Laura S. Walker State Park

Laura S. Walker State Park is a hidden gem of the Georgia State Parks system. Located near Waycross, Georgia, this park is a great base of operations from which to access the Golden Isles of Georgia’s coastline. Jekyll Island is a 30 minute drive and St. Simon’s Island is another 10 minutes! Laura S. Walker State Park even has a great 18 hole golf course!

This spacious state park has several fun, family oriented activities. There is a little bit of everything to do here! The 120 acre lake is perfect for kayaking, boating, and fishing. Two separate swimming areas are designated along the lake for kids to splash around in. SUP Paddle Boards, Kayaks, and Paddle Boats are available to rent from the park office. The small, but spacious campground is a perfect place to hang out under the pines. 5 miles of hiking trails feature some great opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. You may even see a gopher tortoise! Bicycles are allowed on the trails and they also can be rented from the park office. Laura S. Walker also has a very nice dog park which is specifically partitioned into two separate areas. One for small dogs and one for larger dogs. For those that don’t want to rough it there are some very nice cabins. They are clean and very comfortable. More details below. The Okefenokee Swamp Park and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are also within easy driving distance.

Enjoy these great videos of our family at Laura S. Walker State Park

Cabins!

One of the great things about Laura S. Walker State Park is the cabins! These cabins are more like a small 2 bedroom home and they are are incredibly clean! I have stayed in several vacation rentals over the years but these were pristine. They come with most everything you need such as cups, plates, cookware, and utensils. All linens and towels are provided of course. They have screened in back porches overlooking the lake and nearby swamp and a fire pit as well. Each bedroom in the cottage has a queen size bed and the sofa converts to a full size sleeper. They all have DirecTV provided. However, there is no Wifi and only one of the six cabins is pet friendly. These pictures will give you a sense of what these cabins look like!

Things to know.

  • The trails are quite easy to walk as they are mostly flat.
  • When hiking after a rain be prepared to dodge a few mud puddles.
  • The park does have a few alligators in the lake but they hide deep in the far recesses and sightings are very rare.
  • Each vehicle is required to purchase a park pass. If you are camping the park pass fee is only required one time and lasts throughout your entire stay.
  • The only wifi on the park is located at the park office. Many campers just sit on the porch in a rocking chair while they connect.
  • Several restaurants and a Super Wal-Mart are just 10 minutes down the road in Waycross.
  • The cabins are a great bargain to consider when pricing similar accommodations on Jekyll or St. Simons Islands. Stay here and make the easy drive to Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
  • Campsites are site specific at Laura S. Walker, so choose carefully. What you book is what you get. See the next two tips below.
  • Every site in the campground has water and electric. Sites 37 and 44 have full hookups for your sewer. They are also larger sites for which a larger RV or Fifth Wheel would have more room. These sites have a higher nightly rate. There is a central dump station near the dumpster.
  • There are several waterfront campsites near the lake’s edge. They are sites 5, 6, 8, and 12. These sites have a higher nightly rate and will have boat traffic occurring near them.
  • Several group shelters are available for family gatherings, weddings, and special events.
  • A group camp that houses up to 142 is offered as well.
  • Book a cabin anytime! It is always best to have a reservation but if you are just passing through, contact the park office at (912) 287-4900 before 3 p.m. to check last minute availability. There is usually a 2 night minimum on weekends and holidays and booking online will not work, but by calling direct you might get lucky!
  • Yes, South Georgia can be very hot in the Summertime. All the more reason to get a cabin with Air Conditioning and cool off.
  • These waterproof bags from Bumkins are awesome for putting wet swimsuits in after swimming and kayaking. No mess and no need to constantly have plastic grocery bags.
  • LSW, as it is known, is adding an outdoor workout station with several pieces of equipment!
  • Hwy 177 running through the park is great for cycling. Several riders use this road to ride in the many warme months. There is a bike pump station provided in the parking lot. If you like to ride this is a great place!

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Stone Mountain

Family fun on the mountain!

If you live anywhere close to Atlanta, you must make at least one pilgrimage to Stone Mountain!

