Exciting Activities for Your Mountain Vacation in North Georgia
Looking for something to do? Take a quick Video Tour here of just a few of the many activities and attractions around Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa!
Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa is surrounded by natural beauty, but outdoor adventures are not the only way to spend your days here. You will find there are many other activities to keep you busy in the surrounding towns and villages. Our inn sits on a small mountain top just above the Village of Sautee, which is a charming mountain village filled with unique shops, wineries, galleries and the local cultural center. You can easily spend the afternoon wandering the Village of Sautee seeing the quaint shops, touring the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, visiting the art galleries, having a sandwich or snack at a local deli or coffee shop, tasting an excellent wine at one of the wineries, or visiting a historic trading post that is still in business.
A little further drive from the inn you will find an assortment of arts and historic sites. Tour a working glass studio, where the artists create spectacular glass objects. Wander through a country market filled with unique home-style goods, along with gourmet foods and wines. Dine at French-style restaurant in a rustic farmhouse atmosphere on tender steak, fresh fish and locally grown vegetables. Visit a unique pottery studio housed in an historic grist mill perched over the rapids of the Soque River. Or see one of Georgia’s remaining covered bridges, just a mile down the road from our inn.
Give us a call at 706-878-5055, and we will be glad to help you plan a two-, three-, or four- day itinerary that takes some of the diverse activities of the North Georgia mountains. In addition to these activities, plan an outdoor excursion, and don’t miss seeing our waterfalls.
Burton Gallery & Emporium – Beautiful gallery situated on a lovely site near Lake Burton. Carries large selection of quality folk pottery, oil paintings, work carvings, jewelry, and handmade Amish furniture. Represents 300+ artists, many award-winning and most from the local area. We find the quality and selection of their oil paintings to be outstanding.
Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia – Housed in an award-winning, modern gallery building, this museum displays significant works in the folk art pottery movement. Located in the Sautee Nacoochee Center in the Village of Sautee.
Glass Mountain Gallery & Glass Studio – Artist Phillip and Janine Shelby create beautiful hand-blown and fused glass art pieces in their studio, where you can watch as they work. Open seasonally weekends September through December or gallery visits are possible other times of the year by advance appointment.
The Gourd Place – Gourd art has a long history in the rural south and this studio produces some interesting decorative and functional pieces out of gourds grown on-site, as well as imaginative pottery molded from gourds. The artists use gourds as molds through a slip casting method they invented and patented to create beautiful stoneware with organic shapes. This process imparts the subtle textures and veins from the inside of the gourd to the finished piece, creating truly unique pottery. The bowl we use to hold sweeteners by the coffee maker is a Gourd Place original. Open seasonally April through December.
Hickory Flat Pottery Studio & Gallery – Housed in a charming 112 year-old farm house, this working studio produces high-quality stoneware and usually has a potter working the wheel. The gallery also carries unique handmade jewelry, copper and metal sculpture, carved wood art pieces and stained glass. We like their unique decorative and functional stoneware serving pieces, several of which are displayed around the Inn.
Mark of the Potter – Operating since 1969, this studio and gallery is one of the most unique galleries you are likely to see here or anywhere. Housed in an old grist mill at the edge of the rapids of the Soque River, it carries a large selection of pottery and handmade jewelry, metal craft and blown glass. It also has a nice selection of regional books and gifts. We have several vases that we use at the Inn that we found at Mark of the Potter. On most days there is at least one of the resident potters working the wheel in the studio. Don’t miss seeing the beautiful, large rainbow trout in the river from the back balcony.
Soque Artworks Gallery – A well-run gallery located on the square in downtown Clarkesville displaying the works of over a hundred artists in a diverse array of media. Inventory changes regularly, but usually includes lots of pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, folk art, fiber art, metal work, photography, and oil paintings. These folks have a good eye for quality art. We collect folk art bird houses and always find a great selection here.
The Willows Pottery – An attractive working studio and gallery featuring handmade stoneware by several potters, many with whimsical or nature themes. It also has a nice selection of carved wooden bowls, handmade jewelry, baskets, and handmade soaps. Housed in a converted farmhouse, this gallery is very homey and has a nice selection of well priced pottery. You can even paint your own pottery and make your own custom piece. We like the dragonfly motif pottery at The Willows.
