Romantic Highlands, North Carolina is a delightfully charming town located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. From its tree-lined streets, quaint buildings, cheerful shops, and mountain views, Highlands is a small town that’s surprisingly cosmopolitan. Tucked in the western corner of the state minutes from the Georgia line, we found the picturesque village offers a laid-back atmosphere that’s imbued with romance.
Strolling Main Street
The first thing we did upon arrival was take to the streets. There’s ample public parking so we left the car behind to travel by foot. Downtown is ideal for a romantic stroll. The streets seem to realize this and accommodate lovers and families alike. Exploring the main thoroughfare, we enjoyed a leisurely pace while inspecting the unique shops and businesses dotting the streets.
Highlands has an unusual history. Founded in 1875, in perhaps one of the most unconventional manners, this tiny town was predicted to become a booming crossroads by its founders.
As legend has it, two developers took a map and drew two lines. One between New Orleans and New York. The other ran between Chicago and Savannah. It was their belief that where the lines intersected would one day be a big population center. As unscientific as the method was, surprisingly, they were only slightly off the mark. After all, Atlanta does sit a mere 120-miles south.
Beyond its unusual beginning, Highlands boasts a rich history rife with a blend of visitors including pioneers and immigrants. Ever changing, the town developed into a summer and health resort before transforming once again with the advent of hydro-electric power, in the late 1920’s, when the Cullasaja River was dammed creating Lake Sequoyah.
Consequently, today, this mountain town has refined and maintained its own distinct sophisticated character.
In Highlands it’s possible to while away an afternoon meandering in and out of a plethora of boutiques. The shop keepers are happy to help whether you’re buying or browsing.
Beautiful windows and enticing displays drew us into multiple stores. From clothing and apparel, art galleries, antique dealers, sporting goods, and other specialty stores; shopping in the mountains is a delight.
We found a couple of stores with such unique items we lost all track of time. And yes, I found one with the perfect Christmas ornament to commemorate our visit.
Wine and Dine
Top-notch service and ambiance add to the dining experience in Highlands. The fertile Appalachian soil and culture provides the culinary foundation while the multiple award-winning restaurants and eateries serve up a variety of cuisines in a casual atmosphere.
From romantic bistros to cozy cafes to alfresco dining, to fine wines and dancing there’s a restaurant to suit every palate.
While we were in Highlands we enjoyed a delicious late lunch at Wild Tyme Gourmet on Main Street. Wild Tyme offers an extensive wine list, appetizers, lunch, and dinner. My husband had the spicy bacon cheddar burger and I opted for the salmon BLT. We both raved about our meals!
A favorite find in romantic Highlands, NC
One of our favorite finds was the Highlands Wine Shoppe.
Perched on a hill at the end of Main Street, the friendly staff at Highlands Wine Shoppe graciously share their wine knowledge. The full-service wine retail and wine bar features over 650 wines! As if that weren’t enough, they also have an awesome state-of-the-art wine tasting machine. It’s possible to sample up to 16 wines at any time. Once you’ve selected your wine, you’re welcome to enjoy it along with a cheese plater at their wine bar.
We chose a flavorful rosé and sat outside sipping and enjoying the evening skies.
Where to stay in Highalnds, NC
Highlands is perfect for a romantic stay and features a range of lodging choices.
See the ► Plan Your Visit Now section to choose the one that matches your preferences.
In town, there are a couple of bed & breakfasts as well as boutique hotels 200 Main, Old Edwards Inn & Spa, and the Highlands Inn. There are also several rental options including cabins.
Outside of Highlands, there are accommodations in Cashiers, as well as Cullowhee, Franklin, and Sapphire. For the outdoorsy crowd, there’s camping facilities within the National Forests in addition to multiple RV Parks near Highlands. We stayed a short drive away in Dillard, Georgia at the Dillard House.
Highlands’ mountain location translates into a multitude of outdoor adventure choices. There are waterfalls, hiking trails, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, golf, gem mining, tennis, rafting…
The list goes on and on. Our time included a manageable yet invigorating hike on a trail just off the Blue Valley Overlook in the Nantahala National Forest. The scenery was magnificent.
Getting to Highlands, NC
Highlands is one of those places that’s out of the way while not terribly far away. It’s situated in the western part of North Carolina and the beautiful Nantahala National Forest. It’s about 2 to 3 hours by car from several locations including, Atlanta, Asheville, Knoxville, and Greenville.
When we drove into town, I was enchanted by Highland’s striking scenery. I was almost certain at any moment I’d be told I’d strolled onto the set of a Hallmark movie. It’s that idyllic.
However, after spending time in Highlands, I began to pick up on a romantic vibe. Although, there’s plenty of family fun and activities – the setting, backdrop and the town’s character meld together creating a mood suitable for a romantic getaway.
Highlands Visitor Center
108 Main Street, Highlands, NC 28741
► Plan your visit now
It makes it simple to plan your trip. We’ve pre-filled the destination from the article and if there are multiple places mentioned in the article, we’ve put the one that is best used as your base to see all of the places mentioned.
Just select I’M STAYING and enter the travel dates and hit SEARCH. It automatically uses the first place in the article.
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Super simple. Just click on the pencil and enter the name of any place mentioned in the story. Or you can enter any address or even the name of a company if you are mixing business and pleasure.
Just click I’M DRIVING and you can see how long it will take, get driving directions and even rent a car if you need one.
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