9 unique things to do in and around North Georgia Mountains

RABUN COUNTY, Ga. — A trip to the mountains offers visitors a great getaway — mountains, waterfalls and hiking. There’s plenty to love.

But what makes a trip to the North Georgia Mountains different is some of the unique attractions, restaurants and shops that travelers won’t find anywhere else.

Check out these nine unique spots you don’t want to miss on your next trip north to western Rabun County and the North Georgia Mountains.

Stop No. 1: Black Bear Antiques

Yes, other areas have antique shops, but none of them have Jim Reaves. Reaves, who retired from a career chasing the latest technology in the TV business, wanted to take a step in the opposite direction. Inside his Black Bear Antique store — an old general store built in the 1950s that used to sell gas and groceries — he did just that.

“‘I’ve never seen one of those before,’ I hear that a lot or ‘I’ve never seen that nice a one.’ You’ve seen it before but I have the nicest one,” Reaves told WSB-TV’s Nelson Hicks.

A walk through the store is like a walk down memory lane. Black Bear Antiques has a collection of some of the coolest and nicest relics you’ll find anywhere.

“People say my grandmother ‘had one of those’ and ‘I remember those growing up’ and that’s part of it, the experience,” Reaves said.

Stop No. 2: Stay in 1929 caboose

We won’t have to go far for stop No. 2. That’s because there’s a railroad station of sorts right next door. Reaves wanted to buy a caboose and restore it as a place for family and friends to stay when they came to visit. It would serve as an attention grabber for his store, too. Throw in a silo that Reaves converted to a bathroom and mission accomplished.

“It’s a unique experience, (staying) in a 1929 caboose,” Reaves said. “People seem to love it. The reviews are great. It’s turned out better than I ever thought.”

Reaves now rents it out on Vrbo. Looking for a unique place to stay? A 1929 caboose certainly fits the bill.

Stop No. 3: Timpson Creek Gallery

The next stop is just down the street. It’s Timpson Creek Gallery. Cecile and Dwayne Thompson are the masterminds behind this historic Rabun County institution. Duane got his start working with wood more than 40 years ago.

“I did anything that came through the door,” Dwayne Thompson said. “I’d put in an ax handle, build a cabinet, bookcases, anything anybody asked for, that’s what I did. Been here ever since. That’s been a long time, that’s been 40 years ago or so.”

His creations are legendary in the area. From his woodwork to his chandeliers, to anything and everything made with horns, Thompson can do it all and has done it all.

“We had a customer come in and we were going to order a chandelier for him,” Thompson said. “The chandelier was about $10,000. He’s like ‘that’s a lot of money’ and I’m like ‘that is a lot of money.’ So we looked at it and I said ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I think I can make that chandelier for you and I think I can make it for half price.’ I built him that chandelier and I did it for half price and that really got me started doing metal chandeliers.”

The gallery also offers collections that his wife creates and curates, whether that’s furniture, jewelry, pottery, art work or anything and everything covered with fabric and more.

Stop No. 4: Moccasin Creek State Park

Let’s hit the road for unique stop No. 4 and bring your camper because we’re stopping off at the state’s smallest state park.

“We’re at Moccasin Creek State Park, founded in 1962 by Georgia Power, taken over by the state in 1966,” park manager Daniel Henderson said. “We’re Georgia’s smallest state park, 32 acres, right here on the shores of Lake Burton. It’s a beautiful spot.”

Fishing is the biggest attraction. There’s a stream for kids 11 years old and under, as well as seniors 65 and over, to fish. Here’s a nice bonus: it’s stocked with fish. The lake offers plenty of other fishing opportunities for anglers of all ages. There’s kayaking and boating, too. The National Forest is nearby, so hiking opportunities abound. Want to camp? Make your reservations early. It’s a popular spot, particularly in the spring and summer. Reservations open 13 months ahead of time.

“Moccasin Creek is a beloved state park in Georgia,” Henderson said. “It’s very, very small but it’s a special place to many people. I love it, I love being here. I love this area. This community on the west side of the county I think gets overlooked a lot. There’s a lot of great stuff here for people to come and explore. And if you love the outdoors, you really cannot beat it.”

Stop No. 5: Burton Fish Hatchery

Unique spot No. 5 on our adventure through western Rabun County is right next door to the state park. It’s the Burton Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is home to more than 300,000 trout each year.