This place has so many things to do! There are several hiking trails, laser shows, ropes and climbing courses, camping, boating, golf, train rides, and playgrounds. There are several festivals and holiday events at Stone Mountain, most notably the 4th of July laser show.

There is a $20 per vehicle parking charge but that covers a lot for your family. The playgrounds, hiking trails, and access to the summit of the mountain. On days that there are laser shows, there are no additional fees for the event.

It was a very cool day in April that we visited. At ground level we explored the playground, the Washington King Covered bridge, and the Nature Garden Trail. Eventually, we worked our way over to the aerial tram.

Since we had a little one we kept the hiking short and rode the Summit Skyride to the top of Stone Mountain, mostly for the experience. Children 3 and under are free so we didn’t have to pay for our youngest! This was the only excursion we splurged on but thought it was a great ride for the kids and saved us a long hike.

At the summit it was windy and cool, but we had great views of the Atlanta skyline and the surrounding landscape. A sight to behold for sure! The summit is available to explore at your leisure. You can hike up from below on a mile long trail or you can hike down to the bottom after riding the Skyride up. We rode it both ways.


Things to know

  • Bring at least a light jacket. Even when the weather is fine at the base of the mountain, with elevation gain you might be chilly at the top.
  • A small store at the pinnacle has all sorts of treats but you can also bring snacks to enjoy on the summit.
  • Bring sunglasses. As you see in the picture above, the kids wish we would have.
  • Extra excursions and attractions do have a charge at Stone Mountain but you can buy package deals if you have a good idea of what you want to do.
  • Stone Mountain is great for jogging or trail running.
  • Educational opportunities are everywhere here. Dig into the Dinotopia attraction or the Quarry Exhibit.
  • Plan for a whole day here, or even several. A long vacation can be enjoyed without ever leaving the property!
  • In the winter the place becomes Snow Mountain, with several winter attractions like snow tubing, Check it out!

Dry Falls-Highlands,NC

Waterfalls in the Highlands

Ok, so this amazing place is not actually in Georgia. After all this is Georgia Family Adventures, right? Well we do have some wonderful family activities in the five states that border Georgia and in time I will bring you those stories. This waterfall, ironically named Dry Falls, is just across the Georgia border above the extreme Northeastern tip of the state, in Highlands, North Carolina.

The falls were gushing due to heavy rains in the area the previous night. The cool thing about this waterfall is that you can walk behind the water. As thousand of gallons of water roar above your head, you can stay dry and snap the photo of a lifetime. It reminds me of that scene from :Last of the Mohicans”. Watch that movie if you have never seen it. See for yourself how awe inspiring this experience was for our family.

What you need to know before going

Dry Falls is on US Forest Service land and there is a $3 per vehicle fee. The parking area is roomy but can fill up quick. There are bathrooms in the parking lot as well. There are stairs and they can be icy in the Winter months.

The falls are about 10 minutes East of Highlands on Highway 64. Highlands lies at 4100 ft above sea level high up in the Appalachian foothills and all the roads to it go up. They are winding and roads with some good climbs. However, it seems that there are gorgeous overlooks about every other mile and pull-offs for you to get out and take a picture. Highlands is a very nice town with plenty of B & B’s, classy restaurants, and boutique shops. We did not stay there but we have visited a few times over the years. A place we recommend for a lunch stop is just South of Highlands in Scaly Mountain. The restaurant is named The Mountain Junction Cafe. The carrot cake came in huge slices and was amazing! The place has some great character too.

This would make a perfect day trip for anyone camping or vacationing at nearby locations such as Tallulah Gorge State Park, Moccasin Creek State Park, Black Rock Mountain State Park, or Franklin, North Carolina. Check out these neat pictures we were able to get.

Bonus!

Two for one bonus! On the way to Dry Falls you will drive right by and possibly under, Bridal Veil Falls, right off Highway 64. The Forest Service will sometimes block it off if it is icy or rocks have been falling, so do be careful. Usually the road leading behind this waterfall is open and you can take some cool photos, like we did.

