Matt Canter started fishing the waters of western North Carolina in college, working his way up from guide to partner and general manager of Brookings Anglers. Over the last 17 years, he has been drawn to the area for the ease of access to public lands. Surrounded by Nantahala National Forest, Highlands sits on one of the tallest plateaus east of the Mississippi with views and rivers stretching out before your eyes.
“That’s the reason why people come here,” Canter said. “They’re coming to an area that has enough to be comfortable but not so much that you feel like you haven’t escaped.”
Highlands is a hidden gem that’s only a two-hour drive north of Atlanta with an elevation of 4,118 feet. You can take in all four seasons here, and explore scenic drives and hiking trails.
Look no further than this Blue Ridge mountain town for a peaceful getaway with your family or on your own.
Where to Wander
For the casual angler, Canter recommends the Tuckasegee, a user-friendly river the state stocks with trout. The wild and scenic Chattooga River provides more advanced anglers the opportunity to test their skills for some wild brown trout in a beautiful setting.
Then there are the smaller blue-line streams and headwaters, like Panthertown Valley, that offer harder to reach spots surrounded by views.
“We’ve got around 30 streams within a 30-minute drive that we can choose to go to,” Canter said.
Brookings Anglers offers a variety of float and wade trips in the area (depending on the season), while carrying all the goods and brands you’ll need for a day on the water.
If you want to see wildlife on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, designated an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International for the more than 160 species that rely on the area for breeding and migration, Sunset Rock Trail and Whiteside Mountain Trail offer panoramic views, nesting spots and nature’s sounds while you stretch your legs. A number of roadside waterfalls, like Cullasaja Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, provide a stunning backdrop to a scenic drive through the area. Stop by one of Highland Hiker’s four stores in the area for advice on the best places to hit the trails, plus any gear, shoes and apparel you might need while in town.
Where to Eat
If you didn’t get enough water, Lakeside Restaurant’s seafood-focused menu will satisfy your appetite as you take in views of Harris Lake. Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro is another great dining option that features an extensive array of choices, from a Bavarian sampler and roasted lamb to Cajun barbecue shrimp and sweet desserts.
Check out other options along Main Street for early morning pick-me-ups, filling meals and decadent desserts and drinks.
Where to Sleep
Offering rooms and cabins, Half-Mile Farm has lodging styles to satisfy every traveler. Enjoy a cup of coffee and farm-fresh food to start your day. You can also relax on the expansive porch or by the private lake, and cozy up next to the fire at this mountain retreat.
For those traveling with pets, The Park on Main is the place to stay in the Appalachians. Here you’ll have easy access to nearby shops and eateries, plus a garden terrace perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day. Pets can stay at no additional cost with a dog bed in each room and two dog parks are within walking distance.
Cover photo: Fall brings out the best in Highlands, N.C. Photo by Greg Newington