15 Best Things to Do in Hiawassee, GA

Hiawassee, GA
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The county seat of Towns County, Georgia, is the charming little city of Hiawassee.

It gets its name from the Cherokee—or Creek—word “Ayuhwasi,” meaning meadow.

Likewise, a variant of the word “Hiwassee” refers to the local river and other places in the Appalachian region.

Settlers built a community in Hiawassee in 1820.

After over 30 years, the people of Towns County named Hiawassee its county seat in 1856.

Then, the area formally became a town in 1870, then a city in 1916.

This community is a top-shelf nature hotspot along the Appalachian Trail.

It offers a bevy of attractions and activities, from swimming, jet skiing, sport fishing, among others.

You can also take a hike along the Appalachian Trail from several Hiawassee access points.

Hiawassee, GA, also boasts the majestic Hiawassee River, nicknamed “the hidden jewel of trout fishing.”

Feel the rush of nature in this pleasant, down-to-earth community.

Do you want to know more about Hiawassee, GA?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Admire the View from the Bell Mountain Park and Historic Site

Aerial view of the Bell Mountain Park and Historic Site
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This 18-acre property sits on an area standing 3,400 feet above sea level.

After an easy walk from your car to the observation deck, you’ll enjoy the full splendor of Lake Chatuge and the nearby mountains.

As a historical site, the Bell Mountain area has accommodated people since the 1960s.

Scenic view of Bell Mountain Park and Historic Site
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The region became a mining spot after men from North Carolina bought the mountain to grab its minerals.

However, Hal Herrin bought the property to preserve it for generations to come.

Herrin’s estate gave the Bell Mountain Summit to Towns County in 2016.

The county paved the roads, built the parking area, and put up another platform where you can snap photos of the scenery.

Marvel at the Flowers at the Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens

Vibrant flowers of Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens
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Your Hiawassee trip will be incomplete if you don’t drop by the Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens, tucked deep in the North Georgia Mountains.

This place is a unique treasure that appeals not just to botanists but also to people who just love flowers.

After all, you’ll find over 3,000 plants inside the gardens, comprising rare forest perennials, ferns, dogwoods, native azaleas, and rhododendrons, of course.

Pine bark trail of Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens
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This paradise is the largest rhododendron and native azalea garden in the entire southeastern United States.

Likewise, you’ll have more than 30 acres of secluded woodlands to explore, offering trail loops that stretch from one to two miles and are easy to hike.

The gardens also present dazzling views of the Georgia country and Lake Chatuge.

You’ll also find Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia, atop the Blue Ridge Mountain range looming over the gardens.

Vibrant flowers of Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens
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Explore Downtown at the Hiawassee Town Square

On the other hand, you can always just take a stroll along the Hiawassee Town Square if you just want peace.

This 0.7-acre square sits in the heart of Hiawassee, where visitors like to enjoy a break or a calming walk.

When you get tired of walking, just pick a bench and sit down. Admire the well-maintained grass of the green areas.

Likewise, there are several restaurants and shops nearby, too.

You can grab a quick snack or duck inside a store if an item catches your eye.

Bring your family or friends to this park and unwind together.

The Hiawassee Town Square is also the third-largest park in the city.

Cruise along Lake Chatuge with Aqua Tiki

Who says you can’t experience the island life on a lake by the mountains?

You’ll get all that and more with Aqua Tiki, which offers various party boats for an afternoon on Lake Chatuge.

Get onboard the Tiki 1, 2, or 3 and enjoy two full hours of living life on the floating bar.

If you’re with friends, you can sip quality drinks on the boat.

Otherwise, you can let your kids swim around the boat while you keep watching.

Onboard, you’ll enjoy the services of a captain and bartender, along with complimentary wine and beers.

The Aqua Tiki service is also available for special gatherings like anniversaries, birthday parties, corporate events, family outings, or excursions.

Chase the Waterfalls at the High Shoals Falls

Water cascades of High Shoals Falls
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Expect a challenge when going up to the High Shoals Falls in Hiawassee.

The moderately challenging hike takes you inside the Chattahoochee National Forest and pushes you out to the scenic waterfall.

