SURRY COUNTY, NC
Surry County, located in the heart of North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley wine country, has much to offer visitors. There are more than a dozen wineries, ranging from boutique to large scale, along with a wealth of outdoor activities.
A trip to this scenic section of North Carolina near the Virginia border is a welcomed escape for people looking to get out, explore and enjoy new experiences. Spend a day visiting wineries, dedicate another day to hiking or rock climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park or paddling the Yadkin River, and be sure to soak in the small-town, friendly atmosphere of Elkin, Dobson, Pilot Mountain and Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy.
First, accommodations. Here are a few recommendations.
Pilot Knob B&B is situated on the eastern slope of Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, nestled in a wooded landscape. You’ll stay in one of their individual log cabins, designed to provide you with the rustic charm of yesteryear along with the comforts we enjoy today – comfortable (with whirlpools) despite being converted from old tobacco barns. It’s also along the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.
Rockford Inn B&B is lovely. Imagine an inn in the country, with peace and privacy, a comfortable bed, pleasant surroundings steeped in history, great breakfasts – it’s all there. The Inn is nestled in the historic Village of Rockford, with four wineries within five minutes and located in the center of the Yadkin Valley Wine Region.
Sobotta Manor B&B is nestled in the heart of the Yadkin Valley Wine Region, just minutes from many of North Carolinas finest wineries and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Inn is located in the center of historic Downtown Mount Airy, within walking distance to restaurants and shops.
Heart & Soul B&B is the area’s newest bed and breakfast, located within walking distance to restaurants and shops in Downtown Mount Airy. This beautiful 1901 home has a wrap-around front porch and four luxurious suites. Each room of the home is decorated to reflect an area where the owners lived while raising their children.
The Cabins at White Sulphur Springs are modern, upscale cabins on the grounds of an early 1900s resort just outside Mount Airy. These romantic, one-bedroom cabins have all the creature comforts of home in a picturesque woodsy setting.
If you really want to leap back in time you can stay in Andy Griffith’s Home Place in Mount Airy. It’s not elegant, but a lot of folks probably grew up in houses just like this one. 336.783.9300.
So what’s your pleasure? Downtown? Rural? Cabins at the vineyard? Any of these will leave you perfectly positioned for a fun-filled getaway.
What to do first?
If it’s lunchtime when you arrive, consider Harry’s, in downtown Elkin (336.835.9693). An Elkin institution, we’ve been told that Harry’s offers great southern food at reasonable prices. One food blog suggested their rib-eyes, while another raved about their crab legs (not available all the time). Enjoy. You’ll be tasting wines this afternoon.
For a bit of exercise, consider walking a portion of the historic Overmountain Victory Trail. This Federal linear park follows the route of the Overmountain Men as they made their way to the Battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War. The trail begins at Elkin Municipal Park and currently runs west along the Yadkin River.
Another possibility is the Ararat River Greenway or Emily B. Taylor Greenway, both in Mount Airy, or the more challenging Fisher River Park Mountain Biking Trail in Dobson. The Mount Airy Greenway Trails offer a paved, riverside path - perfect for a bike ride or a stroll and you can just imagine a young boy with a fishing pole, whittling away a long summer afternoon in hopes of catching the big one.
If shopping hits the spot, both Elkin and Mount Airy have popular main streets that are home to shops, bookstores, boutiques and specialty retailers.For sure, you’ll want to learn about Mount Airy’s connections to The Andy Griffith Show by taking a Mayberry Squad Car Tour. Ride in a vintage Ford Galaxy squad car as your “deputy” provides a tour of all the interesting sites in town.
And then … it’s time for the grape. There are so many vineyards in the Yadkin Valley (more than a dozen in Surry County), you’ll need to narrow your search, or plan to spend several days. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.
Shelton Vineyards in Dobson is the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina. Enjoy a large selection of award-winning dry wines, highlighted by a very popular merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The semi-sweet Riesling is among the more popular white wines at Shelton, along with two chardonnays.
Elkin Creek Vineyard is perched on the site of a historic grist mill built in 1896. Two creeks merge into one, here, and you’ll enjoy the surroundings as much as the wine. Enjoy gourmet wood-fired pizzas by the river every Sunday – a real local’s favorite Sunday stop!
Grassy Creek Vineyard is a beautiful site, and after enjoying a taste of their white, red and rose wines, you may want to take a stroll along the creekside walking trail on site. (They have cabins for rent here.)
JOLO Winery & Vineyards in Pilot Mountain is an upscale boutique winery with amazing wines, a tapas restaurant serving lunch and a beautiful setting with the iconic Pilot Mountain as a backdrop.
That’s probably enough for one day, so return to your inn and take a nap before dinner.
You’ll find several possibilities, but put Angry Troll Brewing @ 222, back in downtown Elkin, in your mix of options. Nestled in historic downtown Elkin in a renovated tobacco warehouse, you’ll enjoy relaxing fare, wood-fired pizzas, and a selection of the local brews available on tap. For dinner in the vineyards, opt for the Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards. The menu features upscale, sophisticated comfort food, mostly sourced from local ingredients, with vineyard views.
Time for bed. We’re betting you’ll sleep soundly!
Rise and shine, because you’ll have lots of choices for today’s road trip adventures.
