A mountain getaway usually means heading to North Georgia, but why not head south instead? Pine Mountain and nearby attractions like Callaway Gardens, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House, the historic towns of Warm Springs and Manchester are perfect for a weekend away from the city.
Located about 80 miles south of Atlanta, Pine Mountain is both scenic and activity-filled whether you’re an outdoor or history enthusiast. There’s also plenty in the way of accommodations, from resorts to campgrounds.
The town of Warm Springs takes its name from the nearby springs – 88 degrees Fahrenheit and full of minerals – that edge Pine Mountain. Creek and Iroquois Indians used the springs to heal their sick and wounded, and in 1832, David Rose built the area’s first resort around them.
The town’s original name was Bullochville, and today, tight alleys lead visitors to Old Bullochville, a reconstructed homage to Warm Spring’s past, found behind Bulloch House and the many shops on Broad Street.
Warm Springs gained national recognition in 1924 when President Roosevelt visited the area to treat his polio-related paralysis. The springs are no longer open for public use, but they are used therapeutically by the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, founded by FDR.
Since the invention of the polio vaccine, the institute provides Vocational Rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities. The pools were recently refurbished by Georgia State Parks and a touch pool allows visitors to feel the warm spring waters and learn about its history.
Also be sure to check out the Warm Spring National Fish Hatchery, which was established in 1899 to restore and manages fish such as striped bass, alligator gar and lake sturgeon. It’s also used to recover species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act and restore freshwater fish habitats.
The hatchery includes a public aquarium and visitors’ area with walkways amid a beautiful, natural environment.
Little White House
Built in 1932 by then-Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Little White House became FDR’s home while he visited the area to take advantage of the springs. The people he met and experiences he had in Warm Springs prompted some of his programs once he became president, such as the Rural Electrification Administration.
In 1945, while posing for a portrait, FDR suffered a stroke and died shortly afterwards. The “Unfinished Portrait” is one of the many exhibits in the museum, as is his 1938 Ford convertible with hand controls.
The Little White House has been carefully preserved much as FDR left it. Visitors are welcome to visit the home, museum and pools.
F.D. Roosevelt State Park and Manchester
Georgia’s largest state park is set among the Pine Mountain Range. The 9,000-plus acre park offers more than 40 miles of trails, winding through pines and hardwood trees, over creeks and past small waterfalls.
Dowdell’s Knob offers a breath-taking view. It’s a spot that FDR was known to sometimes picnic and ponder national and international issues. He was so fond of the spot, he had a brick oven installed for barbecues. The overlook now features a life-size sculpture of the president gazing out over the mountains.
Dowdell’s Knob is located just off Ga. 190, a winding and scenic roadway that begins just south of Manchester and takes you all the way to Callaway Gardens. There are plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs as well as snap more of those fantastic views from atop Pine Mountain.
Speaking of Manchester, it’s a fine example of a mountain town with a delightful main street full of shops and the historic President Theatre, originally built in 1935 as movie house. It was recently restored with the help of a grant from the Fox Theatre Institute and is now home to regular community events, theater productions, films and more.
A fun fact for the literary-minded: Manchester is the hometown of bestselling author Stuart Woods, who fictionalized the city as Delano for his novel “Chiefs.”
Callaway Resort & Gardens
Founded in 1952 and set on nearly 7,000 acres, Callaway Gardens has become a favored weekend getaway spot, especially for golf lovers and nature enthusiasts. One of the main attractions is the giant Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, which has the distinction of being the largest enclosed tropical conservatory in North America. Thousand of butterflies from 50 different species flutter over a vast array of flowers and plants.
There are also 10 miles of walking and biking paths, the white sand Robin Lake Beach and two 18-hole golf courses. Regular events are held, such as the annual Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival and Fantasy Lights, which see the gardens decked out in millions of twinkling bulbs for the holiday season.
An array of accommodations are onsite, including The Lodge, villas, cottages and more affordable Mountain Creek Inn.
You won’t go hungry either, with 10 restaurants and bars to choose from, including the down-home southern delights of Country Kitchen located inside the rustic Callaway Gardens Country Store.
–Kathy Dean and Collin Kelley
Editor’s Note: This story is part of Head for the Hills, our annual special section about Georgia vacation spots and properties.