When the temperature is in the 90s and the humidity is almost as high, it’s no wonder so many Floridians head to the North Carolina mountains, known for their scenic lakes, waterfalls and spectacular views — and, of course, that cool, crisp air. The region also has an abundance of charming inns, perfect for a getaway or a place to stay while searching for a mountain home. Here are some favorites.
Esmeralda Inn, Chimney Rock
The Esmeralda Inn & Restaurant blends in so well with its wooded surroundings that it would be easy to miss it if it weren’t for the sign. Set slightly back from U.S. 64, the rustic inn and cabins are just a short distance from two of the area’s most popular attractions: Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. The current inn, rebuilt twice after fires, contains flooring donated from the gymnasium of the nearby set where parts of Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey were filmed. In earlier years, Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson and other movie stars used the Esmeralda as a hideout. The inn has an outdoor hot tub, and breakfast is included in the room rate.
901 Main St., Chimney Rock. [email protected].
Greystone Inn, Lake Toxaway
Lake Toxaway is North Carolina’s largest privately owned lake, lined by some of the most expensive homes in western North Carolina. Fortunately, those who don’t live along its shores can enjoy the man-made lake by taking boat rides on the Miss Lucy or dining, staying or doing both at the historic Greystone Inn. The inn, originally the vacation home of Savannah, Ga., socialite Lucy Armstrong, escaped a disastrous flood in 1916 that caused the Toxaway dam to burst and drained the lake. In 1961, the dam was repaired, the lake waters restored, and after Armstrong’s death, the property opened in 1985 as a luxury inn. The recipient of a number of “best” awards, the resort has a spa, tennis courts, a lakeside restaurant and other amenities.
220 Greystone Lane, Lake Toxaway. greystoneinn.com.
Old Edwards Inn, Highlands
Part of the Relais & Chateaux group of luxurious hotels worldwide, Old Edwards Inn & Spa is often cited as one of the country’s top resorts. The 68-room hotel, which consists of a historic inn and other buildings spread throughout Highlands, has a pool, a spa, a golf course and restaurants. Known for its upscale dining and shopping, the town itself was founded in 1875 by two Kansas developers. As the story goes, they drew lines on a map from Chicago to Savannah, Ga., and from New York City to New Orleans, thinking that the place where these met would become a commercial crossroads. Highlands draws its name from its 4,118-foot elevation, giving it among the coolest summer temperatures in the South.
445 Main St., Highlands. oldedwardshospitality.com.
Mast Farm Inn, Valle Crucis
The roots of the Mast Farm Inn go back to 1792, when Joseph Mast walked from Pennsylvania and settled in what is now Valle Crucis, near Boone. His family raised crops and livestock, but starting in 1900 the property also began operating as an inn. Today the main house has seven rooms, all individually decorated, and four cottages including the Loom House, thought to be the oldest habitable log cabin in North Carolina. (It was here in the early 1900s that Josephine Mast wove exquisite rugs and spreads‚ some of which are in the Smithsonian.) Guests at the inn enjoy farm-to-table breakfasts and homemade baked goods in the afternoon. The inn is also known for its gardens, at their peak from June to September.
Though not connected to the inn, the Mast General Stores in Boone, Asheville and other Southern cities are worth a visit for their eclectic array of items from candy to clothing to those gag gifts we loved as kids.
2543 Broadstone Road, Valle Crucis. themastfarminn.com.
Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville
Built by George Washington Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, the 250-room Biltmore House is the country’s largest and best known private residence. You can’t stay there, but you can get a taste of Gilded Age opulence at the nearby Inn on Biltmore Estate. Opened in 2001, the 210-room inn offers sweeping mountain views, including from tables in the Forbes four-star rated dining room, set with china, crystal and white linen tablecloths. Amenities include 24-hour room service, a day spa, a library lounge, a fitness center and a heated outdoor pool. The “Morning at Biltmore” package gives inn guests special access to Biltmore House before it opens to the public, including an organ loft view not seen on other tours.
1 Lodge St., Asheville. biltmore.com.