Connecting with Nature in the Carolinas
The Carolinas (that’s North and South) are easy to get to from South Florida, whether you decide to fly or drive. A flight to Charlotte, which is the main major airport in the two states, will take about 2 hours, and the cost is quite reasonable. If you prefer to drive, you can essentially do the drive in one day as it will take just about 7 hours to get to the South Carolina border, or closer to 11 if you head to Charlotte in North Carolina.
Both South Carolina and North Carolina have an abundance of activities for nature lovers and some incredible state parks where you can soak it all in. With our current situation and the need to get out and explore something other than our local beaches, I’d say a trip to the Carolinas is just what’s needed. You’ll enjoy a healthy escape from daily life and time to connect with the great outdoors.
So what are the best spots to visit to get the most of your stay? There are certainly lots of great options, but here are two of my favorites where you can enjoy the conveniences of a small city and easy access to everything nature within minutes.
Greenville, South Carolina- The first time I visited this lovely town of just under 70,000 residents, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I didn’t want to leave! This city has one of the most beautiful parks right in the heart of its downtown area, known as Falls Park with a riverside garden, whimsical bridges, colorful flowers and waterfalls! Waterfalls in the center of a town? I was sold! The great thing about Greenville is that it makes for the perfect hub to visit incredible places nearby. There are numerous state parks and recreational areas within a short drive that offer outstanding hiking, more waterfalls, rivers, panoramic mountain views, and lakes. You can bike on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, kayak in the Green River Gorge, Hike in the Paris Mountain State Park, and go swimming in Lake Jocassee. At night, you can enjoy delicious foods in one of its many trendy restaurants or enjoy drinks and live music at one of its quaint bars (pending pandemic regulations of course). You can also visit an apple orchard or local vineyard if you’ll stay for a while.
Asheville, North Carolina- Another jewel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this town has a reputation for being an artsy Bohemian town with a population of just under 100,000. Its Downtown Arts District has a number of art galleries, museums, and artist studios. A historic landmark not to be missed while there is the spectacular Biltmore Estate built in the 19th century by George Washington Vanderbilt II, now a museum. Part of the property is also a luxury hotel with a spa, a winery, and some excellent restaurants. But you probably don’t want to overlook some of the incredible outdoors near this charming town. Pisgah National Forest has some of the most remarkable waterfalls and wilderness areas in the region. And the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, offers some of the most breathtaking views and access to some of the best hiking trails east of the Mississippi. Along “Americas Favorite Scenic Drive” there are great places for a picnic, easy access to waterfalls and panoramic lookouts throughout.
Did you notice that I love waterfalls? Hope you do, too, because you’re in for a treat!
So Where do you stay? There are an abundance of hotels in both locations, cabins for rent, campsites, and lots of vacation rentals (such as Airbnb and Vrbo rentals), whether you prefer to stay out in a forest or mountain setting or want to stay in or near town to also enjoy some nightlife.
As far as weather, there are certainly activities year round, but if you’re afraid of the cold like me, it ‘s best to avoid heading there between late November and early March (where temperatures can drop to the 30’s in the evenings). Though there is something to be said about staying in a cabin drinking hot cocoa by the fire!
For more information on both locations visit their tourism websites for great itineraries and tips for when you’re ready to go: