Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Hartwell, GA

  • Published 2023/02/22

Resting in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Georgia is the city of Hartwell.

It is the county seat of Hart County, Georgia, with a population of 4,469 at the 2010 census.

One of the biggest artificial lakes east of the Mississippi, Lake Hartwell, lies on the Georgia-South Carolina border just northeast of the city.

The city, county, and lake got their names after Revolutionary War heroine Nancy Hart, whose fight against British rule is iconic.

Hartwell is intensely dedicated to historic preservation, and the downtown era has beautifully preserved buildings dating from 1879 to 1925.

Enjoy browsing gift shops and antique shops in its historic square, sifting through artwork at its downtown gallery, shopping at its quaint stores, and dining at its fancy restaurants.

If you want entertainment, pop into Hartwell’s community theater for a show or visit its bluegrass music hall to hear local talents.

Find recreations on Hartwell Lake or at the Cateechee Golf Club and historical sites at the Center of the World monument and Hart County Historical Museum.

There is an endless array of pleasant pursuits in Hartwell, and here are the best things to do in the city.

Step into the Past at the Hart County Historical Society and Museum

In 1989, a group of dedicated historians created the Hart County Historical Society and Museum with a mission to preserve and foster awareness of Hart County’s history.

It promotes programs built around creating a better understanding of the rich history in this corner of northeast Georgia.

The Hart County Historical Society holds artifacts donated by its members and many generous volunteers.

Find artifacts about revolutionary war heroine Nancy Hart who has many stories of resourcefulness and patriotic adventure.

Also, find interesting items such as Hart County’s first stereo, a Coca-Cola bottling machine, and clothing dating back to the beginning of Hart County.

The Museum is within the Hart County Chamber of Commerce in the historic Teasley-Holland House.

Appreciate Creativity at Hartwell Art Center

The Art Center, located in Hartwell’s Historic Downtown, is a beautiful place to see beautiful pottery, photography, paintings, drawings, fiber art, woodwork, etc.

The Hart Regional Arts Council operates it and showcases the region’s artists, highlighting their creations.

Its mission is to promote, coordinate, and develop the arts, whether performing, visual, or literary.

It progresses them for performance, artistic services, exhibits, and workshops and also aims to develop facilities for the arts.

Finally, it aims to promote education, enjoyment, and cultural enrichment for Hart County citizens and the surrounding region.

At the Center, you can also visit the Literary Room and unique places such as the Mistletoe Market, where artisans sell their wares during the holidays.

It also hosts summer workshops for children and holds monthly art exhibits, clubs, guilds, workshops, and a juried art show.

Watch a Show at the Hart County Community Theater

Hart County Community Theater has entertained the residents of Hartwell since 1979.

It stands on historic Depot Street, inside a restored railroad warehouse in the center of Hartwell.

It stages three plays a year, a Summer Special Event, a Children’s Workshop, and the seasonal ‘Twas the Night Before the Night Before’ in December.

The Junior Service League staged its first play, “Come Blow Your Horn” by Neil Simon, receiving county-wide acclaim and generating interest to form a community theater.

From 1979 to 1985, the plays and variety show unfolded on the stage of Hartwell Elementary School, and set-building and rehearsals took place in vacant buildings.

The patrons had begun thinking of purchasing a building by 1982.

In 1983, the Weatherly Furniture Company building became available, and a group of volunteers started constructing.

In October 1985, the Hart County Community Theater successfully opened to a packed house.

For over 40 years, the theater has brought stellar armature productions, children’s entertainment, and musical events to Hartwell residents.

The theater has staged plays such as A Christmas Carol, The Miracle Worker, Fairy Tale Courtroom, Steel Magnolias, and The Vagina Monologues.

Enjoy the Music at High Cotton Music Hall

The High Cotton Music Hall is inside the former cotton warehouse that hosted the Bluegrass Express for 30 years.

They scrupulously schedule performances to create an unparalleled musical experience for their audiences.

Their programming embraces every genre of American Roots Music, including Americana, folk, blues, traditional country, singer/songwriter, mountain music, jazz, and others.

