There’s a long-held secret in the foothills of North Georgia, and only those in the know are lucky enough to experience it.
Once known to the Native Americans as “The Enchanted Land,” the community of Big Canoe was first developed in the early 1970s. In 1997, The Big Canoe Company was created, setting into motion a master plan to make this place a unique haven for those seeking remote yet community-oriented mountain living.
The gated community, which spans two counties, comprises 8,000 private acres and a host of amenities only accessible by homeowners and guests. Of the 3,000 homes inside Big Canoe, only 185 are available to rent, which makes Mountain Vista Rental, one of only two cabin rental companies operating here, your ticket to exclusive access.
Mountain Vista’s portfolio ranges from small cottages to expansive retreats. Perched atop Sanderlin Mountain, nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, Highland Lodge is the largest log home inside Big Canoe, and perhaps the most majestic. The three-story estate greets guests who descend its driveway with well-manicured grounds, including a whimsical waterfall with resident frogs and a majestic façade with massive log timbers standing sentry at the entrance. The 6,500-square-foot, 7-bedroom, 6½-bath lodge is an excellent choice for large families or corporate retreats.
But the majesty of the mountain mansion itself pales in comparison to the magical view out the back, a sight that greets you through floor-to-ceiling windows as soon as you step through the front door. On a clear day, you can see 30 to 50 miles into the Blue Ridge Mountains from this north-facing perch, even spying the water cascading down Amicalola Falls. The practice of vista pruning inside Big Canoe provides the best possible views while keeping the canopy intact as much as possible.
The partially covered back porch is easily the highlight of Highland Lodge, where rocking chairs offer the perfect spot to sit a spell, and a glass-top table with banquette seating invites you to take your meals here with the view. A Green Egg and gas-burning grill offer multiple opportunities for a good home-cooked meal!
Speaking of cooking, the kitchen here begs to be put to good use. A large subzero fridge, freezer, and a butler’s pantry with a second refrigerator provide ample storage space for all your favorite ingredients. At the same time, double ovens and a gas range in an oversized island make meal-prepping for a crowd a cinch. A breakfast nook off the side of the kitchen affords another site to soak up that aforementioned mountain view, while a formal dining room with a farmhouse table in the front of the lodge easily accommodates your group for dinner.
Built in 2014, the lodge blends vintage elements, such as a fireplace in the kitchen, with more modern details, like internet-based TV and a digital touchscreen communication board for check-in and Big Canoe information. The central gathering space inside the cabin is a striking two-story great room with a stacked stone fireplace, 65-inch SmartTV, and a full-sized wooden canoe mounted on the wall—quite the appropriate décor for this Big Canoe beauty.
The main level primary bedroom features a rustic four-poster bed with a view out the back and a spacious bathroom with a jacuzzi-style tub encased in windows that face the woods, offering the illusion that you are soaking among the treetops.
A second large living area on the terrace level features another flat-screen TV and a wet bar, making this the perfect rental for a large group with multiple families who desire their own space. Here, you’ll also find a sunroom with a bed swing that beckons for an afternoon nap, plus three additional bedrooms, one of which is furnished with multiple twin beds and a game table—just right for the kids. The final two bedrooms are tucked into the top floor, ensuring groups with up to 14 guests have plenty of places to sleep.
And you’ll want to be well-rested during your stay because there’s lots of fun to be had inside Big Canoe. Exclusive amenities include a 27-hole golf course, 16 tennis courts, three lakes for fishing and boating, 20 miles of hiking trails, two waterfalls, two playgrounds, four swimming pools, a fitness center, and—my family’s personal favorite—a beach club. Here, a $ 20-day pass grants you access to the popular freeform pool, a real rockslide, and a lakeside beach with a water obstacle course, paddle boats, and—best of all—lifeguards on duty for parental peace of mind. Feel free to pack a picnic for the beach club, but leave the alcoholic beverages behind. There’s a beach bar and grill when you need your fill of refreshments. And if you don’t want to cook for yourself, you can refuel at any of Big Canoe’s seven restaurants. We recommend the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti for elevated pub fare and scenic views.
No matter how long you stay, you’ll be thankful for your taste of the “Canoe Life.”
HIGHLAND LODGE LOCATION: Big Canoe
MOUNTAIN VIEW: Yes
FIREPLACE: Yes, both gas and wood-burning fireplaces
SPECIAL AMENITIES: Private workout room; exclusive access to Big Canoe amenities, including restaurants, golf, tennis, hiking trails, boating, fishing, pools, and water obstacle course
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Cairn View Winery, Edge of the World Trail, Amicalola Falls, Dawsonville Premium Outlets
MINIMUM STAY: 2 – 4 nights, depending on the season
HOW TO BOOK: mountainvistarental.com