With all the wonders that nature has to offer at Callaway Gardens, a 13,000-acre nature preserve located just two hours south of Atlanta, spring puts on one heck of a show. Imagine more than 20,000 azaleas climbing as high as 15 feet and blooming in bright pinks, reds and whites, all lining gardens and nature trails. The whites and pinks of 15-foot tall rhododendrons along the Garden’s lakeside trails create even more colorful paths. The vibrant collection is accented with the blooms of daffodils, daisies, mountain laurel and dogwoods and is such an explosion of color and fragrance, it’s no wonder Callaway Gardens rejoices in the five-week season with its Spring Celebration.
Callaway Gardens offers a wide selection of homes-away-from-homes to its visitors, from cottage rentals to villas to the original Mountain Inn and its Lodge and Spa Prinifolia, located at the estate’s north end. The 150-room lodge blends into its rustic background with olive green wood shingles, stone, and peaked wooden roofs, and caters to guests who want to enjoy the spoils of nature and be spoiled in the process.
Stepping inside, the understated décor is filled with warm colors of mustard, brick and olive blended with new chocolate-colored furniture in oversized pieces one would expect to find in an antique store down the street. Rustic touches such as brushed metals in bronze and copper blend perfectly into the environment providing a comforting atmosphere. Tiffany-style lamps are scattered throughout the hallways, and a stone fireplace in the lobby keeps the chill away while providing a host of chairs so comfortable that guests will sink right into them. Each room, with double, Queen or King beds covered in down and crisp white linens in high thread counts, provides a private balcony with wooded views. Set atop furniture pieces are modern day technology’s latest and greatest, including flatscreen televisions and CD/MP3 players. The inn’s exquisite craftsmanship is revealed in the room’s details like heavy wooden doors with frosted glass panels, polished granite countertops and garden tubs.
While visitors never have to venture far from the luxury of the spa and lodge to feel relaxed and rejuvenated, Callaway Gardens’ attractions should not be missed, especially in the spring when the azaleas are blooming to life. This nature preserve has offered a quiet reprieve from city life since 1952, when the Callaway Family created a retreat that would offer solace, inspiration and discovery. During its annual Spring Celebration, the resort comes alive with natural wonders and a variety of events for every member of the family, such as guided hikes, live music, story hours, rock climbing, fly-fishing events, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, beach games and special Easter fun like its “Egg”-stravaganza.
If a spring chill remains in the air, indoor gardens at the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center provide a flora-and-fauna-filled conservatory that smells as sweet as the magnolias blooming outside its doors. The greenhouse and outdoor gardens total five acres and include native and exotic plants in rock gar- den and tropical settings. No matter the season, the Center always has something in bloom.
Also under a glass roof is Callaway’s signature Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center. Forty-two-foot high ceilings in the glass-paneled, octagonal-shaped conservatory house more than 100 different species of butterflies from around the world, while outside gardens attract 75 native species when the weather warms. Tropical air, lush greens and a cascading waterfall make a perfect playground for the flittering wings of colorful butterflies, as well as the tropical birds who also reside under the Center’s roof.
And of course, there is golf on Callaway’s top-rated courses, including the Mountain View Golf Course, which was home to the PGA Buick Challenge for more than a decade. This famed course has undergone extensive renovations with new cart paths and sand bunkers and 7,057 yards of championship tees. Other tee-time options include the also-renovated Lake View Course, the resort’s original course, and the Sky View Course, a quick nine-hole course when there just isn’t enough time in a day for a full round.
One thing is for certain, guests won’t go hungry at Callaway, where multiple restaurants are available to satisfy any appetite with themes like the Gardens Restaurant with a porch overlooking the Mountain Creek Lake, Callaway Country Kitchen’s down-home cooking and neighboring country store, and the ’50s-inspired Rockin’ Robins Malt Shop & Pizzeria complete with vinyl-covered booth and counter seats, jukebox and cartoon character rides for the kids. Back at the Lodge, it’s the Piedmont Dining Room that serves up succulent steak and seafood and a delicious breakfast buffet (try the cinnamon-swirled French Toast).
For those who require a little shopping to soothe the senses, the resort provides gift shops selling hand-carved birdhouses, sculpted garden displays like butterfly-shaped benches and wind chimes, as well as pro shops for golf, tennis and fishing. Or, head down the street to the small town of Pine Mountain, which features a quaint main street shopping area with antique stores, whimsical boutiques, fall-off-the-bone barbecue restaurants and coffee and ice cream treats at the Purple Cow Café.
Whether looking for a place to hideaway for Spring Break or in need of a stress-free weekend getaway, the resort never feels crowded and provides guests quiet solace.
My original article appeared in the now defunct Points North magazine.