Imagine a place that combines the excitement of visiting Reedy River’s Duck Derby, Campbell’s Covered Bridge, a 5K run and blacksmithing demonstrations at Roper Mountain Science Center. Then, add an art show, a Civil War Reenactment, and a miniature golf course in a scenic, rocky river setting. Oh, and don’t forget to include music.

That’s what families can expect at Hurricane Shoals Park.

Throughout the year, this Georgia park hosts a 5K Mill Race, annual Duck Dash, Bluegrass Festival, Reenactment, Art in the Park and Christmas festival, but visitors can always explore its historic village, covered bridge, grist mill, go hiking or camping, and more.

The name of this park made me imagine it was somewhere on the coast, but actually it’s located just south of Commerce, Georgia in a town called Maysville. The shoals are part of the North Oconee River, which also flows through Athens, Georgia. The closest thing to an actual hurricane this area has ever seen was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker when he played ball for the Bulldogs.

Last winter, my friend posted photos on her Instagram of Hurricane Shoals. Her pictures showed a beautiful, deserted natural wonder. Broad rocks lined both sides of the river. She stumbled upon the park because her son needed to burn off steam in the Commerce area. I was so impressed with her photos, I added it to my explorations wish list.

Our summertime visit brought a totally different scene. The water was jam-packed with local country folks, wading and sliding in the shallow waters. They may have preferred a trip to Myrtle Beach, but they cooled off at the closest natural setting. That being said, if Litchfield is more your vacation style, you may prefer to leave your swimsuit at home and wait for next year’s art festival, which draws a more urbane crowd.

The whole family had been roasting in the heat all weekend, and shopping at the outdoor outlet mall in Commerce was next on my agenda. So, we allowed a brief barefoot splash before getting back on the road.

We drove through the covered bridge before leaving. Also, we paused at Heritage Village, the park’s historic village, so I could read the marker, explaining that the structures were salvaged and relocated from the surrounding area to preserve the local history. They were closed to the public that day, but open during the Art Festival in September. On certain days, visitors can see the grist mill in operation and buy freshly ground corn meal, watch a blacksmithing demonstration and learn more about life in the 1800s. Last year, a puppet show and gospel music were on the schedule. Check their website for schedule details.

I can envision a lovely fall picnic at Hurricane Shoals when the leaves are changing along the river. But I probably wouldn’t make a special trip there, unless we’re heading to the art festival. It’s good for an extra stop if we’re heading to Commerce to shop, or if we’re traveling around Athens or the Atlanta. Summer wouldn’t be my first choice for a visit due to the crowd. Nevertheless, allowing our kids a chance to chill out saved the collective sanity of my family — at least long enough to score a new pair of fancy kicks for $20 at the outlet. Definitely worth it!

416 Hurricane Shoals, Maysville, Georgia 30558

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