See our interactive map for shopping opportunities near Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa.
Old Sautee Store – A circa 1872 General Store located in the Village of Sautee. A portion of the building has been preserved as an old country store museum, including fixtures and supplies found in country stores from the early 1900’s. A modern section offers a variety of gifts, jewelry, men’s and women’s apparel, cookbooks and regional books. Surprisingly, the Old Sautee Store is one of the top amber jewelry retailers in the US and also carries a nice selection of high-quality handmade knifes. Be sure to sample their delicious Farmer’s Cheese from Sweden…great with ginger crackers or flat bread.
Insideout Sautee – Always stocked with unique home furnishings and a diverse collection of art, including paintings, pottery, fiber, metal work, and an extensive variety of handmade jewelry. We found several unique lamps for the inn here and an oil painting that we love.
The Lavender Cottage and Garden – This cute cottage in the Sautee Village carries dozens of lavender related products…hand soaps, bar soaps, lotions, reed diffusers, dried lavender bouquets, lavender buds by the scoop, delicious lavender food products, and several varieties of lavender plants. It also carries handmade pottery, adorable children’s items and garden products.
The Alpine Olive Tree – A wonderful selection of Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars to please every palate along with other food gifts. A true culinary gem in nearby Helen. They have all the ingredients for building a tasty gift basket or box for someone back home. Very knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Nora Mill Granary – Historic 1876 grist mill still in production that provides the Inn & Spa with incredible oats, stone ground grits and some of the flours for breads, muffins, and pancakes.
Betty’s Country Store – An up-scale country store that carries a variety of fancy food products like gourmet pickles, jellies, chutneys, local wines, meats, and cheeses. You can get everything from a hunting or fishing license, to gourmet sauces and fancy bread mixes. Pick up a Vogue magazine, buy a book on local history, select from dozens of varieties of beef and venison jerky, smell some great handcrafted soaps, get some pickling spices, buy candy by the pound, or a fresh-baked red velvet cupcake. Betty’s has convenient parking and is worth browsing through to see what a country store should look like.
See our interactive map for dining options near Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa.
The Attic – Contemporary American cuisine served in a converted gas station and garage from the early 1900’s, just off of the square in Clarkesville. The open warehouse feel of the dining room, with exposed brick walls and open kitchen design, is reminiscent of chic big-city restaurants, but The Attic has none of the big-city attitude. Here you’ll find consistently good and moderately priced entrées and friendly wait staff. The former gas pump bays are now a nice outdoor patio where you can watch small-town America pass by.
Bernie’s Restaurant at Nacoochee Valley Guest House – A Nacoochee Valley staple for 25 years, Bernie’s is a delicious fine dining experience. Entrées such as Steak au Poivre, Chicken or Veal Picatta or Marsala, Rack of Lamb and Roasted Duckling are served in a charming rustic farmhouse with several intimate dining rooms and a large back sunroom looking out over the Nacoochee Valley floor. Reservations almost always required on Fridays and Saturdays.
Bodensee Restaurant – A TripAdvisor favorite! Authentic German food in the heart of Alpine Helen. A favorite of travelers in search of German and Bavarian cuisine this restaurant serves many favorites like Wiener Schnitzel, Schweinbraten, Hungarian Goulash, Beef Stroganoff, Jaeger Schnitzel, Homemade Garlic Wurst, Spaetzles, Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad. The Baked Brie and Vegetable appetizer is outstanding!
Cowboys & Angels Restaurant and Bar – Great steaks, grilled salmon, buttermilk fried chicken, one of the best burgers around these parts and a variety of other sandwiches and seafood. Full service bar in a tasteful and clean rustic atmosphere, and a large outdoor dining area. We like their Bison Burger because it has that great burger flavor with fewer fat calories. They will even serve it California-style without the bun on a salad.
Catch-22 Gastropub – 30+ beers on tap, usually around 100 bourbons and whiskeys, and truly gourmet pub fare. For a special adventure, try the Chef’s Choice Burger – you don’t know what it will be, but it WILL be awesome! Live “Blues and Bourbon” every Thursday, with unique food specials.
