Unique Places to Visit in Southeast USA: 12 Hidden Gems in the Southeast (2024)

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Are you looking for unique places to visit in Southeast USA? Here are some of the coolest and most underrated sights and attractions in the South. Get ready to discover where to go in the Southeast region of the United States!

Are you planning your next great American adventure? Dive deep into the heart of the Southeast USA, a region brimming with hidden treasures, historical landmarks, and natural wonders that promise an unforgettable journey. From the sun-kissed beaches of Florida to the rolling hills of the Carolinas, the Southeast beckons with a siren’s call of diverse landscapes and rich cultural tapestries.

Famed for its soulful music, mouth-watering cuisine, and warm Southern hospitality, the Southeast promises a unique vacation experience. If you’re a history lover tracing the footsteps of Civil War soldiers, an adventurer seeking the thrill of the great outdoors, or a foodie eager to savor authentic Southern barbecue, this region has unique places to visit for every traveler.

But with so many places to explore, where should you begin? Fear not, for we’ve curated a list of 12 must-visit spots in the Southeast that capture the very essence of the region. From quaint coastal towns to bustling urban centers, these destinations offer a glimpse into the soul of the Southeast. So, fuel up the car and get ready to embark on a journey through the heart of America’s most enchanting region. Here’s everything you need to know about the most unique places to visit in Southeast USA.

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Unique Places to Visit in Southeast USA: 12 Underrated Southeast USA Destinations

Are you ready to discover all the coolest places to visit in Southeast USA? As mentioned above, there’s a plethora of unique Southeast USA places for everyone to enjoy. Keep reading to find out all the best places to go in the Southeast region.

Are you looking to discover the best natural beauty in the Southeast? Or would you rather explore the region’s vibrant towns and cities? Whatever you’re planning, there are incredible places in the South that can accommodate your needs. Here are all the unique places to visit in the Southeast USA that you should know about.

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

Perhaps the best destination to kick off our list of unique places to visit in the Southeast is New Orleans, a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and modern vibrancy. As you step into its realm, you’re greeted by the soulful strains of jazz, the tantalizing aroma of Creole dishes, and an architectural tapestry that narrates tales from centuries past.

The French Quarter, New Orleans’ historic heart, is a sensory delight. Here, cobblestone streets lead to bustling markets where artisans showcase their crafts, while hidden courtyards offer peaceful respites, adorned with fountains and lush greenery. Every building, with its intricate ironwork and pastel hues, seems to whisper stories of old.

Nature enthusiasts aren’t left wanting. The city’s bayous, a maze of waterways draped in Spanish moss, beckon with their serene beauty. Paddleboarding through these calm waters, you’re introduced to a rich ecosystem. It’s not uncommon to spot playful otters darting through the water or herons gracefully taking flight.

As the sun dips below the horizon, New Orleans comes alive. Bourbon Street, with its neon signs and lively bars, becomes the epicenter of entertainment. Here, music spills onto the streets, dancers showcase their moves, and every corner promises a new adventure.

From savoring the city’s culinary delights to soaking in its rich cultural tapestry, New Orleans truly offers a memorable and unique Southeastern experience.

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2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC & TN)

Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a paradise for nature lovers and one of the best Southeast vacation spots. This sprawling park, with its mist-covered peaks and dense forests, offers a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The park boasts over 800 miles of hiking trails, each winding through diverse landscapes. From cascading waterfalls like Laurel Falls to panoramic viewpoints at Clingmans Dome, there’s a trail for every adventurer. For those keen on wildlife, it’s possible to spot black bears, elk, and various bird species in their natural habitat.

One of the park’s unique features is its historic buildings. Scattered throughout the park are log cabins, churches, and barns that offer a glimpse into the life of early settlers. These structures, preserved over the centuries, add a touch of history to the natural landscape.

Cades Cove, a picturesque valley in the park, is a must-visit. With its open meadows, historic buildings, and abundant wildlife, it’s a photographer’s dream. As the day winds down, camping under the starlit sky, surrounded by the sounds of nature, is an experience that encapsulates the essence of the Great Smoky Mountains.