They aimed to create a venue for talented musicians to perform in an intimate listening room for genuine music lovers.

They are a musical avenue for regional and local artists and nationally touring artists.

Come and enjoy the warm and diverse ambiance in this 100-year-old room and prepare to lose your heart to the music at High Cotton Music Hall.

Explore Historic Downtown Hartwell

Historic Downtown Hartwell has become a hub of cultural arts, history, shopping, and dining.

It is a lively area brimming with many entertainments, such as eclectic shops and restaurants serving diverse cuisine.

Search for unique gifts at antique shops and specialty stores and enjoy a cup of coffee before watching a show.

A walking tour would cover a little over a mile and includes 32 businesses, homes, churches, and landmarks in the historic downtown.

Book a room at the Beacon Bed and Breakfast or the Hartwell Suites, have coffee at Common Ground or do yoga at Empower Yoga.

Drink beer or seltzer at the Southern Brewing Company, then hit the shops and try on outfits at Empire South, Dressing Dreams, Winnie J’s, and G’s Southern Traditions.

Immerse yourself in the masterpieces inside Hang It Up Gallery and Twelve South, then take dinner at 329 Steakhouse or Latin Flavors.

Admire Hartwell’s Sailboat Project

If you want to see charming creations, check out the lovely sailboat statues popping up in Hartwell since 2018.

The very first sailboat, painted by Mike England, is at the corner of Carolina St. and E Howell Street, depicting the various ways of celebrating art in the city.

A sailboat painted by artist Doug Blomberg stands at the corner near Franklin and N Webb Street, depicting children catching fish by the lake.

A sailboat by artist Megan McCurley sits at the Chamber of Commerce and collects scenes and local landmarks in Hartwell.

At the corner of N Forest Avenue and W Franklin Street, artist Ann Carswell contributed a sailboat dedicated to Hartwell’s friends and family, who know and love each other.

The Leadership Hart Class of 2015 created this sailboat project as part of their graduation contribution to improving the environment.

Taste Fresh and Natural Food at Market 50

If you’re looking for healthy food options in town, swing by this family-operated store where you can buy specialty items, fresh baked goods, deli meat and cheese, and more.

The family behind Market 50 observes old-fashioned honesty, integrity, and family values, eager to serve and befriend their customers.

They work hard to provide the finest and highest quality products, and everything they sell is natural and fresh.

They offer baked goods such as cheesecakes, cakes, homemade bread, cinnamon rolls, sweetbreads, cookies, and pies.

They also carry trail mixes, premium quality nuts, candies, dried fruits, canned fruits, vegetables, etc.

They create made-to-order sandwiches, casseroles, and pimento cheese right at the store for maximum freshness.

They can whip up tasty creations with their salads, letting you select from fresh vegetables, premium meats, cheeses, delicious toppings, and unique dressings.

Have Fun with Friends at Lake Hartwell Escape Rooms

Lake Hartwell Escape Rooms immerses players in a fun puzzle experience, racing against the clock to uncover clues, find secrets, and solve puzzles.

Each room has its theme, setting, storyline, and mission.

Previous players still thank the friendly staff, praise the detailed designs of the escape rooms, and appreciate the challenging but solvable puzzles.

In Breakout, you got sent to jail after a botched bank job, and you must break out of the cells and navigate your way through the prison.

In Mad Scientist, you must break into the headquarters of Hartwell’s resident mad scientist and find the cure for an infection before he returns.

In The Cabin Off Rough Creek, you and your friends are stranded in an old hunting cabin and must use your wits and wisdom, so you don’t end up missing.

Appreciate the Beauty of Hart County Botanical Garden

Hart County Botanical Garden is on a 6.17-acre recreation tract close to the Recreation Park just south of downtown.

It was the vision of Anne King, who was part of the initial Hart County Master Gardeners class in 1997.

It is a spot for educational opportunities as an outdoor classroom and a place of natural beauty for visitors’ enchantment.

In the Children’s Garden, kids can play and get physically active, learning about nature by observing the insects, soil, ground cover, and unusual plants.

The Anne King Garden features its namesake’s favorite Japanese maples and hellebore, with many native perennials and shrubs blooming year-round.

