15 Breathtaking Spots You Have To Visit in the South, According to Locals

From charming cities to stunning natural wonders, the South has it all.
Updated May 8, 2024
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The best travel adventures happen not when you’re headed around tourist traps in huge groups but when you explore gems the locals love.

No one knows a place better than the folks who live there, after all. Such is the case for the American South.

So, if you’re looking for ways to travel more, here are some Southern spots the locals deem worthy of a visit.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Craig Zerbe/Adobe autumn view of lake powhatan

With diverse architecture, ample independent shops, and abundant outdoor spaces (forests, mountains), Asheville is rich in beauty.

Locals say you can sip a latte in a cute coffee shop in the morning and be hiking within half an hour.

It’s also home to the historic Biltmore Estate, which boasts gorgeous gardens and vineyards.

Biloxi, Mississippi

Kovcs/Adobe lighthouse at biloxi mississippi

Biloxi is an underrated city with beautiful beaches, oak tree art, and cute neighborhood spots. Locals recommend visiting Ship Island, where the water is clearest.

They also recommend paddling on the Pascagoula River, especially to see the sunset. Enjoy a beachside bonfire at night for added magic.

Brevard, North Carolina

Carrie/Adobe overlooking the blue ridge mountains

If you love waterfalls, then a stop in Bravard is for you. It’s the gateway to more than 250 waterfalls so stunning they’ve been featured in films like “The Hunger Games.

Locals especially recommend seeing Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. As a bonus, the town of Brevard is cute and has bustling local businesses.

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Buffalo National River, Arkansas

ODell Outside/Adobe buffalo national river from above

Locals love this gorgeous river, where you can canoe, kayak, or tube your cares away. Look up for sweeping views of the cliffs, and keep your eye out for waterfalls and wildlife.

You can also hike and enjoy the view of the valley from above. More adventurous souls can zipline over the Ozark Mountain Forest.

Cathedral Caverns State Park, Alabama

Richard/Adobe cathedral caverns state park

There’s beauty to be found underground, according to locals in Woodville, Alabama. This large cavern boasts stunning formations, including Goliath, one of the largest stalagmites on Earth!

You can also enjoy a “frozen” waterfall and wander through forests of stalagmites. Local tip: Don’t forget your camera!

Charleston, South Carolina

f11photo/Adobe charleston south carolina usa

Charleston has rich culinary and arts scenes, history, thriving Gullah culture, and seaside ambiance. Lingering scents like jasmine and marshiness take locals back to their childhoods.

It’s the perfect place to sip sweet tea on the porch or stroll through historic neighborhoods while appreciating the architecture, too.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Christopher Boswell/Adobe sunrise at downtown chattanooga tennessee

The Scenic City stuns with gorgeous mountains, which is ideal for taking in the view after rock climbing. You can also enjoy the views from one of the longest pedestrian bridges or on one of the steepest train tracks in the world.

Locals also love the eclectic food scene, with ample mom-and-pop shops serving diverse cuisine. Check out the Coker Car Museum as well — it’s Instagram-worthy.

Dismals Canyon, Alabama

Robbie/Adobe dismals

Locals say that this remote, biodiverse destination is magical. You’ll hike for 1.5 miles through tall trees and boulders along a gorgeous canyon stream.

At night, tiny bioluminescent worms light up the walls of the falls, adding to the enchantment.

Driftwood Beach, Georgia

Sandra Burm/Adobe sun setting on driftwood beach

The Golden Isles of Georgia are all stunning, but Driftwood Beach is a favorite among locals. They enjoy riding bikes or simply walking along the surf of this gem of Jekyll Island.

The ancient driftwood on the beach is why folks call it “magical” and “otherworldly — it's the perfect background for photos.

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Elkmont Campground, Tennessee

Carol/Adobe purple-wildflowers

Not far from Gatlinburg, you’ll find the Elmont Campground nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For a few weeks every summer, tens of thousands of synchronous fireflies light up the night for a truly magical display.

These glowing creatures put on the biggest show of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Wangkun Jia/Adobe frozen niagara in mammoth cave

Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. This stunning underground world stretches for hundreds of miles and features every kind of formation.

It also has the most biodiverse cave environment out there, with plants and animals you won’t see anywhere else. Locals also recommend kayaking the green river while in town.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Calee Allen/Adobe french quarter carriage

New Orleans is teeming with beauty around every corner, whether in the architecture, the revelers' costumes, the cemeteries, or the plate of world-class cuisine in front of you.

Locals love how the air smells like magnolia, jasmine, gardenia, and lemon blossoms when in bloom. They also love foggy winter nights that diffuse the light just right.

Savannah, Georgia

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe forsyth park in savannah georgia

A city with a haunted small-town vibe, Savannah charms with historic architecture, tall trees draped in Spanish moss, and quaint downtown squares. Locals say the botanical garden is a must-see.

You can also find beautiful beaches at nearby Tybee Island and enjoy the natural beauty of nearby marshes.

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

smevans/Adobe tallulah gorge state park

The scenic beauty of this park has been featured in films — it’s that remarkable. With five incredible waterfalls, this 2-mile canyon has 1,000-foot drops and jaw-dropping views.

You can take it in from above via a suspension bridge while rock climbing or on the water in a kayak — the locals love all of it.

Virginia Wine Country

Joel/Adobe central virginia winery at dusk

You don’t have to go to Napa to experience the beauty of sprawling vineyards; Northern Virginia has many that highlight the rolling mountain splendor around them, some replete with water views.

Of course, as the locals point out, sipping delicious artisanal wine helps you appreciate the beauty even more.

Bottom line

djile/Adobe happy friends sitting on beach

There’s no shortage of stunning sights in the American South, from vibrant cities to scenic beauty to magical natural marvels. Leave it to the locals to have the best intel on where to visit.

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Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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