JACKSON COUNTY, SC
You can easily get here from Atlanta, Knoxville, Charlotte or Greenville, but once you’ve arrived, you may think you’re in another world.
The scenery is beautiful; the mountains really seem to be tinged with beauty and the area attracts professionals who love the outdoors, the artists who are drawn to the beauty, and the friendliness of everyone you meet.
First, you’ll need accommodations, and there are lovely possibilities.
High Hampton Inn and Country Club has been a very popular vacation getaway for families from the Carolinas for 93 years. Casual sophistication seems to describe it best, and the patina of age has only improved its standing among those in the know. This 1,400-acre resort looks over majestic mountains, a private, thirty-five acre lake, and gardens.
The Inn is only a few steps from the golf course, tennis courts, lake, children's play area, and scenic walking trails. It is a peaceful getaway that has seen its share of weddings, family reunions, corporate gatherings and summertime sojourns.
The River Lodge Bed and Breakfast, hewn from 100-year-old logs, sits on a bend in the Tuckasegee River and invites all to enjoy its particular brand of rustic elegance. The setting is rural, but it’s close to all the activities and small towns in the area.
Laurelwood Inn is within walking distance of downtown Cashiers, but backs up to four acres of woodlands. Trip Advisor reviewers love the whole package, including owners Bob and Lise. Be sure to notice the water features.
Wyndham Resort at Fairfield Sapphire Valley is quietly tucked away within the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests are treated to easy access to a variety of on-site amenities and offsite activities including tennis, golf, boating, fishing and canoeing at one of the local national forests and state parks, or antique shopping in the nearby towns. Condominiums offer a touch of resort living for families and friends.
Mountain cabins are available for rent, down rustic roads (but often with wi-fi). If you’re into camping (or glamping), you’ll find plenty of campgrounds and rustic accommodations that keep you very close to Mother Nature.
And, there’s always Harrah’s Resort and Casino, where you can party until the elk come home.
In this area, quaint little bistros and cafes are found in every small town. Your accommodations have great breakfasts, but there are other options, if you’re out and about early, or simply want a bit more local flavor – morning, noon or night.
Choose Bucks Coffee Café for superlative organic coffee. The spicy cheese biscuits elicit raves and there are art and unique gifts for sale. Elk antler salt and pepper shakers? Try the almond milk in your cup of Joe. 828.743.9997
Zookeeper’s Bistro, in Cashiers, is open from morning till night, so if you don’t drop by for breakfast, try it later for lunch or dinner.
Mad Batter Food and Film, in Sylva, has intriguing bites that attract a lot of fans, from locals to visitors. (The goat cheese smoked Portobello burger is divine, but their best-seller is Philly cheesesteak.) They’ve also got a food truck in nearby Cullowhee if you’re in the area.
Tucks Tap and Grill, in Cullowhee, will appeal to those looking for a rollicking good time. The buzz says the tater tots are amazing. You be the judge. Live music keeps the atmosphere rocking and the party keeps going with specials, DJs and sometimes a bit of trivia.
Orchard Restaurant, in Cashiers, offers American cuisine with a Southern flavor, in a 100-year-old farmhouse. We suggest starting with the triple cream brie, slathered with housemade port blueberry preserves – Yum! Four kinds of trout and intriguing concoctions.
Cashiers Farmers Market is a store and a BBQ takeout. You’ll want to drop by for a sandwich and some specialty foods, plus fresh produce in season. (We’ve heard that their potato salad is the best you’ll ever eat.)
Cork & Barrel Lounge, in Cashiers, offers live entertainment, a great selection of beverages and super small bites. Be sure to try the smoked trout dip from Sunburst Farms, or the pork and chicken liver pate with a hint of brandy. They are eclectic and great fun.
Canyon Kitchen is found in the Lonesome Valley gated community. The restaurant chef is John Fleer, a true master of cuisine who served for 14 years as the executive chef of Blackberry Farm. The menu changes frequently so sit back and prepare to be wowed.
Gamekeeper’s Tavern, in Cashiers, is a classic steak and chop house, with an emphasis on game meats, fresh fish, and local organic products. (Their meats are antibiotic and hormone free.)
Lulu’s on Main, in Sylva, offers out-of-the-ordinary eclectic fare, consistently provided in an edgy, retro atmosphere. You gotta love a place that serves tofu curry as well as pan-fried duck breast. All tastes are welcome and, finally, beef-eaters and can bring vegetarian friends and everyone leaves happy! Craft beers and ciders, too.
