Weekend Getaway to Highlands, NC: Travel Guide

I went on a couples getaway to Highlands, NC and I wanted to share a full Highlands travel guide on what we did over the weekend for those of you planning your next getaway to the mountains! I honestly didn’t expect to love Highlands as much as I did. It was the perfect weekend to unplug and relax, while also enjoying cooler weather and beautiful views. Here is a recap of our weekend, along with my recommendations on where to stay, eat, and do in Highlands!

** This post was recently updated after our last trip in October 2021

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC
lookout on Highway 106

The drive was so easy from Atlanta. Once you get on 85-N it’s pretty much a straight shot. The trip is just over 2 hours without traffic. We hit a little traffic on 85 around spaghetti junction (always!), but luckily we have a peach pass and got through quickly after that.

How to Spend a Relaxing Weekend Getaway in Highlands, NC: Travel Guide

Thursday:

We arrived at our cottage rental and immediately got to take in the beauty of the mountains from our back porch. We stayed on a vineyard in Scaly Mountain, about 10 miles away from Highlands. Because of coronavirus, we felt more comfortable in a rental away from the city. Heads up that the internet was spotty at times, but a weekend unplugged was exactly what we needed! Every night, we played cards against humanity and the meme game, which are both always entertaining.

Tim and I went into Highlands for dinner and ate a Midpoint Highlands then ice cream across the street. Parking in downtown Highlands was so easy, and it really clears out at night because the shops all close early, around 5PM.

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC
This was our porch at the cottage rental!

Friday:

We had an early lunch at Julep Kitchen and explored the property. We came back to the cottage and explored the vineyard property before a storm came through. We all took a nap during the storm, then got ready for dinner at Wild Thyme Gourmet. The food was SO fresh, definitely our favorite meal of the trip.

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC - Half Mile Farms
Half Mile Farms

Saturday:

While we waited for a table at Blue Bike Cafe we walked into some unique home decor shops and checked out the farmers market in the Founders Park. Then we drove into Cashiers to try Bucks Coffee. On our way back towards Highlands, we stopped at Reclamations, which is a cool antique shop to walk through, especially if you are feeling like Joanna Gaines. They have antique doors and windows, etc. It was also nice to get some fresh air on the drive, especially if you get car sick! I took a Dramamine both days because I can get so car sick, but was fine the whole weekend. We drove by Bridal Veil Falls and Callasaja Falls, two waterfalls you can see right off the road. Then we got ready for a late dinner at Ristorante Paoletti.

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC - Reclamations antique shop
Reclamations

Sunday:

We had a late breakfast at Julep Kitchen before heading back home! There aren’t a ton of options to eat along Highway from the cottage, so this was the easiest place for us to eat as a group before leaving.

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC - Julep Kitchen

Planning a Weekend Getaway to Highlands, NC

Where to eat in Highlands

Breakfast & Lunch

Blue Bike Cafe – popular spot in town for brunch and lunch

Julep Kitchen – cute farm to explore and dine in. We went twice and had different service experiences, but I will overall still recommend to check it out. I ordered the chicken salad croissant and fries both trips, so good! They only serve brunch on Sundays, and the menu is somewhat similar to their lunch menu.

Bucks Coffee – we drove to Cashiers (about 20 minutes) to explore a new area and grab a coffee. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, definitely try the apple cider!

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC - Where to eat in Highlands

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Casual Dining

I will say most of the restaurants in Highlands are on the nicer side, but there are a few places to eat on the patio or for a more casual dining experience.

Four65: Everyone raves about the brick oven pizzas here and I have to agree, it was one of the best pizza’s I’ve had! We ordered the margarita pizza and split the brussel sprout appetizer. It’s also a more casual dinner spot if you’re looking for something a little more laid back.

Mountain Fresh Grocery This is a local grocery store in town that also serves casual breakfast and lunch. You can pick up wine, treats, and pizza. Great place to pick up a sandwich to pack with you on a hike. We grabbed a few items to make a cheese board in the hotel before dinner, but I’ll warn you the price for that added up quickly and a lot of the restaurants have them for appetizers.. so that may be a more budget-friendly option.. Also, check out their fresh baked goods, we tried the pumpkin bread and it was delicious!

The Pizza Place of Highlands – I ordered the jalapeno popper pizza. It was spicy but delicious! They have unique pizza toppings, next time I want to try the greek pizza.

Bistro on Main – currently closed for renovations but expected to open again in September. I plan to try this on our next trip.

Midpoint Highlands – Tim and I ate a light dinner of appetizers on the patio. I highly recommend grabbing the brussel sprouts!

Dinner

Madisons – This place serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a mountain Ralph-Lauren Farmhouse type of vibe. Reserve a table early if you want to eat here, it’s a popular spot! You can also try their outdoor patio, which doesn’t require a reservation and they serve the same lunch menu.

Wolfgang’s: We didn’t eat here, but it came highly recommended.

Wild Thyme Gourmet – This was everyone’s favorite meal of the trip. Great service and everything we tried was fresh and delicious. We ordered:

  • Risotto Shrimp Fritter
  • Caprese salad – we ordered two rounds, it was so fresh!
  • Wedge Salad
  • I split the Salmon with Vidalia Onion Crust
  • Lemon cake for desert

Ristorante Paoletti – This is a fine-dining Italian restaurant across from Old Edwards Inn. I ordered:

  • Oregon wine
  • The bread was to die for. If you love olives it came with a side of olive tapenade
  • Tortellini alla Panna con Piselli e Prosciutto
  • Brownie dessert with Gelato

Since our first visit there have been a few new openings, such as Oak Steakhouse, which is a great steakhouse, and I’ve heard great things about Canyon Kitchen if you don’t mind the drive over to Cashiers.

