The North Georgia mountains are home to many small towns with their own quirky attractions, true southern hospitality and four seasons to celebrate. Recently I made my first visit about 90 minutes north of Atlanta for apple-picking fun. Much to my surprise – there are tons of incredible things to do in Ellijay, GA for families, couples or even solo travelers.
Ellijay is located in Gilmer County and, in fact, is the county seat. Known for apple picking, apple festivals and, well, all-things-apples, this small town offers big time fun. The things to do are different depending on seasons, but this is a good assortment of activities, food, festivals and lodging options to plan your trip. (Fun fact: Former President Jimmy Carter has a second home log cabin in Ellijay.)
Downtown Ellijay, GA
Downtown Ellijay is a walkable area with plenty of restaurants, the boardwalk, unique shopping and funky little retail places. Casual strolls are the best way to explore and take the time to duck in-and-out of shops that appeal to you. Below are a few of my favorite spots that I hope you’ll take the time to visit when in town.
Mountain Treasures is a mixture of all my favorite things. Boutique clothing, unusual home furnishings, souvenirs, t-shirts and best of all – wine and moonshine tastings. Owner Sheryl Adams is a real treat and I hope she is there when you visit. Her larger-than-life personality invites guests and locals to spend some time looking around and visiting over the tasting bar. (Note: Not sure what to take home? Wine slushie mix and Old Blue wine are great choices!)
I have done tastings of all kinds: wine, moonshine, beer, cheese, olive oil, chocolate, etc. Ellijay offers a new-to-me honey tasting available at New Ground Market. Stop in and take some home!
Green Willow Soap is a lovely little shop with handcrafted soaps and body products featuring locally-sourced natural products and other high-quality ingredients. Aside from artisan soaps, they have bath products, infused oils and gift baskets.
George Link, Jr. Gilmer Arts PLAYHOUSE is a 150-seat venue playing host to a myriad of entertainment, performances and events. Check the web site often for the calendar of events.
Wineries in Ellijay, GA
Cartecay Vineyards harvests six varieties of grapes from 13 acres of vines. The Tasting Barn is a renovated 1890s barn featuring a tasting bar, a sitting area with a wood fire stove, a covered porch, and much more. Live music is played often on the Chimney Patio where you’ll see the Chimney and Covered Stage. This area is beautiful with lovely vineyard views and the ambiance begs for all to sit and relax.
Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard & Winery is a gorgeous property, well-maintained with the most picturesque rolling hills and perfect for weddings or other events. Owned by Bobby and Karin McNeill, Chateau Meichtry has many reminders of Papa Stephan Meichtry, Karin’s grandfather, who grew grapes and planted vineyards in Luek, Switzerland. In 1921 he came to New York with root stock, and began growing and planting as a home winemaker. Today, son Justin, oversees the vineyard and winery operations, so it’s a powerful family-run business offering wine tastings, winery tours and grape harvesting on this magnificent property. The facility is grand to say the least with marvelous paintings and one-of-a-kind furnishings. It is a fabulous place to meet up with friends and they sometimes host live music on the outside deck. (Note: be sure and do the Chocolate Cup Tasting – wow!)
Ellijay River Vineyards is on about 20 acres between Ellijay and Cherry Log bordering on the Ellijay River. They grow various varieties and allow visitors by appointment only.
Engelheim Vineyards is the living dream of Colonel Engel from the time he retired from the Army in 2004. They offer four varieties of wine from the finest quality grapes. The facility has a German appearance and is perfect for events. They also have a tasting room, so prepare to partake!
Be sure and work in a tasting at Fainting Goat, a vineyard where hand-crafted wines come from the best certified French vines. Enjoy a glass of your favorite wine and a beautiful mountain view from the 50-foot veranda. Inside you’ll also have an unbelievable view thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Fireplaces take the chill away so you can enjoy any season at Fainting Goat.
Other Fun Things to do in Ellijay, GA
Amicalola Falls is a closeby opportunity to visit the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. There is a 600-step staircase of sorts leading to the top or you can drive up.
Apple Alley is the name given to Highway 52 East in Ellijay where apple orchards are plentiful and folks come from all over the southeast to pick seasonal fruits – mainly apples. R & A Orchards offers apples, fried pies, a restaurant and bakery. BJ Reece Orchards is perfect for apple picking, but also offers lots of family fun like tractor rides, a petting zoo, and a nice apple house with tons of fresh produce for sale along with fried pies. For a complete listing of apple orchards, markets and houses in Ellijay, check out the online listing for everything apples. There are also some good ones in Blue Ridge like Mercier Orchards where they have an expansive gift shop and a hard cider tasting room.
Carter’s Lake is a scenic North Georgia lake with a rugged shoreline and perfect for boating, picnicking, camping, fishing and hunting. Fed by the Coosawattee River running between Ellijay and Chatsworth, Carter’s Lake offers a beach at Harris Branch for families to enjoy. Carter’s Dam is the tallest earthen dam east of the Mississippi and is used to act as a watershed controlling annual flooding and generating power.
Expedition: BIGFOOT is quite the family attraction with an educational twist. A 4000-square-foot complex houses Bigfoot artifacts, maps, exhibits and the World’s only Bigfoot Research and Tech Vehicle on display. The Sasquatch Theater is a good start to your tour and is very interesting and informative. This is a really good rainy day activity.
