A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Located within Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina’s southern Appalachian Mountains, Highlands’ geographic location shapes its status as an upscale destination that’s as high class as its lofty elevation. Much

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Located within Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina’s southern Appalachian Mountains, Highlands’ geographic location shapes its status as an upscale destination that’s as high class as its lofty elevation. Much

Where to Eat and Stay in Highlands

The Park on Main Hotel, diners at Madison's Wine Garden, and Highlands Mountain House in Highlands, NC

Located within Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina’s southern Appalachian Mountains, Highlands’ geographic location shapes its status as an upscale destination that’s as high class as its lofty elevation. Much of the area’s charm comes from its combination of contrasting elements: The rugged mountain setting provides a gorgeous backdrop to downtown’s luxurious spirit (Click here to read about one writer’s experience balancing both). You can put miles on your hiking boots while scaling summits and then pamper sore muscles with a massage. Or take a picnic lunch to Dry Falls and later sip a glass of Champagne while overlooking the mountain-chic Main Street. Ready for a getaway? Read on for 10 spots to unwind and dine in this luxurious mountain setting.


old edwards inn dining room

Old Edwards Inn and Spa’s cushy atmosphere extends to its on-site restaurant, Madison’s, where guests can pair a sommelier-picked wine with a Waygu New York strip. photograph by Tim Robison


Old Edwards Inn and Spa

This renowned, Old Europe-inspired hotel gives guests a rejuvenating respite where they can be as active or as relaxed as they choose. Play a round of golf on the Tom Jackson course or book a spa service. Accommodations range from guest suites in the main lodge to your own free-standing cottage, complete with homey touches, like cozy fireplaces, outdoor patios, and even full kitchens. But kitchen or not, do set aside time for a dinner or appetizer and cocktail at one of the four on-site restaurants.

445 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(866) 526-8008

The inn and lake at Half-Mile Farm

From Half-Mile Farm’s inn, you can follow the sloping green down to Apple Lake. Photography courtesy of Half-Mile Farm

Half-Mile Farm

From the team behind Old Edwards comes an idyllic countryside inn, complete with farm-fresh dining, a spa, and special events. There are endless opportunities to breathe in the fresh mountain air on this 14-acre property, whether you paddle a canoe across Apple Lake or wander the lush grounds. Start slow and sip your coffee on the porch or fuel up for a day of adventures with a three-course breakfast. Then, settle around the firepit at sunset or soak in the jacuzzi before heading inside for a gourmet dinner.

214 Half Mile Drive
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-8170

Skyline Lodge

Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Highlands, this luxury motor lodge feels a world away at its mountaintop location. Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired elements blend the circa-1930s property with the natural surroundings, including exposed wooden beams, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountain view, and rustic masonry in both the interior and exterior. Guest rooms surround a communal lawn where folks mingle around the fire pits or let their furry companions trade tail wags — it is a pet-friendly space after all!

470 Skyline Lodge Road
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-4008

With a private garden on the property, folks traveling with dogs don’t have to go far to find a grassy spot to relax.  Photography courtesy of Visit Highlands

Park on Main Hotel

Park on Main is another pet-friendly option (the oil paintings of dogs lining the lobby walls plus plenty of water bowls for thirsty pups should be your first clues), and the central location on Main Street makes it easy to strike out and explore the boutiques and restaurants around downtown. Each guest room opens to a private balcony where you can breathe in the fresh air or, at night, stargaze once you return from one of the many dining choices just a short walk away.

205 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(800) 221-5078

You can’t miss the stately Highlander Mountain House as you stroll along downtown’s Main Street.  Photography courtesy of Visit Highlands

Highlander Mountain House

This turquoise, English-style country inn feels more like something you’d stumble upon in the Cotswolds than a Main Street in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The guest rooms feature antique furniture, vintage paintings, and retro-chic amenities, including Victrola record players (plus an in-room selection of LPs). You can select a title from the communal bookshelves to enjoy by the fireside, fueled by the towering stack of firewood on the front porch.

270 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-2590


Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden offers patio seating seasonally, so take advantage of nice days by enjoying your meal al fresco.  Photography courtesy of Visit Highlands


Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden

Settle into the sumptuous dining room at Old Edwards’ on-site restaurant and get ready to sample plates from the New American menu. Food features locally sourced ingredients, such as French onion soup topped with gratinéed Appalachian tomme cheese, bacon-wrapped Sunburst trout, and Providence Farmstead steak served with garlicky mashed potatoes. Let the sommeliers help you select a bottle of wine to tie the flavors together or try one of the creative cocktails made with from-scratch syrups, sodas, and tonics.

445 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 787-2525

For almost 30 years, Wolfgang’s has dazzled Highlands visitors with its American-German cuisine and robust wine list. Photography courtesy of Visit Highlands

Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro

Entering its 29th season, this Main Street bistro fuses classic American fare with influence from Chef Wolfgang Green’s native Germany. Go for the Bavarian Sampler with bratwurst, knockwurst, kassler, and schnitzel served alongside cabbage, sauerkraut and potato salad. If you’re more in the mood for surf instead of turf, try the pecan-encrusted Gulf shrimp or the grilled salmon with Israeli couscous and aromatic tomato chermoula. Be sure to save room for the apple strudel (made with a family recipe) and topped with a scoop of Kilwins’ vanilla ice cream.

474 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-3807

Primary Restaurant + Bar

This modern eatery on Main Street lets guests escape into the cozy dining room rich with blue and hardwood tones. The food is upscale but approachable with fun takes on familiar items, including the tempura-fried Brussels sprouts, sweet cream cornbread, dry-aged Duroc pork chop, and a Wagyu beef burger. In addition to an ample wine list, North Carolina beers dominate the selection on tap, and the full mocktail list provides options to anyone looking for an alternative option.

310 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-3555

The Ruffed Grouse Tavern

Set inside Highlander Mountain House, The Ruffed Grouse extends the property’s cottage-chic style to its food and drink offerings. Regionally driven plates showcase local ingredients from farmers and purveyors. You can order a selection of the small plates to share amongst the table or get straight to business with the Ruffed Grouse double-cheeseburger — two Brasstown Beef patties topped with cheddar, pickles, onion, and a tangy Comeback sauce, all sandwiched between a brioche bun. Finish with a nightcap at the intimate bar — perhaps the Perfect Manhattan complete with a brandied cherry.

270 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-2590

When you work up an appetite during your day of mountain play, the sandwiches, pizzas, and freshly baked pastries at Mountain Fresh Grocery keep you fueled. photograph by Tim Robison

Mountain Fresh Grocery

This is the sort of place you can step into, fresh from a hike, and not feel underdressed. Start your day with thick-cut French toast or swing by after 11 a.m. for wood-fired pizza, burgers, and sandwiches. You can also pick up prepared foods, like soup and fresh-baked goods, in addition to wine, beer, and any sundries you might need during your trip.

521 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-2400

This story was published on Apr 16, 2024

Hannah Lee Leidy

Hannah Lee is a born-and-raised North Carolinian and the digital editor for Our State magazine. Her contributions have appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Culture, and the Local Palate. When not parenting her Bernese mountain pup named Ava, she's visiting the nearest cheese counter.