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20 Small Towns in the South That Will Steal Your Heart PullOverandLetMeOut
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Anna Marie

20 Small Towns in the South That Will Steal Your Heart

Get ready to explore the hidden gems of the Southeast! PullOverandLetMeOut's list of 20 small towns showcases the region's rich history, culture, and Southern hospitality. Don't miss out on these must-visit destinations.
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Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

Small towns in the South are reminiscent of picture postcards that capture the region’s unique charm. As a travel blogger in the South, uncovering these hidden gems brings me immense joy. Each town has a distinctive character and offers visitors something exceptional, making them delightful places to explore. While I’ve explored countless towns, I’ve curated a list of 20 that stole my heart – not a definitive ranking, just some favorites to share. Prepare to be charmed by these small-town destinations in the South!

1. Georgetown, South Carolina

Nestled along the coast of South Carolina, Georgetown exudes a charming small-town vibe that transports visitors back in time. Established in 1729, it’s one of the oldest towns in the state, and its history is visible throughout the area’s cobblestone streets and historic buildings.

Visitors can explore the charming downtown area, wander along the waterfront, or take a boat tour to learn more about the town’s past. Georgetown is also renowned for its delicious seafood and local shops, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the southeastern United States.

When I visited, I had the pleasure of taking the annual plantation and townhouse tour, which offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s fascinating history. The tour showcases some of the town’s most significant sites, including the elegant historic homes and impressive plantations that dot the surrounding landscape.

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply looking to explore a cute southern town, Georgetown, SC is a destination that should be on your bucket list. READ MORE

Strolling through the quaint downtown of Georgetown, where charming shops and local boutiques beckon visitors to explore.

2. Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blowing Rock, NC is an absorbing town known for its breathtaking scenery and vibrant downtown area. One of the town’s top attractions is the famous Blowing Rock, a natural rock formation that offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

But Blowing Rock isn’t just about nature; the downtown area is packed with boutique shops, local restaurants, and art galleries, making it a great place to spend an afternoon strolling. The Blowing Rock Ale House was a definite highlight, where I savored scrumptious cuisine and locally-brewed craft beers that left a lasting impression. READ MORE

downtown shops in Blowing Rock NC
Discovering the charm of downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

3. St. Michaels, Maryland

Tucked along Maryland’s eastern shore, St. Michaels is a quaint town known for its picturesque waterfront, attractive boutiques, and historic architecture.

It’s a perfect spot for a girls’ weekend, with plenty of opportunities to relax, shop, and dine in style. One of the highlights of my visit was a sunset cruise, where we watched the sun dip below the horizon while sipping cocktails and taking in the stunning scenery.

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun-filled weekend with friends, St. Michaels is a destination that won’t disappoint. READ MORE

The St. Michaels, MD lighthouse at sunset
The historic St. Michaels Lighthouse is a highlight of the Sunset Cruise

4. Helen, Georgia

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen, Georgia is a lovable town that exudes Bavarian flair in the heart of the South. Visitors can immerse themselves in the town’s culture, with its unique architecture, specialty shops, and authentic German cuisine.

The area also offers a host of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and kayaking at nearby Unicoi State Park. We especially enjoyed inter-tubing down the Chattahoochee River in Helen. It’s a great cool activity during the sultry summer days.

Wine enthusiasts will love the Unicoi Wine Trail, which showcases the area’s finest vineyards and wineries. With something for everyone, Helen, Georgia is a destination that should be on any traveler’s list. READ MORE

Alpine Helen, Georgia
Alpine Helen, Georgia

5. Seagrove, North Carolina

Seagrove, NC is a captivating town that’s renowned as the Pottery Capital of the USA, with a rich history of pottery-making that spans more than two centuries.

During our visit, we had the pleasure of attending the Seagrove Pottery Festival, which showcased the area’s finest ceramic artists and their unique creations. The festival was an immersive experience that gave us a glimpse into the town’s vibrant arts community.

With over 100 local potters and shops, Seagrove offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that pottery enthusiasts won’t want to miss. READ MORE

Seagrove is the Pottery Capital of the USA

6. Corolla, North Carolina

Corolla, NC is a small town on the Outer Banks with big appeal, thanks to its charming historic district, picturesque beaches, and famous wild horses.

During our visit, we took a thrilling jeep tour to see the horses in their natural habitat, which was a highlight of our trip. We also enjoyed our stay in the peaceful town, which offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

With its laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty, Corolla is a destination that’s sure to capture your heart. READ MORE

a wild horse walking on the sand
One of the 108 wild horses living in the sanctuary

7. Washington, North Carolina

Washington, NC, also known as Little Washington, is a town with a rich history that dates back to colonial times. Founded in 1776, the town played an important role in the American Revolution and was later a center of commerce for the region’s timber, tobacco, and cotton industries.

Today, visitors can explore the town’s fascinating history at the North Carolina Estuarium and the Historic Turnage Theatre, both of which offer a glimpse into the area’s cultural heritage.