The 2.5-mile hike presents you with snaking creeks, old trees, and dense green forest on both sides.

Front view of High Shoals Falls
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Moreover, the High Shoals Falls cap off one of the top ten hikes in the entire state of Georgia, according to Atlanta Trails.

These waterfalls are the second falls you’ll find on the trip, next to the Blue Hole Falls, and it’s one of North Georgia’s largest waterfalls, with a vertical drop of 300 feet.

The observation decks at the area allow you to see the five cascading waterfalls that make up this wonderful attraction.

The Mountain Regional Arts and Crafts Guild owns and runs the ArtWorks Gallery and Gifts, located in downtown Hiawassee.

What makes this gallery unique?

This place features and sells work from 45 regional artists and craftsmen.

Every month, the gallery also highlights the work of a particular local artist, complete with an exhibit and a reception to honor them.

Volunteer artists also help run the daily operations of ArtWorks, and they even have works on display there.

Likewise, you’re likely going to run into an artist working on a piece, and you can ask them any question that strikes you.

Besides a gift shop, the place also offers arts and crafts classes for both kids and adults.

Visit Georgia’s Country Music Capital at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds

Who says a little music doesn’t make a camping trip better by a mile?

Just bring your family to the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds to see for yourself.

Up in the North Georgia mountains, the fairgrounds host year-round events such as concerts, proving its status as the capital of country music in Georgia.

The fairgrounds also offer 189 campsites on the shore of Lake Chatuge.

You can park your RV or pitch a tent on your chosen lot and listen to your favorite country singers play your favorite tunes.

Otherwise, you can drop by in August to enjoy the week-long Georgia Mountain Fair. This summer festival teems with arts, crafts, delicious food, live concerts, and the Miss Georgia Mountain Fair Beauty Pageant.

Climb to the Top at Brasstown Bald

View from the Brasstown Bald's observation platform
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Georgia’s highest peak, Brasstown Bald, stands at 4,784 feet above sea level.

On this summit, you’ll also find the Brasstown Bald Visitors Center, with a cloud observation deck.

Stand on this deck to get a breathtaking 360-view of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and their valleys below.

This place is so high that you can see four states on clear days.

Scenic nature view from Brasstown Bald
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The visitors center itself is nothing to sneeze at, housing an 8,000-square-foot museum featuring exhibits on natural history and interactive cultural displays.

If you want to climb Brasstown Bald, you can choose between a shuttle service or a hike along the Summit Trail.

Likewise, the area offers picnic spots, hiking trails, and gorgeous vistas.

You’ll need to check the weather first, though, since the gates to the summit might be closed during inclement weather.

View from Brasstown Bald's summit
Thomson200, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring Your Bikes to the Jackrabbit Mountain Recreation Area

Just north of Hiawassee lies the Jackrabbit Mountain Recreation Area, also nestled along the eastern shoreline of Lake Chatuge.

The National Forest Service maintains the area, allowing people to enjoy the 103 designated campsites, picnic areas, and a swimming beach.

There’s also a boat ramp launch if you want to paddle on the water or a biking trail if you’d rather take on a cycling challenge.

This biking trail stretches for nearly 13 miles of loops, which challenges riders of every skill level.

You can find these trails on peninsulas jutting out onto the lake.

However, the recreation area also offers paved paths, with smoother and flatter terrain, for bikers who prefer an easier time.

You can access the hiking and biking trails year-round, but the rest of the recreation area is open only from May to September.

Get Soaked at Splash Island

This water park at Hiawassee boasts a unique design that offers thrills and heart-racing excitement to people of all ages.

Instead of a stationary water park, Splash Island is an enormous inflatable water park that looks more like an obstacle course than a swimming pool.

Kids will surely love leaping the monkey bars; likewise, you’ll also enjoy running around its twists, turns, steep climbs, cliff drops, slides, and swings.

Splash Island also offers The Kids Circuit for toddlers, with an endless loop and zero obstacles, letting them run around freely.

Its InfinityLoop system also lets the kids climb back up immediately when they fall.

Likewise, this circuit also has a special bench for the lifeguards to observe and protect your little ones.

