Founded in the mid-1800s, Maysville, Georgia keeps its small-town charm in spite of being just an hour from Atlanta, a sprawling metropolis, and a half-hour from Athens, one of the South's major music centers. This part of northeast Georgia can please almost any palate with its blend of forest, rolling farmland, and bustling communities. With the respected UGA College of Veterinary Medicine just 30 miles away, you’ll find the community to be full of fellow dog devotees. That also means that 24-hour veterinary care is in easy reach.
Unfortunately Maysville’s Hurricane Shoals Park does not allow pets. (We know, we know: Don’t people know that Rover is family?) That means you’ll have to venture farther afield and sniff out some new territory. Fortunately, Maysville’s proximity to Lake Lanier, UGA, and the North Georgia Mountains mean you have plenty of other options.
We ran the numbers: At 38,000 acres and nearly 700 miles of shoreline, Lake Lanier is the weekend playground for the 4 million residents of metro Atlanta — 54% of whom own dogs. Yes, that means millions of potential new fuzzy friends in a beautiful waterfront setting. If you want a funkier experience, try Athens for its top-notch dog parks, laid-back restaurants, and unparalleled people-watching. For true pampering, make the trip into the big city: Atlanta’s iconic Stone Mountain Park is less than 60 miles from Maysville, and Renaissance Park Dog Park has a pool and splash fountain.
Though Maysville itself has rather limited shopping and dining options, it is only seven miles from the city of Commerce — as bustling as the name implies. Commerce has 5 dog-friendly restaurants, two of which stand out for their Southern charm: Hawg Wild BBQ and the Catfish House, which has 5 dog-friendly tables and describes their menu as “protein-laden.” You can afford the calories if you head to Spencer Park downtown. Or, get a good workout at the sports complex and recreation areas of American Veterans Memorial Park, including a new .3-mile walking trail looping the pond.
At 18 miles from Maysville, Gainesville is quickly emerging as one of north Georgia’s major economic centers. Our favorite local entrepreneurs are the owners of Pet Pleasers Bakery, whose shop and online store have got us drooling. If you need dinner before doggy dessert, select from Gainesville's 16 dog-friendly restaurants. Our pick is 2 Dog on Spring Street: the regulars say servers are happy to bring ice water for your pups and welcome dogs of any size and breed. The best spot in Gainesville might be The Laurel Park “Bark Park” — a free county park on Lake Lanier shore with off-leash play areas and poop disposal bags provided. Wilshire Trails also welcomes on-leash dogs on the creekside walking trails and hilly hike up to an overlook.
On the far side of Gainesville lies a 1,300-acre green expanse on Lake Lanier that dares — dares! — you to bring your dog for a hike. Maybe "challenges" is a better word for it: the Tails on Trails Club is an initiative of the Georgia State Parks. If you and your dog hike seven of the state's most scenic trails, then Rover gets a Tails on Trails bandana and you get a matching t-shirt. You just pick up a card at the ranger station and then bring your dog to hike seven trails at parks around the state. Rangers will validate your card at each park to verify that you and Rover didn’t wimp out. Start right here at Don Carter State Park with the 1.5-mile Woodland Loop and Lakeview Loop Trails.
About 25 miles from Maysville, Athens is an ideal day out for any dog. There are four dog parks to choose from, including C Spot Run at Sandy Creek Nature Center. The off-leash play areas are free, but for a small fee you can rent one of three shady private parks with running water and picnic facilities. (Trust us, you’ll feel like a rock star in the VIP section.) Dine out at any of the 60 dog-friendly restaurants in Athens. To soak up the culture, try some soul food on the patio at local landmark Weaver Ds: their slogan “Automatic for the People” inspired the name for REM’s groundbreaking 1992 album.
Really need to get out of town? The nearest vacation areas of the North Georgia Mountains are an easy day trip from Maysville. The former gold rush hub of Dahlonega is less than 40 miles away. Dahlonega has 9 dog-friendly restaurants on offer, and we like the comfy-chic look of Back Porch Oyster Bar. Several shops also welcome calm dogs to join you as a you pick out souvenirs, including the old-fashioned Dahlonega General Store and the more upscale J.R. Criders Clothing & Apparel. When you’ve had enough of the creature comforts, get wet on the Chestatee River outside of town. Appalachian Outfitters rents canoes and welcomes your furry friends, but don’t forget the life jackets!