There’s nothing quite like waking up in a cozy cabin after a restful night’s sleep and gazing out the bedroom’s full-length windows to watch the fog rise off the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Of course, stunning vistas and photo-worthy views are to be expected in one of the most picturesque locations in Georgia, named after the mountains that it calls home. But Blue Ridge, GA is more than just a natural paradise; the town itself is a lively, walkable, welcoming place where you can find stellar restaurants, a wealth of art galleries and boutique shops and even a historic train.
Located approximately 90 miles north of Atlanta on the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina line, Blue Ridge is a surprising mix of sophistication and simplicity. The area caters to those who appreciate farm-to-table food, while elevating the dining experience. Fun can be found floating down a river, enjoying a catered picnic, playing a round of golf or just sitting beside a firepit taking in those gorgeous views.
On a recent visit, I was lucky to experience much of what the area had to offer. A half-mile hike to Fall Branch Falls, which is part of the 282-mile Benton MacKaye Trail system, provided an up-close view of a waterfall less than 15 minutes’ walk from the trailhead. A pontoon boat ride on Lake Blue Ridge showcased the 3,200-acre TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) reservoir, where 80 percent of the shoreline is U.S. Forest Land, which happily prevents it from becoming overdeveloped.
For those looking for a more adventurous time on the water, Toccoa Valley Tubing rents kayaks, rafts and bright pink inner tubes that you can ride down the Toccoa River every day except Sunday. There’s space for tent camping and RV sites available, so you can even make a weekend out of it.
I suggest making a stop at Toccoa Riverside Restaurant right down the road to enjoy even more views of the river and for its famous pecan encrusted trout. Since Blue Ridge is known as the Trout Capital of Georgia, it’s not surprising that they’ve mastered the art of cooking this delicacy.
In fact, enjoying the local fare is a wonderful way to experience the town, no matter what type of food you like. Grace Prime Steakhouse is the area’s newest fine dining restaurant, where Chef Daniel dry ages meats on-site in their in-house butcher shop. This includes their famous Tomahawk Steak, soaked in Four Roses Bourbon, aged for 45 to 60 days, and set on fire before being carved tableside. While you’re there, make sure to order a Smokeshow Old Fashioned from bartender Justin; it’s not only a great drink, but an impressive show all in one.
The Black Sheep restaurant, located in the historic Butt House built in 1914, has a more laid-back Southern feel, especially if you choose to dine under the 200-year-old oak tree in the front yard. You can enjoy a wide range of offerings including seafood, steak, lamb lollipops and more while listening to New Orleans jazz in the background.
The General Ledger, located in a historic 1926 bank building, also provides a unique dining experience, especially if you reserve the vault! Not only are you surrounded by almost a century’s worth of history, but the food—including their cast-iron cornbread and famous blackened pork chops—is memory-making as well.
Farm Fresh Ingredients
If you want to take the tastes of Blue Ridge home, it’s easy to do. The Folk Collaborative is an apple orchard, apothecary and bakery that offers a bit of Appalachia in every one of their products. In addition to carrying 24 varieties of apples, pears and peaches, owner Luke Dilbeck makes shampoos, bath salts and other items on-site, and his wife, Amanda, makes all of the baked goods. You can even order a picnic basket and they’ll fill it with food so you can dine outside in the orchard. As Amanda says, “Know your farmer. Know your food.” And you can’t get much closer than that!
If you’re a fan of organic fair trade coffee, mushroom lattes, herbal teas and more, stop into Mountain Mama’s Coffee Lounge for breakfast. The café, owned by Morgan Stevens, partners with the Folk Collaborative to offer fresh pastries and baked goods with gluten-free and vegan options, and everything is made 100 percent from scratch. Mama’s also shares space with the Blue Ridge Inn Bed & Breakfast next door, a Victorian-style residence built in 1890.
Mercier Orchards, now in its 80th year, is a fourth-generation, family-run farm known for its fried pies and U-Pick events. Started as a small wholesale company in 1943, it has expanded to occupy a more than 25,000 sq. ft. building, and now focuses on agritourism. You can pick up a wealth of delicious products (including wine slushies) that can be enjoyed in the on-site restaurant or taken to go.
You have many choices when it comes to where to stay in Blue Ridge, but for luxury lodging with something a little special thrown in, Old Toccoa Farm offers Appalachian-style vacation cottages set amid a Bunker Hill-designed golf course that winds alongside the Toccoa River. Named the 18th best new golf course in 2020 by Golf Digest, the course has an authentic rugged Scottish feel, and the club will be adding pickleball and tennis courts soon.
Serenity in the Mountains offers luxury lodging suites as well as a state-of-the-art salt cave and massage suites that provide more than 1,000 services a week. Started as a 5,000 sq. ft. building, owner Lynda Cole built it into a stunning 37,000 sq. ft. full-service day spa.
While I loved every minute I spent in town, returning to Cloud Top Cabin was always a welcome respite. Somehow managing to be both cozy and posh, the stunning space, which is rented through Escape to Blue Ridge, featured a huge kitchen, four master bedrooms, a hot tub, picturesque mountain views and more. We treated ourselves to a really wonderful night in by having Fine Dining Chefs, founded by Jeff Servin, provide a cooked in-house four-course meal. From the beautiful charcuterie board to the roasted Roma and garlic bisque to the beef tenderloin and cheesecake with berry coulis, the food was fresh, delicious, and the perfect way to end a Blue Ridge day.
Getting Even (Further) Away from it All
One must-do while visiting is a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which follows the Toccoa River to the twin towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. You can actually straddle the ‘blue line’ to stand in two states at once. This ride is popular all year, but especially in the fall when the leaves change. You even have enough time during the four-hour roundtrip to enjoy a meal at Burra Burra, which is located right on the river, before hopping back on to return to Blue Ridge.
Want to learn more about Blue Ridge, GA? Visit https://www.blueridgemountains.com.