Hiking in Ellijay is popular. The area is designated an Appalachian Trail Community and you can get more information on hiking trails and guides by visiting the Gilmer County Welcome Center in person or online.
Southern Flare Antiques & Interiors is a fun, family-owned home decor store where you can purchase new, antique or vintage home goods.
Tubing is always a fun way to enjoy the water and Ellijay has a few choices to tube or kayak on the Ellijay River, Cartecay River or the Coosawattee River. For more information, visit Cartecay River Experience or Coosawattee River Tubing Company.
Festivals in Ellijay, GA
The first weekend in May always brings the Georgia Apple Blossom Festival. Vendors will be there with food, arts and crafts, and more! This festival celebrates the springtime apple blossoms that will later on become Georgia apples.
The Georgia Apple Festival takes place each October for two weekends in Ellijay with more than 300 vendors including food, arts and crafts, and more. Count on a parade (beginning in downtown Ellijay) and an antique car show (held at the Civic Center). The majority of the festival takes place at the Ellijay Lions Club Fairground. For 2017 the event takes place October 14 – 15 and 21-22.
Places to Eat in Ellijay, GA
Charlie’s Italian Restaurant is a family-owned and operated gourmet Italian restaurant in East Ellijay. Service is good and food is great! There are lots of pasta choices of course, and portions are large. You’ll see couples celebrating, families enjoying a night out and gal pals gathered for dinner. Charlie’s is fun and inviting. . .come hungry!
Crossroads Grocery is a local icon on Highway 52 East offering unexpected breakfast and lunch choices from biscuits, deli sandwiches and pizza to smoked salmon and mouthwatering burgers. They also serve hand-dipped ice cream cones as well. Crossroads Grocery is a convenience store located in a 110-year-old building with some indoor seating for customers to eat their meals. They are the last filling station before the Appalachian Trail if you are coming from Ellijay and the locals are always in line to eat, so you know it’s a winner!
Confession: I love a good, local coffeehouse and the downtown area is home to Ellijay Coffeehouse owned by JoAnn Antonelli and Rick Lewis, who also own The Martyn House Farm. With great coffee and an Appalachian Sunrise (Bacon/Egg or both, Spinach and Brie Chipolte Peach Spread), my day was off to a great start. Bread and goodies are freshly baked on-site each day for freshness and awesome taste. The atmosphere is casual and there is a quaint spot out back with umbrella tables and a little water focal.
Lee’s on River Street at the 1907 is in downtown Ellijay and is a charming restaurant highly resembling an Irish pub. There is an upstairs area for overflow with a balcony which had a New Orleans vibe to it. Additionally, a beautiful bar area with seating is available along with great dinner and drink menus. Bangers and Mash is, of course, one of their offerings. I had the Chicken Marsala and it was wonderful as well as the Pimento Cheese with Pita Chips appetizer. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
MooBear’s Ice Cream and Hotdogs is a local favorite and one trip inside will show you why! There are 20 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream to pick from so sample a couple before you decide. Their ice cream is from Ashby’s Creamery in Shelby Township, Michigan and it is delicious! They also serve up 10 varieties Angus Beef Hotdogs. Other noteworthy items include a candy wall, moon pies and t-shirts. Eclectic and fun, make this a definite stop in your downtown tour.
The Pink Pig is just what you’re thinking – good ole BBQ. Family-owned and operated, this hopping joint has delicious vittles that include their specialties of Garlic Salad and Brunswick Stew as well as scrumptious ribs, brisket and traditional pork. Don’t skip dessert because the banana pudding is over-the-top good!
Where to Stay in Ellijay, GA
Do you own an RV or prefer the camping way of life? There are numerous campgrounds with varying amenities available in the Ellijay and Gilmer County areas.
The Martyn House is one of the most unique lodging settings I’ve ever encountered. Located on some 18 acres, the farm offers year-round bed and breakfast-type accommodations with three rooms available in the 1930s farmhouse and a stand alone studio unit. Additionally, from April 15th to November 15th, guests can come glamping in one of four luxury sleeping tents from India. Enjoy fine linens, antiques, outdoor sitting areas with fire pits and a few unexpected things like bathing outside under the stars in a claw-foot tub. An adults only facility, The Martyn House offers a special experience that you won’t soon forget.
Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way is a different experience designed with the mountain bike enthusiast in mind. Gilmer County is the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia so it makes total sense to have this unique adventure here. With tons of mountain bike trails, lodging, food and other resort amenities, bring your bike and let them worry about the rest!
The Overlook Inn Bed & Breakfast is actually in Chatsworth, but close enough to Ellijay to throw a rock at. Innkeepers Mike and Lynn Anderson are fabulous and go the extra mile to make sure your stay in the North Georgia mountains is the absolute best it can be. Enjoy amazing views of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the wonderful culinary creations of Mrs. Lynn. I stayed in the Celestial Suite with a personal hot tub, sitting area, bedroom and private bath – one of six rooms available at the inn – and honestly, all are special with personalities of their own. Your stay comes with a three-course breakfast, wine and cheese night, dessert night and so much more! Be warned: you aren’t going to want to leave.
There are so many incredible things to do in Ellijay, GA – two state parks, camping, cabins, fishing and U-Pick apple orchards! And, if you love small Georgia towns like Ellijay, you might also want to check out all the fun things to do in Helen, GA as well! It’s about an hour and a half away and worth the trip!
I was hosted by the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of this review. Opinions are my own as well as photos except where noted.