The second installment in our series of Best Western North Carolina towns to buy a vacation home: Highlands, North Carolina. About 10 miles from Cashiers, and is also located along scenic Highway 64, in the middle of the Nantahala National Forest.
The picturesque town of Highlands is home to art galleries, award-winning restaurants, antique and gift shops, boutiques, and an impressive cultural arts scene.
Five of Highlands’ restaurants have won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence:
- Madison’s Restaurant & Wine Garden, located at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, serving farm-to-table cuisine that’s sourced from North Carolina producers, farmers and growers.
- Ristorante Paoletti, serving fine Italian food in a restaurant that will celebrate its 35th year in business in 2019.
- Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro, a cafe with a warm ambiance, refreshing wine list and eclectic menu of German, American and Cajun cuisine.
- Wild Thyme Gourmet, American cuisine with an Asian influence, served in a contemporary setting.
- Mountain Fresh, a gourmet grocery offering a butcher, bakery and wine shop, plus a deli, grill and wood-fired pizza.
- Meritage Bistro, European cuisine in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
For after-dinner entertainment, Highlands has a professional summer stock theater at the Highlands Playhouse, Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music concerts, and improv at the Instant Theater.
Each fall, the Highlands Food & Wine Festival draws hundreds of visitors to town, promising fine wine, a variety of food, and live music from great bands and singer songwriters.
Parks and lakes
You can enjoy many of Highland’s beautiful waterfalls by foot. Dry Falls, for example, is a short walk away, and others are an easy drive. Glen Falls is a triple waterfall with scenic stops along a 2-mile round-trip hike in the Nantahala National Forest.
The Cullasaja River Gorge, between Franklin and Highlands, provides an amazing scenic drive along the Waterfall Byway.
For a casual stroll, walk around Cliffside Lake or check out the Highlands Botanical Gardens, which has walkable garden paths. In downtown Highlands, you can take a walking tour of historic downtown on the Highlands Heritage Trail. For a gorgeous sunset experience, walk up Sunset Rock.
Many rivers in the area offer fly fishing for Brown, Rainbow and Wild Brook Trout. You can venture out on your own or hire a local guide.
Sky Valley Resort and Country Club has a public course just 15 minutes from Highlands, with elevations up to 4,000 feet.
The Cullasaja Club has a gorgeous course designed by Arnold Palmer in addition to tennis courts and a full-size croquet court: “The Lawn at Cullasaja.”
Wildcat Cliff Country Club, at the foot of Whiteside Mountain, features a beautiful golf course designed by George W. Cobb and renovated by Bill Bergin in 2008.
Highlands Country Club, with a course designed by Ron Pritchard, also offers croquet, a bridge club, tennis courts and a saltwater pool.