Explore the North Carolina Highlands  

Explore the North Carolina Highlands  

Lake Lure | Brevard | Highlands

North Carolina is a beautiful and wonderful place to explore by foot or by car. Whether you're just passing through or you're planning a road-trip to see all the highlights your visit to this great southern state will be one you'll remember for years to come. Pack up the car with snacks and a good camera and make sure to put down the phones and tablets to really soak in all the beauty before you. The drive has incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the surrounding landscape, and the road is popular with motorcyclists and bicyclists for its endless scenery. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails that branch off from the numerous pull-offs, picnic areas, and campgrounds that line the road. Tourists will find the parkway most crowded in October during foliage season, while summer visitors can enjoy the colors of flaming azaleas and rhododendrons. 


Day One: Lake Lure to Brevard 
Distance: 65 miles 

Grab your mambo partner and kick off a mountainous road trip that begins at Lake Lure, the set of one of the most "uplifting" love scenes known to chick flicks. Time it right and you can show off your own dance moves at the Dirty Dancing Festival where you can compete in a Lake Lift Contest, sign up for lessons (salsa, mambo, merengue, and cha-cha), or just pack a picnic and catch the lakeside screening


Start your adventure in Chimney Rock Village, a three-block town with a kitschy Wild West feel, by grabbing a massive homemade cinnamon roll ($3) from Medina's Village Bistro (828/989-4529). Then head straight to Chimney Rock State Park ($15 admission; chimneyrockpark.com) for the best breakfast perch in town—the distinctive granite outcropping that gives the town its name. Stairs or an elevator lead to the top of the chimney rock and offer a bird's-eye view of 720-acre Lake Lure. 

After breakfast, take an hour-long cruise ($15) through Lake Lure's emerald green back bays with Lake Lure Tours (lakelure.com). The skipper dishes local lore between well-rehearsed jokes and takes you to the very cove where Johnny and "Baby" practiced their lift. Lunch is on the water at the Bayfront Bar & Grill—located underneath Larkin's on the Lake (larkinsonthelake.com)—where the watermelon salad with mint and feta ($15) is as refreshing as a summer dip. 


Follow U.S. 64 west as it climbs out of the gorge and into apple country. Orchards big and small line the road to Hendersonville, a small farming town humming with new life. Grab a summery Belgian Blonde Ale ($3.50) at Southern Appalachian Brewery (sabrewery.com) before wandering down Main Street, a lively strip with high-end boutiques and galleries. Never Blue Tapas Bar and Bistro (theneverblue.com) has tin ceilings and a garage door that opens to a garden patio. Try the Al Pastor ($3), a taco with a sweet kick thanks to adobe pork and pineapples, and a side of smoked Gouda grits ($4). If you're not the designated driver, try a glass of red or white sangria ($7) loaded with fresh fruit. Don't be ashamed to suck the last bit from the bottom of the glass—that's why they give you the straw. 


Continue west on U.S. 64 to the edge of Brevard, and bed down at the Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill (rooms from $185; bbontiffanyhill.com). Owner Selena Einwechter used the pages of Southern Living to inspire every aspect of the B&B, which includes round-back leather chairs, an oversize soaking tub, and rich-toned Ralph Lauren decor in the new Lexington Suite. Bonus: She's extending a 10% discount to SL readers through the end of the year. (Mention code SL2012 when you call; the first 10 readers will also receive a copy of Selena's new cookbook coming out next month.) 


Day Two: Brevard to Highlands 
Distance: 80 miles 


After a three-course gourmet breakfast at Tiffany Hill, drive west on U.S. 64 into Brevard, a town surrounded by peaks and waterfalls. Some of the most impressive cascades are 10 miles south of town in DuPont State Recreational Forest (dupontforest.com). Head to Triple Falls, a three-tiered waterfall with a 120-foot vertical drop along the Little River, recently featured in this generation's cult hit, The Hunger Games. The hike to the falls is short and steep, but the view is worth it. 


U.S. 276 will lead you back into downtown, but don't rush. The winding stretch between DuPont and Brevard is home to several art studios. Check out Mud Dabbers Pottery & Crafts (muddabbers.com) for a selection of pottery that's both folksy and elegant ($5 and up). Find a deal at the shed behind the gallery, where pieces of the perfectly imperfect pottery are shelved. 


Plan to do a little shopping in Brevard's charming downtown. Locally made goods such as cute soda-bottle tea lights beckon at Eclectic Cottage (828/884-2625). Next door, Gravy (828/862-4900) houses everything from handmade aprons to hand-tied flies for the discerning angler. At Continental Divide, you'll find "big kid toys" such as working slot machines and an oversize model of the Hindenburg (828/884-5484). 


Grab lunch at The Square Root (squarerootrestaurant.com), a local favorite tucked into an alley off Main Street. Pair the London broil sandwich ($9) with a side of zucchini fries ($1) or try the brown sugar-and-mustard-glazed salmon with lima bean-corn succotash ($12). 


The two-lane U.S. 64 becomes increasingly mountainous as you continue west, offering periodic views of towering granite domes. Warm up your credit card for a lap around Main Street in Highlands, an upscale resort town that sits 4,000 feet above sea level. Peruse Valentino and other designer staples at Rosenthal's (828/526-2100). Spruce up your abode with fun garden accents from The Little Flower Shoppe (828/526-3650) and oversize metal pendant lamps ($272) at Dutchmans Designs (828/526-8864). 


