As the season changes, it’s time to hit the road

Descendants of Cumberland Island’s wealthy owners propose building as many as 10 homes on an 88-acre swath of the national seashore park. (Photos by Curtis Compton, edited by Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

With spring temperatures approaching, everyone is ready to get out and explore. Spring is an ideal time for a road trip, and the Southeast overflows with a variety of destinations that fit the bill.

CUMBERLAND ISLAND, GA - DECEMBER, 26, 2022: Visitors board the ferry at Sea Camp dock at the end of a day hiking the island, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022, in Cumberland Island, Georgia. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Try these Georgia locales


Throughout the state, Georgia offers many destinations­ — large and small — that welcome you to come and stay awhile.

A popular choice is Savannah, with its historic squares and eclectic River Street.

“Savannah is great for historic attractions within walking distance of many hotels or trolley rides to see all of the spring flowers and trees in bloom,” said Christy Shull, a travel agent with Our Laughing Place Travel.

“Savannah is also known for its diverse Southern dishes that will delight any foodie in search of delectable cuisine.”

Cumberland Island and St. Marys

South of Savannah, consider a visit to Georgia’s barrier islands.

“Cumberland Island is fascinating and enjoyable in the early spring,” said Len Garrison, 64, of Farmington. “These destinations are always fun before the heat gets too intense or the crowds grow too big.” Other nearby islands include Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island.

Len Garrison on a trail ride at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, Georgia.

Credit: Seeing Southern L.L.C.

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Credit: Seeing Southern L.L.C.

A great home base in the area is St. Marys.

“St. Marys is a delightful small town on the St. Marys River at the Florida border,” said Cheré Coen, 62, of Marietta. “St. Marys is both picturesque with its small harbor and dramatic sunrises, but also wonderful dining, historic walking tours, and boutique shopping. It’s also the jumping-off point for ferry rides to pristine Cumberland Island, part of the National Park Service’s National Seashore.”

Cumberland Island National Seashore: 101 Wheeler St, St. Marys. 912-882-4336

St. Marys: 912-882-4000.

Cheré Coen in St. Marys, Georgia.

Credit: Provided

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Credit: Provided


For those who love the mountains, head north of Atlanta.

“Take a drive up Interstate 75 from Atlanta, then Interstate 575 through the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Coen said. “Stop at Ellijay to enjoy fresh apple ciders and the most delicious fried handheld pies at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge. Then move on to downtown Blue Ridge, an adorable town with an arts scene, restaurants, shopping, and a historic train ride.”


Mercier Orchards: 8660 Blue Ridge Drive. 706-632-3411.

Blue Ridge: 706-632-5680.

Make a stop in Tennessee

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About 25 miles east of Knoxville, Oak Ridge was created in 1942 when the U.S. government chose the location for its Manhattan Project, according to the Tennessee Historical Society. Workers and their families were brought in under secrecy to help build the atomic bomb that would be used in Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Visit the American Museum of Science and Energy and the K-25 Overlook Visitor Center for an in-depth look at life in the Secret City,” Shull said.

American Museum of Science and Energy: 115 E. Main St., Oak Ridge. 865-294-4531.

K-25 Overlook Visitors Center:

Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

But don’t stop there. Shull also recommends a stop at the Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Tennessee’s first maximum security prison, which is a short drive from Oak Ridge in Petros.

“You can explore the now-closed prison with a former prisoner or security guard to lead the way,” Shull said. “Finish up your visit to Brushy Mountain State Pen with dinner at the Warden’s Table Restaurant.”

You can even sample a sip of the “End of the Line” Moonshine distilled and bottled on the grounds of the prison.

9182 Highway 116. Petros, Tenn. 38745. 423-324-8687.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Credit: Raphael Tenschert

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Credit: Raphael Tenschert

Journey into North Carolina

For those road-tripping into the North Georgia Mountains, keep the adventure going by crossing into North Carolina.

“Head into North Carolina to enjoy Bryson City and Cherokee, the former an old train town and the latter part of the Cherokee tribe,” Coen said. “Finish your road trip through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

Bryson City, N.C.

Bryson City is home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which will take passengers throughout the landscape of Western North Carolina. Visitors can choose from a number of excursions that travel to different destinations and feature different themes. Bryson City also has six access points to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so you can enjoy hiking, scenic drives and more. Of course, downtown Bryson City is a quaint, walkable town where you can eat, shop and explore to your heart’s content.


Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: 45 Mitchell St., Bryson City, N.C.. 800-872-4681.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Cherokee, N.C.

As the home of the Cherokee nation, Cherokee offers many sites and attractions that share the story of the Native Americans who have lived on this land for centuries. These include the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Village, which opens April 18.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian: 589 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, N.C. 828-497-3481.

Oconaluftee Indian Village: 288 Drama Road, Cherokee, N.C. 828-497-2111.

Best road trip tips for older adults

When planning your road trip, keep these tips in mind to make the most of your journey.

  1. Take advantage of mobile apps. “Use apps to make your drive easier, like Waze for navigation, GasBuddy for the cheapest gas, and for the most affordable hotel available,” Garrison said. “Apps can save you lots in the planning stage, and they can help you when travel, too.”
  2. Make allowances for changes. “Always have a backup plan because plans change,” Shull said. “The weather may not always be perfect so have indoor activities in mind as well as outdoor.”
  3. Pack snacks. “I have learned firsthand while traveling with my parents that there is nothing worse than traveling with a hungry, cranky father who insists that he must have his breakfast meal before his lunch,” Shull said. “Do yourself a favor, and pack some favorite snacks for everyone.” It’s also a good idea to have snacks that address certain medical situations, such as low blood sugar or medications that must be taken with food.
  4. Look at the big picture when planning a road trip. “I love to get a print map, and look at where you’re going,” Garrison said. “Waze and Google will get you from A to B quickly, but with a print map you can see what’s around.” You might be surprised at what you discover along the way.
  5. Bring your meds. It might go without saying, but always double-check that you have your medications with you. Not only do you need to maintain your medication schedule, but if something delays your return home you also want to have extra medication on hand.
  6. Take care of the car. Before setting out on any road trip, give your car an inspection to make sure it’s up to the task. This includes checking air tire treads and pressure, windshield wipers, and fluid levels. If you aren’t well-versed in car care and maintenance, visit a nearby car care center for an inspection. Also, make sure you have an emergency kit that contains jumper cables, an air pump, and flares if you get sidelined along the way.