- Rose Kennedy
Georgia state parks are well known for affordable camping, renting pedal boats, maybe even a minigolf course or two, but there's more to Georgia parks than meets the eye.
Whether it's rolling in the deep of a swamp or frolicking at a splash pad, these are some atypical offerings at some of Georgia's state parks.
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge, Dawsonville
Who would expect such dramatic scenery plunked down in the middle of North Georgia, much less the chance to hike beside it? At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Fit and daring visitors can choose to climb alongside it via 600 steps of staircase trail. Overlooks have excellent views and some benches offer rest at strategic points along the way. A point of pride is to be able to spot the "moonshine truck" that tumbled down the mountain during the Prohibition Era. And at the top is another unusual state park touch: a five-mile hike leading to the Len Foote Hike Inn, Georgia's only backcountry lodge.
2. Frolic at a splash pad.
Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park, Reidsville
Waterpark fun at a state park? That's what splash pads are for, and Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park is one of a few parks in Georgia that offers one. It's a great spot for down home family fun, too, with picnic tables, pedal boat rentals and fishing docks. Kids, keep a lookout for beaver dams! When they're not splashing around, parents might want to duck over to the park's golf course.
Reynolds Mansion at Sapelo Island, McIntosh County
Sapelo Island is part of Georgia's famed Colonial Coast, replete with coastal wildlife and complex beach and dune systems. The state park offers historic and wildlife guided tours of the islands, which visitors reach via a 30-minute ferry ride -- but that's not even the most unusual highlight of this park. That would be the historic Reynolds Mansion, which features marble sculptures, an ornately decorated Circus Room, murals by Athos Menaboni, a bowling lane, billiards and library. And groups of 16-29 people can stay on the island in the mansion for $175-$225 per person per night depending on the season, two-night minimum. The mansion only allows groups to stay, not individuals or couples.
4. Kayak by the light of the full moon.
George L. Smith State Park, Twin City
Like many Georgia state parks, George L. Smith rents canoes, kayaks and even aquacycles for those wanting to enjoy the cypress-filled water of its mill pond (and peer at its refurbished saw mill, covered bridge and plentiful waterfowl). But this park takes the idea one step further. A few times each year George L. Smith Park staff invites paddlers to enjoy the sights by moonlight —full moon paddles, to be specific.
Check the park’s website or give them a call (478-763-2759) for dates.
5. Swim in a Liberty Bell-shaped swimming pool
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Constructed in the late 1930s-early 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with local stones, the spring-fed Liberty Bell Pool is usually open May-September. FDR is Georgia’s largest state park. Pine Mountain and the 23 miles of Pine Mountain Trail are part of the park which features a lot of the Depression-era architecture built by the CCC. You can also brush up on history by visiting Warm Springs or the Little White House, spend the day at nearby Callaway Gardens or just enjoy the view from Dowdell’s Knob.