Naples Illustrated


Highlands, NC

Mountain Calling

Urbanites have long found respite from the summer heat in Highlands, a charming town located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and sought out for its cool temperatures, unaltered beauty, and unlimited outdoor pursuits. In recent years, a posh resort and concentration of high-brow restaurants have gained national notoriety, earning Highlands a reputation as the ultimate refined yet rustic getaway. —Liz Petoniak


Highlands’ foremost accommodations are intertwined in the town’s history. Part of what now stands as the Old Edwards Inn & Spa (, a Relais & Châteaux property, was once Central House, Highlands’ first boarding house circa 1878. As summer guests continued to flock, the hotel changed hands and underwent a few expansions until Palm Beachers Art and Angela Williams took ownership in the early aughts and invested in its restoration. Today, Old Edwards’ Historic Inn matches the feeling of a cozy mountain lodge with old-world sophistication. Oriental rugs and antiques from Angela’s travels outfit the suites, many of which boast fireplaces for curling up next to on a brisk night. The resort also encompasses multi-bedroom cottages ideal for families and estate rentals like the Rockwood Lodge manse with scenic surrounds. Those seeking a truly remote retreat should stay at the affiliated Half-Mile Farm (, a renovated 1880s farmhouse on 14 idyllic acres just outside the center of town.


Elevated at 4,118 feet above sea level, Highlands’ unique ecosystem is home to a temperate rainforest filled with flora and fauna best observed on its many hiking trails. First, discover a bird’s-eye view of town and share a golden-hour picnic atop Sunset Rock, an easy half-mile hike starting across from the Highlands Nature Center.

Next, prepare for a more challenging 2-mile loop up Whiteside Mountain, thought to be one of the oldest in the world with granite dating

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