Best-known for the many attractions along the Hiwassee River, the area is also home to the only public botanical garden in the northeastern Georgia mountains.
The towns of Hiawassee and Young Harris are often double-billed as the jumping-off points from which to explore.
A STROLL IN THE GARDENS
Located in Hiawassee just off Highway 76 West, the Fred Hamilton Rhododendron Garden specializes in rhododendrons and native azaleas. The garden was established in 1982 by Fred Hamilton, a plant breeder who donated his garden by moving about 1,000 rhododendrons to the current location. Though open year-round, peak viewing season usually occurs the last two weeks in April through the first two weeks in May. (1311 Music Hall Road; 706-896-4191; fredhamiltongarden.org)
>The garden is laid out on a hillside that slopes down to meet Lake Chatuge, another of Hiawassee’s many attractions.
WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE
For those who prefer a day on the water over strolling the gardens, Lake Chatuge offers plenty of room to play. The Chatuge Dam creates a 13-by-6-mile lake that extends along the Hiwassee River, and was originally built in the 1940s for flood storage and water regulation.
*AT A GLANCE
*Hiawassee is the county seat of Towns County.
*BIG ON CHARM
*Home to Young Harris College, for which the town was named, Young Harris is full of small-town charm — especially considering its total size is 1 square mile. That just means their Southern charm is more concentrated, right?
For some good home cooking, stop in at Brothers at Willow Ranch off Highway 76 West. The restaurant is known for the staff’s generous portions of hospitality and cheerful service, and you’re bound find a good, filling meal at one of its tables. (6223 U.S. Highway 76; 706-379-1272; brothersatwillowranch.com)
REST FOR THE WEARY
For those exhausted from exploring all that the Georgia mountains in Towns County have to offer, there are places for weary travelers, especially in Young Harris. Brasstown Valley Resort is only a couple of miles from Lake Chatuge and offers everything from spas to horseback riding. (6321 Highway 76; 800-201-3205; brasstownvalley.com.)
DID YOU KNOW?
Young Harris is the original stomping grounds for former Georgia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, who was also mayor of the town from 1959-1960. Miller played shortstop for the Young Harris town baseball team in the 1950s and was a great hitter and base runner.