A Weekend in Clayton, Georgia

Wineries and restaurants have made the small North Georgia town a destination

Main Street in downtown Clayton, GA is lined with restaurants and shops. (Courtesy of Blue Ridge Travel Guide)

You’ve probably been there Clayton, Georgia on your way to somewhere else – like dining at the famous Dillard House or shopping in Highlands, NC.

But you have to get off highways 23/441/15 – the main thoroughfare full of gas stations and fast food joints – to really see this historic city and all it has to offer, including some of the best restaurants in town. North Georgia.

Head to the downtown historic district, where you’ll find Main Street lined with restaurants that have made Clayton the farm-to-table capital of the state. Or you might want to grab a beer at one of the local distilleries or sample locally produced wine at one of Rabun County’s wineries.

You can work out all that food and drink at any of the local state parks or attractions, where hiking, fishing, and horseback riding are available.

Beechwood Inn & breakfast

Where to stay

Kingwood Resort & Vineyard

If you want it cheap and simple, there’s a day hostel (wyndhamhotels.com) on Highway 441, less than a 10 minute walk to Main Street. But if you’re going away for a weekend, splurge and try one of the local spots that will give you luxury and a taste of the mountains.

Beechwood Inn & breakfast (beechwoodinn.ws) was named one of Southern Living Magazine’s Top Hotels, while its restaurant received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. The five-acre property has luxury suites with fireplaces and porches to take in mountain views.

Another charming suggestion is the White Birch Inn (thewhitebirchinn.net) inside a century-old downtown building with just six uniquely decorated rooms. Each has a fireplace and you can request the room with a copper tub.

Looking for a dog-friendly place to stay, then check Parker Ranch (parkersranch.com), which is only one mile from downtown. There are five guest suites and breakfast is included in the room rate.

And then there is Kingwood Resort & Vineyard (kingwoodresort.com), which offers hotel rooms, condos, an 18-hole golf course, a spa, and the on-site winery, which offers Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Red Blend.

Fortify kitchen and bar

Where to eat

You won’t be able to eat at every restaurant worth visiting in a weekend, but here are a few to get you started. There’s literally something for everyone in Clayton, and if you’re looking for chill, you’re definitely in the right town.

Named OpenTable Fortify kitchen and bar (fortifyclayton.com) one of the best restaurants in the country for its varied menu of farm-fresh ingredients, including trout, salmon, steak frites and fried chicken. Sister Restaurant Fortify Pi serves pizza, wings and brick oven sandwiches.

Clayton Cafe

Clayton Cafe (theclaytoncafega.com) is a city institution operating for over 60 years with a menu of Southern comfort foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Think country fried steak, shrimp and grits, and bone-in pork chops.

If you are a fan of universal joint (ujclayton.com) in Decatur, then you might want to check out this satellite location with a large leafy patio and a familiar menu of burgers and beers.

For something healthy, check out Coffee with grapes and beans (raisinsetbeans.com) for vegetarian dishes made with local and organic ingredients. There is also a wine shop to explore.

And another gem not to be missed is Sunday dinner (sundaydinclayton.com), which will take you back in time and fill your bell with ribs, fried chicken steak, fresh vegetables, hearty breakfast dishes and tall glasses of sweet tea served in mason jars.

12 Spies vineyards

where to drink

Take a tour of the city centers Moonrise Distillery (moonrisedistillery.com), which makes its own whiskey, bourbon, vodka, gin and fruit brandies with local ingredients. The Speakeasy bar is the ideal place to taste the production of the distillery, in addition to live music.

In the nearby town of Tiger, GA, you’ll find the small craftsman Stonewall Creek Vineyards (stonewallcreek.com), known for its award-winning Petit Manseng and Cabernet Franc.

There is also Tiger Mountain Vineyards (Tigerwine.com), which hand-picks its own grapes to offer exceptional red wines to taste in the tasting room. There is a cafe open on weekends.

As close is 12 Spies vineyards (12spiesvineyards.com) in Rabun Gap, with its selection of Chardonnay, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Black Rock Mountain State Park (courtesy Blue Ridge Travel Guide)

Where to enjoy the outdoors

Black Rock Mountain State Park (gasteparks.org/BlackRockMountain) is in Clayton’s backyard with 80-mile vistas, four hiking trails, and campsites if you prefer to sleep in the great outdoors on your weekend getaway.

To the south of the city is Tallulah Gorge State Park (gasteparks.org/TallulahGorge), home to its namesake canyon 300 meters deep. You can cross the 80-foot-high suspension bridge, hike to one of the waterfalls in the gorge, and camping is also available.

If you drive to Dillard House (dillardhouse.com) time for dinner, why not make a day of it and go for a horseback ride along the water from the stables or a fly fishing trip? It’s the perfect way to whet your appetite. There is also a hotel on site if you are too tired to return to Clayton.

Another outdoor activity in Dillard is Andy’s Trout Farm (andystroutfarm.com), which spans over 300 acres and offers rentals, bait and overnight accommodations in cabins or campsites.

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