Bridal Veil Falls, Highlands, NC

Fort Frederica National Monument

South Georgia’s Coastal National Park

On this trip we visited Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon’s Island, near Brunswick. Fort Frederica is one of Georgia’s 11 National Park Service operated sites. It is here that the Spanish and English armies clashed in 1742, settling all disputes over the ownership of the colony of Georgia in favor of the English. The monument is representative of the old fortifications and remains of the colonial settlement along the Frederica River marsh.

The family had a great visit! We made the rounds in just a couple short hours as the monument is expansive but easy to navigate on foot. The kids participated in the Junior Ranger scavenger hunt which was pretty neat. The staff gives each kid a hat, a haversack, which included a telescope, a compass, and a colonial era toy. This gave the kids a sense of adventure and as such we went around the site reading placards and gathering the clues. The kids made the most of this and gained some valuable historical knowledge.

The Gift Shop

Fort Frederica’s gift shop was actually pretty cool. It had several books on the Fort and the early colonial period in Georgia. There are crafts, antique games, stickers, magnets, and even toys. There is a dress up bin that allows kids to get in the costume of the era. I was impressed by the interaction this site allowed the kids to have. Being given the uniforms and haversacks really allowed the kids a fun way to immerse themselves in the history. As I said, this was a quick stop and admission wasn’t bad because it was all FREE! You know we love free stuff! Our family of six literally spent nothing but gas to have this experience. We did spend money on a great lunch at Barbara Jean’s Seafood after so go there when you work up an appetite. Remember, Free Admission!

Museum of Aviation-Robins Air Force Base

A Free museum!

This doesn’t happen very often. A totally awesome, action packed, and educational experience! Best of all, it was totally FREE! The museum is filled with hundreds of real aircraft on display. There are plenty of cockpits for the kids to climb inside and imagine themselves in the wild blue yonder! The artifacts, exhibits, and educational offerings are amazing for a place that doesn’t cost a dime. We could literally get nose to nose with the aircraft and the kids were encouraged by staff to touch! How often does that happen? We had an amazing time and think you will too.

About the museum

The museum is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. though it is closed on major holidays. You will need most of this time. Restaurants are fairly close but there are several outdoor picnic tables if you bring your own lunches. This place was flat out inspiring! There are three buildings and thousands of items on exhibit linked to aviation. I cannot say enough about the resources offered. There are a few self guided tours and the museum engages kids by offering coloring pages and scavenger hunt handouts from their Kid Zone, on the second floor. Most of these resources can be downloaded before you go, saving time. Warner Robins, Georgia has several local hotels and nearly every restaurant imaginable close by if you are interested in staying the night nearby or getting a comfortable meal. Warner Robins is just south of Macon, Georgia. Parking is free as well. There are no concessions on site but when we visited they had a food truck festival in an adjacent parking lot so we enjoyed some tasty empanadas. Bring water and comfortable shoes. Take your time hitting everything. There is a gift shop with several books and memorabilia items. Check out our photos of this adventure below.

ZOO ATLANTA

I know how you feel Willy B!

Perfect Activity

If your family only visits one destination in the Atlanta area this year, Zoo Atlanta is the one. Kids love Zoos! My brood love seeing animals and creatures of all sorts. Zoos bring out the wonderment and discovery in every kid. That desire to learn about creatures is innate in all of us from birth and zoos give your children the opportunity to explore! You simply cannot go wrong with a trip to a zoo.

Admission

Great news! Children under 2 years old get in FREE! Additionally, Active duty military, veterans, military retirees, and reservists get in FREE too! However, the fine print says that you must have a military ID and that all other family members must pay regular price admission. I think this is an awesome offer. Now, zoo admission is somewhat pricey but not Orlando theme park expensive. Just be aware if you have a good size family. When you expect to be doing multiple destinations in Atlanta like the World of Coke, Fernbank Museum, or the College Football Hall of Fame, look into the Atlanta City Pass for deep discount. The memberships are where it’s at if you have more than 4 people in your family. We have six and it was actually cheaper to buy a Zoo membership than it was to pay for all of our individual admission prices. This way you save a few dollars and can come back for free within the year. We used the membership to go several times. I have found that buying a membership at several zoos, museums, and attractions that we have visited is indeed the best way to go. If you live in Georgia, your local library should have a Zoo Pass that you can check out for free! This pass gets a family of four into the zoo with no charge. CHECK IT OUT! LITERALLY!

