $25 covers entrance to everything during these four days, with passes available at each community’s welcome center. (Find welcome center addresses at www.atpilgrimage.com). Macon and Athens bookend the Antebellum Trail with abundance and distinctive opportunities fill the communities in between.

The years leading to 1860 are the focus of the trail. I entered the back edge of the Civil War, not battlefield center, with connections to Revolutionary War veterans and families, too.

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Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton

Eatonton is the 1848 birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris, and the Uncle Remus Museum is 50 years old. Go to the source. You know these tales. Old and new at the same time is the Old School History Museum. Sleep in Watkinsville because the Ashford Manor wraps visitors in history and hospitality.  Choose the 1840s cottage for an antebellum night or the main house, an 1893 Queen Anne. “Artland,” Watkinsville is called, and art is abundant in the 1827 Haygood House, home and gallery of Jerry and Kathy Chappelle. Frontier years enticed me, especially Eagle Tavern built in 1801 on land given to a Revolutionary War veteran.

The 1811 Heritage Hall in Madison provides family stories, exquisite furnishings and lifestyle insight in a two-story Greek Revival home with docent-led tours.The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center stretches antebellum, built in 1895, but enjoy the architecture, theater, Arts and Crafts-style furniture gallery, and history museum anyway.

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Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville

Milledgeville was home to Georgia’s governors from 1839 – 1868, and their house is grandly interpreted as the Old Governor’s Mansion. Those governors received salaries but not entertainment budgets, so note the difference as you follow the Antebellum Trail. Macon’s Hay House of the same era was private, and it’s lavish. In Milledgeville’s Old Capital Museum, an 1807 Gothic building, peer into tableaux of eight antebellum women, researched from diaries and written records, most with a book you and I could read, too. Then go upstairs to imagine the mood where Georgia’s four-day secession convention was held in 1861.

These are just some of musings possible on the Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage. Click here for information on how to attend the 2013 pilgrimage.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com