Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Highlands, North Carolina - high in the mountains where cool mountain air and natural beauty meet Mother Nature at her finest



Meakin asked me what I wanted for my birthday last week and before I could even think, the words, “I’d like to go to where I don’t have to cook or plan meals.” popped out of my mouth. “Perhaps a romantic country inn.”  


“Any place special?” he asked. “How about driving over to Asheville to tour the Biltmore Estates and spend the night in their inn. We could “vacation like a Vanderbilt,” as their ad says, or had you rather go to Highlands?” Somehow he didn’t seem surprised when my eyes lit up at the word “Highlands.” It’s one of our very favorite places to visit and we’ve been going there since the mid-seventies when his mother owned a summer home at the Highland Falls Country Club. Later when we lived in the islands, we came to Highlands during the month of September and rented a cottage within walking distance to downtown in the Mirror Lake area to escape the peak of hurricane season and the sweltering summer temperatures of the Bahamas.


Mirror Lake

Private dock with canoe on Mirror Lake

We love living in the mountains of western North Carolina where there are many charming nearby villages located in lush forests, some with scenic river gorges, gorgeous natural waterfalls, and romantic country inns, which describes Highlands perfectly.


Cullasaja Gorge

All roads leading into Highlands are windy and steep. Here’s a photo from a scenic overlook just before we got to Franklin, NC, one of the gateway towns to Highlands. Can you see the road below? 


Mountain overlook in North Carolina


That’s Highway 64, which will eventually turn into a very narrow, two lane road (treacherous in places) that will wind its way through the Cullasaja Gorge in the lush green Nantahala National Forest from Franklin to Highlands. This is a typical day here when the mountains in the distant look blue – hence the name the Blue Ridge Mountains. 


Cullasaja Gorge

There are numerous beautiful, natural waterfalls throughout the Highlands area, but our favorite is Dry Falls, or the Upper Cullasaja Falls, on this road into town. 


Dry Falls on the Cullasaja River


It is a 65 foot high waterfall that flows over a huge overhanging bluff that allows visitors to walk under the falls without getting wet, hence its name. Here Mother Nature shows off her finest. 


Dry Falls on the Cullasaja Rier

Highlands, North Carolina is special for many reasons, but perhaps it’s best known for its elevation. Located in the Appalachian Mountains with an elevation of just over 4100 feet, it’s cool in the summer when everywhere else in the south is hot, hot, hot. In August the average high temperature during the day is 78 degrees and some nights it can dip down into the mid-fifties. I recall Meakin’s mother having a fire in her fireplace many evenings in the summer and everyone waking up to nippy weather in the morning and needing a sweater. 




Downtown is small and charming, filled with antique shops, a well-known auction house (where Meakin’s mother bought the oriental run that now graces our living room), art galleries, and plenty of jewelry stores filled with top quality knock-offs to the real stuff. 




There’s also a well stocked cookware shop, The Dry Sink that I never miss peeking into, and numerous clothing stores and upscale boutiques that carry fashionable resort wear for every taste. If you like to hike or fish, there are shops that can outfit you from head to toe. 








Several downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, including century old churches, and numerous country inns offer a variety of European style amenities while others including fireplaces in the rooms. 


Episcopal Church

Presbyterian Church
Old Edwards Inn & Spa


Old Edwards Inn & Spa


But best of all (and this is one of the reasons we came), there are some very nice restaurants. 


Wolfgang's on Main - Restaurant & Wine Bistro


For history buffs, the Cherokee Indians and Spanish explorers, such as Hernando Desoto, were some of the first to discover the area. Local legend has it that in 1875 the founders of Highlands drew one line from Chicago to Savannah and another from New Orleans to Baltimore. They thought where the two lines met (Highlands) would become a great trading center and commercial crossroads. Although not a commercial center, today Highlands is one of the most popular mountain playgrounds in the south where wealthy second homeowners and tourists continue to return to escape the summer heat and enjoy all of the resort style amenities that upscale mountain life has to offer.


Pocket Park for resting in downtown Highlands, NC


Highlands became a golfing mecca in the thirties when the golfing great Bobby Jones brought some of his well-heeled buddies up from Atlanta and founded the Highlands Country Club. Today Highlands is still a golfing paradise with numerous upscale golfing communities and courses with breathtaking views of the mountains and scenic waterfalls. The abundance of natural beauty and an ideal climate make outdoor activities very popular here, such as fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking, canoeing on the pristine lakes, and river rafting. 


Cullasaja River


We spent the night at the Highlands Inn in one of their romantic historic rooms on the second floor with a lovely balcony overlooking Main Street. I hope you’ll join me next time when I’ll show you around this charming old inn built in 1880 and take you along to two of our favorite restaurants in Highlands.