Paddling. Surry has lovely streams and rivers in rural settings. The Yadkin River, Surry's largest, flows along the county's southern border, while the Mitchell River wanders through western Surry, each offering unspoiled natural beauty. The Ararat River in Mount Airy also offer entry points for kayaking and canoeing along the Greenway Trail. Paddling outfitters include Yadkin River Adventures and Rocky Forest River Run.
Biking. The rural nature of the county makes it ideal for bike rides. Among the most popular is the Surry Scenic Bikeway which provides over 470 miles of bike routes along rural Surry roads challenging all levels of cyclists. (Plus the trails we mentioned earlier – Ararat River Greenway, Emily B. Taylor Greenway, and Fisher River Park Mountain Biking Trail.)
Fishing. Some of the best trout and bass fishing is found here, with a number of public sites and many outfitters. Delayed harvest trout fishing is available in several locations, including the Ararat River Greenway Trail, starting from Riverside Park in Mount Airy, as well as Fisher River Park in Dobson.
Birding. Three birding trail locations can be found in Surry within Pilot Mountain State Park and Cumberland Knob Recreation Area along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the E & A Railway Trail, departing from Elkin Municipal Park and travelling North along Big Elkin Creek.
Golf, hiking, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Carolina Ziplines, horseback riding, rock climbing, a motor speedway and resorts devoted to outdoor sports. Pilot Mountain State Park is another great destination. There is so much to do and enjoy – the choices are endless. And all of these outdoor recreation opportunities are described in detail in the county’s excellent website, www.yadkinvalleync.com .
Seeing the sites.
We couldn’t provide insider tips about Surry County without a mention of Mount Airy, Andy Griffith’s hometown and inspiration for Mayberry. It’s a charming small town, with lots of antiques, galleries and unique shops. A must-visit for TV enthusiasts is the Andy Griffith Museum, located next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse. The collection housed there features hundreds of items from the life and career of Andy Griffith in movies, television and music as well as a variety of memorabilia including props from The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. The collection also includes items donated by cast members and actors from The Andy Griffith Show as well as a special section on the career of actress and current Mount Airy resident Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou). Don’t leave without a photo next to the TV Land Statue of Andy and Opie, located in front of the museum!
When you are downtown, stop in at the Old North State winery. The wine is good, the atmosphere inviting, and there is a restaurant on-site serving deli-style food at lunch and shifting to a tapas-style menu for dinner. It’s a nice respite from shopping, although stop in at the gift shop before you go to check out the Fish Hippie items. Also, multiple nights per week, they offer live music with no cover charge.
For lunch, if you’re still into nostalgia, stop in at Walker’s Soda Fountain, in the former location of a historic drug store in Downtown Mount Airy. Trip Advisor reviewers rave about the old-fashioned sundaes, malts, ice cream sodas and old-fashioned candy. The sandwiches are noted as well. It’s like a trip back in time with black and white tiles and an inviting lunch counter.
There are a number of museums which will be of interest, including the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, which houses an exhibit about Donna Fargo, the award-winning country music star who was born and raised in Mount Airy. Another exhibit there explores the life of Eng and Chang Bunker, the original Siamese twins who lived in the area during the early 1800s.
Historical homes may be toured, including the Gertrude Smith House in Mount Airy, and there are a number of Civil War Trails in the area which can be discovered through the Yadkin Valley website.
Afterwards, there’s more wine tasting to be done.
Stony Knoll Vineyards. This family-owned vineyard was founded as a farm in 1896. Two vineyards and a tasting room make it a lovely stop.
Round Peak Vineyards. With 12 acres of vineyards producing eight French and Italian varietals, and sitting at 1300 feet in elevation, their award-winning wines are produced only from grapes grown here.
Carolina Heritage Vineyards. Located in the heart of the Yadkin Valley along the Blue Ridge foothills, this fertile landscape yields organically-raised and handpicked muscadines as well as hybrid and American grape
Herrera Vineyards Yadkin Valley’s newest winery, located between Dobson and Mount Airy, offers a spectacular setting with two 75-foot outdoor patios, a waterfall, a firepit, a tasting room, a gift shop, and a wine bar area, as well as an on-site restaurant. The striking tasting room/restaurant has a Southwestern villa exterior and a warm and inviting interior. Herrera offers a dozen wines crafted by a winemaker who is a graduate of the viticulture program at Surry Community College.
There are more of course. You’ll see vineyard and winery signs everywhere and you can check out the Surry County wineries online. Weddings are held in these wineries and vineyards. Wine clubs have sprouted everywhere. Wine dinners give local chefs the chance to pair their creations with the fruit of the vine.
And while visiting, look for two food items much beloved in the region. The ground steak sandwich is available at the Dairy Center, among other local diners and sandwich shops. Try to order it outside of the area and you’ll probably be met with confusion. The other dish you’ll probably not see elsewhere is the sonker. Something of a mystery to most, you can find it in restaurants along the Surry Sonker Trail, and The Sonker Festival, held the first Saturday in October in Lowgap, a small community west of Mount Airy, honors this distinctive Appalachian deep-dish fruit or sweet potato pie.
Before you go, spend some time on Surry County’s visitor website, www.yadkinvalleync.com. They have information on all these activities and attractions, as well as lots more. The professional staff is friendly, professional, and justifiably proud of the lovely, rural, appealing and diverse area they call home. We think you’ll love it.