Immersing yourself in nature doesn't have to take you far from Atlanta. These attractions and resorts combine breathtaking gardens with award-winning accommodations, restaurants and activities.
A version of this story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Living Intown magazine.
Near Adairsville, some 60 miles from Atlanta, Barnsley Resort was named for Sir Godfrey Barnsley, a wealthy Englishman who purchased the property in the 1840s and built the Woodlands mansion there in homage to his late Savannah-born wife.
Barnsley based his gardens on designs by 19th century horticulturist Andrew Jackson Downing, famed for creating pastoral landscapes and cottage architecture that conjure the English countryside. Today, many of the plants are available for sale, including vegetables and herbs grown in the chef’s kitchen garden.
The 3,300 acres that make up the contemporary, gated Barnsley Resort are the legacy of German Prince Hubertus Fugger, who purchased the ruins of the property in 1988 and restored the beauty of the gardens. Today, the resort is owned by Julian Saul, a former president of Shaw Industries, who continues to order improvements.
Stay the night in one of the 36 cottages and wander the gardens before stopping by the restaurant for a nightcap.
Barnsley Resort. 597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville. 770-773-7480. barnsleyresort.com
From Pine Mountain, some 70 miles southwest of Atlanta, Callaway Gardens beckons with 14,000 acres featuring woodland, flowers, fruit and vegetable gardens, a resort, a preserve and programming built around family-friendly adventures.
In the 1930s, Cason and Virginia Hand Callaway reclaimed land left from cotton farming to create a weekend retreat. In 1952, the couple opened the Ida Cason Gardens, named for Cason Callaway’s mother. In the 1960s, it became known as Callaway Gardens, home to one of the world’s largest displays of azaleas.
Accommodations run the gamut, from a budget-friendly inn and cottages to the Lodge and Spa. The resort also features trails, lake activities and a horticultural center.
Callaway Gardens. 17800 U.S. 27, Pine Mountain. 800-852-3810. callawaygardens.com
A destination resort that offers championship golf, a health spa, vineyards and a full-production winery, surrounded by lush North Georgia foothills that recall the wine country of France, Italy or Northern California.
100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton. 678-425-0900. chateauelan.com
Jim Gibbs, retired president and founder of Atlanta’s Gibbs Landscape Company, created his dreamscape with a series of streams, waterfalls, water gardens, reflecting ponds and flowering terraces surrounding the Manor House.
1987 Gibbs Drive, Ball Ground. 770-893-1880. gibbsgardens.com
This 16-acre attraction blends art, history and horticulture with the 1880 Hiram Butler Home and 31 sculptures. It features woodland paths; bonsai, camellia, rose and waterfall displays; and more than 3,000 species of plants.
2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw. 770-919-0248. smithgilbertgardens.com
State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is home to numerous themed displays, including the Flower Garden, the International Garden, the Heritage Garden and the Shade Garden, plus expanses of wildflower and five miles of nature trails.
2450 S. Milledge Ave., Athens. 706-542-1244. botgarden.uga.edu