Nature is at its most majestic in the high country of Boone, Blowing Rock and Linville. Famed Grandfather Mountain at 5,945 feet is the centerpiece of a 2,700-acre state park of the same name. Its mile-high swinging bridge, the highest suspension bridge in the U.S., offers spectacular 360-degree views. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering O’Scottish Clans, a 60-year tradition, is a don’t-miss if you’re visiting in July. The grounds around Blowing Rock, a 4,000-foot-high cliff that overlooks Johns River Gorge, are a popular hiking area. And the area is a major destination for serious rock climbers, too; there’s even a popular boulder field, Blowing Rock Boulders—something we just don’t see in Florida.
Longtime Sarasotans Cornelia and Richard Matson, who own a second home near other longtime Sarasotans, Tramm and Sarah Hudson, in the Hound Ears Club (it’s named for two boulders shaped like dogs’ ears at the top of a cliff—another popular rock-climbing destination) suggest some tamer outdoor options. “There are a lot of ski places here, and everything from fly fishing in the summer to snowboarding in the winter,” says Cornelia. “And there’s wonderful golfing. Dick gets in his cart and goes down the mountain and he’s right there.” Cornelia admits to going native. “I’ve become a boulder hugger,” she says. “I’ve never seen a rock I didn’t love.”
Plenty of arts opportunities here, too. In nearby Boone, the 18,000-student Appalachian State University, with its own art museum, performing arts center and Appalachian Summer Festival, adds tremendously to the region’s cultural offerings.
Places to Stay
Among lots of options are Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock, a charming 10-bedroom B&B; the historic Eseeola Lodge at Linville Golf Club, just two miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Linville; and the Westglow Resort and Spa, also in Blowing Rock.
Where to Eat
Bistro Roca, 143 Wonderland Trail; this casual downtown bistro is perhaps Blowing Rock’s most popular restaurant.
The Pedalin’ Pig, 2968-A Highway 105, Boone; Southern barbecue with gourmet flair (the owner is an avid mountain biker, hence the name). thepedalinpig.com
Over Yonder, 3608 NC-194, Sugar Grove. Historic Appalachian cuisine served in a charming old house converted to a restaurant. overyondernc.com