Mike and Donna Holder were living comfortable, easy lives in scenic Kennesaw, GA, when they decided to take a very big chance. After noticing an ad in the newspaper, the couple bought 1,200 forgotten and overgrown acres in rural Banning Mills, GA, at the site of a former textile and paper mill village.
Over the next several years the couple and their kids cleared brush, made repairs, and eventually built a country inn and adventure center with an expansive eco tour zipline course. Then, on Thanksgiving night 2006, much of it burned to the ground. While they were tempted to just leave it all behind them after such a devastating loss, the Holders decided instead to rebuild. Today they oversee Historic Banning Mills, which boasts the world’s tallest climbing wall (140 feet) and, at 41,000 linear feet, the world’s longest continuous zipline course, where visitors can reach speeds of up to 60 mph as they cruise through dense hardwood forest and over the beautiful Snake River Gorge.
In fact, your feet rarely have to touch the ground at Banning Mills, with more than 50 sky bridges — including one that’s 600-feet-long. And you can really tap into your inner Tarzan with the new tree house lodging. Opening this month, these 2-person suites — accessible by rope bridge — are made of heart pine logs, and feature a king bed, jetted tub, bathroom, mini fridge and back deck with panoramic forest views.
When you’re ready to return to earth, there’s a new 7-mile network of mountain biking/hiking trails that wind along old town roads and across bridges. And Georgia Trail Outfitters offers 7-mike kayak trips down the roaring Class IV Chattahoochee River, as well as the more serene Flint and Cartecay Rivers. Banning Mills also offers a swimming pool (in season), putt-putt golf course, and tennis/basketball courts. In-between adventures, indulge in a relaxing massage at the day spa, and refuel at the main lodge, which serves a big country breakfast and a variety of lunch and dinner items, including picnic-style baskets and romantic candlelit dinners on the terrace that overlooks the Snake Creek Gorge.
- Sam Boykin