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Day Trip: Antebellum Trail

Grand, columned mansions, rolling hills, and scenic small towns far off the beaten path are just a few reasons to explore the Antebellum Trail. This route takes you through the center of the state, where you'll find some of the finest pre-Civil War architecture in the Southeast.

Athens is the northern gateway to the Antebellum Trail. Broad Street takes you through the heart of downtown past the University of Georgia. Peek inside the arches to see the Greek Revival buildings of the original campus. Head to Church-Waddel-Brumby House on East Dougherty Street. The 1820 home, headquarters of the Athens Welcome Center, is a great place to stop for information about the Antebellum Trail. Make your way to "the Loop," which is what locals call the Athens Perimeter Highway, and then to U.S. 441 South. Only 8 miles from Athens is Watkinsville, home of the Eagle Tavern Museum. The stagecoach stop dates back to the late 1700s when Watkinsville was a frontier town bordering Cherokee and Creek lands.

Planning Your Time

The Antebellum Trail can begin in Athens in the north or Macon in the south. The main artery is U.S. 441, which connects Athens, Madison, Eatonton, and Milledgeville. Route 22/129 runs from Milledgeville to Macon. The 100-mile trip takes a little more than two hours, not counting stops.

U.S. 441 between Watkinsville and Madison—dotted with forests, pastures, and cotton patches—is the most scenic stretch of the Antebellum Trail. Farm stands offering peaches, tomatoes, and boiled peanuts are plentiful. Downtown Madison is full of quaint shops. From Madison, it's 22 miles to Eatonton. Just off Madison Avenue is the Plaza Arts Center, home to the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center. Pick up a self-guided tour of Madison Avenue's immaculately restored white-columned Antebellum mansions and Victorian masterpieces. On the way out of town, the Uncle Remus Museum recounts Joel Chandler Harris's folktales.

Back on U.S. 441, it's 20 miles to the college town of Milledgeville, once the state capital. The Old Governor's Mansion, built in 1839, is pristinely restored and certainly worth a stop. From Milledgeville, take Route 22/129 south through the tiny towns of Haddock, Gray, and Old Clinton. The scenery is dramatic, with rolling hills, sweeping pastures, and forests. Just after Old Clinton the road forks—take U.S. 129 and follow along to Macon. Cross the Ocmulgee River and make your way to the Downtown Visitor Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a proper introduction. Don't miss the Italianate Hay House perched high on Georgia Avenue. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours in Macon, as there are more than enough attractions to hold your interest.

Need a Break?

Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods. This Athens soul-food staple was made famous by R.E.M.'s album Automatic for the People, which is the restaurant's slogan. 1016 E. Broad St., Athens, GA. 706/353–7797. Closed Sun.

Antique Sweets. This locally owned candy shop offers handmade fudge, truffles, pralines, and more. Their signature item is the "Bulldog Bite"- a take on the classic chocolate caramel turtle for proud UGA fans. 127 South Main St., Madison, GA. 706/342-0034. www.antiquesweets.com.

Blackbird Coffee. This coffee shop offers small-batch roasted coffee and fresh baked goods. 114 W. Hancock St., Milledgeville, GA. 478/454–2473. www.blackbirdcoffee.com.

Trish Ann's Antiques & Tearoom. A charming antiques store with a tearoom in back, Trish Ann's Antiques & Tearoom serves sandwiches and quiches. 102 Bowen Hill Rd., Haddock, GA. 478/932–5885. Closed Sun. and Mon.

Nu-Way Weiners. Opened in 1916, Nu-Way Weiners is a Macon landmark serving acclaimed hot dogs, onion rings, and chocolate malts. 430 Cotton Ave., Macon, GA. 478/743–1368. www.nu-wayweiners.com. Closed Sun.

Updated: 09-2013

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