During our visit, we were struck by the town’s vibrant downtown area, which is filled with unique shops, restaurants, and historic architecture. The highlight of our trip was watching the stunning sunset over the river, which was a truly memorable experience.

With its small-town charm and beautiful waterfront setting, Washington, NC is a destination that’s definitely worth a visit. READ MORE

a collage of sunsets in Little Washington NC
The sunset in Little Washington was amazing!

8. Damascus, Virginia

Damascus, Virginia is a graceful small town in the South that boasts friendly people, quaint shops, and delicious restaurants. It’s a perfect weekend getaway for outdoor enthusiasts who love cycling, hiking, and camping.

One of the main attractions of the town is the Virginia Creeper Trail, which offers scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains and a fun cycling experience. The trail is suitable for all levels of riders and passes through the heart of Damascus, where visitors can take a break and enjoy the local hospitality.

If you’re looking for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation, Damascus should be at the top of your list. This appealing town offers a stunning picturesque setting as well as welcoming hospitality, making it a must-visit destination for all. READ MORE

a woman riding a bicycle
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a popular biking attraction in Damascus.

9. Highlands, North Carolina

Highlands, North Carolina, located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, is a perfect romantic escape for couples.

The idyllic downtown area is filled with quaint shops, galleries, and eateries. One of our favorite finds is the Highlands Wine Shoppe, which offers a unique selection of wines from around the world.

The town also offers plenty of outdoor activities nearby, including hiking and waterfalls, to enjoy during the day. In the evening, couples can stroll through the charming streets and enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the town’s many restaurants.

Highlands is an ideal spot for couples seeking a romantic retreat, thanks to its charming atmosphere and tranquil surroundings. READ MORE

couple strolling down the street hand in hand in Highlands, NC PullOverAndLetMeOut
Downtown Highlands, North Carolina is idyllic.

10. Staunton, Virginia

Staunton, Virginia, is a town steeped in history and rich in architectural diversity. Visitors can explore the town’s fascinating past by taking a tour of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Library or visiting the American Shakespeare Center, which stages plays in a replica of the Globe Theatre.

The town also boasts an array of unique shops, restaurants, and boutiques, housed in a variety of architectural styles.

During our stay, we particularly enjoyed the Blackburn Inn, a charming boutique hotel with beautifully appointed rooms and excellent service. Staunton is a must-visit destination for those who appreciate history, architecture, and small-town charm. READ MORE

a classic brick building on a corner
Downtown Staunton features an array of architectural styles.

11. Smithfield, North Carolina

Smithfield, North Carolina, is a historic town that’s most famous for being the hometown of Hollywood actress Ava Gardner.

Visitors can learn more about the town’s history at the Ava Gardner Museum, which houses a collection of her personal belongings and career memorabilia. The town also offers a variety of things to do, including exploring the Neuse River Greenway Trail, visiting local wineries, and shopping for antiques.

Thanks to its picturesque downtown area and compelling history, Smithfield is a great destination for anyone looking to experience small-town living and southern hospitality. READ MORE

One of 30 portraits by Dutch artist Bert Pfeiffer in the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield.

12. Mt. Airy, North Carolina

Situated in the heart of Surry County, North Carolina, Mt. Airy is a delightful town steeped in history and famous for its association with the classic television show, The Andy Griffith Show.

Guests to the town can explore its historic downtown area, which is replete with unique shops and eateries, as well as several attractions such as the Andy Griffith Museum and the Snappy Lunch diner. The town also offers plenty of nearby attractions, including the Surry County Wine Trail and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

Don’t miss Mayberry Days, an annual festival celebrating all things Mayberry and the show’s iconic characters. READ MORE

Mt. Airy is Mayberry! Andy Griffith's hometown celebrates its famous son.

13. Bedford, Virginia

Bedford, Virginia, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and paying tribute to the brave soldiers who fought in World War II.

The town is home to the National D-Day Memorial, which honors the soldiers who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy. Bedford holds a unique place in history, as it lost the most per capita of any town in the nation during the D-Day invasion.

Visitors can also explore the town’s inviting downtown area, which offers a variety of unique shops and dining options. There is also a museum dedicated to the Bedford Boys who gave their lives in Normandy. For travelers seeking cozy and hospitable accommodation during their visit, there are numerous excellent bed and breakfast options to choose from in Bedford. READ MORE

the National D-Day Memorial
The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA

14. Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Pawleys Island, South Carolina, is a classic laid-back beach town known for its unpretentious “arrogantly shabby” vibe.

Guests can spend their days relaxing on the beautiful beaches, fishing, crabbing, and exploring the nearby salt marshes. The town also offers excellent dining options, from fresh seafood to southern-style barbecue, and plenty of unique shops and galleries to browse.

Pawleys Island is the perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful and rejuvenating beach getaway away from the crowds and hustle and bustle of larger resort towns. READ MORE

The gloaming at Pawleys Island, SC

15. Cullman, Alabama

Cullman, Alabama, is a quaint southern town with an interesting history and plenty of things to see and do.

Visitors can explore the town’s historic district, which features unique shops, restaurants, and museums.

