In Rutledge, Ga., locals use a four way barrel stop to give directions. When I reached the steel barrel painted red with four stop signs affixed to it, I knew I’d arrived in this delightful historic town just three miles off Georgia I-20, on the way to Hard Labor Creek State Park.
7 Reasons to Stop in this Delightful Town
I love historic small towns. Most people pass through Rutledge, Georgia on their way to Hard Labor Creek State Park, but this little town is worth a stop all by itself. Here’s why.
Hard Labor Creek State Park. My father thought this sounded more like a prison than a state park. Don’t let the name fool you; this is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks for a reason. The hard labor creek golf course is known for it’s challenging layout, and reasonable pricing. I’m more comfortable on the 18-hole, recently renovated, mini-golf course.
There is swimming, fishing, canoe and kayaking on one of two lakes on property. It’s also home to the Hard Labor Creek Observatory. Many of the cabins at the park are re-opening after a full-scale renovation, and campsites are getting a face-lift too. But why the funny name? The slaves who worked the rocky soil planting cotton named it.
Railroad History. In the mid-1800’s Rutledge Ga. was a popular railroad town. Folks used to stop on their way from Atlanta to Augusta. The only train car in town now is The Caboose restaurant. Now folks come by car, hence the need for the barrel. The train station is still there, informing travelers that it is 58.6 miles to Atlanta, and 112.2 miles to Augusta.
The Caboose Restaurant. You can’t miss the bright red Caboose Train located in the heart of downtown, right at the barrel stop. The menu is modern, with a traditional southern flair.
The homemade soup is owner Ed Hogan’s recipe. His wife Mollie likes to experiment with the menu. I was told a tofu dish is in the works.
The Hogan’s make the hamburgers with local, natural beef from nearby Verner Farms. Friends recommend topping your patty with some homemade pimento cheese and jelly for a southern twist on the classic American favorite.
The Amtrak sandwich (smoked turkey, bacon and provolone cheese) is popular with locals, as are the Blondie treats, but it was the 7 UP cake that took me back to my childhood. Cool off with Mayfield ice cream, or shaved ice, or stay warm with homemade soup.
Rutledge Hardware. Rutledge Hardware, a museum that sells plumbing. I’m a sucker for old things, and Rutledge Hardware has a lot of them, but those items aren’t for sale.
Owner Paul Smith says his best sellers are plants and plumbing. Since I wasn’t really in the market for either, Paul was kind enough to give me a little tour of the store. “What is this?” I asked over and over. A peanut warmer. A roller to hold screen. An umbrella and walking stick showcase.
What’s the oldest item in the store? Probably a letter from the 1800’s, but Paul has also found parts for buggies. He showed me a ledger from the 1940’s, including the entries for his father. I could have snooped all day in that store. In the end I purchased some locally made honey and made myself a promise I could spend more time another day.
Yesterday Café. Unfortunately this was closed by the time I was exploring downtown Rutledge, Ga., but I’ve had their famous buttermilk pie before, and even if you aren’t interested in the hand-pattied burgers or the salad with homemade croutons and dressings, it’s worth it to stop in for the buttermilk pie alone. Well, maybe that and the cool building. It was built in 1893 and was the town’s general store.
Summer Concert Series. June through September, locals head downtown to meet the neighbors during the Friday night summer concert series. Call ahead to Yesterday’s or The Caboose for dinner. This is a popular event and you’ll want a local picnic to go along with the music. Bring the kids too. The park has swings and old fashion see-saws.
Eastlings Downtown. This family owned and operated healthy grocery market is also an artist’s studio. It seems strange in such a small town to have an organic grocery, but what I liked most about this place was the artist studio.
The owner David’s four girls each have their own talent, which is displayed and sold at the store. Pottery, painting, handmade clothing, and lots of other unique items. The entire family help run the store. The day I visited, the girls were hanging out up front, because in addition to being an organic market and artist studio, Eastlings is also a coffee house.
More Fun Near Rutledge, Ga.
Southern Cross Guest Ranch – This is not your normal nose-to-tail trail rides. Learn how to care for your horse too. Just thinking about it makes me want to make a return trip.
Durhamtown Off Road Resort – This place is about 45 minutes away from Rutledge, but worth it! My boys LOVE Durhamtown Off Road Resort. We’ve only ridden the ATV’s, but they have motorcycle tracks, hunting, and a whole lot more.