Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and just two hours north of Atlanta, the quaint town of Highlands in North Carolina is a charming little metropolis that has a variety of things to see and do all year round.
Resting at an elevation of 4,118 feet, the aptly named town and its surroundings are a haven for outdoor lovers with several spectacular waterfalls, including Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls, and the cascading 411-foot Whitewater Falls. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails and scenic drives to explore and a few great restaurants that serve local and global cuisine.
1. Dry Falls
Dry Falls, also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls, is a cascading waterfall with an 80-foot drop, 40 feet of which is freefalling water that flows on the Cullasaja River through the Nantahala National Forest.
Located less than a mile from Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Falls is easily accessible on an easy, paved pathway from the parking lot that leads inside the recessed ledge of the waterfall behind the roaring waters.
The falls are situated about three miles north of Highlands, North Carolina, and a parking area on the side of the road offers parking for people visiting the falls.
US 64/28 W, Highlands, North Carolina 28741, Phone: 828-526-2112
2. Glen Falls
© Craig Zerbe/stock.adobe.com
Glen Falls is a spectacular set of waterfalls that consist of three separate cascades that plunge through a rocky forest filled with rhododendron bushes and towering hardwoods. The waterfalls flow on the East Fork Overflow Creek, which drops 600 feet in elevation and are accessed by a fantastic hike that is relatively short in length and surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty. Two trailheads lead to the falls – the Chinquapin Mountain Trail and the Glen Falls Trail, and about a quarter of a mile into the hike the waterfalls can be seen through the shrubs. More North Carolina day trips
Glen Falls Road, Highlands, NC 28741
3. Cullasaja River Gorge
The Cullasaja River Gorge is an area of spectacular beauty along the Waterfall Byway between the towns of Franklin and Highlands. The gorge is bisected by the fast-moving Cullasaja River, which features three significant waterfalls that wind through the Nantahala National Forest, including the 120-foot Bridal Veil Falls, the roaring water at Dry Falls and the towering 250-foot high Cullasaja Falls. Part of the trail followed by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540, Cullasaja (meaning ‘honey locust place’) Gorge channels the river to the Gulf of Mexico.
Highlands, NC 28741
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4. Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is a picturesque cascade that flows on a tributary of the Cullasaja River in the Nantahala National Forest. The falls cascade over an overhanging bluff and drop 60 feet over a section of the US Highway 64 (Mountain Waters Scenic Byway & NC Waterfall Byway), and due to small volumes of water, people can walk beneath it. The stream tends to dry up during periods of drought and has a moderate or high flow of water during the wet season.
US 64/28 W, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-5841
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5. Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center, and Botanical Gardens
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The Highlands Biological Station, Nature Center, and Botanical Gardens is a public garden and nature sanctuary that showcases the diverse flora of the southern Appalachians. Open year-round from sunrise to sunset and free of charge, the garden was founded in 1962 as a demonstration garden and has grown into a leading botanical sanctuary with more than 500 species of ferns, shrubs, mosses, wildflowers, shrubs, wetlands, forests, and old-growth plant communities. The garden can be explored on a series of boardwalks and trails that wind through the garden, which also features display collections of Mosses and Liverworts, Plants of the Cherokee, Native Azaleas, Wildflower Meadow, and Butterfly-pollinated species. The garden offers guided tours, and visitors can enjoy picnics in beautiful spots around the garden. More unique weekend trips in North Carolina
265 N 6th St, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-2623
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6. The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts
© The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts
The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts provides an array of stimulating experiences in the visual arts for visitors of all ages. Located on a former horse farm in Highland, the indoor-outdoor visual arts center was established by artists Watson and Louise Bascom in 1983 and features rotating exhibitions of art, ceramics, and sculpture. The dynamic 30,000 square foot three-building center is based on a six-acre property and offers a variety of educational programs for adults and children and art experiences that focus on the synergy of art and nature. The Bunzl Gallery is based on the main floor of the center and features a gift shop, while the Joel Gallery and Loft Gallery occupy the second floor, and an Education Gallery and classrooms can be found on the lower level of the center. More beaches near Jacksonville, NC
323 Franklin Rd, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-4949
7. Highlands Playhouse
© Highlands Playhouse
The Highlands Playhouse is an intimate, long-running community playhouse and theater that produces a variety of theatrical plays, cabarets, Broadway musicals in summer, and other year-round film events. Established by a troupe of actors in the mid-1930s in the Highlands School auditorium, the Highlands Playhouse is one of the country’s oldest professional summer stock theaters. Today, the theatre presents three to four plays each summer and offers budding drama students a platform to work alongside professional mentors. The Playhouse Theater offers educational Summer Camps for children and includes the magical experience of writing and performing a play, and the performance space becomes a movie theatre for first-run films in the off-season.