Harvest Habersham – Farm-to-table dining at its best! Located just 1/2 block off the square in historic Clarkesville this restaurant is about all things local. Local produce, meat and baking supplies are used to create fresh, unique dishes. Menu changes regularly based on availability but some of our favorites include Buttermilk Chicken and the Duck Breast.
Hawg Wild BBQ and Catfish House – Approximately 1/2 mile off the square in historic Clarkesville, Hawg Wild specializes in BBQ Pork, Chicken, Fried Catfish, and awesome BBQ Ribs. Dessert is also a highlight on their menu with a wide variety of fresh-baked cakes, pies, cobbler and homemade fudge.
Hofer’s Bakery & Café – Great option for lunch. Bavarian bakery and restaurant serving a full lunch menu of soups, sandwiches and hot German style entrées. Also offers a wonderful selection of German cakes, breads and pastries made on-site.
Mully’s Nacoochee Grill – A perennial favorite in this area for years, the Grill is back and better than ever under the leadership of well-known local Mully Ash. Many of the old favorites are also back, including Grilled and Fried Trout, Babyback Ribs and Wasabi Salmon. A full bar and a good selection of local and domestic wines.
Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria – Casual dining offering a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, paninis and hand-tossed pizzas. Offers creative combinations of pizza toppings, such as The Spicy Piglet and The Kickin’ Chicken, and the Pizza of the Day is always unusual and delicious.
Old Sautee Store Deli/Market – A good spot for lunch while shopping in the Village of Sautee, it offers a variety of deli sandwiches and soups served in a rustic wood and stone cabin attached to the Old Sautee Store. Daily special is always a creative sandwich or panini and/or soup. Hand-dipped ice cream in the summer is also a popular afternoon treat.
Spice 55 – Fine Thai dining restaurant and sushi bar. You might not think of Alpine Helen as the home to good Thai and sushi but Spice 55 has it! Fresh ingredients, authentic spices, and a pleasant dining room make this one of our favorite restaurants. A nice selection of wines and full bar. Our favorites are the Mieng Kum Leaf Wraps, Masman Curry Chicken and the Thai Coconut Cake is not to be missed.
Sweetwater Coffee House – We always have great coffee from Jumpin’ Goat around the Inn, but if you’re looking for a good coffeehouse vibe, Sweetwater is the place. Located in the heart of the Sautee Village, Sweetwater is a favorite spot for locals to meet and get a cup of good java. It also offers a very nice lunch menu.
Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa is the ideal base for exploring the natural beauty of Northeast Georgia and some of the interesting stops along with way. We’ve outlined three scenic drives starting from the inn that will lead you to incredible sights and allow you to stop at dozens of other interesting diversions along the way.
Forest, Mountain Peaks and Waterfall Hiking
One of National Geographic’s “Drives of a Lifetime – 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips” is right outside our backdoor. Spend a little more than an hour of drive time traveling through the forested mountains and valleys of Northeast Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest or take longer to stop at some of the spectacular sights along the way. This route takes the shady highways that follow the wild and tumbling Chattahoochee River, leads you across the Appalachian Trail and to observation areas along the way where you can see dramatic mountain vistas. Stop to see Georgia’s highest mountain or hike to several waterfalls along the route.
Please note that many of these locations are “fee use areas” of state or national parks, which require $4.00 cash payment for parking – no credit cards or checks accepted.
Mountain River Valley Art and Wine Drive
The inn is a perfect base for exploring the diverse art of Northeast Georgia and, at the same time, taking in some of the spectacular natural beauty of the nearby mountains, valleys, and rivers. This drive takes approximately one and a half hours, passing through the Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys, through the Soque River Valley and through historic Clarkesville, Georgia, with it’s small-town square and downtown shops and restaurants. It leads you back to the Village of Sautee to end the day tasting local wines and visiting some of the unique shops in the village.
Scenic Drive #3 – Wineries!
There are more wineries in this area than we have space to list! Most of the local vineyards have tasting rooms where you can sample their wares, many of which are made from estate-grown grapes. Some of them also offer snacks or tapas to keep you going from one to the next. We do recommend a bit of caution with all this though – our roads are a bit curvy, and local law enforcement does watch out for people driving under the influence, so please drink responsibly.
