Georgia Summer Sanctuaries
Does the warmer weather have you looking for a new adventure that’s a little off the beaten path? If so, it’s time to explore some of Georgia’s hidden gems that are ideal for nature-seekers, adventurers, creative-types, and art junkies alike.
Make this summer one of the most memorable yet with this short list of our state’s most unique summer sanctuaries no more than a day trip away. These tucked away destinations are guaranteed to foster creativity, cultivate calm, and pique your interest in art and nature. The best part? All of these destinations are free to visit and enjoyable for kids and adults.
Most Scenic: Providence Canyon
Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” this 1,003-acre state outdoor recreation area is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.
Farming practices dating back to the 1800s are responsible for the massive canyon that run as deep as 150 feet. Providence Canyon’s pink, red, orange, and even purple soils, create a surreal and scenic view few other Georgia state parks can rival.
Visitors can explore the canyons via hiking or backpacking. Check out the Canyon Rim Trail to take in the best views. Two picnic shelters, three pioneer campsites, and six backcountry campsites are available for sightseers to the canyon.
8930 Canyon Rd.
Lumpkin, GA 31815
Most Memorable: Sleepy Hollow Whimsical Fairy Garden
Did you know that located in the northeastern mountains of Georgia lay an enchanted fairy garden?
Former Disney Artisan/ Imagineer Art Millican Jr. is the creative mind behind this imaginative attraction where he hand-makes creations for his fantastical whimsical world. Millican’s work has been featured at Disney World, Neverland, Dollywood, and HGTV's My Yard Goes Disney.
Despite the name, the Sleepy Hollow Whimsical Fairy Gardens can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. Sightseers to the gardens can check out colorful bird houses, charming gnome and fairy houses, lively gardens, and a gift shop. Kids can even play in the fairy houses while watching the wood elves work!
What’s even better is that admission to the gardens is free for all guests.
5279 Hwy. 515 E.
Blairsville GA 30512
Most Surprising: Big Trees Forest Preserve
Just beyond one of the busiest streets in Sandy Springs, you’ll find a primeval forest home to oak trees as old as 250 years old.
A peaceful paradise of creeks and streams, vibrant foliage, and lush greenery; Big Trees Forest Preserve offers a quiet sanctuary from the bustling city that surrounds this area. What’s best is that the terrain is ideal for kids, pets, and adults of all ages.
The preserve is divided into a “Backcountry Trail System” made up of three trails: Backcountry Trail, Spring Hollow Trail, and the Jackson Overlook Trail. Each trail is slightly different in views and distance, but all are easily walkable with no steep grades.
A 15-stop self-guided nature trail guide is free online for hikers interested in learning about the human impact on water quality and the forest community.
7645 Roswell Rd.
Sandy Springs, GA 30350
Most Serene: Sams Lake Bird Sanctuary
It’s hard to believe that this wildlife sanctuary is just minutes from the center of Atlanta. A 56-acre drained lake bed reverted to a natural meadow, Sams Lake is a certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and a Wildlife Sanctuary certified by the Atlanta Audubon Society.
Visitors to the sanctuary can explore the area on foot via the mulched trail that surrounds the wetlands or from any of the three observation decks. Four shallow ponds, small islands, a creek bridge, and a boardwalk are also part of the sanctuary.
Check out the log book of wildlife next to the northern trail entrance where you can log your own sightings and look up the discoveries of other visitors. Some wildlife you may encounter include beavers, wild turkey, armadillo, muskrats, egrets, herons, and hawks.
The sanctuary is free to visit. A printable map is available online.
201 McIntosh Trail
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Most Unusual: Noah's Ark Rehabilitation Center Animal Sanctuary
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary is a safe haven for unwanted, neglected, or abused animals. This 250-acre sanctuary is a non-profit organization with the primary purpose of providing unconditional love for these animals in desperate need of care and affection. Just as the name suggests, there are a variety of animals that call Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary home.