One of the most surprising attractions in Cullman is the Ave Maria Grotto, a four-acre park featuring 125 miniature replicas of famous religious structures from around the world. The grotto was built by a Benedictine monk and is considered one of the most impressive displays of folk art in the country. I was truly blown away by this and can only say, you simply must see it to believe it!

For those seeking a taste of southern small-town charm, Cullman, Alabama, is an excellent destination thanks to its delightful downtown district and collection of one-of-a-kind attractions. READ MORE

Herods Gate at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama

16. Littleton, North Carolina

Littleton, North Carolina, in Halifax County, is an amiable small southern town and an unexpected destination for a memorable evening of dining and theater.

Located on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, Littleton is a quaint town that provides a surprising and vibrant dining scene, with options ranging from classic southern cuisine to international flavors.

The recently renovated Lakeland Cultural Arts Center is a must-visit destination for art lovers and theater enthusiasts, featuring a range of performances and exhibitions. Excitingly, the town is expanding its cultural offerings with the addition of an outdoor amphitheater, promising even more entertainment options for visitors and locals alike.

This sleepy town on the banks of Lake Gaston also offers a wide range of outdoor activities for guests to enjoy year-round, making Littleton a delightful small-town retreat brimming with possibilities. READ MORE

front of the Littleton Cultural Arts Center
The Lakeland Cultural Arts Center

17. Yorktown, Virginia

Packed with history, this friendly small town in the tidewater region of Virginia has a little something for everyone.

History buffs will drink in Yorktown’s colonial heritage and significant Revolutionary War and Civil War history. Likewise, this picturesque town also offers a range of dining and shopping options in addition to entertainment that is certain to please every member of your traveling group.

The appealing Riverwalk Landing is a beehive of activity dotted with shops, boutiques, and dining and is an enjoyable stroll. We stopped in for lunch at the Water Street Grill and enjoyed a scrumptious seafood meal with an amazing view of the river.

Situated in close proximity to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, this is a stop not-to-be-missed along the riverfront. It’s one of Virgina’s best-kept secrets. READ MORE

British Siege of Yorktown, Virginia PullOverAndLetMeOut
Historic interpreters on hand to portray the Siege Of Yorktown

18. Southern Pines, North Carolina

Tucked in the Sandhills of North Carolina is the delightful town of Southern Pines. Also known as the Home of American Golf, Southern Pines is a romantic railroad town that offers visitors a delightful mix of shops, entertainment, and dining options. 

Visitors enjoy strolling the magnolia-lined idyllic historic downtown area which straddles the railroad track. Dotting both sides of the tracks is a melange of boutiques, restaurants, museums, and antique shops beckoning guests to step inside. 

Venture outside of the main downtown area and discover the numerous scenic horse farms adding to Southern Pine’s beauty. 

During our visit, we stopped at the Southern Pines Brewing Co. for a flight of delicious craft beer, perfectly capping off an enjoyable day exploring this charming North Carolina gem. READ MORE

Southern Pines Welcome Center
The Welcome Center is located in the heart of downtown Southern Pines, NC

19. Cherokee, North Carolina

Nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Cherokee, North Carolina is a picturesque mountain town that offers visitors a unique and rich Native American heritage.

The town is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and visitors can learn about their culture and history at the Museum of the Cherokee Indians or enjoy a live performance at the outdoor Mountainside Theatre.

With stunning natural beauty and fascinating cultural experiences, Cherokee is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the charms of the North Carolina mountains. I was fascinated and deeply moved by my visit to Cherokee, as it was both educational and emotionally stirring. A winning combination! READ MORE

The Oconaluftee River in Cherokee, NC
The Oconaluftee River considered "sacred waters" runs right through downtown Cherokee, NC

20. Brookneal, Virginia

We fell in love with Brookneal, Virginia. This charismatic little town on the shores of the Staunton River in south central, Virginia was the final home of American founding father, Patrick Henry. His home, Red Hill, is a vital part of this thriving small community.

Additionally, Brookneal offers visitors a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Visitors can explore the town’s quaint shops and restaurants, or take in the scenic beauty of the surrounding countryside. There are also excellent outdoor adventure opportunities such as canoeing or camping on the river.

We discovered an incredible small winery, Sans Soucy Vineyards, and spent an amazing evening watching the colorful sunset transform the sky into a palette of pinks until giving way to brilliant starlight. It was awesome! READ MORE

garden and Law office Patrick Henry's Red Hill PullOverandLetMeOut
Garden and Law office at Patrick Henry's Red Hill in Brookneal, VA

So many small towns in the South, so little time!

Part of the joy of traveling is experiencing new places and learning about the people that make these places what they are. It’s a joy when I discover a new small town and with each road trip I take, I commence with the hope that I will happen upon yet another absorbing and alluring location. 

These are only twenty small towns in the South, and I could have listed so many more. Tell me, do you have a favorite southern small town that you’ve fallen in love with? Let me know, I’m always eager to make new small-town discoveries!

As always, I wish you, Happy Travels! 

Downtown Brookneal, Virginia

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