Drop by Splash Island at the Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge if you want a more acrobatic and thrilling water park experience.

Enjoy the Waters of Lake Chatuge

Scenic sunset at Lake Chatuge
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There’s no better nature destination in the Southern Appalachian Mountains than Lake Chatuge.

You’ll need to visit the city of Hiawassee to reach the lake, which continues to attract hundreds of tourists across the United States every year.

Lake Chatuge offers a 132-mile shoreline that could accommodate all sorts of water activities.

Calm waters of Lake Chatuge
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For example, you can take a boat on the water, fish from your boat, and you can even swim in the lake.

Likewise, you can enjoy a few days of camping or picnicking on the lakeshore’s private coves.

Public boat ramps abound by the shore, so you won’t have any trouble going on the water.

Besides activities, the lake also offers spectacular views perfect for your Instagram.

Aerial view of Lake Chatuge
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Sip Fine Wine at the Hightower Creek Vineyards

The family-owned Hightower Creek Vineyards offers a real sense of home with every sip of their deluxe wines.

Their wines capture the essence of the people animating the lovely regions of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In 2012, Hightower Creek opened its winery and tasting room to the public and has continued producing award-winning wines ever since.

They also strive to educate every visitor about the art of winemaking, regardless of their wine expertise or knowledge.

Wines come from local grapes sourced from Hightower Creek or other nearby vineyards.

Likewise, Hightower Creek offers various wines, such as Deliverance (Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot) and Chatuga Red (Touriga Nacional and Chambourcin).

Celebrate special occasions with equally special wines from the Hightower Creek Vineyards.

Grab Unique Souvenirs at the Hiawassee Antique Mall

If you want to bring home unique souvenirs from Hiawassee, drop by the Hiawassee Antique Mall, the largest of its kind in Northeast Georgia.

The mall comprises roughly 10,000 square feet of space, hosting 40 dealers.

Likewise, the mall features gorgeous displays of high-quality antiques and collectible items.

You’ll find furniture of various kinds, Southern pottery, chinaware, glassware, books, vintage jewelry, and even Coke collectibles.

You don’t need to go far to reach the mall, too, since it’s deep in the heart of Hiawassee itself.

If you’re having trouble searching for an item, approach the mall’s expert staff, and they’ll guide you.

The mall also ships most items anywhere in the United States.

Explore Lake Chatuge with the Boundary Waters Resort & Marina

Just minutes away from downtown Hiawassee sits the Boundary Waters Resort & Marina, nestled along the picturesque shores of Lake Chatuge.

Enjoy a perfect vacation in the North Georgia mountains by checking into this serene lakeshore resort.

The resort also accommodates all sorts of trips, from private family vacations to romantic adventures or simple boating day trips.

The resort provides TriToon pontoons that allow you to cruise along Lake Chatuge at your own pace.

You can also try their runabout rentals or sports pontoon boats.

After a cruise, you can swim in the lake, and then fish for your lunch.

Likewise, you can enjoy waterskiing and jet skiing thanks to their deluxe boat rentals.

You can also stay inside the Mallard Point Cabin, a three-bedroom unit that comes with a dock.

Every cabin also offers scenic lake view decks and fully equipped kitchens.

Have a Year-Round Christmas at Always Christmas

Aptly named “Always Christmas,” this popular shop in Hiawassee has become the largest Christmas emporium in Georgia.

Since 1993, the store has delighted tourists who want to experience the Christmas spirit in July.

One of the owners, Faye Wine, had the brilliant idea of establishing a year-round Christmas store.

Her idea came out of her intense love for Christmas, which resulted in Always Christmas, which she owns with Ray Wine.

Over the years, their efforts have grown the store into a lively and unmissable Hiawassee tourist stop.

Stock up on your Christmas decorations as early as July by visiting the Always Christmas shop.

Otherwise, just tour the shop and remember why the Christmas spirit should last for the whole year.

Final Thoughts

Hiawassee is a quiet city with lots to offer.

Immerse yourself in the myriad activity options that emphasize its natural attractions.

Make an exciting vacation by visiting the mountains and lakes in this gorgeous little city.

Book your Hiawassee trip today!