Things to do

Bring towels and a Swimsuit! Zoo Atlanta has a great playground and a splash pad for the warmer months. There is a petting zoo, train ride, and rock climbing wall. There is an aerial ropes course as well. You can even pay to help feed the animals and take a behind the scenes tour. There is more to do than you can get to in a single day. Many of these extras are indeed additional costs to the regular admission fee.

Things to know before going

  • School groups will always come en mass. If school is in session, there will be field trips aplenty. If school is out then there will be Summer camps. It is just a part of the zoo marketing itself and just prepare for the groups sharing the space.
  • Concessions are adequate but they are pricey. If you don’t mind paying $4 for a hot dog and $8 for a small cup of Dippin Dots then you have no worries. We always packed lunches and brought our own food.
  • I always recommend the kids carry their own little day packs so that jackets, swim clothes, and lunches can be transported wherever they go. Otherwise mom and dad will have their hands full all day and with a family our size that can get old.
  • Bring water and drinks. It can get hot certainly, and you won’t have to pay high prices for a bottle of water.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Walking around the zoo in flip flops or sandals is not recommended. Your feet will be sore at the end of a long day.

The zoo is where it’s at! Go on a weekday if you can swing it. Zoo Atlanta is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It may even close on the rare days that Atlanta gets severe weather, so plan ahead. Take your family to the zoo! Tell ’em we sent ya!

Kolomoki Mounds State Park

The whole family had been itching to get out and go camping, in March of last year we found a good stretch of weather and headed to Kolomoki Mounds State Park near the Southwest corner of Georgia. Woodland Indian mounds are all over the park and several hiking trails scatter around them. The visitor center is built around an excavated mound which gives an interesting perspective on the archaeology of the site. We got some canoeing and fishing in while we were there also. All in all we had a great time as it was a quiet time of year.

Camping

The small campground is nice and we were able to get a great site right on the water. We all fit comfortably into our new tent without much trouble. The old tent was getting pretty well worn out and we spring for a new one. This one was smaller but still had plenty of room. We hung the hammock and mostly just lazed around the campsite for a couple of days. I say lazed but truthfully we hiked about 10 miles over both days, fished near our campsite constantly, and took two separate canoe and kayak trips. My wife as you can see in the pictures below mostly hung out in the hammock, reading a book. This was a very relaxed couple of days.

The Best Part

After a short hike we stumbled upon a great playground set that had recently been installed and we found the mini golf course that was not open. The clubs, balls, and scorecards were available at the office. The kids played several rounds of mini golf while the parents relaxed on a shady bench enjoying the show. We played around on the beach on the lake but didn’t stay in too long, the water was still plenty cool.

Calm Before The Storm

We timed the trip right as we had a very comfortable stay with mild weather. In October 2018, Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on the park and the communities of Southeast Georgia. Several months of hard work have opened the campground, the mounds, and the visitor center. Two of the three main trails are still closed as of this writing. It is absolutely worth going at anytime even with the remaining storm damage. Campsites are site specific so pick out a good one online.

Okefenokee Swamp Park

The Okefenokee Swamp is an amazing natural wonder in the Southeastern corner of Georgia, near Waycross. This 400,000 acre Swamp is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the word. The biggest attractions are the Alligators and various snakes that call it home. On the northern corner of the refuge is the Okefenokee Swamp Park. Your destination for a safe and amazing adventure!