For those seeking a mix of adventure, history, and tranquility, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a unique place to visit in the Southeast that shouldn’t be missed.

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3. Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, situated among Georgia’s Golden Isles, is hands-down one of the most unique places to visit in the Southeast. With its pristine beaches, lush maritime forests, and rich history, this island promises a blend of relaxation and exploration.

Driftwood Beach is the island’s showstopper. Ancient, sun-bleached trees sprawl across the sands, offering a surreal landscape that’s a dream for photographers. It’s a favorite spot for sunrise watchers and photographers looking to capture nature’s raw beauty.

Beyond its beaches, the island’s Historic District offers a journey back in time. Grand mansions and quaint cottages line the streets, echoing the days when the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts sought refuge here. The iconic Jekyll Island Club Hotel stands as a beacon of the island’s lavish past.

For those with a love for nature, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is worth a visit. This conservation center is dedicated to the research and rehabilitation of sea turtles, offering visitors a chance to learn about these majestic creatures and the efforts to protect them.

If you’re up for some exploration, hop on a bike! Trails weave through hidden coves and marshy landscapes, making every ride an adventure. Jekyll Island, with its blend of history, nature, and coastal allure, is undoubtedly one of the best destinations in the Southeast.

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4. Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is a city that effortlessly combines artsy vibes with natural beauty. With its vibrant art scene, historic architecture, and proximity to outdoor adventures, Asheville is a destination that caters to a myriad of tastes. It’s absolutely one of the coolest places in the Southeastern USA.

Downtown Asheville is a hub of creativity. Art galleries, quirky boutiques, and street murals showcase the city’s artistic flair. The River Arts District, with its studios and workshops, is where creativity flows freely, offering a glimpse into the works of local artists and craftsmen.

The Biltmore Estate is Asheville’s crown jewel. This grand mansion, set against a backdrop of rolling hills, offers a peek into the opulence of the Vanderbilt era. Its gardens and winery are a treat for both history and nature lovers.

Moreover, the Blue Ridge Parkway, often dubbed ‘America’s Favorite Drive’, winds through scenic landscapes, offering breathtaking views, especially during the fall. Hiking trails, waterfalls, and picnic spots dot the route, making it perfect for a day’s adventure.

And for those who appreciate a good brew, Asheville doesn’t disappoint. Dubbed ‘Beer City USA’, its breweries serve up unique flavors that are a toast to the city’s vibrant culture. In essence, Asheville is a unique Southeast USA destination that offers a diverse mix of art, history, nature, and craft beer.

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5. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, a gem along South Carolina’s coastline, stands out as one of the most interesting Southeast USA destinations. This island paradise, with its sandy shores, lush golf courses, and maritime forests, promises a diverse range of experiences for every traveler.

The beaches of Hilton Head are a major draw. Coligny Beach Park, with its boardwalks and beachfront cafes, is a favorite spot for both relaxation and recreation. The gentle waves make it perfect for a family day out, where building sandcastles and beachcombing become cherished memories.

For the active traveler, Hilton Head offers more than just beach lounging. The island is famous for its golf courses, each designed to challenge and delight. Beyond golf, miles of biking trails weave through the island, offering scenic views at every turn.

History and culture enthusiasts will appreciate the Gullah heritage of the island. Tours and museums dedicated to this unique culture provide insights into the traditions, stories, and crafts of the Gullah people.

Hilton Head Island is a blend of natural beauty, recreational activities, and rich cultural experiences. With so many unique sights and activities, it’s one of the coolest Southeast USA places to go where the ocean’s rhythm and Southern charm converge.

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6. Savannah, Georgia

With its cobblestone streets and moss-draped oaks, Savannah is a city that exudes Southern charm, which makes it one of the most unique places in the Southeast region to visit. This historic city, with its well-preserved architecture and public squares, offers a journey through time and culture.

