Simplicity and Tourism in Highlands, NC

The internet paints Highlands as a town known more for its iconic waterfalls than its community.  Driving on the winding roads of Highway 64 to Highlands, I was expecting a shambly town with a couple shops on main street. The ride there was full of leaves on the verge of changing, unexpected turns, and waterfalls I couldn’t fully take in as the driver.

As we approached Highlands, the road straightened. The gorges, waterfalls, and endless forests on either side of the ro

ad evaporated, replaced by a sign welcoming us to the Highlands and a man-made lake surrounded by vacation homes. The blue waters and the lake houses took my breath away. The last thing I was expecting to find in the North Carolina mountains was a vacationing community similar to the small vacioning towns on the shores of the Great Lakes in Michigan and Wisconsin. 

The housing community disappeared, replaced by a quiet mainstreet lined with artisanal shops and small diners with outdoor seating. The streets were lined with parking spots, enough to support a mirage of tourists, yet at 8am on a Saturday, the majority were empty. I easily found a parking spot and parked the car. 

My group explored the sleeping downtown. Each shop was designed to create a cohesive wooden, yet elegant feel. Stores advertised artisanal chocolate and pottery in intricate cursive on their windows. A layer of fog settled over the town, highlighting the ornate churches founded in the 1800s and the way the ivy sprung up on the brick buildings, such as the Old Edward’s Inn. This was the type of town one found in Hallmark movies, as unbelievable as it was cosy.

As the day unfolded, the little town came to life. Around 10am, some of the parking spots began to fill with vintage cars. Remembering how my dad used to take me to car shows growing up, I walked up to the men standing near the cars and asked, “Is there a car show here today?”

“No.” The man looked over at the row of polished cars from the 20th century. “We just come here every Saturday to show off our cars and socialize. It’s called Butts on the Benches.”

Butts on the Benches is an event started by a community of older men who retired to the Highlands back in 2012. The originator, Allan, died in 2016 and the bench in front of the cars was donated in his honor, a plaque signifying his creation of the group.

Butts on the Benches served as a time of community, laughter, and relaxation for these men. They talked of their passion for cars and their community. Yet, despite their love for the Highlands, not a single one was a native. They all came from Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, or another Southern city after retirement. Most weren’t even from North Carolina.

Later in the day, we found ourselves at the Highlands Antique Shop. Two buildings full of antiques that Stephanie loved exploring. The shop contained China plates with a history older than mine and tattered, well-read books and all proceeds support local charities.

Yet, it wasn’t the objects that intrigued me, but the history of Highlands. Highlands was a bustling yet tranquil center of commerce, a town designed for both tourists and retirees looking for a mindful, nature-centered lifestyle.

I talked to the lady who worked at the shop, Ann, on why she decided to move to the Highlands. She told me she had been climbing the corporate ladder in Atlanta, along with her husband. One day, they got tired of the fast pace life of Atlanta, decided to retire, and settled into the Highlands, where she volunteered to run the antique shop. While she mentioned that tourism had increased in the last ten years, this year having the highest traffic of year-round visitors, she loved Highlands because it might not have been where she lived the longest, but it felt like home. The relaxed, easy way of life had brought Ann peace. 

At the end of our conversation, she warned me against living in Atlanta or getting caught up in status, money, or prestige. “Living in Highlands has taught me what’s important in life and I’m glad more young people like yourself are touring the town. I hope you walk away knowing what’s important–simple living, community, and giving back.” 

While Highlands might not be a sprawling metropolis or even a classic Southern small town, it serves as an important reminder in a world obsessed with speed and technology.

 Amongst daily life, it’s important to remember what matters most–community and simplicity. Highlands serves not only as a place of retirement for people from all over the United States, but a reminder that home isn’t where you’ve lived the longest. Home is where you’ve found happiness and gained a greater appreciation for the small charms of life. 

Highlands has redefined home and what’s important for people from all over the nation. The town’s citizens hope everyone who steps into the Highlands are impacted by this lesson, even people like our travel team who stop by just for a day. 

