Best social distancing destinations in Georgia, surrounding states

MarketWatch staffers picked their favorite spot in each state

Camping, road trips and getting outdoors are being heralded as the answer to a summer during which people are feeling hesitant about air travel.

People are traveling again, but they are practicing social distancing and other protocols to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The staff at MarketWatch understand. They have compiled a list of their favorite place in each state where you can have a great time and still maintain your distance from strangers, if you choose.

In Georgia, that place is Stephen C. Foster State Park in Charlton County. About 4½ hours down Interstate 75, the park is the primary entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp.

“Guided boat tours of North America’s biggest black swamp are available, but they are limited, so call ahead to make a reservation," MarketWatch wrote. "Be sure to try to spot one of the estimated 12,000 American Alligators that call the reserve their home. While the park is great in the daylight, at night it truly shines. It’s a certified Dark Sky Park so stargazing is a must.”

The International Dark Sky Association named the park as a gold-tier “International Dark Sky Park,” the first in Georgia and the only gold-tier designee in the Southeast. The designation means SCFSP has little view-blocking pollution, allowing exceptional views of the moon, stars, planets and comets.

Because so many people are still apprehensive about getting on an airplane, we’ll also share MarketWatch’s picks for Georgia’s surrounding states — places you can drive to.

Alabama: Cathedral Caverns State Park

Just three hours from Atlanta, Cathedral Caverns State Park in Marshall County has resumed tours of its caverns. The best part? It’s about 60 degrees there all year round. Originally called the Bat Cave, the cavern’s 126-foot-wide and 25-foot-high entrance is large enough for Batman to get any of his vehicles in. The park itself is 493 acres with marked hiking trails if you prefer to walk above ground. And when you want to stay put for a while, try your hand at gemstone mining.

Florida: Lion Country Safari

The best part about Lion Country Safari, according to MarketWatch? “It’s drive-through, so you don’t have to come in contact with any other people. Stream the convenient audio tour in your car and wind through seven sections of the wildlife preserve where you’ll see animals like ostriches, water buffalo, zebras, lions, and even the endangered Southern White Rhinoceros.”

Lion Country Safari is on nearly 600 acres of natural area and home to more than 1,000 animals. It is open seven days a week, so you don’t have to wait until the weekend.

North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway

“Experience the best of what North Carolina has to offer without leaving your car on the 60-mile stretch of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway,” MarketWatch wrote. “Begin just outside of Asheville at I-26 exit 33. Along the winding drive there are plenty of overlooks, hikes and waterfalls to enjoy. A few highlights: Mills River Valley Overlook at mile 13.4 for the best sunrise views, the seriously fun Sliding Rock at mile 27.1, and the roadside Looking Glass Falls at mile 29.2.”

South Carolina: Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve

“Head to the breathtaking Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island in South Carolina to experience some of the state’s most beautiful and undeveloped beachfront,” MarketWatch wrote. “Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the 4,600-acre preserve and explore the whole bay without running into hoards of Myrtle Beach tourists. Erosion has led to a unique view of dead trees on the sand, and because shell collecting is prohibited, visitors can spot all kinds of shells that have washed ashore.”

Tennessee: Roan Mountain State Park

Close to the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the Appalachian Mountains, Roan Mountain State Park is one of the Tennessee’s best-kept secrets.

As MarketWatch wrote: “The cool, crystal clear Doe River winds through the center of the park’s 2,000 acres and is the home of several species of trout year-round, so bring your fishing gear. Get away from it all and stay at one of the park’s cabins or rough it a little more and camp under the stars.”