I absolutely love Highlands, NC! At over 4,000 feet in elevation, it is the second highest town on the East Coast, and it is simply a wonderful little town. If you’ve ever visited Gatlinburg, Tn, we always say Highlands is everything Gatlinburg should be…without all the Tshirt shops and commercializations. It is simply beautiful, and if you’ve never been, I encourage you to make a trip! It is a definite favorite for me and my husband, as we spent our first and second honeymoons here, and due to the cooler temperature year-round, we come here at least 4-6 times a year, if not a good many more.
It’s not a big city. It’s a quaint little mountain town with a little bit of “high society” living. They’ve got wonderful accommodations, restaurants and shops. One of my favorites is The Old Edwards Inn; the character of this place is incredible. They have a library, in which, you can actually find a book to sit and enjoy, high vaulted ceilings and even a hidden butler pantry where the staff may come to serve the guests. Their restaurant, Madison’s, has some of the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever put in my mouth…and being a Southern girl, that’s quite a bit! They have inside seating, a wine garden with outside seating, and even a rooftop terrace where you can choose to have your meal. Now just imagine: a lovely rooftop terrace, with beautiful shutters, table settings and cushioned seating, overlooking the little town, and a gentle summer breeze blowing in the “heat” of summer with ceiling fans gently rolling. The temperature gauge rising no more than about 70-72 degrees, because you’re at such a high elevation! The waiter brings you a pleasant cheese and cracker tray for an appetizer, “just right” sweet Southern tea, mini biscuits and cornbread made fresh daily, and your meal consists of fish and chips and the best shrimp and grits you’ve ever tasted. They even serve the shrimp and grits in a mini iron crock; so, they stay warm throughout the duration of the meal. It is a fine Southern meal to remember! 😉
For dessert, you’ll want to walk down the street to Kilwin’s, where you can choose homemade fudge and chocolates, or you can choose from a mass variety of Mayfield ice cream. The pralines and chocolate dipped Nutter Butters, PB cups and Oreos are some of my family’s faves; however, my personal favorite is the turtle caramel apple! They take a Granny Smith Apple, dip it in caramel, roll it in pecans and, then, drizzle it with chocolate, and they will slice it right there for you; so, you don’t have to try to bite into that monstrosity! It is divine!! If you’d like a wonderful cup of coffee with your dessert, you can also find it there; however, I prefer a cup of Buck’s Coffee, preferably a cup of white chocolate mocha, just across the street. Outside Kilwin’s is a brick patio with lots of umbrella tables and chairs where you can enjoy your coffee and yummy desserts, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, often times, they will have a live bluegrass, country (or other Southern genre) band playing. It’s simply a delightful ending for a great day.
These things have just got to be in heaven!
Now, if you’d like to work off some of those delicious calories you’ve added to your waistline during your stay, they have a ton of shops for you to find any number of items, and they have a numerous amount of hikes for you to explore. You can stop by the Highland Hiker and pick up a local booklet of all the Day Hikes Of Highlands, and explore till your heart is content. You can check the local weather and head out for a delightful, cool climat-ed, adventure.
We, personally, love Dry Falls, Glenn Falls, Sunset Rock and Whiteside Mountain. Dry Falls had recently had a remodeling of the parking lot and walkway, and it’s an incredibly easy walk to a beautiful waterfall which you can walk behind. When it has had a lot of recent waterfall, the roar can be so loud that you can barely hear each other talk while standing behind it. Glenn Falls is a little bit longer of a hiker but definitely an easy one. Many people who go to this one say they’ve always ended up at the bottom of the falls, but haven’t ever been to the top. Upon starting out, there is a sign to the falls on the left, and to another location on the right. Choose the left; then, a little bit further down the trail, there is a fork in the road where you must choose the right side path in order to get to the top of the falls. The left path takes you to the bottom. We always choose the top of the falls, because we like to put out feet in the water, but please, please be careful here! There are no boundaries once you cross over the overlook area. You can get as close to the edge as you’d like, and if you have adventurous boys like mine, your mother’s heart can very easily suffer about three heart attacks during your enjoyment of the view and the cool waters!!
If you are visiting the area with your significant other, Sunset Rock is a must! You drive to it, and walk just a tiny path that opens up to an incredible sheer-faced rock that overlooks the town of Highlands. The view from here at sunset definitely earns its name! If you’d prefer to just drive to the many water falls, you can pick up a map, head out and literally drive under Bridal Falls and drive around to see many others. Just beware of the very curvy, and often, very narrow highway you must travel to see these. You might want to have a designated driver who doesn’t want to sightsee and drive! Haha.
If you’d prefer a bit longer hike, Whiteside Mountain is a great choice. We hiked here during our honeymoon week and saw our first Peregrine Falcon face to face. The little snapshot camera I had (these were the days before iPhones and digitals!) didn’t really do it justice, but he was about 3-4 feet from us and just seemed to sit there and simile for the camera. The hike is pleasant, and the views are simply breathtaking!
If you are on the East Coast and have never been to Highlands, it is well worth the trip!! It is a beautiful town that is surrounded with breathtaking sights, and the weather, especially in the summertime, is a very welcome delight! If shopping, hiking and sightseeing is your kind of thing, this is definitely a must-see!