Guadalupe Café is a farm-to-table eatery in Sylva, serving Caribbean-inspired fusion cuisine, a diverse selection of wines from Spain and Latin America and micro-brewed beers from across the nation and right down the street.
Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro, in Sylva, offers natural fresh food plus 60 kinds of tea, local brews and a nice selection of wine – served in a 1930s farmhouse that feels like great-grandma could have lived here. Live music? Often.
WHAT TO DO?
We know you won’t go hungry. So now, let’s move to planning your day. After all, you’re in the middle of a virtual nature paradise, so plan accordingly.
Jackson County contains the final 40 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 6,000-foot peaks of the Balsam Mountains are visible, so plan to stop at the Richland Balsam overlook. (It’s the highest point on the Parkway.) You’ll find great hikes all along that stretch of the Parkway, including a loop to the summit of Richland Balsam and a short hike to a lovely mile-high meadow at Wet Camp Road. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has superb hikes, as well, in more than 800 miles of trails that match all fitness levels.
Near Cashiers, in Southern Jackson County, there are hikes to a number of waterfalls, including a hike to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfalls in the Eastern United States.
Jackson County has produced a new hiking and waterfall map that is a great reference.
Hiking and waterfalls go hand in hand. For many of these beauties, you can drive, but others require a bit of a hike. In addition to Whitewater Falls, a few favorites in the area include: Upper and Lower Cullasaja Falls, Glen Falls, Silver Run Falls, Turtleback Falls, Rainbow Falls, Mingo Falls, Tom’s Branch Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Courthouse Falls. Get the details at www.stayandplayinthesmokies.com/explore/waterfalls.
FLY FISHING TRAIL
Jackson County is the home to the first designated fly fishing trail in the U.S. and the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail includes great waters for trout. (There are 15 prime locations where you can fish for brook, brown and rainbow trout.) Open water and small streams are both options for your fishing pleasure. Note: Fishing is permitted year round in open waters, but check to see if you need a fishing license.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Everybody loves them! You can choose to drive, bicycle or hike (or both) to see the sites, including overlooks, historical areas and, of course, water. There are great camping facilities, as well as almost 80 historic structures – you’ll see homes, barns, churches, schools and grist mills – preserved for visitors.
Depending on the time of year you visit, a wildflower guide will help you identify a few of the blooms you’ll see everywhere. The color palette is amazing!
Want to go horseback riding? There are hundreds of miles of trails and five drive-in horse camps, so you can bring your own steed along on your vacation.
Cherokee is a sovereign nation in the middle of Western North Carolina. You’ll find shops and museums, plus the Oconaluftee Indian Village, and perhaps a Native American elk herd. Be sure to take the children. They will love it, and you will learn much about this important culture.
Craft beer and breweries are intensely popular in Western North Carolina, and these breweries are definitely worth a bit of time for touring and tasting.
Innovation Brewery is found in Sylva, and offers special events and tastings of traditional brews as well as unique offerings such as Smokey the Beer and Afternoon Delight Blonde Ale. Their catch phrase: Fermentation, Experimentation and Innovation.
Heinzelmännchen Brewery, also found in Sylva, features German-born brewmaster Dieter Kuhn, who creates light, refreshing German beer – no preservatives. Visit the website for an education on the name and take note that you can bring food in to accompany your flights of samples or pint.
Harrah’s is known far and wide as the resort and casino owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. With 150,000 square feet of gaming, plus live entertainment and resort-style amenities, it’s a very popular destination. You can choose to stay at the resort, or visit for a couple of hours of playing (always responsibly, of course).
You’ve worked out your body; now it’s time to tackle your pocketbook. Enjoy a hearty breakfast, because you’ll be driving and walking.
You know you’ll want to take home gifts, souvenirs and art from this fabulously creative area. Start in Dillsboro, with a five-block area downtown containing Bradley’s General Store with its soda fountain. Ask for a sample at the Chocolate Factory (they know you’ll want more), and plan to visit Dogwood Crafters, a cooperative with 80 artists.
Oaks Gallery showcases 100 artists. Plenty of choices. Unique pottery that’s functional and decorative can be found at Riverwood and Tree House. And then, drive a couple of miles to visit Jackson County Green Energy Park, where they use renewable energy resources and house glassblowing artists, blacksmiths, potters and greenhouses. If you have the time, inquire about a class. Lots of fun.
As you drive around and stroll the streets, you’ll see more shops that invite you in to see treasures, crafts, arts and more good stuff.
Stop at one of our restaurant selections. And then, head out for more. You will love what you find in Jackson County.
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