Written by: Angela Myers

Calders Coffee Cafe: Artisanal Coffee with Highlands Flare

When you first walk into Calders, you’re greeted by a long line of people waiting in a narrow front room. The front room of the shop is full of taxidermy on the walls, sleek wooden floors and furniture, and the same Hallmark town aesthetic of Highlands’ main street. However, the charms of Calders goes beyond its aesthetic.

While the shop offers experimental coffee, such as the Ginger Latte I enjoyed, it embodies much more than a normal coffee shop. The point of any coffee shop is to be a meeting place for those working on their dreams or discussing life’s greatest questions over a cup of joe. However, the mission of Calders is to serve more than just that role; the owners of Calders wanted to embody the spirit of the town in the cafe.

According to their website,, Leigh and Clay Hartman founded Calders in 2019. After running coffee shops in Seattle and Charleston, they wanted to settle down in a smaller town and enjoy a simpler life connected to nature. They decided to start a cafe in Highlands because their son said his soul was in Highlands when they visited.

The name Calders actually has its roots in the same Scottish ancestry as the town. It’s Gaelic for “stony rivers” and was chosen because of the renowned Highlands waterfalls. The owners tried to embody the same spirit of the town, with a special emphasis on Calders being a meeting place to grow friendships and a place of calm refuge from the hustling tourist shops on Highlands mainstreet.

Whether you’re just stopping by for a to-go cup or are sitting down at one of their many tables with a muffin and a latte for breakfast, it’s impossible to ignore the friendly and cozy ambience of the shop. As the town grows into a center for mountain tourism, spaces like Calders Cafe remind both locals and visitors alike of the community values of the Highlands.

Many coffee shops today focus on having a bright, Instagrammable aesthetic or mimicking the drink options at Starbucks. With their unique offerings and ambience, Calders doesn’t fall into that trap. Calders Coffee Cafe is what a coffee shop ought to be; it serves the Highlands as a place that builds and reflects the community.

Written by: Angela Myers

Highlands: A Family History

Downtown Highlands, N.C. (photo courtesy of Highlands Chamber of Commerce)

By Jamie Angle, 2017

The Baty family has been in Highlands, North Carolina for seemingly forever. They are among the two or three historical Scottish families who remained in the area after their migration from Scotland. Erin Baty, a young blonde woman in her twenties or thirties, left this hometown for a bit to go to school in Georgia, but the Highlands called her home. Highlands is a name that actually refers to the Scottish Highlands and, according to Erin, was the reason the town was named as such. Her family was originally Norse people who moved to Scotland, but then many of them wanted to “pursue more scholarship” in Germany and Whales, then finally moved to the United States. While they tried to settle in Virginia and other original United States colonies, the Baty family ended up moving further south because of the landscape. The landscape of the Highlands reminded them of the landscape from Scotland. Therefore, this became the home of the Baty family. The original Scottish families intermarried and became friends with other cultural families in the area, such as the Irish and Native Americans. They brought with them a vast knowledge of agriculture and survival techniques to share with these other ethnicities. The blending of skills and cultures renders the city of Highlands, as we know it today, a truly unique place.

“The Irish didn’t really know what to do with that kind of landscape…The Scots kind of stayed in the area and branched out…They had a huge relationship and connection to the Cherokee Indians, which is why you see a lot of that influence here. This is their land. It was, from my understanding, rather peaceful. My dad is fifty percent Cherokee.”

While Baty’s can be found all over the world at this point, from their trips to Whales, Germany, Virginia, and further migration over the years, many still call the Highlands home. Erin claims she can walk into many local establishments and ask if the local owner “knows a Baty” and the answer is almost always a resounding “yes.” They have watched the area expand over the years. Erin found it sad that she can no longer see the places her grandfather used to talk about. She told me that, “There is no landmark anymore that [she] can come back to and say, ‘oh look at this, or oh look at that.’” She stated, “When [she] was a kid, there were maybe four shops.” These places have long since been torn down to make space for the tourist society that we see in the Highlands today. However, she is not without some remnants of these olden times. A historical photo book was put together showing historical documents of her family throughout the years.

