The Blue Ridge Mountains harbor many a splendid adventure and destination. Among them lies the beautiful mountain town of Ellijay filled with outdoor recreation, accommodations that will wow you and live music at lots of area restaurants. Not only is Ellijay the perfect escape for a couple’s weekend getaway, but also for a family trip. And location? Easy peasy—80 miles north of Atlanta and about an hour from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
If you know anything about Ellijay, it likely has to do with the incredible apple orchards and wineries the region is famous for. But that’s only the beginning. Ellijay has a plethora of outdoor activities beginning on the water and reaching to the trails and paths. There are so many opportunities to enjoy this community and more than a few will appeal to travelers.
Carter’s Lake is a great place to explore the waters of Ellijay at the highest earth-filled dam east of the Mississippi River. There’s a great marina where you’ll find snacks, boat rentals (you can also bring your own boat and dock it here, free of charge) and any other essentials needed for a day on the water. Cast a line or launch a kayak and enjoy the clear, deep 3,200 acres of water and 65 miles of undeveloped shoreline. Lakeside cabins are available as well.
Tubing and floating are among popular activities in these parts and visitors can choose one of the three beautiful rivers that run through Ellijay—the Cartecay, Ellijay and Coosawattee—and join the fun. Buses are available to take your party to and from the river, and kayaks are available if that’s more your style.
No matter your outdoor preference, come spend time in the woods at Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp. There is access nearby to single-track for biking, hiking and running, swimming holes, gorgeous waterfalls, fishing and fabulous, scenic overlooks. Visitors never forget times at Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp where they experience hearty meals, playing hard, hot tubs, firesides and stargazing with old and new friends. This is a place where guests can play and stay, communing with Mother Nature.
Take a hike. No, really! There are many scenic trails available to those traveling within the area such as the tree-lined and waterfront trails of the Appalachian Trail. Families shouldn’t miss the Trout Adventure Trail, a do-it-yourself hike that serves as a learning experience trekking through the Chattahoochee National Forest trails.
Take time to chase waterfalls. A walk up to Amicalola Falls in nearby Dawsonville results in a spectacular viewing of the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. A 729-foot waterfall, the third highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, rewards hikers with breathtaking views and a certain feeling of accomplishment.
Ellijay is brimming with unique lodging options and Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp fits the bill quite appropriately. Along with your hiking and biking experiences, Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp offers 10 rustic creek-side or pond-view cabins that come complete with fresh linens, towels and robes. There are several different set ups (singles, couples and larger groups) available.
One of the sweetest bed and breakfast accommodations is situated in a magical riverside setting in the downtown area—Ellijay River House Bed and Breakfast. A small inn, willing to accommodate elopements and small weddings as well as weary travelers, Ellijay River House offers charming rooms with private baths, Southern breakfasts to die for and lounging spaces on expansive verandas and decks. Short strolls lead to shopping, bars, restaurants, spas and more.
Another bed and breakfast you’ll quickly find to be a favorite is The Overlook Inn Bed and Breakfast, located halfway between Ellijay and neighboring Chatsworth. Perfect for a weekend getaway, folks crave the solitude found here. Remove yourself from everyday chaos and relax on a private porch or in a hot tub, tour a nearby winery, ride a bike or go horseback riding. With six distinct rooms, you’ll find one with a personality that suits you best. All come with an elegant three-course homemade breakfast, tea, afternoon homemade sweets and weekend wine and cheese hours.
Ellijay is forever offering hidden gems and Elatse’Yi is likely one of the best! This unexpected offering of unlikely lodging has become a hot spot of real estate for those clamoring for unique getaways. Choose from treasured options of glamping like the Treeloft Airstream where guests relax on the front porch of a 1969 Airstream, then climb into the treeloft for glorious sunrise and sunset views, or enjoy a night under the stars, yet have the comforts of home within reach at the Geodesic Dome. And that’s only a smidgen of what’s available at this mountain retreat and small farm.
The beautiful Chateau Meichtry is a family-owned and -operated winery and vineyard, now offering stunning villas as well. The villas offer two-bedrooms, two baths and come with lots of perks such as complimentary wine tastings for up to four people, two bottles of wine and a golf cart for personal transportation across the vineyard grounds. Completely furnished and well-appointed, Chateau Meichtry Villas is a spectacular destination within itself sporting fabulous rolling hills and breathtaking scenery.
One-, two- and three-bedroom cabins (known as the Villas at Coosawattee) are available within the 5,500+ acres of Coosawattee River Resort. This award-winning lodging property offers fantastic mountain and river views, hot tubs, private decks and loads of interior and property amenities. Don’t miss the suspension bridge over the Coosawattee River leading to Fishtrap Park.