362 Oak St, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-2695
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8. Things to Do in Highlands: Whiteside Mountain
Whiteside Mountain is a large mountain in Jackson County that boasts the highest cliffs in Eastern North America. The mountain also features the Devil's Courthouse, a rugged mesa overlooking the Pisgah National Forest that offers spectacular panoramic views from its peak that can be reached by a moderately strenuous half-mile hiking trail. The Whiteside Mountain National Recreation Trail is a 1.9-mile loop trail that is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding. Accessible year-round, the trail features beautiful wildflowers, and dogs are allowed but must be kept on leash.
Highlands, NC 28741
9. Highlands Plateau Greenway
The Highlands Plateau Greenway is a five-mile network of walking trails that connect pristine natural areas and historical sites in and around Highlands. The Greenway straddles the Eastern Continental Divide and is comprised of a temperate rain forest that is home to the highest diversity of fauna and flora in North America. The greenway is surrounded by forests of firs, hickories, pines, and oaks, along with old-growth rhododendron and mountain laurel, and offers a wealth of recreational opportunities ranging from hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding to geocaching, backpacking and bird and wildlife watching.
Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-2385
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10. Kilwins Highlands
© Kilwins Highlands
Kilwins Highlands is an old-fashioned confectionery chain that specializes in handmade chocolates, sweets, and ice-cream, along with delectable gift baskets for every occasion. Opened in 1995 by Ashley Clark, the confectionary store has grown into a popular franchise chain that offers sweet treats for every taste. Located on Main Street in Town Square, the bright and airy shop is filled with mouthwatering goodies of all kinds from chocolate, toffee and caramel, to Mackinac Island fudge, caramel corn, and brittle, and old-fashioned toffee apples. Customized gift baskets can be ordered for special occasions, and the store is open seven days a week.
341 Main St, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-3788
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11. Things to Do in Highlands: Ristorante Paoletti
© Ristorante Paoletti
Ristorante Paoletti is a locally-owned European-inspired restaurant that serves refined Italian fare and fine wines in an elegant, relaxed setting. Established over 35 years ago, the restaurant focuses on using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to prepare authentic Italian dishes from scratch, including fresh seafood, prime grass-fed meats and chicken, organic salads and vegetables, and handmade pasta. A separate full-service bar offers an extensive list of beverages and libations, ranging from local and imported craft and draft beers, award-winning wines from Italy and around the world, handcrafted cocktails made with high-end spirits, and freshly brewed Italian coffee. Ristorante Paoletti is open seasonally for dinner, seven nights a week.
440 Main St, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-4906
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12. Things to Do in Highlands: Wild Thyme Gourmet
Wild Thyme Gourmet is a stylish, contemporary restaurant that serves upscale Asian-influenced American cuisine in an elegant, laid-back setting with a full-service bar and outdoor patio with umbrellas. Owned by Dindu Lama and located on Main Street, the 15-year-old restaurant is tucked into a quaint courtyard lined with gourmet delis and fashion boutiques and adds to the plaza’s charm. Patrons can sip cocktails under a leafy canopy of trees and tuck into delectable Asian-inspired dishes of warm sesame chicken salad, open-faced goat cheese sandwiches topped with walnuts and figs, wild mushroom soup, and the signature grilled salmon and applewood-smoked bacon BLT sandwich. The cuisine is accompanied by a selection of casual wines, craft beers, and handcrafted cocktails, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
343 Main St # D, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-4035
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More Ideas in NC: Half-Mile Farm in Highlands
Half-Mile Farm is a charming country inn surrounded by nature on the outskirts of
Highlands, North Carolina. Boasting all the luxury comforts typical of an Old Edwards property, Half-Mile Farm promises an unforgettable stay.
Overlooking the glistening Apple Lake, the adults-only Lodge offers luxurious accommodations in the form of cozy log cabins with country-style décor and modern amenities. Special touches such as a genteel, gourmet breakfast each morning and complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks in the evening add a charming touch.
Surrounded by 14 acres of fields, forests, streams and a beautiful lake, Half-Mile Farm has something for everyone, from relaxing with a book and soaking up the serenity, exploring the area by hiking or biking, or enjoying a paddle on the lake.
Half-Mile Farm offers beautifully-appointed guest rooms with lovely views of the courtyard or gardens and modern conveniences. Guest room amenities include HDTVs with satellite channels, DVD players, telephones with voicemail and data ports, and complimentary wireless Internet. Guest rooms are located in the historic Main Inn house or in separate cabins for extra levels of privacy and space.
Located in the historic Main Inn house, Historic Standard Queen rooms feature queen-size beds with plush linens, private en-suite bathrooms with showers and deluxe bath products and charming courtyard views.