Forsyth Park, the city’s green heart, is a haven for both locals and visitors. The iconic fountain, pathways lined with oaks, and open spaces make it a perfect spot for picnics, strolls, or simply soaking in the ambiance.

The Historic District is where Savannah’s rich past comes alive. Elegant mansions, historic churches, and bustling markets paint a picture of bygone eras. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fans? The Mercer Williams House is a must-visit.

Savannah’s riverfront is a blend of the old and new. Here, historic warehouses have been transformed into trendy boutiques, eateries, and galleries. A walk along River Street, with its views of the Savannah River and passing ships, is a delightful experience.

For those with a sweet tooth, Leopold’s Ice Cream, a century-old parlor, serves up nostalgia with every scoop. In all, Savannah is a unique Southeast USA place to visit where history, culture, and modern vibes seamlessly intertwine.

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7. Everglades National Park, Florida

Spanning the southern tip of Florida, Everglades National Park is a vast wilderness that stands as one of the most unique places to see in the Southeastern USA. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a mosaic of marshlands, mangrove forests, and slow-moving waters, teeming with a rich diversity of life.

Start your adventure with an airboat ride, the best way to explore the park’s intricate waterways. Keep an eye out for alligators basking in the sun and herons gracefully soaring above. It’s nature’s theater in full display.

The Anhinga Trail is a favorite among hikers. This boardwalk, cutting through sawgrass marsh, offers close encounters with wildlife. From colorful birds to curious raccoons, every step is a discovery.

For a touch of history, the Smallwood Store in nearby Chokoloskee tells tales of the region’s past, from Native American inhabitants to pioneering settlers.

One of the coolest things to do in the Southeast is kayaking through the Everglades’ mangrove tunnels. The stillness, broken only by the gentle splash of paddles and occasional bird calls, is meditative.

In essence, Everglades National Park is an experience where nature’s wonders are on full display, making it one of the best destinations in the Southeast for nature enthusiasts and anyone looking for a relaxing escape in the outdoors.

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8. St. Augustine, Florida

Looking for another unique place in the south to visit? St. Augustine, perched on Florida’s northeast coast, is a city that wears its history with pride. As the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental U.S., it’s a place where every cobblestone and corner tells a tale.

The Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century fortress, stands as a reminder of the city’s strategic importance. Its coquina walls have withstood battles and time, offering visitors panoramic views of Matanzas Bay. Nearby, the narrow alleys of the Historic District are lined with buildings that echo the Spanish colonial era, from ornate churches to grand mansions.

Amidst this rich history, you’ll find a vast array of unique things to do in St. Augustine. Take a ghost tour for spine-tingling tales or hop on a trolley for a breezy overview of the city’s landmarks. For a touch of magic, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park claims to be the site of the legendary spring sought by explorers.

Beyond history, St. Augustine boasts beautiful beaches, perfect for a day of sun and surf. The St. Augustine Lighthouse, with its spiraling stairs, offers a bird’s-eye view of the shimmering coastline.

In St. Augustine, the past mingles with the present, offering a blend of historical insights and modern-day delights. It’s a destination not to be missed from your Southeast USA itinerary.

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9. Tallulah Gorge, Georgia

Located in the heart of Georgia, Tallulah Gorge is a natural wonder that captivates with its raw beauty and grandeur. This two-mile-long canyon, carved by the Tallulah River, boasts some of the best views in the Southeast.

As you approach the gorge, the sound of rushing water grows louder, hinting at the powerful waterfalls that lie ahead. The park is home to six major falls, with names like Tempesta and Hurricane, reflecting their fierce beauty. The cascading waters, surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery, create a mesmerizing spectacle.

Hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat. The park offers a range of trails, from leisurely walks with scenic overlooks to challenging treks that take you to the gorge floor. The suspension bridge, swaying 80 feet above the rocky bottom, offers a unique vantage point and is a favorite among visitors.

Seeking a bit more adventure? The gorge offers opportunities for rock climbing and white-water rafting. The turbulent waters of the Tallulah River provide thrills for even the most seasoned rafters.