Highlands is a city of rich cultural history and the Baty family is only one example of the city’s heritage. Erin said, the beauty of the land “called” too many different people and their combined cultures creates an unforgettable atmosphere that you have to see to believe.

“This land calls to people…the beauty enraptures people here. There is great wealth and there is great poverty, but they all come up here for the land.”

Highlands Holding True to Tradition

Nantahala National Forest. (Photo by Jake Hackman )

By Jake Hackman, 2017

Ripping through the sharp turns of the Nantahala National Forest, one can tend to forget that civilization, in fact, is near. Highway 64 tests driver’s endurance, as you tease the edge of cliffs, expecting the vehicle to topple down the mountainside, all the while, the view begs for your undivided attention. As the mountains caress over one another, you can find yourself buried in the deep valleys that separate them. Nudged in between are small pockets of communities that call the vast range home.

“I always knew I wanted to buy it, if it ever became available and once it did, I wasn’t going to miss my chance,” said McCall. (Photo by Jake Hackman)

Highlands is one of these towns, home to just under 1,000 residents who live in the southern region of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Founded in 1875, it was deemed Highlands for its towering elevation changes. This small town has withstood the test of time, keeping its locals rooted in the community while also bringing in travelers looking to experience a different part of North Carolina.

“I have lived in Highlands my whole life,” says Nick McCall, owner of The Pizza Place. “This place born and bred me, and there is just something about our town that is unique.”

McCall, is a third generation Highlands resident, business owner, and what many would deem a historical item. His roots grow deep in the Highlands community with his grandfather once the mayor and his father a town board member and fire marshall. In a town of just under 1,000 McCall graduated from Highland Public Schools, which enrolls around 330 students per year. After receiving a degree in political science from Appalachian State University, he decided to move back home where he would work providing electricity and internet to the town of Highlands.

“I originally came back and was managing all of the satellite towers throughout the area,” said McCall. “I just did it because I was good at it, I didn’t really like it. That is what spawned me buying the pizza shop–I always knew I wanted to buy it, if it ever became available and once it did, I wasn’t going to miss my chance.

In 2012, McCall opened up The Pizza Place–located on the main street that runs through Highlands. The front doesnt scream pizza, nor do any of the shops that parallel the mountain range that abides just outside the town. But the aroma that whofts itself through the air, penetrating storefronts and tree limbs is one that can be recognized by local and tourist alike.

“I started working here when I was 12 to make money to buy a car, and once I began, I never stopped thinking about it,” said McCall. “It wasn’t even that I liked pizza that much, it was more that, I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much.”

Six years later and McCall has seen the effects ripple through his evironment. From employing local students throughout the summers, to donating to the schools and sports teams, McCall has his hands in the community outside of The Pizza Place. He also acknowledges his success not only to the dedicated people who reside in Highlands year around, but also the tourists who bring in the largest influx of business each year.
Eight months out of the year Highlands is home to its residents, local business owners, and the seasonal hunter; but during the summer and fall months, the city entertains more than 20,000 people. From daily visitors to temporary residents, the surrounding mountain range contains over 10 different country clubs. When vacationers aren’t spending time on the golf course, exploring a hiking trail, or enjoying one of many lakes, they tend to find themselves downtown weaving in and out of small shops and of course, through McCall’s pizza joint.

“At first the community was thrown through a loop when the influx of visitors started grew alot,” said McCall. “After a few years, people began appreciating the business and it also expanded the town and its reputation substantially.”

This rising popularity of Highlands begs the question of whether it can hold true to its authentic small-town feel that originally attracted visitors. In the wake of commercialization and small-town retreat, Highlands has found its footing and McCall doesn’t see it going anywhere that soon.

“Yes, sometimes it is intimidating seeing bigger companies come in and try to buy out stuff from us, but at the end of the day it is about allowing the change without letting it change you, and I think we have been doing that for years and we will do it in the future.”