On the edge of town, you'll find The Bascom (thebascom.org), a visual arts center that specializes in the works of regional and world-renowned artists. You'll find evocative garden sculptures (think Stonehenge made from hardwood saplings), working pottery barns, and rotating exhibits of various mediums inside an airy, early 1800s barn with a bright atrium gallery. 


The ambitious menu at Cyprus International Cuisine (cyprushighlands.com) changes almost nightly. Dinner might feature West African cuisine one night, South American the next. Some highlights include mussels ($9) cooked in a citrusy broth good enough to be a soup on its own and a grilled Chesapeake Bay striped bass over polenta with sweet-and-spicy sun-dried fruit compote ($28). Reserve a seat at the bar overlooking the tiny kitchen—chef/owner Nicholas Figel will walk you through the nuances of your dishes as he cooks. 


Turn in at Mountain Laurel Rest (rooms from $187; mountainlaurelrest.com), a brand-new B&B 7 miles west of town with modern rooms fully equipped with steam showers and individual fireplaces. Don't miss a hearty breakfast of local sausage and French toast bake. 


If it fits your trek home, tack on a leisurely drive on U.S. 64 through the Cullasaja Gorge, a chasm known for its waterfalls. 


The Ultimate Stay + Play

Welcome to Beau Rivage Golf & Resort! Few things are more synonymous with incredible Golf than “North Carolina” and no other Coastal Carolina resort is more in-tune with the group stay and play than Beau Rivage Golf and Resort. Rare for a golf course along the coast, several holes on the par 72 layout offer 40 to 75 feet elevation changes. Located 5 Miles from Downtown Wilmington, Island Beaches and All the Best Attractions...10 Seconds from the First Tee!

Discover Cleveland County

If You Listen closely…you just might hear strains of mountain music, as you enter Cleveland County, North Carolina. Visitors travel from around the world to enjoy authentic and memorable experiences. There is plenty to do for the day or for a weekend. Get away for a family adventure, romantic retreat, outdoor exploration, and so much more. Award-winning attractions, nationally recognized events, eclectic shopping, craft beverages, local food, outdoor experiences and gifted artisans provide opportunities to enrich every visit.

A Roadside Treasure

Treat your family to an adventure they will all enjoy and one of North Carolina’s most unique attractions! Mystery Hill is a place where you can see objects defy gravity, blow a giant bubble around your best friend, mine for gems, examine a T-Rex skull, and so much more. After all the indoor fun head outside to play in the second oldest river in the world and get your souvenir photo at Professor Finnegan’s Old Time Photo Parlor.

Poke Around Cherokee County

Find your balance of rest and adventure in Cherokee County. Although Cherokee County is known for its great outdoors and scenic drives, there are also plenty of things to do all around the beautiful area. Enjoy shopping the day away in charming Murphy for unique gifts and local crafts. Famous North Carolina barbecue will keep you energized as you check out the local breweries, wineries and the inspiring Cherokee County Historical Museum in downtown Murphy.

Kerr Lake in Henderson

To say Kerr Lake is big is an understatement. Its over 850 miles of shoreline stretches across Vance County and the North Carolina/Virginia state line, making it one of the largest lakes in the Southeast. It’s also one of the most beautiful lakes from its wooded shores to secluded coves to tranquil picnic areas. Kerr Lake is just a short drive from Raleigh, Richmond, Va., Charlotte, and Washington, D.C. Vance County Tourism invites you to explore Kerr Lake and enjoy the fishing, camping, boating, skiing, sailing, wind surfing, nature walking, bird watching, golfing and more.

Experience Person County in Person

Person County welcomes you! Located in north-central North Carolina in the Piedmont region, you’ll find beautiful rolling hills divided by farmlands and forest. Forget that long, congested drive through the mountains just to reach a private patch of water. There, you have your choice of two magical public lakes Hyco and Mayo, each within spitting distance of everything you need to get back to (or stay far away from!) your day-to-day reality.

Agritourism Leaders

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ mission is to provide services that promote and improve agriculture, agribusiness and forests; protect consumers and businesses; and conserve farmland and natural resources for the prosperity of all North Carolinians. The various responsibilities cover everything from agricultural marketing and promotion, operation of the North Carolina State Fair and North Carolina Mountain State Fair, and so much more.

Explore the First Peak

This scenic mountain destination — the First Peak of the Blue Ridge — provides nature’s playlist. Keep the volume low with peaceful hikes to waterfalls, local wine tastings, and quiet ‘porch time’ at a cozy inn, B&B or cabin. Or, turn up the volume with America’s steepest canopy zip line tour, guided whitewater adventures or live music. Either way, the historic small towns of Tryon, Saluda and Columbus welcome you for a quiet getaway or an adrenaline rush.

Fainting Goat Spirits
Greensboro, North Carolina

The hard working folks at Fainting Goat Spirits, are taking their time to do it right. The small family distillers put their stamp and their hands on every step of their distilling process — as they say, “from grain to glass.” Their one hundred percent North Carolina grains are crafted in house to ensure quality flavor profiles. The buttery and smooth Tiny Cat Vodka shows that they have created something far above the norm. Take a tour and taste for yourself the C.B. Fisher’s American Single Malt Whiskey, or Emulsion American Gin — and keep the engraved whiskey glass.

Fayetteville Arts Council

Fayetteville in Cumberland County is rich in arts and culture. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy performances, concerts, exhibitions, and programs at some of the finest attractions in the state. With everything from ballroom dance clubs, and basket making groups, to fascinating guest speaker talks, and historic tours through downtown Fayetteville itself; there isn’t a place in town that the Arts Council has not made accessible, open, and educational for the public. In Fayetteville, there is always something to see, do, experience, or learn.

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