Tallulah Gorge is a celebration of nature’s power and beauty. It’s one of those unique South USA places to visit where every moment, from the misty spray of waterfalls to the serene beauty of the canyon, leaves a lasting impression.

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10. Cumberland Island, Georgia

Looking for the best beaches in Southeast USA? Look no further than Cumberland Island. A sanctuary of untouched beauty and wild landscapes, Cumberland Island boasts sprawling sandy shores, dense maritime forests, and diverse wildlife, offering a tranquil escape from the modern world.

Upon setting foot on the island, you’re greeted by the gentle sound of waves and the distant calls of wild horses. Yes, wild horses! These majestic creatures roam freely, often seen grazing in the dunes or taking strolls along the beach.

The island’s trails weave through diverse terrains. From salt marshes teeming with birdlife to ancient oak forests draped in Spanish moss, every path leads to a new discovery. The Dungeness Ruins, remnants of a once-grand mansion, add a touch of mystery to the landscape.

For beach lovers, Cumberland’s shores are a dream. The pristine beaches, often devoid of crowds, are perfect for sunbathing, beachcombing, or simply soaking in the views. The sight of loggerhead turtles nesting or dolphins playing in the waves adds to the island’s magic.

Cumberland Island is hands-down one of the best destinations in the Southeast where nature’s rhythms take center stage. For those seeking peace and natural beauty, be sure to add this incredible Georgia destination to your Southeast USA itinerary.

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11. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Stretching over 200 miles along North Carolina’s coast, the Outer Banks is a series of barrier islands renowned for their natural beauty, rich history, and laid-back vibes. This coastal paradise, with its windswept dunes, historic lighthouses, and charming villages, is a unique spot in the Southeast that beckons travelers seeking a blend of relaxation and adventure.

The beaches here are pristine, offering ample space for sunbathing, kite flying, or simply listening to the rhythmic dance of the waves. Surfing enthusiasts will find the waters here perfect, with waves that challenge both novices and pros.

History lovers will appreciate the Wright Brothers National Memorial, where the first flight took place. The tale of their pioneering spirit is beautifully captured, inspiring visitors with their determination and innovation.

Lighthouses dot the landscape, with each having its own story. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, with its iconic black and white spiral, stands as a beacon guiding sailors and offering panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.

The Outer Banks also boasts a rich maritime culture. Local seafood joints serve up fresh catches, while quaint shops offer unique coastal treasures. It’s a place where every sunset paints a masterpiece, making the Outer Banks one of the coolest Southeast USA places to go for an authentic coastal experience.

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12. Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

Perched on the edge of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain is a natural wonder that offers panoramic views, cascading waterfalls, and a rich tapestry of history. This elevated paradise, rising above the Tennessee Valley, is one of the most unique places in the Southeast for those who appreciate nature’s grandeur.

The mountain’s summit provides unparalleled views of the surrounding landscapes. On clear days, it’s said you can see seven states from the vantage point, a claim that adds to the mountain’s allure. The sight of the winding Tennessee River, snaking through valleys and forests, is a visual treat.

Ruby Falls, hidden within the mountain, is an absolute must-visit. This underground waterfall, illuminated in ethereal lights, creates a magical ambiance. The journey to the falls, through narrow passages and caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, is as enchanting as the destination.

Rock City, another gem on Lookout Mountain, is a maze of ancient rock formations, gardens, and pathways. The “See Seven States” viewpoint and the Swing-A-Long Bridge are highlights that thrill visitors.

Overall, Lookout Mountain is a celebration of nature’s wonders, both above and below the ground. It stands as an underrated destination in the Southeast USA, promising awe-inspiring views and unforgettable experiences. Make sure to add this to your Southeast USA itinerary!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Unique Places to Visit in The Southeast USA:

Are you looking to expand your knowledge of what to do in the Southeastern USA? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about the most unique places to visit in Southeast USA.

What is Southeast USA known for?