The Asian Woodland Garden has plants from Asia, mainly from the Southeast, with colorful Japanese maples, Japanese heavenly bamboo, Chinese paper brush, camellias, and azaleas.

The Fern Garden is alive with many fern varieties like peacock moss ferns, East Indian Holly ferns, ostrich ferns, netted chain ferns, Christmas ferns, cinnamon ferns, and autumn ferns.

The Herb Garden includes culinary herbs like basil, chives, and chervil; medicinal herbs like bilberry and chamomile; and aromatic herbs like lemon and rosemary.

Live Luxuriously at Cateechee Golf Club

In the scenic foothills near Hartwell lies a special and unusual golf club with an elegant clubhouse and a par 72 semi-private golf course.

Cateechee Golf Club gives visitors a scenic escape from the bump and grind of everyday life with a tranquil course spanning 380 acres.

The course features dramatic elevation changes, low-lying wetlands beside Cedar Creek, and prominent ridges with panoramic views.

Warm up on their spacious range with pitching greens, putting greens, practicing bunkers, analyzing, and perfecting your swing.

Cateechee will show you genuine Southern hospitality, with multiple lodging options in the main clubhouse featuring private lounges, large lake houses, or secluded cabins.

Dine at the casually sophisticated Waterfall Grille, which offers seasonal menus and bold flavors that reflect an eclectic and imaginative cuisine.

Take Your Boat to Hartwell Marina

Hartwell Marina is a full-service boatyard offering boaters the best and most comprehensive services possible.

Its services are detail service, boat cleaning, hull repair and painting, boat recovery, and dive service.

It offers dry stack storage and secure slips from 20’ to 70’ and dry storage to keep the interiors of your boat high and dry.

Besides recovery and diving, it also does bottom repair and painting, haul-out and launch service, hydraulic forklift, repair, and maintenance.

With its dry stack storage, you will have no problem towing, hauling, launching, and storing your boat, getting it ready for a long day on the lake.

Hartwell Marina has rental pontoons for a perfect lake day if you want to experience a boating adventure but have no vessel.

Drop by the Boathouse Grill restaurant for a delicious Patty Melt and wraps, sandwiches, salads, and burgers.

Get Pampered at Spa by Laura

After a day of checking out Hartwell’s best attractions, it would be great to get pampered for an hour or two.

Relax your muscles and mind at Spa by Laura, which offers therapeutic massage services and facials.

You can choose from Swedish Massage, Cupping Therapy, Deep Tissue, Aromatherapy, Lomi Lomi, and more.

If you’d like to get a facial after a massage, Spa by Laura also does great in offering Dermabrasion, Micro-Current, European, and Skin Tightening, among others.

A few hours of pampering at Spa by Laura is equal to happiness!

You can find it at North Forest Avenue.

Go Camping at Hartwell Lakeside Park

Popular for its beautiful campground, Hartwell Lakeside Park is where you can easily get lost in its natural beauty.

The 147-acre park offers RV, tent, and trailer camping, as well as walk-in campsites, which are all open to the public from March to September.

Because of its great access to Lake Hartwell, the park is a go-to spot for outdoor lovers.

It offers a designated swimming beach, fishing, boating, and paddling.

The park also features 1.5-mile hiking and biking trails, which is one of the popular activities in the area.

Hartwell Lakeside Park is located off Hart State Park Road.

Buy a Unique Windchime at Hartwell Windchime Lady

Unique, sparkling, and gorgeous handcrafted windchimes give your space more life and energy, which is what Hartwell Windchime Lady does.

Owner Pam Evans makes unique handmade windchimes made from any materials she can find, including toys, beads, mugs, and more.

Her art windchimes are popular in Hartwell and many tourists have brought some home and as a present to their loved ones.

They’re eclectic and unique and are great for any type of home, garden, and shop.

Go, give her some love at Hartwell Windchime Lady on Ridge Road.

Befriend the Animals at Lake Hartwell Wildlife Safari

For animal lovers, your travel to Hartwell would be more adventurous as you meet the animals at Lake Hartwell Wildlife Safari.

