Last Updated on August 3, 2022

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Considering a trip to the High Country of North Carolina? Looking to beat the heat or something different? Before you book that vacation rental, consider Kanuga.

“Kanuga” is first a community, then an inn with cabins, conference center, a retreat, and importantly, a historic place. Initially founded as an Episcopal camp, Kanuga extends a warm welcome to visitors of all ages who seek to reflect and revive amidst perhaps the most peaceful and inspiring geography to be found in North Carolina.

Picture a cottage—the kind you experienced during summers of the past. Imagine you’re on a porch, seated in a comfortable rocking chair with a glass of wine and looking out over a deep azure blue lake.

Or picture a sleek modern hospitality center with all the contemporary amenities that also includes a splendid porch overlooking that placid mountain lake. Envision puffy clouds and Carolina bluebird skies. Listen for birdsongs, rustlings in the woods, and a place for quiet conversation.

Take a deep breath and smile. You’re deeply immersed in nature, 2,300 feet above sea level and you’re on “mountain time!”

The Drive to Kanuga Inn & Lodging

Kanuga, North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monic Mattioli.
Kanuga, North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monic Mattioli.

As a Kanuga “first-timer,” I was both curious and delighted to enjoy the Kanuga experience with friends and colleagues. This lovely retreat is situated in the high country of North Carolina between Hendersonville and Ashville. Assuming one lands at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the drive to Kanuga is about a two-hour easy highway ride. It’s so easy in fact, that you may decide to stop and visit the many gorgeous mountain towns along the way.

Chimney Rock? Lake Lure? Saluda? Kanuga is a wonderful home base for day tripping to these interesting places nearby.

History of Kanuga

The origin of the name “Kanuga,” is said to have come from a Cherokee word, meaning “meeting place of many people.” Founded in 1828, the conference and retreat center’s contemporary nature began as the Kanuga Lake Club. Intervals of challenge arose at that time, most notably a flood, which marked the end of the “club” era. Some years later, the Episcopal church acquired the property and that was when the roots of contemporary Kanuga were planted.

The Kanuga of Today

Interior bedroom Kanuga North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monica Mattioli.
Interior bedroom Kanuga North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monica Mattioli.

The culture of Kanuga remains communal to this day. It is an eclectic property with a mix of modern and not-so-modern lodging options, catering up 440 guests who could be individuals, families, or groups. The calendar is organized into “guest periods” that define which guests can go, and when.  

On site, all Kanuga visitors greet their neighbors and interact as though they live together in a village. I noticed groups intermingling during meal and social times, walking and hiking using facilities and trails, while gift shopping, at the church, and most especially on the porch’s rocking chairs.

My Room at Kanuga Inn and Lodging

Kanuga, North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monic Mattioli.
Kanuga, North Carolina vacation rental. Photo by Monic Mattioli.

During my visit, I chose to lodge at The Inn while enjoying its modern amenities. I rested in a beautifully appointed room consisting of two queen beds, fitted with ample storage and closet space, and a fabulous bath with shower stocked with bath amenities.

My third-floor haven was ideally located near a covered walkway with access to the main public spaces of check-in, the dining area, gift shop, library, and social parlor. My balcony was equipped with four comfortable chairs overlooking the most spectacular mountain views imaginable!

I loved viewing the lake with its beach and surrounding trails. This is hill country, so be ready to climb stairs and elevations and to handle gravel trails and pathways. Elevators available to access the accommodations.

Other Lodging Options at Kanuga

Visitors all check in at the main lodge and are directed to their inn rooms or one of the many charming cottages on property. Guests residing in the cottages have ample parking right outside their door. These units are perfect for families, “girlfriend” gatherings, and for reservation by large groups. The clustered cottages are rustic and variously equipped to meet the needs of lodgers.

Furnishings may include single or double beds, as well as fully-equipped kitchens and baths. Windows and porches are all screened.  And all have outdoor spaces for experiencing Kanuga’s beautiful blue skies, fresh air, wildlife, and lake views that encourage conversation, reflection and a profound sense of peace. Three daily meals are included in the accommodation fee. And bonfire lovers will love finding S’mores kits and kindling in the main building’s shop.

While intentionally rustic here and there, I found Kanuga to be pleasantly modern in décor and immaculate in terms of dining, lodging, and meeting spaces. It’s like being in another world—but with Wi-Fi!

The Chapel of the Transfiguration

Kanuga Chapel Interior. Photo by Monica Mattioli.
Kanuga Chapel Interior. Photo by Monica Mattioli.

One of my favorite places on property is situated in its heart: the Chapel of the Transfiguration. I was drawn to enter this beautiful place, its sole visitor at that time. I sat quietly reflecting on the beauty of my natural surroundings and the chapel’s remarkable construction. The inspiring structure, evocative of its rugged environment, was built in the 1930s and dedicated in 1942.

It is partially constructed from felled timber and is just spectacular in its simplicity. This chapel has endured all kinds of weather over the years, yet its essence truly feels soothing and sacred.

Many Ways to Experience Kanuga

Visitors to Kanuga seem drawn to return summer after summer. While my experience was that of a conference goer and a welcomed first-time visitor, I noticed many individuals and families were there to enjoy Kanuga’s seemingly endless array of outdoor activities.

Vacationers and summer campers enjoy the sporting fields, fishing from the pier, swimming in the lake, shuffleboard, a designated bonfire area, archery range, tennis court, ropes courses, trails, and outdoor exercise areas. It’s even possible to walk around the lake to encounter virgin forests, wildlife, all forms of nature, and places of reflection. The labyrinth here is spectacular.

Kanuga Beach. Photo by Monica Mattioli.
Kanuga Beach. Photo by Monica Mattioli.

Kanuga Conference Amenities

For guests attending a conference, there are several gathering areas in the main lodge and around the property. Kanuga is a vast area, so the various meeting areas are well identified on maps with clear signage. Catering is efficient and excellent, with numerous dining options available.  I loved sharing a glass of wine with my colleagues each evening at the Cunningham Pavilion overlooking Kanuga Lake.

The Kanuga Weather

This area of North Carolina is noted for its generally mild weather – generally sunny, averaging about 50 or so inches of rain annually and a few scant inches of snow each year. With that said, visitors should bring along jackets, walking shoes, umbrellas and other gear to be ready just in case.

Fun Facts:

  • Kanuga is a nonprofit organization. “Pathfinder” donors help to make the Kanuga experience possible for all who visit. Its mission is to inspire a more mindful and compassionate world.
  • Kanuga is a popular destination for summer camps for children as well.
  • The Bog at Kanuga is a special wetland where many rare plants and animal species live.

 It really was an amazing and unforgettable experience; one I’d highly recommend to others looking for a place to escape the ordinary.

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