** I would recommend making dinner reservations ahead of time due to coronavirus and smaller seating capacity. Also, a heads up that a lot of the restaurants are closed on Wednesdays due to a worker shortage and the hours aren’t updated online. I saw a lot of signs about the worker shortage, so keep that in mind if you’re visiting, especially during the week!

Weekend Getaway to Highlands NC
Half-Mile Farms

Drinks and Treats

Kilwins Highlands – we visited this place often to end the night with ice cream. We also picked up fudge, and it was delicious! It was also one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had.. very rich and the perfect little dessert drink.

The Cake Bar – we didn’t visit here, but it has great reviews

The Wine Garden – On my list to try next time, located at Old Edwards Inn.

The Ugly Dog Pub – I also plan to try this place next time!

Can you tell my travel plans are mainly centered around food? 🙂

half mile farms
Half-Mile Farms

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What to do in Highlands

There are so many great little shops in downtown Highlands that you could spend a day popping in and out of. And there is no shortage of antique shops in the area, too. I think the best way to enjoy Highlands is to spend it very low key, walk around and just enjoy the beauty or even take a drive with no destination planned. We usually always drive over the Cashiers and venture to Bucks coffee and check out the Farmers Market across the street. Cashiers isn’t as walking-friendly as Highlands, but there are still some great spots to pop into while you’re there.

Highlands Aerial Park:

If you want some adventure, there’s a well-known ziplining park right across from the cottage we rented.

Hiking and Waterfalls:

There are plenty of trails to explore around Highlands. There are three lookout places along Highway 106 to stretch your legs and take in the views.

  • Sunset Rock
  • Callasaja Falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Dry Falls
  • Whiteside Mountain – we did this hike on our recent trip back to Highlands and we really enjoyed it! You can climb the mountain two ways, either by a wide gradual trail or a more narrow, hiking type of trail that does take a little more endurance but is totally doable. We went up the more intense side and down the other way. The views up top were great, especially with all the fall foliage!

Most importantly, relax! This is the perfect place to unplug and de-stress. Book a spa appointment at Old Edwards and treat yourself to a nice dinner! You can also enjoy shopping in downtown Highlands. I loved browsing through some of the home decor shops down N 4th St. If you love antique shopping, there are plenty along the drive from Atlanta and hidden in the mountains.

nordstrom pajamas - What to do in Highlands
The Vineyard at 37 High Holly

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Where to stay in Highlands

You can find so many cabin and cottage rentals in the area! Browse through VRBO or Airbnb to see what you can find, especially if you’re staying with a larger group. I find it’s more cost-effective that way. But if you’re wanting to stay in a hotel, here are my top recommendations.

Old Edwards Inn: This is a well-known historic inn right in the heart of downtown Highlands. It’s expensive, but it would be a great place to stay for an anniversary or romantic getaway.

Park on Main: a dog-friendly hotel right in downtown Highlands. We stayed here on our most recent trip with Josie and had such a great experience. The staff was all very friendly, it felt like you were staying at a Bed and Breakfast and the rooms were a great size, especially with a baby!

Half-Mile Farm: If you’re looking for the ultimate place to relax, this is it! This is a few miles outside of downtown highlands and it’s owned by Old Edwards Inn. It’s for adults only, so guests must be 18 years or older.

200 Main: A little more affordable luxury. a block off the main strip of downtown Highlands.

Vinyard at High Holly: When we first visited we stayed just under 30 minutes outside of Highlands in Scaly Mountain at Vinyard at High Holly and it was such a great spot! It’s actually a wedding venue that can host I believe 65 people, but the cabins are also rentable if available.

Highlands NC travel guide
Reclamations

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What to pack

No matter when you visit, it’s always cooler in Highlands because the elevation is over 4,100 feet. We experienced weather in the 60’s to mid 70’s during August. It’s always a good idea to pack an umbrella and light jacket because you never know when a shower can pop up in the mountains and it gets a little cooler. During the day it’s casual attire. I would bring some exercise clothes if you plan to hike. Dinners tend to be a little more fine dining, so bring a nice dress. Tim wore button-down tops and chino pants both nights at dinner.

what to wear in highlands, nc

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I hope you enjoyed this Highlands travel guide! If you have any other recommendations for the area, comment below!

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3 Comments

  1. Lucile Nelson wrote:

    If you are a margarita girl, order the “beau”rita at Wild Thymes. Best ever bar none. No pun intended. It’s the Bartender Beau’s secret recipe involving freshly made sweet and sour, yum!
    If you didn’t get to Dry Falls, go! I love hunting down waterfalls and this is one on the top of my list. We were there around same time as you and the flow was amazing. Lastly, just have to say my son proposed to his wife at Edwards Inn 5 years ago.♥️

    Posted 9.10.20 Reply
    • How did you know I was a margarita girl 🙂 I plan to go back this fall, so I will definitely take your suggestions with me! And that proposal sounds perfect, it’s such a romantic spot!

      Posted 9.11.20 Reply
  2. Mary wrote:

    You must try Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers. It’s beyond beautiful for a special meal. But, my favorite thing to do in Highlands is to grill a steak and veggie kabobs on the back porch with a nice Cabernet. If your rental doesn’t have a grill space, there are plenty of community parks that have them. There’s nothing better in the great outdoors!

    Posted 10.19.20 Reply