The world is filled with pretty places. Your own backyard is likely one of them. Some shine out a little more than others, though: Here are a few more Southern beauties that have enough of a track beaten to them to testify to their renowned attraction. Visit us in the comments section below to tell us about your own favorite pretty spot in the South.
- Ha Ha Tonka, Missouri
The “Castle” at Ha Ha Tonka, Missouri (photo by Jason Runyon)Ha Ha Tonka. Not your average place name. Early settlers said it was Osage for “laughing waters,” or possibly “laughing spirit,” referring to the natural springs of the area, but “Ha Ha” is not exactly Osage for “laughing,” so who knows? At any rate, it’s a really cool name for one of Missouri’s most beautiful and romantic spots, complete with “castle” ruins, stunning vistas, the happily-ever-bubbling springs, and even caves to explore, all on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks. The ruins are actually of an extraordinarily beautiful mansion, built in the early twentieth century only to burn some twenty-odd years later, never to be restored but perennially enjoyed by the myriad of visitors to the site each year.
- Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Cumberland Falls, the “Niagara of the South,” in southeastern Kentucky (photo by James St. John)Sixty-eight feet tall and 125 feet wide, Cumberland Falls on the Cumberland River in southeastern Kentucky has long been considered “the Niagara of the South.” And if that’s not enough to make for a honeymooner’s glow, try this spot out under a full moon: the falls cast up a “moonbow,” sort of like a rainbow, you know, only it’s a great white arc that shoots downriver to the amazement of every onlooker. There’s nothing like it. Just east of Honeybee, in the Daniel Boone National Forest, this central feature of Cumberland Falls State Park is a genuine Kentucky wonder.
- Cheaha Mountain, Alabama
Cheaha Lake pools at the base of Cheaha Mountain, Alabama’s highest at 2,407 feetThis beautiful Alabama feature was named by the Creeks Cheaha, meaning “high place,” and they couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate descriptive. Cheaha Mountain soars swiftly to a height of 2,407 feet above sea level, the highest point in the state, presenting fantastic views of the surrounding Talladega National Forest and far beyond. The mountain is also home to an abundance of creek-crossing hiking trails and some of the loveliest waterfalls in the South, making it a choice destination for beauty-seeking nature-lovers from all points nearby and far away.
- Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Sand, grass, and setting sun on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (photo by Mark Thomas)There is a reason this island just off South Carolina’s southeasternmost shoreline is one of America’s favorite places to play. Earth, sky, and ocean meet in this tiny geographical spot to paint one of nature’s prettiest pictures. Longtime a favorite with golfers, Hilton Head Island has the beaches, the deer, dolphins, and manatees, and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets necessary to make it one of the prettiest spots in the South. Just north of Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head has become a hot-spot for the vacation crowd, but the resident population includes both the ultra-wealthy and the fascinating Gullah islanders, descended from ex-slaves who found refuge here over 150 years ago.
- St. George Island, Florida
The Boardwalk at sunrise on St. George—Southern pretty (photo by Arturo Donate)Florida is not hurting for pretty spots. But if you have to narrow it down, St. George Island cradling Apalachicola Bay at the elbow of the panhandle is always going to wind up somewhere near the top. The sand is white, the Gulf waters are clear, the marshes are full of wild things. Bicycle-ride the whole island, kayak your own personal adventure, fish, swim, sleep, eat, chill. This is one of the few stretches of Florida beach that are super-beautiful but (so far) not so touristed out that you have to imagine high-rise hotels out of the way. The only thing “high-rising” is a restored lighthouse you can tour. Sea turtles, dolphins, a jillion birds, and every fish you could possibly want to catch (and eat) add to the whole aesthetic here, but if you’re expecting dragons, they’ve apparently been eradicated—county ordinance, I’m pretty sure.
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