Noah’s Ark Sanctuary features a picnic area, playground, and numerous animal habitats. Animals you may encounter upon a visit include bears, primates, exotic cats, and other small mammals. The sanctuary offers self-guided tours in addition to guided and educational tours.
Admission is free but donations are greatly appreciated.
712 L G Griffin Rd
Locust Grove, GA 30248
Most Artistic: Krog Street Tunnel
Krog Street Tunnel is a sort of urban sanctuary tucked away for lovers of art and seekers of the eclectic. Think of it as a free museum full of urban art in its rawest of forms.
Every visit is a new experience as the artwork is constantly changing. Even the areas surrounding the tunnel are decked out in a colorful mixed flair of spray paint and mixed media art forms.
There are railed walkways throughout the tunnel for bikers or pedestrians to enjoy. Even a drive through the tunnel is worth the trip if you’re in the Decatur area.
The tunnel connects Inman Park and Cabbagetown, neighborhoods known for beautiful green spaces and local cafes.
1 Krog St NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
Most Beautiful: Barnsley Resort & Gardens
If you enjoy a good love story, you’ll relish in the history of Barnsley Resorts and Gardens. Built in the late 1800s by Godfrey Barnsley, the mansion (now a resort) was built as a home for his wife. When she died before its final construction, he abandoned construction until he felt her presence telling him to finish the house.
The resort and its picturesque gardens are full of both history and beauty. In fact, Barnsley Gardens is one of the few surviving antebellum gardens of the southern United States.
Today, the 3000-acre resort and surrounding gardens feature several restaurants, a beer garden, spa, and museum. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of recreational activities like horseback riding, hiking, biking, and fishing.
Admission cost is required for certain portions of the resort/recreational offerings.
597 Barnsley Gardens Road
Adairsville, Georgia 30103
Providence Canyon- https://gastateparks.org/ProvidenceCanyon
Sleepy Hollow- http://www.whimsicalfairygarden.com
Sams Lake- https://sctlandtrust.org/work/sams-lake-sanctuary/
Noah’s Ark- http://www.noahs-ark.org
Krog Street- https://www.atlanta.net/things-to-do/krog-street-tunnel/
Barnsley Gardens- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnsley_Gardens and https://www.barnsleyresort.com/gallery
- Providence Canyon: By Robbie Honerkamp - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4338714
- Sleepy Hollow Fairy Garden: https://www.tripstodiscover.com/sleepy-hollow-fairy-garden-blairsville/
- Big Tree Forest Preserve: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/big-trees-forest-preserve-atlanta?select=tPHlaLwAsQusFhSconTU8A
- Sams Lake Preserve: Morning Mist - Sam's Lake Bird Sanctuary is a photograph by Andrew Hornberger https://fineartamerica.com/featured/morning-mist-sams-lake-bird-sanctuary-andrew-hornberger.html
- Noahs Ark- https://www.facebook.com/NoahsArkAnimalSanctuary/photos/a.10151352063105088/10157188237065088/?type=1&theater
- Krog Street- “Beat your Cancer,” by Lee Coursey via Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0. https://www.flickr.com/photos/leeco/15789554024/in/photolist-5v57fP-5v9qCC-5v9q7J-5vHt6q-8UUEFk-q4gAj5-8sQi5X-2f2gGiA-5v55iv-5vnJyR-5vHtCL-5v5554-5vnLsz-5v52eM-5vD7uZ-5v58PT-5vD6pg-5v57H2-5v9pZh-5v4YQp-5v9msU-5v9n5C-5v52mn-zQMzki-8sQgQK-99semY-8sQhhR-EHUqXe-AMFaJK-2f2hw9A-EHGZd1-A9GRzt-zQDu43-zQMBTV-8sTiPw-ALtLXs-8ynTFE-zQMD8Z-FD9rtv-D4Hi2o-D53vM4-E2rheP-A9GU58-8sTiG1-EHGZGC-5b7J7Z-8sTjLo-8sTkzW-8sQhSZ-8sTjth
- Barnsley Gardens- https://www.barnsleyresort.com/gallery