45 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! What an awesome place!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  2. First, a very happy birthday! Thank you for taking us along to such a lovely place. Your photos are wonderful. We are always on a mission as we pass through N.C. I hope someday, when we no longer have a tag-a-long dog, we will be able to stop in a place like this to "smell the roses".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Highlands Inn is a beautiful place...I know your Birthday was a special celebration!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Where do I sign up? While I was reading your post I just kept thinking, I want to go...then I came to the part where you describe the Highlands as a golfer's paradise..
    Being that my husband is a golf fanatic there may be a chance that I might be able to swing (no pun intended) a trip out to your area, wouldn't that be great! Thanks for inspiring me to see a beautiful part of the country! Happy Birthday:-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like a fine birthday treat! I've never been to Highlands, I'm sorry to say. Maybe someday soon...

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is my kind of place! Gorgeous pictures. It is a must see when I travel back to visit my friend. I can hardly wait!! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Happy Birthday! I hope it was a wonderful one. This inn is really darling, it looks like the perfect place for a birthday getaway!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Happy birthday - and what a wonderful way to celebrate it! I've visited some of that area, but clearly not as much as I would enjoy doing. Looking forward to your further Highlands adventures!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Happy Birthday Sam! Mine is tomorrow! What a beautiful place and I hope you had a wonderful birthday! A friend of ours has a house in Murphy NC the south western tip of NC. We stopped there on our way to Michigan to visit family, beautiful area. My husband usually goes there to ride his motorcycle in the mountains. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Looks like a great little get away - quaint, cool, great scenery, cool, did I say cool. I'll definitely put this in the travel folder.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've always wanted to go to Highlands, NC. I did summer stock in Flat Rock, NC and got to do a bit of visiting and never got there. You are fueling my obsession.

    ReplyDelete
  12. We were in Highlands 4 years ago. My boss and his family had been renting a home on a little river for a couple of years between Franklin and Highlands, and he rented an extra week that year and gave it to me as a bonus for working for him for almost 10 years. DH and I packed up food and gear and headed off for an adventure. Like you said, the road was narrow and treacherous in spots, but it was beautiful, peaceful and the trip is a wonderful memory for us. It was a lovely week away from the outside world. We live way down in s.e. FL so it was about a 15 hr drive or so.

    I'd say you had a lovely birthday celebration. Belated birthday greetings.

    FlowerLady

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds like a lovely getaway! I especially love the pictures of the waterfalls! Looking forward to your reviews of the meals.

    ReplyDelete
  14. No wonderyou chose this place, it is stunning Sam! Can't wait to see your next post!!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Happy Birthday- belated or early- you deserve it I am so sure! I love these kinds of get a ways!

    Hmmm...I am planning my hints a year early, lol...

    ReplyDelete
  16. What a lovely visit, Sam. Exactly the kind of town I love. The shots of the river and mountains remind me of the visits my family would make to the Pisgah National Forest when I was young. Did you ever go on "Sliding Rock?"

    ReplyDelete
  17. I so enjoyed the tour. I would love to have a summer home there. It is so beautiful and peaceful looking. Thanks for sharing your birthday adventure. Very nice.

    ReplyDelete
  18. thanks for sharing this lovely & beautiful place & the sceneries look wonderful!!

    A lot of beaitiful nature!!

    Lovely pictures that make me smile,...!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Beautiful photos! I love NC and would love to visit this area! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  20. A very happy birthday to you! Looks like you definitely celebrated in style. No doubt that this is a gorgeous and picturesque part of the country that is highly underrated. Looks like a very charming town. I really want a trip to that spa:)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sam: I have greatly enjoyed your birthday trip to Highlands, one of my favorite places! I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and miss my mountains here in the flat midwest. Your photos and words took me pleasantly back. I return every October to explore those mountains when they are decked out in their autumn finery.

    Happy belated birthday!

    Best,
    Bonnie

    ReplyDelete
  22. What a lovely spot to getaway from it all, Sam. I hope your birthday was wonderful. I'm sending belated good wishes your way. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

    ReplyDelete
  23. Happy Belated Birthday! I love the Highlands/Cashiers area too. It is a fun day trip for us. Those roads are really winding aren't they?

    We were at the Biltmore Estates last weekend....If you would have chose to go there we might have run into each other!
    Hugs,
    Penny

    ReplyDelete
  24. Happy Birthday Sam. We love Highlands too and you made a great choice to celebrate your birthday. I'm looking forward to the next installment. BTW your pancake mix is now my favorite way to make pancakes!

