By Mary Catherine Gaston
It is true that rural Georgia has no shortage of small towns worthy of a day trip. Boasting two beautifully preserved, bustling population centers—Montezuma and Oglethorpe—Macon County offers respite and a change of pace to the bewildered interstate traveler and anyone looking for something fun to get into on a Saturday excursion or weekend trip.
Situated smack-dab in the center between I-75 and US Highway 19 in rural southwest Georgia, Montezuma is just a short (and lovely) drive from Perry, Americus and Cordele and worth the detour for anyone traveling north or south on either major thoroughfare. Just a short jog off the interstate is Yoder’s Deitsch Haus restaurant. Serving country style lunch and supper buffet-style Tuesday through Saturday, the regional favorite is owned and operated by members of the local Beachy Mennonite community in which it is located. Fresh baked goods, made daily, are also available for sale and your enjoyment down the road.
Continuing west along Highway 26 from the Deitsch Haus is a beautiful drive through lush countryside featuring multiple dairies and crop fields as far as the eye can see. In fact, of Georgia’s 159 counties, Macon County is the number two producer of dairy products and by far the number one producer of forage, hay and silage to feed all those hungry milk cows.
As 26 rolls on, the pleasant countryside gives way to the quaint town of Montezuma, the largest of the four incorporated municipalities in the county. Originally a railroad town, downtown Montezuma is still a hub of rail activity, with a train slowly making its way past lovingly restored and carefully maintained historic buildings every 15 minutes. Ample parking along the picturesque streets invites visitors to take a stroll. While you're out, be sure to stop in Natalie Bradly Home for a gift, t-shirt or one of Natalie’s prints or original art pieces.
Grab a bite to eat while you’re downtown. Troy’s Snack Shack is a local landmark and a favorite place for made-to-order burgers, fries and more. Before you leave Montezuma, head a couple of miles north on 49 and pick up some fresh, local produce and homemade canned goods at the William L. Brown Farm Market.
The market is just down the road from where Samuel Henry Rumph experimented with peach production and perfected the quintessential Georgia peach, Elberta, on his farm near Marshallville. Fresh peaches are, of course, for sale at the Brown Farm Market in season.
If you have a little longer to linger in Macon County, venture on to Oglethorpe, county seat and home to Whitewater Creek Park. Whether you have an hour or a weekend to fill, this 482-acre park offers something sure to satisfy. A splash pad and multiple playgrounds, walking trails, picnic pavilions, cabin, RV or tent camping are all available in a lovely, well-maintained setting just off the beaten path. The park’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show is a crowd-pleaser too.
The New Georgia Encyclopedia also features a thorough article about the history of the Flint River, which flows through Macon County and can be accessed by boaters at Crooks Landing and Hooks Landing, both located off Highway 49.
Leaving Oglethorpe, be sure to take in the recently completed mural downtown. It pays homage to the county’s—and state’s—number one industry, agriculture, and is begs to be a backdrop for your photographic memories.
If you’re visiting the area in the summer or early fall, a stop at Chase Farm Market is a must. Check the progress of the Chase family’s sweet corn crop on Facebook before you go, and load up on locally grown goodies while you’re there.
For an extended visit, add Andersonville National Historic Site or Massee Lane Gardens to your itinerary. The former features a moving tribute to our nation’s prisoners of war, while the latter is home to the American Camellia Society and one of the worlds most impressive collections of camellia varieties on earth. October through February is the best time to view the camellias in bloom, choose your favorite and purchase a plant for your own garden.
Don’t leave Macon County without grabbing a hot (or cold) cup of joe from Oasis Coffee House in Montezuma. This fairly recent addition to the Macon County map also serves breakfast, lunch and ice cream by the scoop or cone. It’s another local favorite.
If this little preview has piqued your interest and you'd like to plan a visit, you can learn more about the communities and what to do in Macon County on the county’s website or any of the links above. Have other fantastic rural Georgia places you'd like us to highlight? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will add you to our list!