Historic Deluxe King rooms are also located in the Main Inn house and feature king-size beds in plush linens, and private en-suite bathrooms with separate showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products. These rooms boast beautiful views of Apple Lake.
Historic Balcony Queen rooms are located in the historic Main Inn house and have queen-size beds in plush linens, and private en-suite bathrooms with separate showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products. These rooms have their own private balconies which overlook the gardens and the lake.
Located in the Courtyard, Courtyard Standard King Fireplace, and Courtyard Balcony King Fireplace rooms offer extra levels of luxury with king-size beds in plush linens, and private en-suite bathrooms with separate showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products. Separate sitting areas are spacious and light and feature large stone fireplaces, comfortable furnishings and private balconies with gorgeous views.
Courtyard Standard King Porch rooms are also located in the courtyard and feature king-size beds in plush linens and private en-suite bathrooms with showers and deluxe bath products. These rooms have private decks that look out over the farm.
Courtyard Luxury King Balcony Fireplace rooms are refined and charming with king-size beds in plush linens, and private en-suite bathrooms with separate showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products. Separate sitting areas are spacious and light and feature large stone fireplaces, comfortable furnishings and private balconies with gorgeous views.
Located on the second floor of the Earnest Cabin Suite, the Elizabeth Room features a king-size bed with plush linens, and a private en-suite bathroom with separate shower, whirlpool tub, and deluxe bath products. The spacious suite offers a fully equipped kitchenette and dining area and has a lovely view over the farm.
The two-story Justice Cabin Suite is situated next to the Earnest Cabin Suite and offers a king-size bed with plush linens, and a private en-suite bathroom with separate shower, whirlpool tub, and deluxe bath products. The spacious suite offers a fully equipped kitchenette and dining area and has a large stone fireplace in the sitting area.
Built to reflect the early houses of the Valley of Virginia, the Earnest Cabin Suite is a cozy log and stone building with separate bedrooms and living areas. The bedroom features a king-size bed with luxurious linens and a roaring fireplace, and a private en-suite bathroom with walk-in shower, whirlpool tub, and deluxe bath products. A fully equipped kitchen and charming dining area are ideal for entertaining.
The Earnest Two and Three Bedroom suites are a combination of The Earnest Cabin Suite with the Elizabeth Room or Justice Cabin Suite to create a two- or three-bedroom getaway for couple’s traveling together. Two/three separate bedrooms feature king-size beds with luxurious linens and roaring fireplaces, and two/three private en-suite bathrooms have walk-in showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products. A joint living area has a dining table and chairs and a large fireplace, and a full kitchen is perfect for preparing meals.
Located next to the Tavern Cabin Suite with an outdoor entrance, the Blacksmith Cabin Room has a king-size bed with luxurious linens and a roaring woodstove fireplace, and a private en-suite bathroom with walk-in shower, whirlpool tub, and deluxe bath products. A fully equipped kitchen and charming dining area are ideal for entertaining and a covered porch perfect for relaxing.
The Tavern Cabin Suite is the farm’s most luxurious and spacious cabin with separate bedrooms and living areas. A king bedroom features a king-size bed with beautiful linens, a sunny sitting area, and a stone fireplace, along with a private en-suite bathroom with walk-in shower, whirlpool tub, and deluxe bath products. A comfortable living area has a fireplace and dining area with table and chairs, and a fully equipped kitchen has everything needed for easy holiday living. An expansive covered porch and outdoor dining area has a wood stove fireplace and is ideal for alfresco dining under the stars. These Tavern Cabin Suites are also available in two- and three-bedroom configurations.
The Lamons and the Fish Rooms offer king-size beds in plush linens, and private en-suite bathrooms with showers, whirlpool tubs, and deluxe bath products, as well as stone fireplaces and kitchenettes.
The Captain Suite features a king-size bed with plush linens, and private en-suite bathroom with walk-in shower, whirlpool tub and deluxe bath product, as well as a stone fireplace, fully equipped kitchen and covered porch with views of the lake.
Guests can enjoy a hearty, gourmet breakfast, freshly prepared and served every morning in the sunny breakfast room. Afternoon and early evenings offer complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine in an elegant setting.
Nestled amongst acres of verdant fields, forests, and streams, Half-Mile Farm offers an array of activities to enjoy, from paddling on the six-acre lake to relaxing in the gorgeous gardens. A heated mineral swimming pool offers cool respite in the summer, and broad porches, patios and decks around the property are ideal for kicking back and soaking up the views. Other activities in the area include hiking, mountain biking and canoeing on the lake, and the nearby Old Edwards Inn and Spa has a fitness center and spa.
214 Half Mile Farm Drive, Highlands, NC 28741, Phone: 828-526-8170