Escape to the Arbors: Weekend Getaways Off the Beaten Path

Women on the balcony outside.
Beaches – we all love them. Perhaps sandy toes and salty air aren’t the only way to spend an enjoyable vacation though. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience something new, you’ve come to the right place. The Southeast is home to many underrated destinations ripe with natural beauty. If you prefer to spend your getaway under a tree canopy rather than a beach canopy – or you’re just in need of fresh air – we’ve got you covered.

Sleep Amongst the Trees in Saint George, South Carolina

Just a short drive from the vibrant city of Charleston, the cypress-lined Edisto River runs through Saint George. The Edisto River, one of the longest free-flowing blackwater rivers in the country, is the perfect destination for anyone looking for an immersive experience in nature. You’ll wake up to the morning chatter of birds, spend the day paddling the river or relaxing in your hammock, and wind down the evening with the lullaby of cicadas. Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, this 250-mile river offers opportunities for canoeing, fishing, and gazing at the wildlife of the lowcountry.

This experience offers an elevated take on camping: private treehouses. To find them, you’ll embark on a journey in your canoe and paddle roughly 13 miles down the river, giving you complete, remote serenity. Spend the night in your treehouse and then paddle 10 more miles on day two to complete your off-grid adventure.

Park Hop in Columbia, South Carolina

As the capital city of South Carolina, Columbia is an eclectic and diverse city offering a unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor recreation. From its historic landmarks to its culinary scene to its plethora of parks and nature trails, there is something for everyone.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Congaree National Park is a must-visit. This park features one of the largest intact hardwood forests in the United States and offers visitors a chance to see a variety of wildlife, including deer, otters, and bobcats.

For your next stop, check out Columbia’s true outdoor paradise, Sesquicentennial State Park, offering a diverse set of hiking trails, a stocked lake for fishing, and several camping options. This park is home to a 30-acre lake, a hardwood forest, and more than 130 species of birds.

Lastly, you can’t miss Saluda Shoals Park: a lush, tranquil treasure only a few miles outside the hustle and bustle of downtown. The 480-acre riverfront park hosts many different experiences like kayaking, picnicking, and a ropes course. If you visit in the summer months, there is a water park featuring waterslides and a lazy river. This is a great stop for travelers young and old to relax and unwind in the great outdoors.

Ride the Rapids in Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, is a nature lover’s playground. When kayakers are coasting the rapids through the middle of downtown – you know you’re in a unique place. The James River – the nation’s only urban class IV rapids – is a bucket-list item for whitewater kayakers and rafters all over the country. If whitewater rafting isn’t your idea of fun, Belle Isle is the city’s beloved island hangout – perfect for picnicking, swimming, and relaxation.

The James River Park System, featuring over 550 acres of preserved land for hiking, biking, and kayaking, is another can’t-miss item to add to your itinerary. Whether you’re looking to take a scooter tour, hike the Pocahontas State Park Trail, or challenge yourself to the 52-mile bike trek from Richmond to Williamsburg, there are plenty of activities to keep visitors active and on the go.

Venture to the Bat Cave in Huntsville, Alabama

Located in northern Alabama, Huntsville is a city that is often overlooked by tourists. However, this city has a lot to offer for our fellow nature freaks. The Monte Sano State Park overlooks the city of Huntsville, and features over 2,000 acres of preserved land. Monte Sano, meaning “Mountain of Health,” offers visitors a chance to hike, bike, and camp in the great outdoors. This is a spot adored by locals and tourists alike.

If you’re looking for a particularly unique experience, Sauta Cave is just a short drive from the city and is home to an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 endangered Grey and Indiana bats. During the warmer months, the bats emerge nightly and collectively consume more than a billion insects. Just before the sun goes down, the bats infiltrate upwards in the sky as they begin their nightly hunt for their prey.

Marvel at the Mountains in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Nestled on the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina line, Blue Ridge is a charming mountain town that served as a railroad stop in the 1800s. Today, Blue Ridge is a getaway destination for travelers seeking to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains, chase waterfalls along the Appalachian Trail, or zip through the trees in Hell’s Hollow.

Blue Ridge is a popular spot for trout fishing. Whether you’re new to fishing or you’re pro-angler, you’re sure to enjoy a guided fishing charter on the Toccoa River. For thrill seekers, ziplining through Hell’s Hollow combines an adrenaline rush with colorful scenic views of the Blue Ride Mountains.

If chasing waterfalls is on your agenda, you could opt for the Springer Mountain route, the start of the Appalachian Trail, which is just a quick walk from the parking lot. If you’d rather take a little bit longer of a hike, the trek to Long Creek Falls is slightly over one mile.

SouthState has more than 200 locations in the Southeast, where we proudly serve our customers and communities alike. No matter your destination, we provide secure digital banking solutions giving you visibility and control of your accounts while you’re away. Whether you’re making a quick stop on vacation or a routine visit to your local branch, we look forward to serving you.

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