Best Places in the Southeast for Eco Tourism

Cumberland Island, Georgia
For a state with a population pushing 10 million Georgia has one the least developed coast lines in the country, which means it is a great place to take in the great outdoors. And upon this coast there is no better place to do that than Cumberland Island. Accessible only by boat, Cumberland Island has absolutely no access to power whatsoever– unless you can afford to stay at the ultra-exclusive Greyfield Inn– and is a former getaway for New York elites such as the Carnegie family, and current home to a large number of wild horses. 

The activities on the island range from fishing, crabbing and clamming, to star gazing, wildlife viewing, boating, swimming, hiking and just being grateful you have a brief moment of disconnect from our dizzying technology-crazed modern world.  
Being so picturesque the island is, of course, quite a romantic place to bring your significant other and that, along with its seclusion, is precisely the reason  John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette chose it exchange their vows there in a small church lit by candle light back on September 19, 1996. The reception, of course, was held at the Greyfield Inn.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina really is a cornucopia of ways to entertain yourself. There are breweries, restaurants and bars aplenty, and, of course, a multitude of outdoor activities. But, for this article we’re focusing on strictly the nature surrounding the city.

Weather permitting, the ideal place to stay when trying to get a feel for the Asheville outdoors is the Banana Patch hostel at Mountain Light Sanctuary. It bills itself as a little bit of the South Pacific in Blue Ridge Mountains and offers steep tropical roof huts on stilts with doors covered by curtains of burlap coffee sacks from around the world–and you can actually hear the sound of the nearby mountain creek from your hut.

Surrounding the Banana Patch and Mountain Light Sanctuary you have your pick of rock climbing, hiking to waterfalls, fishing, mountain biking, zip lining panoramic views and more.

If you’d like a stay with a little more modern amenities then Mountain Light Sanctuary itself is probably your best bet. There you’ll have access to a common kitchen, indoor toilet, wrap-around porch with rocking chairs and high-speed WiFi.

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Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississppi

Whether you’re biking the Natchez Trace Parkway or fishing, camping or kayaking in a cypress swamp not too far from it, this historical route has plenty to offer for the casual hiker to the avid outdoorsman. 
Originally used as a route by the Native Americans that first inhabited the area the Natchez Trace stretches 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee all the way down to Natchez, Mississippi.  
All one has to do is search and you’ll find numerous campgrounds, mountain bike trails, walking trails and locally owned businesses ready to take you on a canoe or kayak adventure. 
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Talladega National Forest, Alabama

From waterfalls to rocky overlooks, Talladega National Forest boasts 613 square miles of second-growth forest that was once logged to the point that it was one of the most abused and eroding wastelands in North America. Since it was purchased by the federal government in the 1930s it has returned to a thriving wilderness with an abundance of wildlife and a diverse eco-system all the way around. Talladega National Forest is also home to Alabama’s highest point– Mount Cheaha.
The activities in the Talladega National Forest abound: One has 7 different trails to choose from, camp with sanitary facilities or without, mountain biking, canoe the Lloyd Owens Canoe trail or even go off-roading at the Kentuck ORV park. 
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Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

No hiking or cycling in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp. According to who you ask Okefenokee  is either a Native American word that means “trembling earth” or is the Anglicization of the Itsate Creek Indian words oka fenoke which mean “water shaking”.

What you can do, though, is fish, camp, kayak and canoe and view the wide array of wildlife that live in the swamp-including alligators, raccoon, 200 varieties of birds, otters, flying squirrels, gopher tortoises, gophers, black bears, foxes, rabbits, bobcats, weasels, beavers, minks and hopefully one day we’ll see a reintroduction of the Florida Panther which was killed off from the swamp many years ago.

The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the United States.Within these waters live nearly 40 different species of fish including pickerel, largemouth bass, fliers, channel catfish, bullhead catfish, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, and many more. Whatever water craft you choose on your way to one of the many camping platforms for campers you will have no shortage of places to fish or types of fish to fish for. Just make sure you have a fishing license and pack out what you pack in.

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