Ellijay, as a whole, offers more than 600 cabin rental options in the area, ranging from those with stunning mountain views to the quiet water overviews, and, of course, the lovely cabins tucked away quietly in the mountains. You’re sure to find a favorite.
Looking for a little more
Weekends are perfect for wine tastings as well as live music—and Ellijay has its share of both.
Situated on 13 stunning acres, Cartecay–the Cherokee word for “bread valley”–Vineyards produces six wines. Sip in the Nealey Barn Tasting Room, an 1890s refurbished barn, or listen to live music on the Chimney Patio, featuring an 1890s chimney, while relaxing to the sounds of live music. (5704 Clear Creek Rd., Ellijay, 706.698.9463)
Integrating their German heritage while paying homage to the Cherokee Nation, the original residents of the land occupied by Engelheim Vineyards, the owners, Gary and Jan Engel, produce high-quality wines such as Trillium, a Bordeaux blend, Roundtop Red, a Muscadine and Cabernet Franc blend and a 100% estate grown Petit Manseng. Sample a five-wine tasting for $10 at this pet-friendly winery. (127 Lakeview Rd., Ellijay, 770.714.5277)
Family-owned and -operated, Chateau Meichtry recently released five new wines. Sip on the Georgia Merlot, a complete representation of Georgia’s terrain, aged in French oak barrels with hints of plum, boxwood and vanilla. Try the Zinfandel, which is aged 14 months in French and Hungarian Oak and exhibits dark fruit and cedar scents, while subtle tannins and acidity lead to a big finish. Savor the sweetness of the dessert style Vidal Blanc, exuding notes of pineapple and dried apricot on the nose and a citrus fruit on the palate. For a fun blend, venture down to Mountain Treasures, a downtown Ellijay boutique. That’s where you will find their new label, Ellijay Red, produced by Chateau Meichtry, ripe for the tasting. Enjoy the sounds of live music, 1:30-5:30 p.m., Saturdays. (1862 Orchard Lane, Talking Rock, 706.502.1608)
This boutique vineyard features handcrafted wines grown from the finest certified French vines and features a list of full-bodied reds, fruity white and sweet blends. Take a glass of wine and enjoy the scenic mountain-view from the 50-foot veranda. Or stay inside and enjoy the spacious 30-foot ceilings while listening to live music (on the weekends). Floor-to-ceiling windows allow all guests to appreciate the panoramic views regardless if seated in the Loft or tasting at the bar. The pet-friendly winery offers indoor and outdoor fireplaces that welcome visitors to linger. (201 Vineyard Way, Jasper, 706.692.9463)
Ott Farms and Vineyard offers breathtaking views of the North Georgia Mountains. Check their Facebook page for tasting hours. (230 Henry Evans Road, Ellijay, 706.502.8700)
Established in 2010, Ellijay River Vineyards span almost 20 acres of former crop land, bordering the Ellijay River. In April of 2011, three white grape varieties were planted on just over 3.5 acres to form the East Vineyard. In spring 2012, a small plot of Merlot was added. Additional plantings are anticipated in the near future. Visitors are welcome by appointment. (111 River Birch Ln, Ellijay, 770.315.9121)
Harvesting Chambourcin grapes during the fall of 2019, Grapes and Ladders Vineyard invites guests to stop by for a tasting and to view the more than 1,000 flourishing vines. (2317 Hwy. 382 W. Ellijay, GA 30540, 678.492.9861)
Restaurants around town also offer live music, mostly on the weekends. Check out hotspots like Cantaberry Restaurant in the downtown area for fried lobster tails, prime rib and fresh seafood with live music on weekends. Emily’s Restaurant and Bar offers shareable plates, steaks, burgers and seafood along with music on the weekends and River Street Tavern serves salads, wings, burgers and sandwiches with lots of brews and music on the weekends as well. For more hunger-quelling options, satisfy a craving at The Shack of Ellijay where bubble tea, poke bowls and Thai dishes keep guests returning again and again. Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza brings the authentic Old World flavors of Italy to the mountains of North Georgia while Kasei Sushi and Sake, located in the same building, offers a variety of sushi and an extensive menu of sake.
Of course, planning a trip to Ellijay should always include wandering the orchards and vineyards that are the very fabric of this North Georgia mountain town. Apple souvenirs are a must and loads of pictures to reminisce about time well spent is also highly recommended. For more information, please visit the Chamber website.