The South's Best Tiny Towns 2023

Downtown Dahlonega, GA
Photo: Courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development/Ralph Daniel

For this year’s South’s Best reader poll we gave small towns their due. While there’s plenty to love about our big Southern cities—Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and the likes—there’s something undeniably special about a small town. Those places where it’s easy to strike up a conversation, where you don’t need your GPS because everyone is more than happy to give directions, and where you’ll start to feel at home mere minutes after you arrive. In many ways, the South is built around small towns – close-knit communities where everyone knows your name and everyone knows everyone’s business (for better or worse!). 

While we asked our readers all about their favorite small towns, we began noticing a trend. Some of the towns they mentioned were really—and we mean really—tiny. We’re talking fewer than 2,000 people tiny, which coincidentally is smaller than the population of my high school. Here we take some time to spotlight the South’s Best Tiny Towns, those one-stoplight wonders across our region that fewer than 10,000 folks call home. 

Georgetown, South Carolina

620 Prince Boutique Hotel in Georgetown SC
Peter Frank Edwards

Population: 8,333

South Carolina’s Hammock Coast is known for its rich history, generous hospitality, and natural Lowcountry beauty. Georgetown has plenty of all three. Visit the Gullah Museum, take a guided tour of the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center, or take a dining tour of downtown. You’ll have plenty to write home about no matter what you get into. 

Abingdon, Virginia

Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Population: 8,321

Southwest Virginia doesn’t always get the most attention, but there are more than a few reasons to add Abingdon to your small town bucket list. Here are just a few: You can book a room in the storied Martha Washington Inn & Spa; you can take a bike tour of the colorful Virginia Creeper Trail in autumn; and you can see a show at the historic Barter Theater in Abingdon’s charming downtown.

Dahlonega, Georgia

Downtown Dahlonega, GA
Courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development/Ralph Daniel

Population: 6,654

This tiny North Georgia town could have been plucked straight from the set of a Hallmark movie. The location for Georgia’s gold rush is now known for two things: wineries and waterfalls. While you’ll have to venture away from the charming town square for both, the rolling vineyards and spectacular cascades that await are more than worth the distance.

Sanibel, Florida

Woman walking dog down boardwalk to the beach on Sanibel Island, FL
Cedric Angeles; Styling Celine Russell/Zenobia; Model: Hoda/Wilhelmina; Cover-up: Echo New York; Hat: Mar Y Sol; Bag: Kayu; Sunglasses: J.crew; Location: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Sanibel Island, Florida; Dog: Allie Donlan

Population: 6,461

Just south of bustling Fort Myers, Sanibel is the quintessential quiet beach town. Every year, folks flock to its 12-mile shoreline to search for shells in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Explore the undisturbed mangrove ecosystem at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, have a sunset picnic at Lighthouse Beach Park, and exhale.

Jonesborough, Tennessee

Main Street, Jonesborough, TN

Courtesy Jonesborough Tourism Department

Population: 5,954

Storytelling is an essential part of the Southern experience and no place celebrates the ancient art like Jonesborough. The northeast Tennessee community is home to the International Storytelling Center, a performing arts center and museum dedicated to oral narration. Find your own stories by perusing the many local downtown shops including Mill Springs Makers Market for locally made goods and The Lollipop Shop for old-school candy. 

Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Courtesy of McCurtain County Tourism Authority

Population: 4,244

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the bounty of adventure that this nature lover’s paradise provides. The crown jewel of Broken Bow’s many outdoor attractions is Beavers Bend State Park, where you can fish for trout, boat on a 14,000-acre lake, and hike to your heart’s content. 

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Walkways of East TN Mountain Trails in Gatlinburg, TN
Donna Derrick/Getty Images

Population: 3,726

Between resorts, amusement parks, moonshine tastings, a huge range of Southern-certified dining, and the splendor of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you may be surprised to learn that Gatlinburg is actually home to fewer than 4,000 folks. For the best mountain vistas, head to the iconic SkyLift and walk across the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America. 

Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague Island Village
Robbie Caponetto

Population: 3,306

The Atlantic Ocean stretches into an endless expanse from the shores of Chincoteague. Head to the coastal town to see the area’s famed wild horses, then pad your days with leisurely hikes, excellent fishing, prolonged sunset walks, and some of the best oyster dinners you can find anywhere. 

Port Aransas, Texas

Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas, TX
Cedric Angeles

Population: 3,105

The community of Port Aransas is small but mighty. Despite heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the coastal town has kept its chin up and continued to bring in thousands of visitors each year. Tourists come for the top-notch fishing and 18 miles of beaches. They stay for the laidback “salt life” vibes that are evident in everything from Port Aransas’s divey beach bars to its lively arts district.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Lighthouse Tybee Island
Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Population: 3,091

One of Georgia’s most beloved beach towns, Tybee Island is lauded for its bikeability, expansive sandy shoreline, and fresh seafood. Part of the destination’s appeal is its wild, untouched nature preserves where you can go birding or paddle winding waterways. Don’t leave without snapping a photo at the Tyblee Island Light Station and Museum, the state’s oldest and tallest lighthouse. 