Southeast USA is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and historical significance. From the vibrant music scenes of cities like New Orleans to the pristine beaches of the Outer Banks, the Southeast offers a mix of urban and natural attractions. It’s also home to iconic landmarks, such as the Great Smoky Mountains, and the historic districts of cities like Savannah and St. Augustine.

Why is the southeast region a popular vacation spot?

The Southeast United States is a popular vacation spot for a variety of reasons:

  1. Diverse Landscapes: The region offers a mix of mountains, beaches, and wetlands. From the Appalachian Mountains to the sandy shores of Florida, there’s a natural setting for everyone.
  2. Warm Climate: The Southeast is known for its warm and sunny weather. This is especially so in states like Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. This makes it a favorite destination for those looking to escape colder climates.
  3. Rich History: The Southeast has a deep-rooted history, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Cities like Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans offer historical tours, preserved buildings, and museums.
  4. Vibrant Culture: The region is known for its unique culture. This includes Southern hospitality, music (like jazz, blues, and country), and festivals.
  5. World-Class Beaches: Florida and the Carolinas, in particular, boast some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, attracting sunbathers, surfers, and families.
  6. Theme Parks: Florida is home to world-renowned theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.
  7. Cuisine: The Southeast is famous for its diverse and flavorful cuisine. This includes everything from Creole and Cajun dishes in Louisiana to Southern BBQ and fresh seafood along the coast.
  8. Outdoor Activities: Whether it’s hiking in the Smoky Mountains, boating in the Everglades, or golfing in Hilton Head, the Southeast offers a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities.
  9. Affordability: Compared to some other regions in the U.S., the Southeast often offers more affordable vacation options.
  10. Unique Destinations: Cities like New Orleans, known for Mardi Gras and its French Quarter, and Nashville, the heart of country music, offer unique experiences that can’t be found elsewhere.

What is the Southeast region most known for?

The Southeast region is most recognized for its blend of traditions, from the soulful blues and jazz rhythms to the unique Gullah culture. Additionally, it boasts some of the most interesting USA destinations, including sprawling national parks, barrier islands, and historic plantations. The region’s culinary scene, with its Creole, Cajun, and Southern flavors, is also a major draw for food enthusiasts.

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What makes the Southeast US unique?

The Southeast US stands out for its rich tapestry of history, culture, and nature. It’s a place where colonial pasts intersect with modern-day vibrancy, and where natural wonders like Mammoth Cave and the Everglades coexist with bustling urban centers. The region’s festivals, music, and local traditions, such as Mardi Gras and the Kentucky Derby, add to its uniqueness.

Where to go in the Southeast for a mix of history and nature?

For travelers seeking both historical insights and natural beauty, places like Charleston, South Carolina, and the Outer Banks in North Carolina are ideal. These unique Southeast places to visit offer a blend of historic architecture, local legends, and stunning natural landscapes, from marshlands to coastal dunes.

Are there any underrated destinations in the Southeast worth exploring?

While the Southeast boasts many popular tourist spots, several underrated destinations in the Southeast promise unique experiences. Places like Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, the barrier islands of Georgia, and the bayous of Louisiana offer a mix of natural beauty and local charm, often away from the typical tourist trails.

The Southeast USA is a mosaic of experiences waiting to be unveiled. With the historic charm of Savannah, the wild allure of the Everglades, and everything in between, every spot in this region offers something special. There are incredible things to do in the Southeast that will resonate with every visitor.

If you’re an avid traveler, a nature lover, or someone in search of a memorable escape, these 12 unique Southeast places to visit promise unforgettable moments. Each destination, with its distinct ambiance and character, showcases the region’s diverse heritage, natural beauty, and vibrant culture.

As you plan your next adventure, consider the Southeast. With its wide array of unique places to visit, this region stands out as a top choice for exploration, relaxation, and inspiration. Get ready to pack your bags and discover the coolest Southeast USA places to visit!

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Unique Places to Visit in Southeast USA: 12 Hidden Gems in the Southeast (2024)
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