Befriending a Stranger in Buck’s Coffee

By Samantha Lubliner, 2016

Located in Highlands, NC, Buck’s coffee sat isolated from other buildings. Across the street from the welcome sign, the coffee shop was a staple of the town and a buzzing place filled with people of all ages. The decor was trendy with a country finish, and the people were from all walks of life. The room in the back was for “stuff” and antiques ranging from lamp fixtures to deer horns.

The armchairs were big and looked comfortable next to the fireplace. The windows gave excellent natural lighting to the whole room, and the attention to detail and design lent to an ambiance of __. People sat both alone and in groups to enjoy their coffee or treat.

Inside Buck's Cafe.
Inside Buck’s Cafe.

I ordered a Chai Tea Latte with a shot of espresso. Distracted by the delicate jewelry on display, I missed when my name was called. I traipsed over to the biggest, comfy leather chair I could find unoccupied. The five chairs surrounding a coffee table were inviting, and I asked the one man sitting in the circle if he minded if I sat.

Before long my three group members joined me—and there we were, having a group meeting with a stranger. He was curious in our conversation of town hopping and pumpkin rolling and asked what we were up to. I explained to Matt the mission of our trip and the inquiry we were practicing. He showed interest and mentioned that he’s been to all the towns we had mentioned. When prompted he then discussed how he’s been to the many towns ranging North Carolina–all to capture the beauty of waterfalls.

Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.
Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.

Matt began to tell all about his passion of photography and his strong convictions toward travel for a bigger global understanding. He explained that materialism and big homes don’t make happiness but travel and making a bigger world are more important. He spoke about his plans to travel to Japan to visit his college roommate and his plans for travel and photography fitting in with his day job of IT. He showed us his Facebook page, his pictures of the Amsterdam canal and wished us well on the remainder of our journey through North Carolina.

Originally from Charlotte, Matt has big dreams and wishes to continue pursuing photography and travel. He gave us his Facebook page and advised us about the seasonal shadow of the bear that he had traveled to capture. Since the shadow bear was only visible for a few minutes during dust, we said good-bye to Matt and hurried out of Buck’s Coffee to catch the sight.

Review of Bistro on Main Street

By Christian Kowalski, 2016

Menu of Bistro on Main Street.
Menu of Bistro on Main Street.

Highlands’ downtown area was by far the most charming collection of shops and stores we had visited thus far on our trip. The streets were lined with boutiques, seasonal shops, gourmet food places and so on. Each little block had a store that piqued our interest. Based on the amount of great local shops in Highlands, our group knew we had to find a nice restaurant in this part of the town.

While walking around we spotted the Bistro on Main Street, which was an old-fashioned white Inn resting on top of a hill. It looked like a dream destination for lovers of bed and breakfast type places. Upon entering the Inn, it was warm and cozy, the feeling you want when choosing a small, local inn. The furniture was old-fashioned but clear, the spaces on the floor were small and intimate—it was an ideal setting to have a nice lunch and unwind. Other aesthetic points that stood out were the restaurant’s chandelier which was a collage on intertwined branches wrapped in lights. It had a seasonal, wreath like shape that really embraced the fall weather setting. There was also a fireplace tucked away in the back of the room that would breathe warmth into the room during the colder nights in Highlands.

The dining area inside was small but comfortable, and we were seating closer to the main atrium. The menu had more expensive meals than the other restaurants we visited and offered other options beyond southern cuisine. The entrees were all over twenty dollars which included fish, steak and chicken-based dishes. Beyond these more expensive meals were a variety of soup options, chicken pot pie and other warm meals to make you feel good during the cooling months. I ordered shrimp and grits, mainly because I wanted to remain consistent with ordering southern dishes throughout my time on Highway 64.

Lit up under the branches of lights, Dani looks over the menu.
Lit up under the branches of lights, Dani looks over the menu.

The grits I ordered were perfectly creamy. The chef added cheese to the grits to add more flavor on top of them to give the meal a fuller taste. The shrimp was fresh and soft and complimenting the rest of the dish really well. Many combinations were tasting between the shrimp and grits, the grits separately or when I scooped with the freshly baked bread that was provided with our meal.

