With gorgeous lakes, flowing rivers and top-notch Appalachian hiking, Unicoi State Park, and Chattahoochee National Forest draws visitors from all over Georgia and surrounding states. The popularity of these destinations has led to a rise in available Helen vacation rentals in the small towns dotting the area, including tourist-focused towns such as Helen. If you’re planning a trip to northern Georgia, here are some great places to stay.

1. Helen

Designed to look like a Bavarian village, this quaint town is filled with picturesque charm. It’s particularly popular during October when people travel from Atlanta and other cities to see the leaves change. Helen hosts its own Oktoberfest celebration that is particularly popular, although there are numerous other festivals to check out throughout the year. Since it is designed to cater to visitors, there are plenty of locally owned restaurants and shops to give you a taste of Georgia.

2. Sautee Nacoochee

If you prefer a more historic community, check out vacation rentals in Sautee Nacoochee. This small, unincorporated community lies just four miles outside of Helen, so there still plenty of easy access to shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities. It is home to the Sautee Valley Historic District, which features Native American sites, a restored slave cabin, museums and more. The Sautee Nacoochee Center also offers frequent plays, concerts and other entertainment.

3. Hiawassee

On the other side of Unicoi State Park lies Hiawassee, a charming small town full of cute cottages and cabins. There are several entrances to the Appalachian Trail located here, so it’s a great place to stay if you want to explore a portion of that famous hike. It’s on the banks of Lake Chatuge and the Hiwassee River draws plenty of people interested in boating, trout fishing, and other water recreation. The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds are also located in town, a popular venue that hosts concerts and other shows in addition to the yearly fair.

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4. Yonah

This informal, unincorporated area is named for Mount Yonah, which rises above it. Don’t expect many modern shops or upscale restaurants in this neighborhood, but it’s the perfect place to get back to nature. Most vacation rentals in this area are smaller, rustic cabins, although there are some newer luxury homes in the area as well. The large properties and thick woods provide plenty of privacy and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities right in your backyard.

5. Cleveland

Visiting Cleveland can feel a bit like stepping back in time. Sprawling brick buildings and old-fashioned wooden cottages make up a significant portion of the town, including a historic courthouse that now operates as a museum. Several antique shops and other old-fashioned businesses are located in town. Cleveland is also home to Babyland General Hospital, a popular tourist attraction where the iconic Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were originally manufactured and sold.

6. Clarkesville

Clarkesville combines both rustic country charm and modern amenities. Despite its relatively small size, downtown Clarkesville offers award-winning restaurants, as well as live music venues and locally owned boutiques. It is near the Soque River, which is a popular fly fishing destination, as well as the excellent hiking and water recreation opportunities at Moccasin Creek State Park and Lake Burton. There are also two golf courses if you feel like hitting the links.

7. Turnerville

For spectacular mountain views and a back-to-nature atmosphere, it’s hard to beat Turnerville. This small, unincorporated community lies on the edge of Unicoi State Park. Although it has a rustic feel, it’s only about 10 minutes away from Clarksville and 30 minutes away from Helen, so you can still easily enjoy a dinner out or a stroll among the shops. Vacation rentals in this area range from tiny mountain cabins to spacious, historic homes.

8. Lakemont

If you enjoy the rustic atmosphere of Turnerville but prefer a few more amenities right in town, look for a vacation rental in Lakemont. This cute little town is located on Lake Rabun, so be sure to bring along your canoe, kayak or fishing gear. Quaint shops and historic buildings create an old-fashioned atmosphere in the heart of the town. There are several grocery shops and outfitters, as well as some local galleries and a popular deli. The homes in the area range from old-fashioned cottages to luxury lodge-style houses.

9. Tallulah Falls

If you’re interested in rock climbing or whitewater rafting, Tallulah Falls is the place to be. This small town is home to Tallulah Gorge State Park, which features extensive hiking and climbing opportunities. There are short, well-maintained trails for inexperienced hikers or families with young children, as well as more strenuous treks. Whitewater rafting can be limited as it relies on water releases from the hydroelectric dam, so plan ahead if you want to experience the rapids. There are a few dining and shopping options in Tallulah Falls itself, and numerous others within a 20-minute drive.

10. Clayton

Conveniently situated at the junction of two highways, Clayton provides easy access to numerous towns and parks within the region. Despite that, Clayton retains its small-town feel. Families of all ages can enjoy an old-fashioned, family-friendly snack at the soda fountain, or adults can sample local wines at a tasting room downtown. The area is also dotted with galleries and restaurants, including several with spectacular mountain views on their outdoor patios. There’s plenty of hiking nearby, as well as whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River.

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