FOUND IN NORTHEAST GEORGIA between Hart and Stephens Counties and bordering neighboring state South Carolina, Franklin County is a quiet, peaceful Southern gem with beautiful state parks, unique museums and some truly delicious Southern food. Named in honor of founding father Benjamin Franklin, the county offers several miles of shoreline on Lake Hartwell and is home to the museum of North Georgia native and American baseball legend Ty Cobb.
WHERE TO WANDER
Franklin County includes the towns of Lavonia, Carnesville, Franklin Springs, Canon and Royston. One of the biggest attractions in the area is Tugaloo State Park, a 393-acre park located in Lavonia on the scenic shores of Lake Hartwell. The park is a popular destination for swimming, sailing, boating and waterskiing.
In fact, its annual Pro WaterCross Tour draws jet-skiers across the country to show off their amazing adrenaline-induced water skills. But for those interested in a bit slower pace there is a sand beach as well as a six-lane mega ramp used for large fishing tournaments and easy access to area boaters looking for a relaxing day on the lake.
Tugaloo is a popular destination for fishing (especially for largemouth bass) and is excellent year-round but really becomes a treat in the fall when cooler temperatures and crisp autumn leaves enhance the outdoor experience. There are also family-friendly hikes to enjoy with both the Muscadine and Sassafras hiking trails that wind under a canopy of prestigious oaks, walnut, mulberry and cherry trees. The Muscadine trail is a .9-mile lightly traveled trail loop and is ideal for all skill levels interested in hiking, running or fishing. For a longer but equally accessible foliage hike is the 3.6-mile moderately populated Sassafras Loop trail, which is well-marked and includes pretty lake views.
Another area of natural beauty is Victoria Bryant State Park in nearby Royston, which has been touted as “North Georgia’s best kept secret.” A scenic stream offers a picture-perfect spot for picnics and hikers can chose between a short nature trail or the longer perimeter trail that travels over creeks and under the canopy of towering hardwoods. Two small ponds are available for public fishing.
For sports enthusiasts, park visitors will enjoy the public Highland Walk Golf Course that offers 18 holes of “great value” golf with a challenging course built on steep rolling hills, broad crowned Bermuda fairways and sloping Bermuda greens. The course is experiencing a high volume of play at this time so we do suggest making reservations one to two days in advance. Another fun afternoon can be spent at the Victoria Bryant Archery Range where archers, bowhunters, youth groups and others can practice their target skills. Opened in 2012, the range also offers lessons by appointment for those wanting to learn more about the sport.
While visiting Royston, you will want to swing over to the Ty Cobb Museum that honors Georgia’s own Hall of Famer Cobb. Born in Northeast Georgia in 1886, Cobb was nicknamed “The Georgia Peach” and was widely credited with setting 90 Major League Baseball records during his storied career. The museum’s aim is to highlight the life of the “world’s greatest baseball hitter of all time” with art, memorabilia, films, books and historical archives of Cobb and the great game of baseball. If you plan a visit, be sure to check its accessibility with current COVID restrictions.
Speaking of history, you should definitely set your sights on Carnesville, home to the Cromer’s Mill Covered Bridge, a unique historic site that has preserved a scenic covered bridge built in 1907. Most of America’s covered bridges were built in mid19th century in order to protect the bridge’s trusses and decks from snow and rain and eventual rot. The beautiful bridge boasts a Town Lattice design and is one span wide and 132 feet in length. There is parking on site so you can pop out for photos and take a self-guided tour without danger. Another historical gem is the Lavonia Carnegie Library in Lavonia. It was built in 1911 with funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who funded the creation of a total of 2,509 libraries across the globe. This charming single-story buff brick building in Renaissance Revival styling is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in this small community.
If you are up for a water adventure after safely traversing the historic bridge check out Slow Water on Highway 29 in Royston, which is a great experience for new kayakers and families due to its peaceful yet scenic ride. Here you can choose between tubes or kayaks. Tubers can choose between a 4-mile run (3 hours) or a 2-mile run (1.5 hours) for $10 for all-day tubing. If you choose a kayak, it is a 4-mile run that takes nearly 2 hours of floating time. They offer single kayaks for $25. Be sure to pack some bills, because Slow Water is cash only.
WHERE TO DINE
Franklin County is filled with some good ole’ Southern towns that know how to make meals like mama used to. At Smitty’s Family Restaurant in Carnesville the food is deep-fried and portions are more than generous. Yep, some good old “SCF,” a.k.a. Southern Comfort Food—just don’t forget the sweet tea.
Another hearty option is the more than 50-year-old Royston Drive In, where fresh-off-the-grill hamburgers do not disappoint and neither does their breakfast menu with breakfast plates, omelets, pancakes and, of course, glorious biscuits. This is a paper-plate establishment with homecooked Southern food with all the fixin’s.
And you surely must not leave Royston without checking out The Old Corner Hardware Store, which offers up delectable family favorites like Egg Salad BLT, Pimento Cheese and Bacon and Tuna Melts that will make your mouth water. Nearby, Franklin Springs offers some of the best barbecue in the state. Bar H Barbecue serves delicious locally raised barbecue, including pulled pork, ribs, chicken and some mighty fine Brunswick Stew.
But perhaps the most renowned restaurant in the area is 211 Main Restaurant and Bakery in Lavonia, which serves amazingly delicious southern favorites for lunch or Friday night dinner. But you better save lots of room for dessert! Their bakery whips up some “ooh-wee-I’ll-take-another-slice-of-dessert-and-maybe-one-to-go” kind of treats. From their 6-inch cakes, to delectable pies, cheesecakes and gourmet cupcakes, if you don’t end the evening with a sugar rush, then I’m sorry, you are just not trying hard enough!
WHERE TO STAY
If you choose to stay the night while exploring Franklin County, then what better way to enjoy the region’s natural Southern charm and beauty than at Tugaloo State Park in Lavonia, which offers 20 cottages, six yurts and more than 100 tent, trailer and RV campsites? Situated on a richly wooded peninsula, Tugaloo’s cottages and the majority of campsites offer gorgeous views of Lake Hartwell in just about every direction you look. In fact, some cottages boast private boat docks for their overnight guests.
For a golfing overnight getaway, consider staying at the Bluebird Cottage in Victoria Bryant State Park in Royston. The cottage is located conveniently on golf course property and features four double beds, four twin beds, a barbecue grill, campfire ring, horseshoe pit, television and fully equipped kitchen.
For more information, please visit franklin-county.com or visit the Lavonia Welcome Center at 1269 E. Main Street, 706-356-5725