Just over six hours from Louisville, nestled in the southwest corner of North Carolina, Cashiers has become a favored vacation and retirement retreat for people across the region. With lovely scenery, a temperate climate and access to recreational activities, great dining opportunities and several golf clubs to choose from, this little gem in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains might just be your next hometown. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Cashiers, North Carolina.
Unlike any other Hampton Inn you’ve ever stayed at, the High Hampton Inn & Country Club in Cashiers is a lovely example of Southern hospitality in a rustic setting. The 1,400-acre estate is a family-friendly playground offering golf, tennis, hiking, swimming, fly fishing and spa treatments. Guests stay in cottages or the cozy inn. If this sounds like the setting of Dirty Dancing, television executives agreed with you enough to film the remake of the successful film at High Hampton Inn.
While the days at High Hampton are all about casual outdoor activities or whiling away time at the spa, evenings are a little more formal, a delightful throwback to the days when people actually dressed up while on vacation. Men are requested to wear a collared shirt and dress pants to the main dining room on Monday and Thursday nights and a jacket over the top of that ensemble the rest of the week. Women usually already know how to look nice at dinner, so they don’t need the reminder that the guys do.
After you drop your bags in your room at High Hampton Inn, head down to the intersection of US 64 and NC Hwy 107, what locals refer to as “the Crossroads.” This lively intersection serves as a compass rose for any visit to Cashiers and the main drag for the 2,000 residents of the village. The Village Green and Commons is the heart of the community with 13.2 acres of green space featuring public art, space for musical performances and green space for strolling around or enjoying a picnic lunch.
If you’ve worked up a hunger and thirst, head over to Winslow’s Hideaway for a warm welcome and some fine American fare. Steaks and seafood are the house specialties at this cozy spot. They also offer some fine cocktails from the full bar.
Slightly more casual and certainly more hopping is The Ugly Dog Public House. The Ugly Dog features live music several nights per week with an emphasis on bluegrass. They also host trivia nights some evenings, so check the pub’s website to find out what’s happening. It’s also a great spot for their “hair of the dog” Bloody Mary on Sunday mornings if you need a pick-me-up.
Buck’s Coffee Shop is the best spot in Cashiers to get caffeinated if you want to enjoy your java in a place with a neighborhood vibe. Their cheerful baristas make a proper latte and offer plenty of delicious pastries as an accompaniment. If you’re hungrier than that, you can also pick up a sandwich at their counter.
Back at the Crossroads, walk the sidewalks in any direction to discover lots of quaint locally owned shops and boutiques that would love to trade you some money for a memory to take home with you. “Shoptions” range from floral shops like White Rabbit Botanicals to an old-timey hardware store named Zoller’s, to TJ Bailey’s, an upscale clothing boutique.
To discover the natural products of the area, visit the Farmers’ Market, open seven days a week and offering fresh produce and locally made artisan products. It’s also the home of On the Side Barbecue, a quite respectable smoked meat emporium.
If you’d like to see some of the local artists practicing their crafts, drop by the Blue Valley Gallery, an actual working studio and gallery where potters, painters and jewelry makers exhibit their wares. Organized as a co-op, the artists jointly own the gallery and are selected to join the group on a “by invitation” basis. This makes for some real talent hanging on the walls.
You don’t visit the beautiful Highlands of North Carolina and not stretch your legs for a hike at least once. One of the notable attractions around Cashiers is the variety of waterfalls created as the clear water from the mountains flows over the rocks into the valley below. Many of these cascades are a short hike from the highway, and the most spectacular one is Whitewater Falls. With a drop of 411 feet, it is the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains and a must-see on any visit to the area.
For a leisurely lunch at a locally owned destination, drop by Cornucopia Restaurant, a local stalwart with a seasonally changing menu of eclectic Southern dishes based around local produce. Modeled after a mountain chalet, Cornucopia features a lovely open dining area under vaulted ceilings plus outdoor seating options.
The evening meal in Cashiers offers some delicious options as well. Slab Town Pizza (known as STP to locals and frequent guests) is a bustling pizza joint that serves specialty pies and calzones, great salads and sandwiches plus plenty of interesting and affordable beer and wine options.
Available by reservation, and usually with lots of notice, Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley is a destination worth planning your whole weekend around. The stunning scenery of the sheer granite faces of the valley and Cow Rock offer a lovely backdrop for a stroll around the grounds, where you can visit the gardens where the kitchen grows many ingredients for the constantly changing menu. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while watching the hills change color as the sun sets, and then retire into the dramatic dining space located inside an open-air barn under massive oak beams. Chef Adam Hayes has earned accolades as an extremely talented young chef, and he is committed to using fresh, locally sourced produce, meat, poultry and fish on his menu.
Although you won’t want to leave, you can ease the pain bit in a couple of ways. Indulge in a boozy brunch at Randevu Restaurant, known for their inventive bistro menu and large portions.
Or you can further indulge yourself with a visit to the Canyon Spa at Lonesome Valley, which offers a full array of natural body and facial treatments, therapies and products. Three treatment rooms are available to the public for massages or facials, and even the waiting areas and cozy fireplace offer a relaxing ambiance for your visit to Canyon Spa.
Eventually, you’ll have to head home, but you’ll understand why so many visitors have fallen in love with the region and why the area is becoming a popular retirement destination.
When you’re ready to book your travel to Cashiers, be sure to check out the Cashiers Chamber of Commerce website’s “Destination Cashiers” section for visitors’ information, accommodations, dining info, events and more.
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