Highlands is located in extreme southwestern North Carolina. It is in the southern Appalachian Mountains, within the Nantahala National Forest. The permanent population was 924 at the 2010 census. The population can swell up to 20,000 during spring to fall. The town got its name from its high elevation (4,118'). In the 1930s the town became a center for golf when Bobby Jones of Atlanta and some of his golfing buddies founded the Highlands Country Club. That club remains as one of seven successful residential country club communities in the area.
According to Wikipedia, Highlands is becoming more and more a two-season community; a summer-season community and an ever growing winter-season community. The summer season attracts large numbers of Southerners from the oppressive summertime heat and humidity found throughout much of the region to enjoy the beautiful mountains, cool days, fine dining, and hometown Main Street experience. The town is increasing its winter season draw through its offering of arts, culinary, holiday and romantic events.
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Where to Retire in Highlands and Home Prices
Highlands tends to attract a well off group of residents so real estate is expensive. Zillow had the early 2020 median home value at $482,856. There are at least 7 residential golf communities in the area, many of them between the small hamlet of Cashiers (pronounced Cashers) and Highlands. A lot of the homes outside of the developments are in the hills above and around town. The Highlands Golf Club is surrounded by nice homes.
What is Special about Highlands
It's location in the mountains of western NC is pretty special. The link to golf great Bobby Jones is part of the appeal. The town is dotted with many shops, antique dealers, a well-known auction house, and restaurants. The Old Edwards Inn is a charming old hotel. The outdoor lifestyle is a big attraction with hiking, waterfalls, and fishing in Harris Lake and others.
What is Not Special about Highlands
It is very small (population under 1,000) and very remote. During the winter it is even smaller. It is a tourist town. On a recent October visit almost every license plate downtown was out of state.
Who Will Like Retirement in Highlands
The average age is 64 so it does cater to a retirement age crowd. It is very affluent and expensive, so it caters to a wealthy crowd looking for a seasonal escape. Golfers, hikers, and fishermen like it here. It also attracts folks getting away from the heat of the city in summer. Others who have spent time in the area decide to move here full time because it is so beautiful. Many beautiful churches for those interested.
Local Economy is Driven by
Tourism and real estate.
Climate and Physical Environment
Highlands is located along the South Carolina border in the extreme western end of the state. The mountains and elevation of 4100' give this town a cool winter climate (average in the 30s during January) and cool summers as well (averages in the 70s). The area averages about a foot of snow a year.
Restaurants & Cultural Scene
There are four theaters: The Highlands Playhouse the Instant Theatre Company, the Highlands Community Players, and the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center, which hosts touring groups. The Bascom is a nonprofit visual arts center that is housed on a six-building, six-acre campus, and offers exhibitions and educational programs.
There is a high rate of property crime involving burglary, and theft in Highlands, but other types of crime are low.
Highlands-Cashiers Hospital serves the town.
Highlands is hard to get to. The nearest municipal airport is Macon County Airport. There is no public transportation.
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