A small city in Georgia, Dahlonega offers visitors the typical charm expected in the South. Much of the city is a historic district, bursting with old buildings and sites that touch on the Civil War. Lake Zwerner, a few minutes to the north, has public access—perfect for taking that family boat out of hibernation—while the Chattahoochee National Forest lies a little beyond the lake for some serious nature excursions. Here are some of the top places to look for a Dahlonega vacation rental as you plan your trip.

1. Downtown Dahlonega

memorial hall
Source: Flickr / davidaabrown

With buildings dating back to the 19th century, downtown Dahlonega embodies the hometown ideal with public squares, parks, and walkable streets. Take a walking tour of some of the oldest sites from the Dahlonega Gold Museum—once the old courthouse—to the Price Building that reportedly houses a ghost, and conveniently doubles as a cafe so you can get your food and a fright in one place. Downtown also hosts a series of festivals during the year and a farmer’s market where you can pick up some fresh produce.

2. Lake Zwerner

vintage signboard
Source: Flickr / muffinn

North of downtown, Lake Zwerner offers a touch of solitude within a few minutes of all the city action. The lake offers the solitude to do a little fishing with your kids—bream and bass are plentiful—or hike or bike the lake trail. The 3-mile trail meanders along the lake and through the surrounding hills, giving you a glimpse into the area’s natural beauty without having to stray from the amenities of civilization.

3. Yahoola Valley

morning view of the mountain
Source: Flickr / ChattOconeeNF

If your family is looking to commune with nature, head to Yahoola Valley nestled within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Pick up the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, and enjoy the view at Blood Mountain that sits more than 4,000 feet above sea level. The Yahoola Valley also contains the Wolf Mountain Vineyards, the perfect place for an adult-only getaway where you can enjoy fine wines and food.

4. Chestatee River

geese playing at the river

Just east of Yahoola Valley, the Chestatee River neighborhood encompasses the southern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Vacation rentals along the Chestatee River give you a place to kayak with your kids or wade in the shallow waters. The nearby North Georgia Zoo not only has scores of favorite animals but a petting farm too. This area also boasts a number of wineries, including Blackstock Winery, Frogtown Cellars Vineyards, and Three Sisters Vineyards. Take a tour of the vineyards, sample the wines, then kick back and relax.

5. Shepherd’s Cove

beautiful scenery inside the forest
Source: Flickr / Jeff Gunn

Shepherd’s Cove is a small community on the southern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest containing a series of lakes and ponds that allow you to enjoy the water in solitude. Head a few minutes north to hike Three Sisters Mountain, which rises a little over 2,000 feet in elevation. A little further north lies the Lumpkin-Union Loop, a scenic drive along the Stone Pile Gap, Neels Gap, Woody Gap, and Vogel State Park that passes along a number of waterfalls from Dick’s Creek Falls to DeSoto Falls. Stop along the way to take group pictures or enjoy the views.

6. Ben Higgins

old building made of wood

Ben Higgins, south of Dahlonega, is another small community that lies amidst trees and hills, offering wide open areas and plenty of creeks to explore. Auraria, the main attraction in the area, is a ghost town. Take the family to discover the old buildings that were built in 1832 during the Georgia Gold Rush. Tour some old gold mines, or pan for gold, then head back to your vacation rental for a hearty dinner that would make the miner’s proud.

7. Moonshine Ridge

trees and waterfalls
Source: Flickr / Thomson20192

Moonshine Ridge also lies close to Auraria for some gold panning fun. It lies even closer, though, to Amicalola Falls State Park and several horseback riding outfitters. Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in Georgia, and boasts several hiking options to reach the top. Enjoy the view, or opt for a more challenging 8.5-mile journey to Springer Mountain. From there, you can reach the Appalachian Trail for a longer backpacking trip.

8. North Grove

wide grassland
Source: Flickr / TimothyJ

Located halfway between Dahlonega and Chattahoochee National Forest is North Grove. Opt for a vacation rental here if you want to enjoy both nature and the city life while spending your nights peacefully with the family. Lake Zwerner lies just a few minutes to the east if you want to take your boat out on the water or hike around the lake. The neighborhood also boasts stables and vineyards. Spend a morning riding with the kids and an afternoon tasting wines at Montaluce Vineyards.

9. Findley Ridge

colorful leaves
Source: Flickr / ChattOconeeNF

Stay a few miles out of town at Findley Ridge. South Chestatee Street, which runs through this neighborhood, takes your right to downtown so that within minutes you can enjoy a hot meal at Shenanigan’s or Pueblos Mexican Cuisine. Nearby Achasta has the 18-hole Nicklaus Golf Club, swimming for the children, and on-site dining. Across the golf course lies Chestatee River Adventures, where you can rent kayaks for an up-close tour of the river and surrounding countryside.