See the animals in their natural element as you drive through the 60+ acres of property.

Some of them will even get to your car, so get their safari food ready and make friends with them as they try to step into your world.

You’ll see giraffes, water buffalo, yak, American bison, deer, African Watusi, elk, red kangaroo, zebra, and more.

There’s also a gift shop where you can buy a souvenir or a gift for your loved ones.

Lake Hartwell Wildlife Safari operates seasonally.

It’s located at Boleman Hill Road.

Drop by the Hartwell Dam & Lake Visitor Center

View of Hartwell Dam

Williams Photography 365 /

One of the recommended first stops in the city is the Hartwell Dam & Lake Visitor Center.

The staff here will help you out with your adventures in the city and everything you can do around.

You can ask for a brochure and map to have your travel itinerary, which is helpful when you’re planning to visit all tourist spots.

The center also has displays and information about Lake Hartwell.

The Hartwell Dam & Lake Visitor Center is located at Anderson Highway.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Get Your Adrenaline Pumping at the Sandbar

If you’re looking to burn off energy at a fun spot, visit the Sandbar.

It’s just 23 minutes from Hartwell.

For 17 years, it has brought joy to its visitors through adventures on the Broad River.

Kayaking the Broad River brings loads of excitement, and you can enjoy the water’s splendor, rapids ranging from calm to adventurous, waterfalls, and wildlife.

It is an excellent experience for persons of all skill levels, so if you have time, pack a cooler with refreshments and prepare for a day of shuttling on the river.

At the Sandbar, you can also experience an excellent Georgia zipline canopy tour.

Fly through the air and experience the forest wildlife, get up close and personal with nature, and zip from tree to tree high in the canopy.

You will not soon forget the beauty of the waterfall views from Mill Shoal Creek and your ride up above the Broad River.

Go Fishing with Rick’s Guide Service

In Anderson, South Carolina, 32 minutes from Hartwell, stands one of the best fishing guides on Lake Hartwell.

Captain Brian is a Lake Hartwell native who has fished these waters for years.

He is a professional guide who solely works in the Outdoor Industry.

He was also featured as the Lake Hartwell Striper Professional in several magazines and videos.

If you are interested in striper fishing on Lake Hartwell, Captain Brian is the only full-time Striper Guide who provides charter trips and instructions on when, how, and where to catch fish on Lake Hartwell.

As a 30-year veteran of Lake Hartwell, Rick’s Fishing Guide helps visitors catch the monster and world-class striper hybrids and can customize trips for their guests.

They feature open and spacious decks with plenty of room for everyone and also give accommodations to handicapped fishers.

Have a Drink at Palmetto Distillery

Palmetto Distillery is a 31-minute ride from Hartwell, established in 2011 as South Carolina’s first legal moonshine distillery.

Brothers Trey and Bryan Boggs hope to reshape tastes and redefine the way customers drink, bringing quality spirits to drink enthusiasts.

Over the years, the brothers have researched, worked, and built a team of distillers to help create a revolutionary line of spirits of unparalleled quality and taste.

They produce moonshine onsite with their custom 1000-gallon copper still, and they age their whiskey in-house with French oak barrels.

Their Palmetto Moonshine restores a time-honored recipe from their ancestor, Dock Boggs.

Their moonshine flavors include Lemon Drop, Watermelon, Cinnamon, Bananas Foster, Pina Colada, Salted Caramel, Peach, Apple Pie, and Blackberry.

Their Palmetto Whiskey is South Carolina’s most awarded craft whiskey, paying homage to the state’s heritage with its classic recipe.

Their whiskey flavors include the classic Palmetto Whiskey with its notes of amber and vanilla; Backstage Whiskey tasting of honey, cloves, and rye; Peach Mint, and Cinnapepper.

Final Thoughts

You will find a home-like and cheerful welcome when visiting this city with a creative and historical heart.

Let this list be your guide while exploring this premier vacation destination in northeast Georgia.

Walk the beautiful downtown, go dining and shopping, soak in the artistry, pursue recreations, see the quaint sites, and bask in the entertainment as you visit Hartwell.

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