Weekend guide to Cashiers and Highlands, N. C.
Cashiers and Highlands, North Carolina are two mountain towns in the Nantahala National Forest that make for a great weekend getaway from Atlanta, Georgia. Only 2.5 hours away and at an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, these picturesque towns are a welcome respite from the Atlanta summer heat.
My husband and I traveled to Cashiers and Highlands in August and loved the 20-degree drop in temperature! It was actually pleasant to spend time outside in the middle of summer, which worked to our advantage because this mountainous area offers many outdoor activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, golfing, rock climbing, and kayaking.
And while summer is easily the most touristy season for Cashiers and Highlands – their populations more than double between May and August – these two towns are great during colder months as well. Especially if you like fall foliage and cozying up by the fire with a glass of wine or a hot cocoa.
Located only 10 miles apart, the neighboring towns each have a unique character: Highlands is a little more polished, while Cashiers is its quirky little sister. Both boast charming downtown areas with lots of restaurants, shops, and plenty of green spaces.
If you’re planning a road trip to Cashiers/Highlands, check out my guide below to help you decide where to eat and what to do. Then pack up your roomy SUV (you’ll fit right in with the locals!) and make the short and pleasant jaunt up to the mountains for the perfect weekend away from Atlanta.
HIGHLANDS, NORTH CAROLINA
Where to eat in Highlands, NC:
Check out Calder’s Coffee in the heart of downtown for tasty coffee and quick breakfast on the go.
Definitely plan to have lunch at The Wine Garden at the Old Edwards Inn – what a gorgeous space! It’s a beautifully landscaped, fully shaded outdoor garden with excellent service and phenomenal food. You don’t need to stay at the Old Edwards Inn to dine here, but I’d highly recommend a reservation.
For dinner, head to the Ugly Dog Pub downtown Highlands, just around the corner from the Old Edwards Inn. It has casual atmosphere and great pub fare with some healthy options.
After dinner, walk down to Kilwin’s and grab an ice cream or some homemade fudge for dessert.
What to do in Highlands, NC:
Walk around the postcard-like downtown area and browse the adorable shops. There’s something for everyone, from local artisan goods to a store that specializes in celebrity jewelry replicas.
Splurge on a massage at the Old Edwards Inn – it’s worth it, and you’re on vacation after all! Just be sure to reserve your service ahead of time.
CASHIERS, NORTH CAROLINA
Where to eat in Cashiers, NC:
Stop by Buck’s Coffee Café for coffee and pastries in the morning.
Grab lunch at one of these recommended restaurants: Zookeeper’s Bistro, Slab Town Pizza, or Cornucopia. If you can only have one meal in Cashiers, make it lunch – more restaurants are open during lunch hours than dinner hours here.
In the afternoon, enjoy a local pint at Whiteside Brewing Company, which has plenty of shaded outdoor seating and is dog and kid-friendly.
Venture out to Canyon Kitchen for dinner – the views alone are worth the 10-minute drive east from downtown Cashiers! Located in a transformed barn in Lonesome Valley, this farm-to-table restaurant offers a prix-fixe four-course modern American menu, an extensive wine selection and an impressive list of craft cocktails, as well as open-air dining that looks out onto sheer canyon cliffs, all of which makes for an absolutely magical evening.
What to do in Cashiers, NC:
Go antique, vintage, and home décor shopping – there are so many cute stores, all within walking distance of each other!
Victoria’s Closet was highly recommended by our Bed & Breakfast host for vintage clothing for both men and women.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURES NEAR CASHIERS AND HIGHLANDS, NORTH CAROLINA:
Nestled in the Nantahala National Forest, the towns of Cashiers and Highlands are close to some of the best hiking in North Carolina. Here are a few spots to consider:
Whiteside Mountain: A must if you’re in the area and great for hikers of all levels. The trail is a just over 2 miles long round-trip, and after a mild initial climb, you get stunning views of the nearby towns and valleys for the majority of the hike. Plenty of Insta-worthy photo opportunities.
Dry Falls: It’s called “dry” because you can walk behind the waterfall, but it doesn’t mean you’ll actually stay dry! So bring a jacket to this short, quarter-mile hike to see an impressive 6.5-foot waterfall that’s less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Highlands. If you want to chase some more waterfalls while you’re in this area, Bridal Veil Falls and Bust Your Butt Falls are also nearby.
Panthertown Valley: Dubbed the “Yosemite of the East,” this national heritage area boasts lots of beautiful hikes, like the Schoolhouse Falls trail, a moderate 2.5-mile hike round-trip. Try to make it here in the fall, when you can get a great view of the beautiful changing leaves.
Quite a few lakes dot the area between and around Cashiers and Highlands. Some are larger than others, but all are suitable for adventure. You can explore the lakes by boat, kayak, or paddleboard, and I’d recommend checking out these two:
Lake Glenville: Located about 20 minutes north-northwest of Cashiers, this is a fun lake to explore by kayak. You can go at your own pace and gaze at the beautiful lakeside mansions. There are several rental spots on the way up to the lake from Cashiers where you can pick up kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddle boards.
Lake Toxaway: This lake is about 20 minutes due east of Cashiers, and it’s the largest private lake in North Carolina. So if you want to enjoy its pristine waters, you need to either own a home on it or stay at the Greystone Inn. The latter not only offers access to and views of the lake, but also non-water-related activities such as falconry, beekeeping, zip lining, rock climbing, and horseback riding on or near its premises.
WHERE TO STAY IN CASHIERS AND HIGHLANDS, NORTH CAROLINA
You could certainly book a room at the resort-style properties mentioned above, like the Greystone Inn or the Old Edwards Inn. Both would make for a lovely, relaxing stay, but both come with steep price tags.
If your budget calls for something less pricy, I would recommend finding a local B&B. I’m talking about a true Bed & Breakfast, where each room is eclectic and breakfast is served every morning (not to be confused with an AirBnB, although that could also be a good option).
My husband and I stayed at the Innisfree Bed & Breakfast and loved our stay! Each room there is named and decorated after a legendary author – think Dickens, Tennyson, or Bronte – and breakfast is made fresh and delivered to your suite at 9 am.
We stayed in the Kipling room – as in Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book – and I was obsessed with commitment to the theme. Peep the photos for details, and check out that wallpaper! The Innisfree Bed & Breakfast is near Lake Glenville and a short drive from both Cashiers and Highlands, North Carolina.