Affordable Spring Break getaways on a tank of gas

4:50 PM, Apr 3, 2011   |    comments
  • Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort, SC. (Courtesy Flickr:khawkins04)
  • The tunnel at Stumphouse Tunnel Park near Wallhala, SC. (Courtesy OcconeeCountry.com)
  • The supsension bridge at Tallulah Gorge State Park near Clayton, GA. (Courtesy Georgia Department of Natural Resources)
  • Even the family dog is welcome on the beach in Cape San Blas, FL. (Courtesy CapeSanBlas.com)
  • An aerial view of Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach, FL (Courtesy Amelia Island Tourist Development Council)
    
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Affordable Spring Break


View Spring Break ATL: One Tank Trips in a larger map

ATLANTA -- A tank of gas isn't cheap these days, but getting away for Spring Break can be priceless. If you thought it would be too expensive to skip town this year, we've got a handful of budget and family friendly trips off the beaten path that you can take on a tank of gas.

CLAYTON, GA

Take it easy in the great outdoors, right in our backyard. This North Georgia mountain town is a stone's throw away from the Carolinas, in Rabun County. "You could go over to Lake Burton or Lake Rabun and rent a pontoon, hike the Appalachian Trail, hike Tallulah Gorge," said Leah Coker with Explorations Travel in Vinings, Ga. There's a $5 parking fee for Tallulah Gorge State Park. Once inside, you can stare down nearly 1,000 feet from the park's suspension bridge or hike all the way to the gorge floor with one of 100 limited daily free passes.

If you've got a little extra wiggle room in your budget, Coker recommends horseback riding at the Dillard House Stables, where a 30-minute ride along the river costs $25 and the minimum riding age is 6.

Clayton is 108 miles away from Atlanta. That's about a 2 hour drive without traffic.  

WALLHALA, SC

This German town nestled in South Carolina's Upcountry may remind you of Helen, Ga. with its little shops and cafes, but Dawn House, director of public relations for South Carolina Tourism, says the Wallhala area makes a great base for outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing and, in warmer weather, whitewater rafting.

It's a short drive away from dozens of waterfalls and hiking trails. One of the more unusual is Stumphouse Tunnel Park, which was supposed to connect Charleston to Knoxville before the Civil War. Visitors can see how far early engineers got and hike to the nearby Issaqueena Falls for free. 

Walhalla is 120 miles from Atlanta, and just over 2 hours away in a world without traffic. 

BEAUFORT, SC

This Lowcountry cousin of Charleston and Hilton Head is ideal for beach bums and history buffs. Like Charleston, Beaufort was a key port city in colonial times and played roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. "It has a phenomenal history all of its own and has put a great deal into its preservation," said South Carolina Tourism's Dawn House. 

It's close to several beaches, including the Palmetto State's most popular state park. Hunting Island State Park sits right on the Atlantic and houses the only lighthouse in the state that's open 7 days a week. Visitors can climb up for $2 on top of the park's $5 admission for adults and $3 admission for kids over age 5. Kids age 5 and under are free. 

Beaufort is 289 miles from Atlanta. That's just under a 5 hour drive with no stops or delays.

FERNANDINA BEACH, FL

With a Ritz-Carlton right on the beach, Amelia Island can be pretty pricey, but Leah Coker with Explorations Travel says it doesn't have to be. She recommends Fernandina Beach, which is rich in history. It's changed hands so many times, eight different flags have flown over it, including the Confederate flag. 

Fort Clinch hosts Civil War reenactments the first weekend of every month, in this case, the first weekend of Spring Break. Regular admission is $6 per car for up to eight people, but it's $2 extra per person for First Weekend Union Garrison activities. The park also offers campfire talks and guided nature walks.

If you'd rather lounge than learn, you've got more than 13 miles of beach within your reach.

Fernandina Beach is 324 miles from Atlanta. That's under 6 hours without slowing or stopping.

CAPE SAN BLAS, FL

This may be "the pet friendliest beach in Florida," according to Coker. "So the whole family can go." You may be tempted to just stay on the sand, shelling or soaking up the sun, but you can also hop over to nearby Port St. Joe for a variety of restaurants and shops.

Animals lovers won't want to miss St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, home to several endangered and threatened species like leatherback sea turtles, red wolves and bald eagles. The refuge is only accessible by boat. Alternately, you can birdwatch or hit the beach at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Admission is $6 per car, for up to eight people.

Cape San Blas is 330 miles from Atlanta. In a perfect world, that's about 6.5 hours away.

All of these destinations have camping sites nearby (some even close to the beach) and hotels that cost less than $100 per night within a few miles' drive.

PHOTOS: Spring break coast-to-coast

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