Highlands is a cozy, small North Carolina town located just about two hours north of Atlanta in Macon County. It has a population of about 3,000 year-round residents. Highlands sits on a plateau in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Whether you’re looking for a weekend trip or a long-term stay, this mountain getaway is perfect for those who love hiking trails and scenic drives. Plus, the town boasts the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies.
What to Do
Trails: There are a number of trails for nature lovers and lots of unique hiking experiences. Check out the Highlands Botanical Gardens for a relaxing stroll through the many gardens, or plan a day at Cliffside Lake. It’s a seven-mile round trip trail for those looking to get a good workout in. Enjoy a late afternoon walk at Sunset Rock and watch the sky turn with a beautiful view from atop the granite rocks.
Waterfalls: Highlands has many beautiful waterfalls for visitors to enjoy, including the “East’s King of Waterfalls,” Whitewater Falls, which cascades down 400-plus feet. Sliding Rock is designated as a natural waterslide, and visitors are able to slide down the rocks into the pool below. Thrill-seekers will enjoy Bust Your Butt Falls, a popular swimming hole where you can jump off a boulder into the Cullasaja River.
Mountain Adventures: During the winter months, visitors can enjoy ice-skating, sledding, snowboarding, and skiing in the town. There’s also year-round tubing. Zip lining, tennis, and golf are fun activities during the summer. Mountain fly fishing is also a popular activity on the many rivers in the area, including the Nantahala and Cullasaja.
What to Eat
Home to six Wine Spectator restaurants, you’re sure to find some “must eats” in Highlands. Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden provides flatbreads, sandwiches, and more with sustainable meal items. Relax with a glass outside and take in the beautiful views. Calders Coffee Cafe is a veteran-owned company and rumored to be the best coffee in town. Stop by and grab a cup to start off your morning. Or make a pit stop and catch up with a friend. For those with a sweet tooth, try SweeTreats, with ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes and more to quench your cravings.
Where to Stay
200 Main offers the comfortable lodging of a hotel at the affordable price of a local lodge. Its chic interior is matched by the homey feel, making it ideal for your romantic vacation or a business trip. If you’re looking for a full retreat, you can’t beat Old Edwards Inn and Spa, the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway. Lounge by the mineral pool, or enjoy a day in the spa after a long hike. The Park on Main is also a favorite option. They’re a luxury hotel with an upscale-rustic theme, and a particular love of furry friends. Located on Main Street, visitors can enjoy pet-friendly accommodations with walking distance to all of Highlands.
Whether you’re looking for a mountain adventure,or a romantic getaway, Highlands is the perfect hidden jewel for visitors to find a unique Carolina experience.