Sometimes hidden jewels can be found in your own backyard! Many of us travel thousands of miles to different corners of the world in search of the perfect vacation spot. After living in Atlanta for over 14 years, I discovered one right here in Georgia.

Blairsville is located in north Georgia, less than two hours drive from Atlanta. A quaint little town, nestled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville has all the charm of a small mountain village. With lots of outdoor activities, country stores, antique shops and local restaurants, you can choose to be as active or relaxed as you like.

I decided to make an active weekend getaway to Blairsville this summer. After checking into The Lodge at Copperhead, which is only a few miles outside of Blairsville downtown, I met up with Frank of White Wolf Kayaking at the Poteete Creek Campground. We exchanged pleasantries the Southern way before getting into our individual kayaks. Friday evening was the perfect time to kayak on Lake Nottely, when the crowd had thinned out, the air was cool and the sun was ready to set into the horizon. It was very quiet and peaceful to be out there with hardly anyone around. We paddled leisurely covering a distance of about 3 miles in less than 2 hours. Frank guided me through the lake, its surroundings and shared his stories of moving from Massachusetts to Georgia.

The following morning I made my way to Trackbrock Stables, located just outside of the city. This 250 acre paradise has been in the family for decades. The Alexander siblings own the campground and stable, while their cousin owns a store nearby by the same name. Well trained horses and friendly staff members take you on guided tours through the woods five times daily. My group happened to have first time horseback riders (at 6 years of age) as well as some experienced ones. The scenery on the way was beautiful and reminded me of Swiss countryside. While we trotted through the trails, watching the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creeks and open fields, the guide encouraged us to gallop on our own if we felt confident enough to. An hour or two on the horsebacks was the best way to spend the morning.

Next was a hike to Georgia’s highest point, Brasstown Bald. After a drive up the mountain, I parked my car and then started a steep uphill hike towards the top of the mountain. It was a nice shaded trail with lots of fauna to admire along the way. Even at 1 mile, the hike was no easy feat. My advice is to bring plenty of water and dress in layers. It got cold and windy as I made my way to the very top. At 4784 feet, you could see downtown Atlanta (on a clear day) as well as the Carolinas from the observation deck.

I had my share of exercise for the weekend, but there are a number of other outdoor activities that can be experienced within the surrounding area including zip lines, fly fishing and sporting clays.  If you still have some stamina, hike the numerous hiking trails (including the Appalachian Trail), visit one of the many waterfalls in the area or play a round of golf or two.  For an active vacationer who likes to be out in the nature, there is much to do in Blairsville and its surrounding areas.