What To See and Do

This is the place that you are guaranteed an interesting and very accessible peek into the great Okefenokee Swamp. Here is where you can see all the natural aesthetics of the Swamp but in a manner that doesn’t involve long hikes or boat rentals. Alligators can be found sunning themselves in ponds near the entrance and swimming the canals near the train depot. It is rare for them to approach visitors as they prefer to not let anyone come close to them. Alligators, Snakes, and Black Bears are all on exhibit at the Swamp Park, conveniently behind enclosures. Tours are offered by the park in flat bottom tour boats or by a small but effective train ride. Ticket packages can be bought that include your preferred means of travel. There is a small snack bar for beverages and eats. However, the nearest restaurant is in Waycross, Georgia, a 10 minute drive. Folkston, Georgia is about 20 minutes South on HWY 1. The Okefenokee Swamp Park also displays the history of the Swamp and it’s settlers very well. The gift shop was stocked aplenty and had all kinds of fun souvenirs. The park’s price of admission is reasonable but added up quick for our family of six. Save money by taking a family member from a neighboring county! Local residents get a decent discount with some kind of proof of address. Have them buy your tickets and take the savings. Weekends are busier and look out for the hotter months of June, July, and August.

Where To Stay

Waycross, Georgia has many good hotels within about a 15 minute drive of the Swamp Park. My recommendation is that you look into the cabins at Laura S. Walker State Park. We have stayed in them and they are very clean and comfortable. The park also offers camping with a few sites along the waterfront at Laura Walker Lake, as well as several full hookup campsites, but those sites book up very fast. Laura S. Walker has a dog park, playgrounds, an 18 hole golf course, as well as paddle boat and kayak rentals.

Bonus!

Christmas at The Swamp Park

Okefenokee Swamp Park is great to visit around Christmas time as well. They deck the place out with Christmas lights everywhere! Santa is there to hang out with and the train takes you on a Polar Express kind of ride, with, you guessed it! More lights! It can be quite cool in the Winter, even in South Georgia. As such there is usually a large fire burning in a very neatly built fire pit and hot cocoa available at the snack bar. Do not miss this fun and enjoyable Christmas activity! Availability for this event runs through most of December. Christmas is always an adventure at the Okefenokee Swamp Park!

Pictures of our Black Rock Mountain Adventures

Black Rock Mountain State Park

Black Rock Mountain State Park is my absolute favorite place in the entire state of Georgia! Our family has visited several times. This incredibly photogenic state park will leave your family inspired and in awe of the natural world, just like it did ours. Jaw dropping overlooks, waterfalls, extensive hiking trails, and several different types of camping await you!

The park can be found in the Northeastern corner of Georgia. At 3600 feet above sea level, Black Rock is Georgia’s highest state park. It may surprise you to know that Stone Mountain, which is near Atlanta and well known for it’s dazzling views, sits at just over 1000 feet. This great elevation provides Black Rock Mountain State Park with it’s wonderful climate. While the rest of the state of Georgia sizzles in the Summer heat, Black Rock remains a fall like temperature, offering sweet relief. Visitors often need a jacket or sweatshirt even in July. To accommodate that need a well outfitted visitor center sells t-shirts, sweatshirts, and light jackets. Assorted other souvenirs such as magnets, key chains, post cards, and the like are available. The visitor center is immediately adjacent to the main overlook which is breathtaking and offers an aerial view of the town of Clayton below.

Camping at Black Rock Mountain

The park offers overnight accommodations by renting cabins, campsites with water and electric, in addition to several walk-in campsites. Additionally, along the more than 10 miles of rugged hiking trails at Black Rock there are four back-country campsites. It is possible to do several point to point backpacking hikes as you move from campsite to campsite. You must have a reservation but you can always check last minute availability by calling the park office before 4 p.m. The main campground has two sections and is on a ridge about half way up the mountain. The roads are narrow but navigable for experienced RV campers. Many campsites will not fit large RV’s so keep that in mind when booking your site. The road up the mountain is just wide enough for two way travel but it is very curvy and quite steep. The walk-in campsites are located off a central parking lot with a bathhouse. Each walk-in campsite is tent only camping. You must carry all gear to the site, which is 50 to 100 yards away from the parking area. Really not that far but it could mean the difference for some visitors.