Wimberley, Texas

The small shops at Wimberley Square
Roberto Galan/Getty Images

Population: 2,887

Texas Hill Country is known for its wellspring of charming tiny towns, and Wimberley is one of its shining stars. Spring and summer are ideal times to visit, as you can catch the town’s multitudinous wildflowers in full bloom and chart your course for cool dips in dozens of local swimming holes. 

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Town street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas during autumn season with beautiful fall foliage
Getty Images

Population: 2,171

Resort towns have been around for longer than you may think, and this northwest Arkansas destination has the fans to prove it. Folks first started coming to Eureka Springs for its natural hot springs in the 19th century, and its visitors have only increased since. Now, in addition to seeking out the spring at Basin Spring Park, you can visit the famous Thorncrown Chapel, also known as the “Glass Church,” which rises 48-feet into the Ozark sky and utlizes 6,000 square feet of glass.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach, South Carolina
Facebook/Visit Folly

Population: 2,056

Escape the pomp and circumstance surrounding Charleston and head to its neighboring beach town of Folly Beach. With just over 2,000 residents, Folly Beach is the kind of place where the only footwear required is flip-flops and the only rule is to have a good time. A Tiki drink from one of many beachside bars can certainly help with that, as can the view from the iconic 1,000-plus-foot Folly Beach Pier, which is set to reopen this spring after extensive renovations. 

St. Francisville, Louisiana

St. Francisville Louisiana
Town of St. Francisville

Population: 1,579

With influence from France, Spain, and England–each of which once laid claim to this river hamlet just south of Baton Rouge – St. Francisville is a melting pot of cultures and history dating back to the early 1800s. If you go, be sure to check out the record-breaking bald cypress tree at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. Try the crawfish dip at Magnolia Cafe, and marvel in the beauty of 20-acre Afton Villa Gardens.  

Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Tourism

Population: 1,494

Nestled in the lower Shenandoah Valley about 90 minutes west of Baltimore, Shepherdstown is blessed by natural beauty from the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and meandering Potomac River. It’s also rich with more than 250 years of history. Stroll along German Street to marvel at centuries-old Victorian structures and pop into specialty shops. Then head to the Bavarian Inn, a historic inn, brewpub, and outdoor beer garden, where you can grab a pint and a bite to eat.  

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Prime Time on the Blue Ridge
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Population: 1,397

For panoramic views of dense forests, snowy peaks, and a vast gorge, Blowing Rock is your spot. Folks come for this High Country mountain town’s gorgeous fall color and scenic beauty, then stay for the class of talented and friendly business owners who bless the town with lovely art and delicious food.

Middleburg, Virginia

Middleburg, Virginia
JSatterthwaite/Getty Images

Population: 669

Known as the Horse and Hunt Capital of America, Middleburg has made a name for itself as one of the preeminent places to watch equestrian events. When you’re not at the stables, take a scenic drive along the town’s winding roads. You’ll pass acre after acre of rolling countryside dotted with more than 30 vineyards. When you’re ready for a break, pop into one and indulge in a wine tasting. 

Leipers Fork, Tennessee

Leipers Fork


Population: 650

About an hour south of Nashville’s honky-tonk hustle and bustle, you’ll find Leipers Fork. The Volunteer State community is centered around one main drag (with one stoplight!), which means it’s easy to spend a weekend getting to know the delightful galleries, shops, and restaurants that make it so great. The surrounding scenery of green pastures, horse farms, and country roads isn’t half-bad either. 

Helen, Georgia

Helen, Georgia
Robbie Caponetto

Population: 545

For a town of fewer than 600, Helen attracts a mighty number of visitors. In fact, it’s the third most-visited destination in the Peach State. The Bavarian town is packed with European flair and character at every turn. Just ask the cross-gabled cottages, giant schnitzels, and ridiculously involved Oktoberfest celebrations.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

harpers ferry, west virginia
Molly Wolff Photography

Population: 269

Part National Historical Park and part tiny town, Harpers Ferry is a national treasure just waiting to be explored. Here, you’ll find gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and a quaint main street that’s equal parts charming local businesses and historic place museums. At just an hour and a half northwest of DC, day trippers love to explore the rich history and natural beauty of this West Virginia gem. 

Round Top, Texas

Shopping Round Top, Texas
Wynn Myers

Population: 93

And we have a winner! With fewer than 100 residents, Round Top is officially our tiniest tiny town. Known as the Antiquing Capital of the South, thanks to the yearly Round Top Antiques Fair, this postage stamp-sized community has more than its fair share of stylish shops, chic boutique hotels, and colorful surprises at every turn. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles