On the shores of Lake Blackshear.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Georgia Veterans State Park can simplify your vacation planning. One stop and you can relax, feast, learn more about the region and history, and even explore Southwest Georgia—all without getting back in your car.
At Georgia Veterans State Park, life seems simpler. As nature fades into focus, distractions like cell phones are easier to ignore.
One of Georgia’s most popular state parks, it was established as a memorial to U.S. veterans. So while here you can delve into military history at the museum where exhibits of uniforms, weapons, medals and more range from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. There’s also an outdoor display of a tank and aircraft (including a Boeing B-29A), a memorial and fountain.
You can also seize some R&R by playing at the 18-hole championship golf course; boating, swimming or waterskiing in the 8,700-acre Lake Blackshear or resting on its sandy beach; fishing or bird watching; playing disc golf or flying a model airplane; hiking three miles of trails; or pedaling a rented bicycle.
Don’t miss out on the chance to ride the SAM Shortline Excursion Train, which offers day trips from the park to Leslie, Americus and Plains, Ga. Itineraries vary, but whichever trip you select promises views of pecan groves, peanut fields, small rural towns, and picturesque countryside while rolling from town to town in climate-controlled 1949 vintage train cars. (SAM references the historic route that once ran from Savannah, Ga., to Americus, Ga., to Montgomery, Ala.)
Each quaint town where the train stops is filled with interesting things to explore—the time allotted for each stop seems to fly by—but on our recent trip we especially enjoyed the Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie and President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains.
The Rural Telephone Museum, housed in a renovated 1920s cotton warehouse, boasts the largest collection of telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. Included in the display are some of the rarest examples of telecommunications in the world dating from 1876 to the present. There’s a liquid transmitter (circa 1876), a 50-line switchboard (circa 1882), one of the first operator headsets (circa 1880), early pay phones including the rare silver dollar pay station, the first communication satellite, and much more. This place is larger and more fascinating that you might dare imagine, especially considering it’s in a tiny town few have probably heard of before.
Plains is home of 39th President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter. Strolling a short distance from the train depot you can explore one of the gardens along Mrs. Rosalynn Carter’s butterfly trail; step into a general store and buy some fried peanuts, soft-serve peanut ice cream and other tasty treats; stick your head through a painted peanut and pose for a photo; plus shop for political buttons and other antiques at various boutique stores. Then board the train for the return trip.
For dinner back at Georgia Veterans State Park, it would be hard to beat Cordelia’s at the Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club, where the environment is relaxed and the food is an upscale fusion of Italian and Southern cuisine. Attentive, friendly servers and spectacular lake views add to the dining occasion.
Stay overnight in a tent or cottage, or at the Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club, a privately operated conference center with a variety of comfortable guestrooms, all with lakeside views.
As the sun seems to set into the lake and red streaks the evening sky, two thoughts linger: the beauty of the setting and a desire to return.
Odds of Encountering Children: Generally quite high, but it varies based on time of year and day of week. For the best odds, visit during the week when school is in session. We saw only one school-aged child during our visit. Most folks we met were retirees or working adults on vacation.
Georgia Veterans State Park
2459 US HWY 280 W
Cordele GA 31015
Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club
800.459.1230 or 229.276.1004
- 14 guest rooms within the Lodge, 64 private Villas and 10 Lakeside Cabins, all offer lake views
- Rustic décor
- High-speed Internet—each guestroom offers two work stations
- Cable television
- Refrigerators in guestrooms
- Complimentary coffee service
- Complimentary newspapers available
- Dine on-site at Cordelia’s Restaurant, Cypress Grill and Eighty-Eights lakeside bar
- Fitness center
- Indoor and outdoor pools
- Pet-friendly; no charge for the first pet, $25 for two or more
Tickets are sold in three classes: coach, premium (Americus car; beverage and snack included) and VIP (Colonel Samuel Hawkins car; beverage and lunch included). All train cars are climate controlled and offer access to the concessions car.
Georgia Rural Telephone Museum
135 North Bailey Ave.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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