Small town living thrives in NC Highlands

Small town living thrives in NC Highlands
July 29 16:51 2018 Print This Article

Lowcountry Source has throughly documented the effect New Urbanism has had on West Ashley and how the area’s suburban character is under siege. The push for high density apartment complexes and non-descript urban design and the steady drumbeat urging residents to “get out of your cars” has left many long-time residents looking for an exit strategy. My wife Robin and I recently visited Cashiers (pronounced “cashers”) and Highlands in Western North Carolina and were impressed with the small town atmosphere and charm the communities have maintained. They also have a thriving tourism industry.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains at elevations around 4000 feet above sea level, Cashiers and Highlands are welcoming and relaxing. They feature plenty of quaint locally-owned shops, hotels and restaurants. They have the type of mountain cottage architecture you would find in a Thomas Kincaid painting. During our time there, we didn’t see any acts of road rage, honking horns or running red lights, now a fixture on West Ashley roads.

Highlands was built on a plateau, so it doesn’t have steep grades in its downtown streets. The town’s Main Street is iconic. Bustling with tourists and well-healed retirees, it features a mix of unique specialty shops and restaurants. There are boutiques, coffee shops, kitchen stores, plant shops, wild bird and gardening supply stores, antique shops and churches of almost every denomination, all on one street. I ate at Sports Page Sandwich Shoppe while Robin was shopping for clothes and was offered a 50% discount because I am a veteran. The friendly customer service there was second to none.

Robin shopped at a boutique called Lulu Bleu and was served by Lulu, the owner. Anyone who was ever served by the late Henry Berlin at his King Street clothing store would understand the experience. Lulu quickly sized up Robin and helped her find exactly what she was looking for. She told Robin of a top she absolutely loved, “I think I’ve sold over a thousand of these!” Robin walked out happy with several articles of clothing and a gift for her mother.

The area also has great outdoor attractions. In Cashiers, there is a 13-acre park in the heart of the town, The Village Green. Every Friday night, the park has a free Groovin’ on the Green concert, featuring local bands, enjoyed by locals and tourists of all ages. Highlands has a botanical garden and nature center on Main Street, operated by nearby Western Carolina University. It features winding trails, beautiful streams and a mountain bog. There are many mountain trails and whitewater rapids excursions within minutes of the towns. We scaled the mile-high Whiteside Mountain, which overlooks Pickens County, South Carolina.

If you are looking for an exit strategy or just want to get away from the coastal heat for a nice summer vacation, the North Carolina Highlands is great place to visit. There are plenty of mountain view or lake homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. For golf and tennis enthusiasts, there are numerous country club communities. And there is no shortage of friendly people.