    ReplyDelete
  25. It looks like such a comforting and lovely place to visit. Wishing you the happiest Birthday.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow! I feel like I went on vacation with you- great pics!

    My grandmother on my mom's side raised all her kids in the mountains of NC, and my mom gave my husband and I a birthday present trip to the Biltmore Christmas Candlelight tour, plus a stay at the Grove Park Inn... sumptuous!

    I live in NY, but half my childhood was spent in NC so I always have a bit of buttermilk in my soul.

    If you wouldn't mind popping over to my blog to vote for me in a contest I'm doing, I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    MMG

    ReplyDelete
  27. I have a co-worker who each year looks forward to spending time in Highland N.C. I will definitely have to share your post with him.

    I am thinking I may have to add Highlands to my list. Looks like such a quaint and beautiful place to spend some downtime.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You have good taste; your photos are magnificient. Happy Birthday!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I love Highlands, NC so much too. We've never actually stayed overnight there, but just enjoy the scenic drive up to Highlands, the waterfalls, and the quaint shopping area in town. When you get a minute, can you email me with your recommendations for dining and lodging. Are there places to stay on Mirror Lake. This would be a great idea for next summer's escape from the heat of South Carolina!

    paige1and2(at)wildblue(dot)net

    thanks for sharing such beautiful photos too!

    Roz

    ReplyDelete
  30. Happy belated birthday! And what a great way to spend it! Gorgeous pictures! Makes me home sick for the south and I haven't even been home for a week! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  31. You drove right by my mom and dad's place! (Just off of 64 on Wayah Bald)

    Looks like you had a fun visit.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks for sharing your birthday with us! I lived in Virginia a few years back and we visited Mount Airy. I still wish we lived near the blue ridge parkway...it was a beautiful place to be.

    Glad to hear that you really enjoyed yourself. I'll have to see if I can get my hubby to travel south next summer. He's from out west, grew up in the south and hates the heat, but if I tell him about the Highlands he might reconsider!

    jessyburke88@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  33. Happy Birhtday to you, Sam! And thank you for taking us along your trip. The view is super gorgeous and the photos are stunning. Wish I was there too. hehe... Yeah, nothing is impossible! Right? Hope you're having a fabulous time. Have lots of food & fun.
    Blessings, kristy

    ReplyDelete
  34. Way to make me jealous. I've been wanting to get away and take a break. Looks like a beautiful place and a great time. Thanks.

    Plan B

    ReplyDelete
  35. one day I will get to North Carolina Sam....such magnificent scenery. I hope you had a wonderful birthday and I wish you much happiness in the coming year...xv

    ReplyDelete
  36. I love love love The Highlands. We have stayed there a few times with another couple that goes every year. We shop while our husbands play golf and then eat good food and go to the play. We haven't been the last few years, but your pictures reminded me of fun times. We live only 1 1/2 hours away in Ga. I found you through Penny's comments. I would love to go to that brunch, but not sure I can since that is so close to my daughter's due date. I am originally from Greensboro, NC.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Sam, I am charmed! I love the Carolinas and Highlands looks absolutely lovely. I'm going to save this post. I sure hope I can convince my family to share a holiday like this soon.

    Happy Birthday, Sam, and thank you for including us!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Happy belated birthday my fellow Leo! This looks like a stunning location. I like the different types of water sources: a placid lake, the waterfalls, and streams. This looks like a wonderful place to celebrate.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Sam,

    Happy Belated Birthday. Gorgeous photos of some amazing landscapes.

    Be well

    ReplyDelete
  40. Happy belated Birthday Sam, these pictures look wonderful, Im happy you had wonderful time!huggs gloria

    ReplyDelete
  41. Sam, we love NC and the mountains. Asheville and the Biltmore Estates is a splendid place. When we visit NC again, we will definitely spend more time in Highland. Beautiful mountains!

    ReplyDelete
  42. What gorgeous photos! I feel like I was there too - it brought back so many great memories of Summer vacation in the mountains of North Carolina when I was a kid. Isn't the weather just perfect? Glad you had a fabulous time - thanks for sharing you trip:)

    ReplyDelete
  43. Oh Sam! What a beautiful place, and the pictures are so pretty, really enjoyed them very much, what a lovely way to celebrate birthday...happy belated birthday!

    ReplyDelete
  44. AH OH! Now the secret is out! Highlands is truly a gem but hardly a secret anymore. I adore the shops, the people and the great restaurants! Cashiers and Highlands are truly my nirvana. I am writing this from hot and muggy Florida. Thank you for your lovely blog and photos and for making my day a little bit cooler.

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy reading each and every comment. If you leave a comment with a question or that requires an answer, please leave an address or way for me to get in touch with you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam