The charming little town of Clarkesville (pop. 1,733) retains a sophistication dating back to its founding over 150 years ago by lowland Carolina and coastal Georgian plantation families seeking refuge from the oppressive summer heat. Best known as the home of the renowned country resort Glen-Ella Springs Inn (888/455-8786 or 706/754-7295, $160 and up), Clarkesville sits at the lower slope of a river valley that stretches northwest to the faux-Bavarian town of Helen and is surrounded by countryside perfect for a leisurely drive or bike tour past an old mill here, a covered bridge there, and old-time country stores in wooden cabins.
Clarkesville tucks urbane delights into its rustic country setting, with over 40 buildings, most of them former summer homes, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown, three blocks of wooden storefronts, centering on a shaded plaza where numerous festivals take place, hold cafés and crafts shops.
Hundred-year-old Glen-Ella Springs Inn, eight miles or so north of Clarkesville on Bear Gap Road, off US-441, is northern Georgia’s premier country inn. Set on 12 lush acres, the historic three-story lodge holds 16 guest rooms, 14 of which open to a wraparound porch with rocking chairs. The top floor’s two penthouse suites have private balconies as well as a shared porch.