“We have a lot of really nice trout water here in Georgia, but the fertility of our streams is fairly low. There’s not a lot of bugs for the wild trout to eat. So if we want people to come to Georgia, buy a fishing license, we need to supplement the wild population with some larger fish that people would be happy to catch,” John Lee Thomson from the hatchery said.

Fish spend about two years at the Burton Fish Hatchery. The fish go from fingerlings to 10 inch long in that time. Rainbow trout fill most of the hatchery’s raceways. Visitors can tour the facility seven days a week.

Once the fish reach 10 inches, they are loaded onto trucks and released in streams across north Georgia.

“Rabun is a great fishing destination,” Thomson said. “Every stream in Rabun County is classified as a trout stream and Rabun County receives over 100,000 stocked trout each year. So, it’s a great place. We have a lot of streams that are weekly stockings and those are the ones you want to target if you’re not an experienced angler because high stock rate equals high catch rates.”

Stop No. 6: LaPrade’s Marina

LaPrade’s Marina is the next stop on our list. It was created as a home for the people who built the dam that created Lake Burton. That was over 100 years ago. Today, it’s a full service marina. You can enjoy a day on the lake with your boat or a rental, a day on the deck with some cold beverages and more.

“This is the happening place,” marina manager Katie Long said. “On Lake Burton, there is nowhere else to sit by a glass window and watch boats come in for an evening or there’s no other place to sit on deck and have a frozen beverage and watch boats come and go. We also have deck parties every month and have live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.”

Stop No. 7: Chophouse at LaPrade’s

Check out what’s on the menu at unique stop No. 7, the Chophouse of LaPrade’s. Chef James Reaux, a James Beard Centennial Honoree at the prestigious James Beard House, is the brains behind this operation. This restaurant has good food with the fun to match it.

“Great people, great food, great atmosphere, a lot of fun on the water,” manager Andrew Munnis said. “We do dock parties, we do live music, we do rock the dock on Saturdays. We (have) special drinks.”

Stop No. 8: The Farmhouse Market

Speaking of good food in a unique environment, the next unique stop on this adventure through western Rabun County offers just that. It’s the Farmhouse Market. Chef Vincent Scafiti bought the market in 2019. He had a restaurant in the area and aimed to provide restaurant-quality meals that people could take home in a box. Scafiti does it with local products.

“Rabun County was voted the Georgia farm-to-table capital, and so we have a number of local organic growers that as we can, depending on our menus and things that we need, we definitely support the local grower,” Scafiti said.

The Farmhouse Market offers tailored food specifically for the neighborhood it serves, and the people who frequent it every day.

“I think chefs are like painters, they either paint houses or they paint portraits,” Scafiti said. “And I’m a firm believe that we’re portrait painters here. We’re innovative with food. It’s creative, it’s not expensive, and we’re able to do all that and number one, utilize the products we can get our hands on and number two, support the local guy.”

Stop No. 9: Bleu Canoe

Rounding out our list of nine unique spots to check out on a visit to Rabun County and the north Georgia mountains is the Bleu Canoe. What makes the Bleu Canoe unique? It’s one part restaurant, a Cajun restaurant in the mountains at that, and one part tiny house campground.

“We have eight tiny homes and three historic fish cabins from the 40s that we rehabbed for nightly stays and then we have the restaurant, which is Cajun Creole-themed,” owner Jim White said.

White and his wife Lee pitch it as a great glamping experience. All the comforts from home without all the distractions.

“Its kind of like what we like to do now,” owner Lee White said. “You can go camping, but you still have a bed and bathroom. It’s all wooden, quiet up there. We’re actually abutted to Georgia Power land so there’s hundreds of acres of just forest next to us. People see bears, people see bobcats, all kinds of wildlife.”

With Jim White having 25 years in the restaurant business, the food can’t be beat.

What will you uncover on your north Georgia adventure? Head to Georgia’s best kept secret, Rabun County, and discover the unique shops, restaurants and attractions on the western side of the county that make a visit here unlike one you’ll experience anywhere else.

RELATED: Georgia’s best kept secret: See attractions around Rabun County

RELATED: Things to see and do in north Georgia mountains this summer

RELATED: Behold the beauty: Water release days at Tallulah Gorge

This story is sponsored by Rabun County.