The shrimp and grits was one of the cheaper dishes offered at the restaurant totally around thirteen dollars. For the price, the portions were decent but could have had more shrimp with the dish. But it was quality over quantity as the entire meal despite it size was incredibly balanced and delicious.

Overall, the Bistro on Main Street had a very warm and home-like feel that fit given its place as a popular Inn at the heart of the town.

Absolutely Gorge-ous: The Cullasaja Gorge

By Christian Kowalski, 2016

We detour and climb down to the bottom of the gorge to stretch our legs from the car ride.

When driving to Highlands, our group was caught up in the beauty of the landscape around us. We were all trying to quickly take pictures of the mountains with the changing tree colors when we spotted ahead a gravel parking space that directed us toward a spot on the Cullasaja Gorge. Our group had been driving alongsidethe gorge for quite some time at this point and decided we could take a spontaneous detour and absorb the nature around us.

The path we made to get down to the gorge was trail blazed by us. Since there wasn’t any form of walkway, we had to carefully step down the steep cliffside in order to reach the bottom. After breaking ground and forging our path, we reached the bottom of the gorge and were welcomed to amazing scenery. We were right up close to the Cullasaja river which was flowing and covered with the colorful leaves that were falling from the trees. It was a great time to bask in a hidden gem from this ride as we were the only people within the gorge. After some time walking around and taking pictures, we climbed back up to the road and continued on our journey to Highlands.



Turn a Corner, Discover Bridal Veil Falls

By Rachel Fishman – 2014


When you’re driving along the winding roads of Highway 64, nestled between the lush trees of the mountains, it is easy to expect beauty around every corner. From breathtaking panoramas of treetops so vast that they seem to be never-ending broccoli crowns, to narrow canopied roads that only emit stripes of sunshine intermittently, the scenery never disappoints. It would seem easy to become blind to the beauty a couple hours into a trip, but the mountain region of Highway 64 never gets old. Every so often, however, you round the corner and are struck by a site so majestic that it momentarily makes the rest of the scenery seem (somewhat) more ordinary.

You’ll experience one of these unbelievable moments when you’re driving between Franklin and Highlands. The cascading waterfall of Bridal Veil Falls reveals itself to the passerby around a corner much like any other. Spouting out a large stream of water that falls over an arched section of the road, this approximately 50-foot-high waterfall provides a respite for drivers from the windy turns down the mountain. You just have to pull off to one side of the arch, park your car, and step out into the sprinkling beauty. You can walk all the way around the arch, behind the fall, and let yourself be misted and refreshed.

The walking path you’ll enjoy behind the waterfall used to be part of Highway 64 itself. This route required drivers to slow down before hitting the falls and cautiously drive behind them. The difficulty and danger that ensued diminished the outlook of the falls as a beautiful piece of scenery. During the winters, the snow and ice caused the falls to freeze over, which you could imagine would be a huge safety hazard. In Franklin, the Gem & Mineral Shop workers won’t hesitate to warn you that a lot of people have unfortunately fallen off the cliff around that area before the highway was reconstructed.

Bridal Veil Falls is one of the few places that you feel as if you’re among tourists in this mountain region of North Carolina, but not in a bad way. Cars are constantly pulling over, spilling out individuals, couples, families, and groups of friends with cameras at the ready. From newlyweds taking a pit stop along a honeymoon mountain trip, to vacationing families stopping off to let their kids traipse through the water, Bridal Veil Falls is an enjoyable attraction for everyone.

If this part of Highway 64 is not on your itinerary, it is worth taking a detour just to see Bridal Veil Falls. And while you’re at it, stop for half a day in Franklin to wander around the shops and eat some of the delicious food the downtown has to offer. Or, stop in Highlands for a nice meal at one of the local restaurants or inns. The vistas in this part of the mountain region will certainly make the drive to Bridal Veil Falls almost as enjoyable as the destination.


Mountaintop Wine Shoppe

By Alexa Dysch & Rachel Fishman

When Highlands’s locals and visitors alike finds themselves wondering, “Where’s my wine destination?” they need not look further than the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe.

Whether you plan to grab one of their many, and unique, bottles being sold at the front of the store, or prefer to sit in the back with friends and sample wine, you’re in luck! Mountaintop Wineshoppe in Highlands has everything to offer.

Inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, while also being a bit swanky and cool. The wooden floors add to the class of the establishment, but also to the inviting feeling. About forty people can comfortably sit in the back room, either at tables of two, four, or eight, or on one of their plush leather chairs. Although cozy and not necessarily very large, you do not feel like you’re sitting on top of others. The owners, Mike and Christine Murphy, are incredibly easy to strike up a conversation with. They manage to maintain this friendly persona without intruding on customers’ time to wind down and relax.

The first room in the store boasts not only bottles for sale, but also self-service tasting machines. You can buy a “Pour Card” and be able to freely sample the wines of your choosing. At all times, you can choose from 8 reds and 8 whites. If you like the taste, you can try a full glass or even buy the bottle. Mike and Christine make themselves available in case you need a little advice in this decision.

The pairing menu is pretty extensive, with about 20-30 different types of cheeses and meats, both local and global. The wine is listed under the categories of red, white, and reserves, and then further divided by grape variety.

For a change of scenery, customers can take a seat outside and be treated to gorgeous Appalachian views around a blazing fire, while having a glass from a selection of over 500 bottles of wine.

In their first year of business, Mike and Christine Murphy find themselves discovering what works and enjoying the fruits of their labor. They strike the ideal balance between having an upscale business without excluding anyone, including those who are new to wine. Their knowledge of wine is extensive, coupled with a friendly and warm atmosphere. While the Murphys had no previous wine involvement, their business partner brought his previous distribution experience alongside.

From Western North Carolina to Western Florida, visitors from major cities and small towns stop by for great wine and wonderful company. Their varied customer base is a true testament to the population of Highlands. A primary destination for weekend getaways in the fall due to all the “ooh’s-and-ahh’s” of the color-changing trees, Highlands pulls in a large seasonal tourist population. In fact, as we were trying to enjoy the last couple drops of wine in our glasses, Mike explained to us that Highlands has only 2,500 full time residents, yet enough occupancy space for 25,000. And on the 4th of July, Highlands is visited by up to 35,000 people.

The inns in the area cater to this touristy population, providing a prime destination for weddings as well. From outdoor weddings to cozy indoor ceremonies and receptions, the facilities are well-equipped to host a good number of weddings. The Old Edwards Inn hosts 7-12 weddings per weekend! But what about the nights before the wedding day? Mike wanted the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe to be a destination for the wedding goers who travel to the area.

It’s no surprise that since their March opening, they’ve gathered a good local following as well. After a previous wine shop closed down years ago, there was an open void that the Murphys felt they could fill. The reasonable prices and the relaxing atmosphere allow for Highlands’ residents to gather at the shop, without having to treat it only as a “special occasion” event.

The trek through the windy roads along Highway 64 is a worthy adventure to reach this charming town and its wonderful wine destination. The stunning views of Bridal Falls on your way hint at the beauty of what’s to come.

A bottle at Total Wine will cost you the same, but a visit to this local gem is an experience worth more than a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

Owners Mike and Christine Murphy
The outside of this quaint shop
















Coffee, Conversation, and Community

By Rachel Fishman – 2014

Inside Bucks Coffee Cafe in Cashiers
Inside Bucks Coffee Cafe in Cashiers


There’s something in the aroma of fresh roasted coffee that calms the soul and opens up conversation. Sure, the caffeine helps too. But the atmosphere of coffee shops with the smell percolating through the air has an energy all of its own. As the barista expertly creates the perfect consistency of foam on top of a cappuccino and swirls a leaf or heart into the top, everything seems to move at the perfect pace. Frantic, calm, organized chaos. Along with the chatter and commotion, the serenity and the relaxation, comes an air of friendliness (most of the time, at least).

In coffee shops in the mountains of North Carolina, all of this positive energy and friendliness is heightened. When we entered coffee shops for our daily coffee fix and conversation opportunity, we were always greeted with a warm smile. From the ritzier atmosphere in Highlands to the more small-town, mountainous setting of Cashiers, we experienced a wealth of opportunity embedded within the local coffee shops.

Immediately after finding a parking spot along the two-lane, shop-lined main road in Highlands, we headed to Bucks Coffee Cafe. I was determined to get advice from the locals about what not to miss. The cozy rustic atmosphere, heightened with the white walls, comfy leather chairs, and faux taxonomy throughout, provided what I was sure to be the perfect place to get the “insider scoop”. We made our way up to order, apparently already giving off our “outsiderness.” The man behind the counter was in his early 30’s, born and raised in the mountains. Before we had a chance to order our drinks, paying our way into a position where we could pester the employees with questions, he asked us what we were doing in Highlands.

Our explanation of the project proved amusing to him, soliciting a response of Oh, and you expected to find a lot to do here? Well, I guess we should have realized that we would probably not be given the extent of advice we might have been hoping for. Using his sassy comment to segue into asking for things to do, we prodded him for a bit more information. He talked about the shops along the street and the bars in the area. And that was it. The woman who entered in behind us, donning worn combat boots, jeans, and a t-shirt from local bar “The Lost Hiker” reiterated the suggestion of where to go.

In many situations, this would have been enough. But, between the coffee and the mountains, the conversation kept going. The barista called over his friend, who gave almost the same answer, but went into more detail of what to expect drink-wise and clientele-wise in the various bars. Okay, I began to think, we seem to have an accurate picture of the area now. Their eagerness to actually help us find something we were excited to do, coupled with their amusement at our probably unsatisfied expressions, continued the conversation for a few minutes more.

When our cups were empty and our insides warmed, we thanked everyone for their advice and headed out in search of dinner. As we were leaving, the barista hollered towards the door, “We’ll see you all tonight at The Lost Hiker around 11:00!” With a smile and a wave, we all exited, sharing looks insinuating our agreement that we would not, in fact, see them at the bar. We knew that all of our travels would lead us to our beds before then, but we were grateful for the wealth of time and advice.

The next morning we woke up and drove to Cashiers, with even less of an idea of what to do in the three hours we had allotted ourselves. As we entered the town on our beloved Highway 64, we saw antique shop after antique shop lining the road. Unfortunately, they all seemed to be closed since it was a Sunday. Unsure of what to do, we arrived at an intersection in what seemed like the center of the town, and saw it—another Bucks Coffee Cafe.

Hoping we could get the same eagerness to provide information on activities in the town (and get a nice steaming cup of coffee), we decided to go in. This coffee shop boasted the same art from an artist local to North Carolina mountains and had the same white walls and the fake taxidermy, but it was even larger and cozier than the one in Highlands.

Immediately intrigued by both the commotion of people within and the eclectic mix of items scattered around, I paused and surveyed the place.  The rustic feel with the wooden tables and central blazing fireplace was enough to warm anyone’s heart and brighten their day. The taxonomy and art added to the cabin-esque atmosphere.

When it was my turn to order, I asked the barista, who seemed to be just a bit older than me, if she had any suggestions of things to do with only a couple hours. Similar to the experience in Highlands, she did not think we would be entertained as tourists, explaining that there’s really not that much going on. The man making my chai latte added in that it would be a shame if we missed the High Hampton Inn Apple Festival. I thanked him for his suggestion, and once again banked on the coffee atmosphere to allow for my continued badgering.

“We actually went to a Bucks Coffee Cafe in Highlands yesterday, I didn’t realize it was a chain,” I shared, hoping for clarification on how many exist. He informed me that these were the only two and that we just happened to get them both back to back, a happy accident. People pass through frequently, but the coffee shop is constantly populated with locals gathering with friends to chat or working on their laptops. Finally, we were directed to the flyer with the details of the apple festival just up the road, and we were off. Once again, we were grateful for the advice and satisfied that our experience in the town would not be lacking of anything that we absolutely needed to see.

So thank you, Bucks Coffee Cafe, for both being an activity and a piece of insight into these mountain towns and a hotbed for ideas of the best activities to do in the area.

A Delicious Chai Latte from the helpful barista
A Delicious Chai Latte from the helpful barista