One of the heavy hitters in the North Georgia small town scene is Ellijay, the Apple Capital of Georgia. Situated 75 minutes from Atlanta and 155 miles from Birmingham, Ellijay is spread out and chock full of agritourism. Visitors come here for the apple markets, you pick ’em farms, farm stalls, and impressive wineries and vineyards. I had the pleasure of staying in a romantic cabin in the woods and exploring the town’s broad landscape and sometimes rugged terrain and had a ball. Here is how to spend a perfect weekend in the Apple Capital of Georgia — Ellijay.
Note: Some of my meals were hosted by the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce in order to write this post.
Things To Do In Ellijay
Whether you are coming for a girlfriend getaway, romantic weekend, family get-together, or solo day trip, you are sure to find a good time in this mountainous region bursting with activities. As I mentioned, Ellijay is very spread out, so be prepared to do some driving. Don’t worry; the scenery and attractions are fantastic.
The country’s top apple-producing states are Washington, Michigan, and New York, but I think Georgia could give them a good run for their money. Apples are everywhere!
Apple Alley is an area that connects the apple houses of Ellijay in one straight line. There are so many of them, and each has a different vibe and unique features. Not only can you buy apples, but you can also pick them, and many have family-fun activities, such as B.J. Reece Orchards, with a petting farm, cow milking, scavenger hunt, pig races, wagon rides, and much more.
I visited R & A Orchards, Ellijay’s year-round market with a cafe, scads of fresh produce, the most apples I’ve ever seen in my life, and really great fried pies. While apple, peach, and cherry are popular choices, I loved the chocolate pecan and pumpkin cream cheese. Yum!
Wine Tasting Rooms
Ellijay has nine wine tasting rooms and vineyards that are highly popular and super fun to visit. A perfect weekend in this town wouldn’t be complete without at least visiting one of them, but I recommend a tasting, even if you share it with a friend.
Cartecay Vineyards is in a refurbished circa 1890s tasting barn. Engelheim Vineyards is in a Bavarian-style tasting room. Ott Farms and Vineyard has live music on weekends, and Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard & Winery is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and looks like the cover of a romance novel. The good news — the wines are enjoyable, vineyards friendly, and a great time for all.
If you need suggestions for what to order, I liked Engelheim’s Doxology, a blend with flavors of cherry, spice, and black plum. A four-wine flight runs you $12. At Ott Farms, it was Capture, a petit syrah. Here, a five-wine tasting is only $10.
You will find some unique locally-owned shops in Ellijay, mainly around the historic downtown. One of the most popular is the Bavarian Chocolatier and Fudge Shop because when you walk in the door, you will absolutely be craving something sweet. I found several ladies’ apparel shops with excellent selections, and the Green Willow Soap shop definitely caught my attention.
Be sure to pop into Main Street Antiques for a treasure trove that will easily take you down the rabbit hole. Live the Trail calls itself a modern-day general store, and I found cards, Christmas decorations, packaged foods, and playful socks that I couldn’t say no to. Downtown Ellijay also has several art galleries and shops.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tasty food on my Ellijay visit. There are a wide variety of restaurants (the best of which I write about below) with most of my favorites being downtown. You’ll find traditional dishes as well as some regional specialties and many ethnic choices. Gourmet products are abundant, too, in the apple markets, some tasting rooms, and many downtown shops.
Pro Tip: The restaurants in Ellijay are busy, so try to make a reservation, if possible, and practice patience while waiting for your table.
Help The Animals
We spotted Build An Ark Animal Rescue, a huge property littered with all different sorts of rescued animals, during our drive around Ellijay. This interactive farm is both an animal rescue and hospice sanctuary and is highly regarded by the locals. Admission is $7 per person, and they will give you food to share with the farm animals. Please note that the animal rescue is closed to the public for inclement weather.
There are 120 rescued animals on the farm ranging from horses, sheep, and goats to alpacas, pigs, and puppies. The animals are used for therapy at nursing homes and working with adults and children with special needs — what a fantastic mission.
Go Mountain Biking
Ellijay is the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia, and the mural outside of Cartecay Bike Shop proclaims it. While I am no mountain biker, there are apparently over 60 mountain bike trails, with the Cartecay Loop being one of the most popular. Enjoy the primitive, doubletrack, and singletrack trails in Ellijay’s scenic roads.
Explore Mountain Valley Farm
This is one of the best agritourism offerings in Ellijay. Shoppers come to Mountain Valley Farm for grass-fed and free-range meats, farm-fresh eggs, locally made cheeses, handmade ice cream, and gourmet food products. Petting a few animals while I was there was the best part for me. Oh, and they have maple bacon ice cream — that’s a winning flavor!
Pro Tip: Many of these businesses are off the grid for cell service, or were to me. Pay attention to how you got there in case you can’t get your directions to work for the first part of the return trip.
Best Restaurants In Ellijay
Ellijay has some mighty good eats, and all for the sake of research, I tried many of them for you. Here are the details about my food experience, as well as what I really liked about each.
Country Corner Kitchen
I heard about Country Corner Kitchen from locals in five different places, so I knew we had to go there. Country Corner Kitchen serves perfect southern biscuit breakfast sandwiches, traditional breakfast items, and even a Cuban breakfast sandwich. They also serve real Cuban coffee, a jewel in the North Georgia Mountains. We loved the friendly service, reasonable prices, and tasty food so much that we made it our daily breakfast stop.
Ellijay Wood-Fired Pizza
Dinner is terrific from Ellijay Wood-Fired Pizza, where the pie creations are part scrumptious and part genius. After researching menus online, this is one place I knew I had to try. Start your meal with the specialty fondue — oh, so good. Mine was artichoke, so gooey and creamy that I finished mopping it up with my pizza crust. And speaking of pizza, I’m sure you can’t go wrong with any of the choices, but I had the mild Italian sausage and peppadew pepper pizza. It was amazing, and I had enough leftovers the next day.
The Roof is the only place in town where you can dine on a rooftop and capture such amazing scenic pictures. The service is attentive and professional, and the menu is very well curated. I couldn’t wait to try the Bologna Sliders (with truffle dijonnaise), a regional dish from The Roof that was exceptional in every bite. Then came the Shrimp and Grits, really well done and a perfect portion size. My husband had the recommended Rooftop Chicken Sandwich and loved it. You get your choice of any one side dish with it, too.
A perfect place for any meal of the day is Cantaberry, where my husband and I went for bowls of soup to beat the wintery weather. Cantaberry’s soup, salad, and sandwich combinations are plentiful, and the soup varieties change daily. I had the chicken wild rice and he chose tomato basil, plus half sandwiches. I can vouch for the really tasty tuna salad, and he had every bit as good chicken salad. Cantaberry also gives you several bread choices — a nice touch.
Save room for a slice of the super tall layered cakes that also look divine.
Cabins And Hotels In Ellijay
We passed the Ellijay River Bed and Breakfast and I immediately saved the location for a future trip. The beautiful luxury adults-only property is a 1915 Craftsman home with a superb riverside setting and is within walking distance to downtown. Free WiFi and southern breakfast are included in your stay. You can take your breakfast on the veranda, Magnolia deck, or riverside deck. Another appealing choice is the Coosawattee River Resort, with an indoor pool. There are four rooms to choose from, and the Magnolia Room has my name all over it.
If you are traveling with your camper or RV, Diamond Lure Campground and RV Resort looks really appealing. The setting is beautiful, and this property really intrigued my husband, who still hasn’t stopped talking about it.
For those just wanting a reasonably priced motel experience, Ellijay Inn can take care of all your needs.
Pro Tip: Downtown Ellijay has free parking and clean public restrooms.