|Looking for a close-to-home vacation or a stay near nature on a city trip? An hour east of Atlanta and eight miles south of Athens, take the scenic route to Oconee County, Georgia, where visitors can enjoy active outdoor pursuits. Ranging from sedate to cardio-workout, here are just a few of the ways to enjoy the outdoors in Oconee County.|
First, stop in in historic downtown Watkinsville for a complimentary cup of Georgia Bushcraft coffee at the Oconee County Welcome Center. There you can receive personalized itineraries for every kind of outdoor activity, along with dining and lodging ideas. 21 North Main Street, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677; 706-769-5197. (Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., weekdays; 10 a.m.-noon, first Saturday each month,)
Next, step back in time and take a stroll through the picturesque Main Street downtown. Self-guided tour maps with history and architecture details are available at the Welcome Center. For a more immersive experience, book a walking tour with a guide in period costume who will bring to life local stories and legends.
Farm bounty and fun
Enjoy farm bounty eight months of the year in Georgia’s mild climate. For provisions to take back home or to your room, choose from locally grown meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and more at the Oconee Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-noon, every Saturday from May to November, in front of the Oconee County Courthouse.
From April through early November Washington Farms offers everything from a spring strawberry U-pick to a fall pumpkin patch and flower fields, wrapped in a daylong entertainment experience. Far beyond wagon rides and a petting zoo, farm fun includes more than 25 activities for kids and adults, from a vortex tunnel and human foosball to pig races, jumping pads and a zip line, 5691 Hog Mountain Road, Bogart, GA 30622; 706-769-0627. In June and July, head over to Hadden Estates at DGD Farms for U-pick or pre-picked blueberries on a family-run farm that’s also a captivating wedding venue, 1112 Cliff Dawson Rd, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677; 706.705.6132. From mid-June to mid-August, choose from eight varieties of irrigated blueberries and two varieties of irrigated blackberries at Miller Blueberry Farm, a certified bee friendly U-pick farm, 1371 Union Church Rd, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677, 706-765-3076. At Twin Run Flower Farm, pick from rows and rows of blooms. The owners provide shears, cups and buckets, even vases and ribbons for your creations. Early spring brings daffodils; a variety of blooms are growing summer through fall, 1845 Barnett Shoals Road, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677. No phone; check the Facebook page for updates.
For horse lovers, Classic City Clydesdales offers farm tours in which visitors can interact with the larger-than-life breed, and experience shaggy-haired Highland cows and petting-zoo farm animals. Check the website or call for details on tours trail rides; advance reservations are recommended. 4190 Price Mill Road, Bishop, Georgia 30621; (706) 424-1889
Hit the trails at Heritage Park. This recreational area offers 364 acres of woods, creeks and the Apalachee River for exploring. Visitors can choose from 2.5 miles of walking trails, 9.5 miles of biking trails and 4.5 miles of equestrian trails, 2543 Macon Hwy, Watkinsville, Georgia, 30677; 706-769-3965. At Harris Shoals Park, play in the kid-and dog-friendly shoals (leashed dogs only) and have a picnic.
Get out on the water with Oconee Joe Paddle Co. Take an unforgettable history and ecology river tour by canoe or kayak that tells the story of more than 10,000 years of habitation and river traffic, from Native Americans and early pioneers to today’s conservation efforts. Oconee Joe offers insights on artifacts found along the banks and the ruins of landmarks like White’s Dam, which created hydroelectric power in the early 1900s. In season, blue herons, hawks, crows, turtles and ducks are common. Trips are suitable for the very young to those in their eighties, including those with mild disabilities. Visit the website for details on trips from half-day to weekend explorations.
Outdoor skills and survival workshops
Want to learn to forage for wild foods, develop camping skills, safely use a chainsaw? Georgia Bushcraft teaches wilderness and survival education, hosts classes and campouts and operates an online Outpost store. From November 4-6, 2022, the group hosts Georgia Bushcraft Gathering, the largest bushcraft and homesteading gathering in the U.S. Learn from 50+ different Bushcraft pros and workshops, shop various vendors and artists, listen to live music and enjoy great food. This is a family friendly event with camping; children are free; adults $100/$50 day pass for dozens of useful workshops. Vendor area is free to the public, 1150 Carruth Rd, Watkinsville, Georgia 30677.
For more outdoor expertise, Wild Rice Adventures offers rope-assisted tree climbing, fishing, gun safety and skills, archery and custom programs. They welcome wheelchair-bound individuals and others with special needs, with advance notice for set-up. Most events are held at the 88-acre Hardigree Wildlife Sanctuary, 1110 Old Greensboro Road, Watkinsville,706-804-2551.
There’s plenty to do for an overnight stay. For sipping and supping, locally owned restaurants satisfy the pickiest palates while a new local brewery, South Main Brewery, will be a unique attraction for the area, with beverages brewed by locals and sourced from area farms. A variety of lodging options, from lofts to campsites to chain hotels, make it easy to rest before continuing the adventure tomorrow. www.VisitOconee.com
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