Enjoy these videos from our visits to Black Rock Mountain State Park

The park does have a Pioneer camping area that is specifically meant for large groups, though anyone can rent it. The pioneer area has a central cabin that has a refrigerator, microwave, and some seating, but nothing more. There is a loft above and a main hall below where sleeping bags, cots, and air mattresses can be laid out for sleeping. Outside the cabin is a water spigot for drinking and washing dishes as well as several three sided, covered, addirondack shelters with 4 bunks in them. No mattresses though, just wood inlays to roll out sleeping gear. Tent camping is allowed on the grounds near the main cabin. A pit toilet with men’s and women’s divided, serves as the facilities. An outdoor cold water shower is attached to the pit toilet with a privacy stall wrapped around it. The long gravel road to the camp can be very rough and is cut into the side of the mountain. Vehicles with 4 wheel drive or high clearance is recommended.

The Cabins

Black Rock Mountain State Park has 10 cabins and they have 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom versions, all with double queen beds. Every cabin has an elevated porch with rocking chairs on the backside. Cabin 10 is the only dog friendly cabin. Cabin 4 has the best view off the mountain from the back porch and is one of the three bedroom cabins. This makes it the most popular. The cabin area has a simple playground for kids. For a quiet, relaxed vacation, you cannot go wrong in these cabins.

Base Camp

Black Rock Mountain State Park is the ideal location for a vacation in Northeast Georgia. Tallulah Gorge State Park is a 15 minute drive from here. Moccasin Creek State Park is 20 minutes. Helen, Georgia and Brasstown Bald is just an hour. Highlands, North Carolina and the scenic Dry Falls are also about an hour. Franklin, NC is about 45 minutes to the North while Clemson, South Carolina is one hour and ten minutes to the East.

Things to know!

  • There is a $5 parking fee for all vehicles. You will need to have cash if the visitor center is not open or if the collection booth is unattended.
  • Black Rock stays cool throughout the Summer months due to it’s elevation. While temperatures soar below, Black Rock feels like fall weather most days.
  • Black Rock gets nearly as much precipitation each year as does Seattle, Washington.
  • Late Spring and Fall are the best times of year to visit. In Spring, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrum are blooming as well as several wildflowers. The Fall has the annual brilliant color change of the leaves. These are also the busiest seasons.
  • Holidays and weekends can be very busy at the park be sure to reserve ahead of time.
  • Georgia reservations can be made 13 months in advance. Book early!
  • The cabins at Black Rock are the most proximate State Park cabins to Tallulah Gorge State Park and Moccasin Creek. Those properties only have camping.
  • Black Rock’s campground is small and while there are several sites, many cannot accommodate large RV’s and Fifth wheels. The reservations are site specific so plan accordingly.
  • The road up the mountain is long, winding and just wide enough for two way traffic. It can be navigated in RV’s but be sure your equipment is up for the climb.
  • Bears are plentiful at Black Rock Mountain SP but sightings are less than guaranteed. If you do see bears do not feed them and admire them from a distance. Lock up your food when possible.
  • Black Rock closes seasonally from December 1st through March 15th. The ice and snowy conditions make it necessary.
  • There is a small trading post in the campground that is usually open on weekends.
  • There are several great restaurants near the park, in Clayton. I recommend The U-Joint, Clarks On Main, and Fortify.
  • Clayton has a Super Wal-Mart and an Ingles Supermarket. Ingles is closest to the park and has a great selection.

Double Bonus!

Your parking pass for Black Rock Mountain State Park is good for the entire day. Get to Black Rock early, perhaps just after the sun has risen, pay your parking fee, explore the park then take the same pass to Tallulah Gorge and Mocassin Creek State Parks and enjoy them at no additional cost. The three parks can all be seen easily in the same day so this makes for a full day of family adventures for a very small price.

Black Rock Mountain has a small 17 acre lake which is great for taking the kids fishing, viewing gushing water features, hiking the 1 mile long Lake Loop Trail, and some minor rock scrambling. Black Rock Lake is where two of my children caught their first fish.

We wish you the greatest family adventure at Black Rock Mountain State Park. May you find exactly what we found and make the journey your own. Godspeed.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Please stay tuned for posts about the many trips and adventures my family of six have endeavored upon over the last 10 years. We absolutely love living in Georgia. From the mountains of North Georgia to the Golden Isles of the coast, we have done a lot and want to share it with you. Perhaps, we can help you enjoy the many amazing recreational opportunities our state has to offer!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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