As the picturesque setting of Hollywood blockbusters like Forrest Gump and The Prince of Tides, Beaufort is a picture-perfect small town in the South that oozes Lowcountry charm. As you stroll through the quaint downtown—the entirety of which is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation—you’ll see why movie-makers can’t get enough of the live oaks, Spanish moss, and blocks of historic buildings. Explore the highlights of this Port Royal Island community on a charming horse-and-carriage tour, or see it through star-studded eyes on a film-location sightseeing tour.
A bohemian art scene and beautiful waterfront on Mobile Bay set Fairhope apart from other Alabama towns. As you watch the sunset on Fairhope Pier it might feel remote, but Fairhope is actually just a 30-minute drive from Mobile, making it perfect for day trips as well as overnight stays. Don’t miss the quaint Fairhope Avenue, which turns into a fairytale setting from November through April with its tree-lined streets covered in white lights. Without a doubt, this small town in the South is worth a visit!
KILL DEVIL HILLS, NC
Learn all about the world’s first successful airplane flight when you visit Kill Devil Hills, home of the famous Wright Brothers. Aside from the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills has hiking at Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve and beaches galore. Get into the island spirit by renting a beach cruiser—aside from an airplane, it’s the best way to get around this Outer Banks destination.
EUREKA SPRINGS, AR
Eureka Springs has been hosting tourists from as far back as the 19th century, so you know that when you visit this small town in the South, you’ll be greeted with open arms and a big dose of hospitality. This Ozark Mountains getaway is a long-standing destination thanks to its natural springs—some of which you can still visit today—and it has a historical downtown full of Victorian architecture to match. Other attractions such as Thorncrown Chapel, and the Christ of the Ozarks ensure that there’s plenty to see and do.
If it weren’t for the soul food and hospitality, Helen might not feel like the South. This Bavarian-inspired town is located in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, but attractions such as the Helen Arts and Heritage Center and the city’s historic downtown come straight out of the old country. The town is neatly divided by the Chattahoochee River—a favorite for floating—and is also close to other natural attractions including Anna Ruby Falls and Unicoi State Park. Add in vineyards and wineries and you’re bound to have a good time visiting this small town in the South.
BAY ST. LOUIS, MS
Consider Bay St. Louis for a small town getaway with a friendly Bayou personality—and without the rowdy streets of New Orleans. Restaurants like Blue Bayou Bar and Grill and Creole Creamery give you a scrumptious taste of the local culinary culture. Plus, you can walk right down Main Street to reach Bay Saint Louis Beach to dip your toes into the sugar-sands of the Gulf of Mexico.
FOLLY BEACH, SC
For a small town, Folly Beach sure knows how to have a good time! Bob along on the gentle waves on a stand-up paddleboard, and then stroll down Center Street to check out delicious dives like Chico Feo and Surf Bar. No matter how you decide to divvy up your day, know that Folly Beach Public Beach is always only steps away.
There may not be a better place in the South to get a bourbon than Bardstown; a Kentucky village with plenty of spirit. From traditional favorites like Willett Distilling Company to the free tours at the Barton 1792 Distillery, you’ll have no shortage of fun if you’re of drinking age; a whiskey tour is a smart choice for safe transportation among attractions. Take a break to stroll through the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, an old Kentucky home that’s well-stocked with memorabilia.
Natchez is newly revived and one of the most exciting small towns in the South. You can still get your fix of classic Southern culture with activities like a biscuit baking class and a tour of the Charboneau rum distillery, but more contemporary attractions such as the Natchez Brewing Company and Steampunk Coffee Roasters lend a modern feel. Between bites, be sure to check out the city’s bevvy of antebellum sites, including the largest octagonal house in the United States.
You’ll find lots of down-home charm in Hendersonville. This North Carolina gem is nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains and offers easy-going attractions like the Elijah Mountain Gem Mine (a hit with kids) and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards (popular with adults). For some quirky all-ages entertainment, swing by the Appalachian Pinball Museum—a unique collection of vintage arcade games you won’t find anywhere else. Active travelers can take advantage of the area’s gorgeous mountain surroundings with this hiking experience that features an hour of yoga on the summit.
ORANGE BEACH, AL
A hub of family fun nestled between Pensacola and Mobile, Orange Beach is the perfect small-town beach getaway on the Gulf of Mexico. Pack your favorite swimsuits and get ready for a good time indulging in all the adventures this town has to offer, from dolphin cruises, fishing charters and classic amusements down on the Wharf. Best of all, temperatures never dip too low, making Orange Beach a great year-round destination.
AMELIA ISLAND, FL
Make the most of your time outdoors when you visit Amelia Island. Whether you’re grabbing a kayak to explore diverse backwaters or saddling up to explore Amelia Island State Park by horseback, don’t be surprised if your sense of adventure is well and truly unleashed! If you’d like to explore a more cosmopolitan side of Amelia Island, don’t miss the charming historic district. Add in more than 40 public beach access points along 13 miles of coastline, and you’ve got a recipe for a visit to a small town in the South with a big backdrop.