From its sweeping mountain views to its spacious ocean vistas, North Carolina’s diverse geography offers vacations for all tastes. But if you can’t decide between mountains or beaches, experience the best of both worlds at Lake Lure and Lake James.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about four hours west, these man-made lakes and bountiful surroundings include soaring cliffs and sandy beaches, pristine forests and cool, river-fed swimming holes.
Famous as the setting for the movie “Dirty Dancing,” Lake Lure lives up to its reputation as a secluded mountain retreat. Sitting at the base of the Hickory Nut Gorge in Rutherford County, the lake is surrounded by mountains, with lake homes tucked along a lush shoreline. Nearby are restaurants, lodging and a sandy beach.
Outdoor adventure awaits up the mountain at Chimney Rock State Park. Here you can climb (or take the elevator) to the top of a 315-foot granite monolith called the Chimney and enjoy the breathtaking views across the lake and the gorge. Or you can hike the Hickory Nut Trail and cool off under one of the state’s highest waterfalls. When you’re ready to relax, dip your feet in the Rocky Broad River while enjoying a craft beer at Chimney Rock Village, or you can meander through the blooms and blossoms at the Flowering Bridge.
Drive about an hour north, and you’ll find crystal-clean water at Lake James. Located at the base of Linville Gorge, “North Carolina’s Grand Canyon,” the 6,812-acre reservoir has 150 miles of shoreline bordering Burke and McDowell counties, about 45 miles east of Asheville.
Along with boating, swimming and fishing, Lake James has 25 miles of forested hiking trails along the Fonta Flora State Trail, many of which are open to mountain biking. After all the exploring, grab dinner in nearby Morganton, and sample the local flavors at Fonta Flora Brewery on Whippoorwill Farm in Nebo.
Whether you are looking for an elevated adventure or a sandy beach retreat, lake-life opportunities abound where mountains meet the lakes.
- The Belle at Avery/Bed & Breakfast. 404 Avery Ave., Morganton, N.C., (828) 403-6969
- The Inn at Glen Alpine. 105 Davis St., Morganton, N.C., (828) 584-9264, innatglenalpine.com
- 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa. 2771 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, N.C., (828) 625-2525, lakelure.com
- Fonta Flora Brewery. 317 N. Green St., Morganton, N.C., (828) 475-0153, fontaflora.com
- Chimney Rock State Park. 742 Chimney Rock Park Road, Chimney Rock, N.C., chimneyrockpark.com
- Lake James State Park. 7321 NC-126, Nebo, N.C., ncparks.gov/lake-james-state-park/home
- Act Naturally
- Mr. Cary Spirit
- The Not-So-Secret Sarah P. Duke Garden
- Nonprofit Spotlight: White Oak Foundation
- Best of Both Worlds
- Small Business Spotlight: The Flower Cupboard
- From the Editor: March 2020
- Alex & Teresa’s Pizzeria & Trattoria
- Worth the Drive: A Fresh Look at Calabash Seafood
- Liquid Assets: Spring Bock by Carolina Brewing Company
- Liquid Assets: Raymond Fairchild Root Beer White Lightning
- Garden Adventurer: Scadoxus, for the Gambling Gardener
- On Trend: Buzzworthy Bee Supplies