Tucked away in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, tiny Bryson City is easy to underestimate, but it holds so much authenticity and possibility for exploration without leaving North Carolina. This vibrant town, located on the Tuckaseegee River near the Nantahala National Forest and Nantahala Gorge, is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. You can also enjoy more serene experiences you might not expect from this town, such as spa treatments and treetop-cabana soaks. From pizza practically in the river to breweries with a view, you will always leave wishing you had more time in this area just three hours from Charlotte.
The Everett Boutique Hotel & Bistro, built in 1908 as Bryson City Bank, offers a charming stay. It is centered in the historic district of Bryson City overlooking the town square, adjacent to shopping, galleries, mountain views and great dining at the hotel’s bistro. The hotel also offers ten suites, a bar and rooftop terrace.
Lakeview at Fontana is a self-proclaimed “rustic chic inn and spa” and what a gem it is. Leave the kids at home: To maintain its spa environment, the inn allows adults only. In addition to its rooms and suites, the inn offers day and overnight spa packages, yoga classes and a dreamy treetop-soaking cabana. It is an ideal place to stay for a romantic getaway, a girls’ trip or even a solo retreat. You won’t want to leave.
Dine riverside at River’s End restaurant, located at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It has a killer back porch.
The Bistro at the Everett is a good option for a fancier meal. The bistro has a charming rustic ambiance, friendly staff and contemporary American cuisine.
My personal favorite spot to eat in Bryson City is Pizza by the River. It is just that: pizza by the river.
Stop by The High Test Deli and Sweet Shop after a hike and grab a sandwich, salad or maybe some soup. Leave room for one of their homemade ice cream sandwiches.
Grab a beer at Nantahala Brewing Company and enjoy the railroad and mountain views. They pride themselves on brewing their beer with the clean, crisp Smoky Mountain water, from one of the purest protected watersheds on the planet.
Mountain Layers Brewing Company is another great stop for a beer. With bars on two levels, you can enjoy either the rooftop deck or the downtown views.
If you are more of a wine drinker, check out Great Smoky Mountains Winery. In a historic building built in 1911, the winery made a point to hold onto the original rustic charm of the building during the remodel. It offers local and regional wines as well as craft beer and a full bar. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, with barn wood and brick throughout.
Advice from someone who lives in Bryson City about what is a must see:
“One of our best assets is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Karen Proctor Wilmot, the Executive Director at the Swain County Chamber of Commerce. “We have three entrances; the Road to Nowhere, which literally ends in a tunnel; Deep Creek, which has a great trail system and three waterfalls; and our Cherokee entrance, where you can see wild elk grazing in the morning and evening.”
If you are seeking outdoor adventure, the Nantahala National Forest is a given. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is a good spot to sign up for rafting, kayaking or even zip lining. Be sure to check out the swinging bridge in the forest and, if the weather allows, take advantage of Deep Creek’s tubing, fly fishing or horseback riding. Some of the waterfalls, including Juney Whank Falls and Indian Creek Falls, are also worth visiting.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is located in Bryson City. It offers picturesque train rides by rivers, mountains and valleys through some of the most remote areas of Western North Carolina.
Bryson City is also home to The Road to Nowhere. This historic tunnel is where Lakeview drive comes to an abrupt end, making it a popular and intriguing stop.
Spend time exploring downtown’s galleries, bookstores and boutiques to discover works from local artists — and gather up a few too many treasures.