If you’re planning a trip below the Mason-Dixon line this summer, you’ll quickly realize that sweet tea and fried green tomatoes are just the beginning of what the Carolinas have to offer. Whether you want to hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains, rent a boat for the day on the largest private lake on the East Coast, take a dip in a natural waterfall pool, or just relax on the back porch of your dream home for the week, we’ve got just the ticket.
Travel and destination company Natural Retreats has partnered with Southern Living magazine to launch Handpicked Home Collections across North and South Carolina that are the perfect setting for ultimate family vacations.
A Private Mountain Retreat in Balsam Mountain, North Carolina
Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this private community is entirely contained within the Balsam Mountain Preserve, a 4,400-acre nature sanctuary. Choose from one of the 10 luxurious Handpicked Collection cabins, all within walking distance of the incredible amount of onsite outdoor and recreational activities.
Natural Retreats guests have access to all of the preserve amenities, including a swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center, yoga studio and tennis courts. The Equestrian Center is also available for private lessons or guided trail rides, most under the cool forest canopy. Free, guided hikes are available on over 30 miles of groomed hiking trails meandering through the preserve, accessing deep forests and stunning mountain views. Guided fishing trips are available along the 38 miles of spring-fed streams filled with native brook trout on the property. The Nature Center hosts a variety of activities led by full time, onsite naturalists, including guided nature hikes, bird watching classes, botanical walks and family-focused programs.
A Secret Island Oasis in Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a place where you can totally unplug without an eight-hour flight, look no further than Daufuskie, South Carolina. Only accessible by ferry from Hilton Head, this Carolina gem is one of the best-kept secrets of the south.
The island is free of automobile traffic; instead, golf carts are the vehicles of choice, along with bicycles and horses. Rentals feature kitchens and outdoor grills, and young kids can play freely while mom and dad look on from the front porch. Natural Retreats will handle everything for you, from arranging the accommodations to supplying your transportation. Golf carts and ferry rides to and from the island are included in your reservation, as well. Rental homes come complete with complimentary highchairs, Pack ‘n Plays and beach chairs at your request.
Something For Everyone in the Family in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina
Lake Toxaway lies in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by over one million protected acres in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. A vacation here places you in the heart of an outdoor lover’s paradise. From Panthertown Valley and Gorges National Park to incredible small town destinations like Asheville, each minute here can be as action-packed or relaxing as you choose.
The lake provides incredible fishing and is home to brown and rainbow trout, small mouth bass, bluegill, shell cracker sunfish and catfish. While on the lake, hire a boat for the day, or rent sailing or fishing equipment for the week. Known as the “Land of Waterfalls” there are more than 250 named waterfalls in the region that can be spotted on the numerous hiking trails. And rental homes here can range in size from two to six bedrooms to accommodate the whole family.
Hike the Rolling Hills in Highlands, North Carolina
A mere three-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Atlanta, Asheville or Greenville is the idyllic mountain town known as Highlands, North Carolina. At a pristine elevation of over 4,000 feet, this quiet rustic mountain community is located at the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by a national forest. A picture perfect location reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, Highlands is a delightful blend of country and city cultures.
For those who possess a more adventuresome spirit, the Highlands provide some of the best nature hikes in North Carolina, simply by stepping out your front door. Take a long walk or an invigorating hike to a nearby waterfall, go mountain biking across the hills or stroll the sidewalks of Main Street for fantastic boutiques and homemade preserves. Spend the morning golfing, or take a white-water rafting trip with the whole family one afternoon. Each of the seasons offers a unique set of outdoor adventures that attract residents and visitors alike to revel in the magnificent splendors of the mountains.
— Lissa Poirot