Each of these drives can be done in less than 2 hours or you can take your time and see the sights along the way to make it a day of exploring the natural beauty and local flavor of the Georgia mountains. Stop by the front desk, and we will give you printed directions and send you on the drive of a lifetime.
Wine Highway Weekends – Each year the Winegrowers Association of Georgia holds a weekend long event where a “passport” and souvenir glass, available at any participating winery, gets you a tasting at each vineyard. This year the event is spread over two weekends, giving you plenty of time to enjoy and to experience as many vineyards as possible. There are also a number of other events coming up – see GA Winegrower’s Events for more details.
Blue Ribbon Biscuit and Bluegrass Festival – Two of our favorite Southern specialties paired together – Biscuits and Bluegrass! Some of North Georgia’s most popular Bluegrass acts will be playing the bandstand on the grounds of the Sautee Nacoochee Center in the Village of Sautee, including the amazing young Bluegrass artists The Three Arrows. And don’t forget the biscuit baking competition for a little Southern treat. Date for 2018 is still TBD.
In addition to the amazing natural beauty of the Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys, the area is also rich in history. Both valleys have been named to the National Register of Historic Districts and historic markers dot the highways around the area.
Native Americans and Spanish Explorers
Archaeologist believe that the valleys were first inhabited by the prehistoric Mississippian culture and that those societies are responsible for building the earthen mounds in the Nacoochee Valley, often referred to as Indian Mounds. In later years the Cherokee Native American Indians settled in the valleys along the Chattahoochee River and are believed to have used the Nacoochee Indian Mound as their town center. The Creek and Chickasaw Indians also had scattered settlements in the surrounding mountains of north Georgia and often battled with the Cherokee. Hernando De Soto’s expedition through North America began in 1539 and it is believed his troops traveled through north Georgia. Although there is no evidence that De Soto visited the Sautee or Nacoochee Valleys, a series of log huts were found in 1834 near Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley that indicated the presence of Europeans in the area as early as the mid-sixteenth century.
The Legend of Sautee and Nacoochee
The two valleys below Lucille’s are named after Nacoochee (believed to mean “the evening star”), who was the daughter of a Cherokee tribal Chief, and Sautee, a Chickasaw warrior that lived in the Chickasaw tribal areas south of the valleys. Legend has it Sautee met the teenage Nacoochee while visiting the valleys, which were Cherokee territories, during a period of peace between the two tribes and that the two fell madly in love. But theirs was an ill-fated love. Marriage between the tribes was forbidden and Nacoochee’s father refused to allow the couple to wed. The couple decided to elope and fled, with a band of Cherokee warriors in fast pursuit. After several days the warriors tracked the lovers to the summit of nearby Mount Yonah, with its sheer rock cliff, where they were caught. The Chief ordered Sautee thrown from the cliff and Nacoochee in her grief flung herself over the edge after her lover. In his grief, the Chief had their bodies returned to the Nacoochee mound where legend says they were buried side-by-side. The Chief, realizing his mistake, decreed that the two picturesque valleys be forever named for the two young lovers, Sautee and Nacoochee.
In 1828 gold was discovered in Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley triggering the nation’s first gold rush. Thousands of would-be miners rushed to the area, driving up the population so that in 1830 the county was the third most populous in the state of Georgia. Gold was so plentiful that the US Government established a branch mint in nearby Dahlonega that operated until 1861, when gold mining came to a virtual halt during the Civil War. Gold mining had several periods of resurgence in the area since that time but none have matched the success of those early years.
Folk pottery has a long history in the North Georgia Mountains that can be traced back to 1894 when John Meaders opened a pottery studio in the Mossy Creek area south of the valleys. Six of his sons carried on the tradition including Cheever Meaders who developed a distinct style of face jug pots that is now world famous and is displayed in many museum, including the Smithsonian Institute. This tradition of folk pottery lives on in the valleys through the many small pottery studios of self-taught potters that continue to expand the art form and through the fine-art pottery studios and galleries that display their works.
Please use the zoom controls in the upper left hand corner of the map to adjust your view. This will allow you to zoom in to see more detail, or zoom out to see points of interest outside of the current display (especially for outdoor activities). You also have the ability to drag the map to see areas outside of the current view.