Embraced by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Chetola Resort nestles among blue-tinged peaks and the 3,500 wild acres of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, which serves as the resort’s backyard. Given its secluded sylvan setting, it’s easy to see how Chetola came by its name, which translates as “haven of rest” in the Cherokee language.
Folks have long come here to relax. First there was the manor house, built as a hunting lodge in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1982, the home was transformed into a resort by a group of businessmen who added a 42-room lodge, luxury condominiums, and meeting facilities. Rachael Renar and her son Kent Tarbutton purchased Chetola 15 years later, and remodeled the house as the eight-room Bob Timberlake Inn, named for the internationally acclaimed artist and family friend whose realist paintings grace the inn’s rooms.
While Chetola remains a tranquil place, the 87-acre resort now boasts a multitude of sports programs designed to satisfy almost any desire for adventure. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats transport guests around the eight-acre lake. There are courts for tennis and pickleball, with a new bocce court this summer. Take a swim in the heated indoor pool, work out at the fitness center, or challenge the kids to a game of cornhole or disc golf. Tired yet? If not, adjacent Moses Cone Park lays out 25 miles of trails lined with mountain laurel and rhododendrons.
The real stars of the resort’s family-friendly sporting programs are clay shooting and catch-and-release fly-fishing. As the first Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina (since 2004), Chetola hooks both beginners and avid anglers for customized daylong float trips and half-day expeditions casting for trout in crystalline waters. Outdoor director Morgan Tarbutton, Kent’s daughter, serves as a guide on many of the wade trips. She and Chetola’s other Orvis-trained guides have access to 3,000 miles of stocked public waters, as well as private “trophy waters” where the trout range from 16 to 30 inches long.
In 2016, Kent’s brother Greg channeled his passion for the outdoors into creating the 67-acre Chetola Sporting Reserve. Hidden in a box canyon, the Reserve comprises a clubhouse and pub, two clay-shooting courses, and rifle, pistol, and archery ranges.
Beginners take instruction at the five-stand setup, where they learn the right way to hold the low-recoil Beretta and Caesar Guerini shotguns and how to use them safely to break clays. Women—the fastest-growing segment of the target-shooting market—use lighter Fabian Arms Sirens engineered to fit the female anatomy. As folks feel more comfortable, they progress to the semicircular 13-station course where they can crank up the speed of the clays. “The whole idea is to have fun . . . and safety is paramount,” insists Greg, who co-owns the resort. “Our mission is to create memories.”
Memories made at Chetola don’t always have to involve adventure. A two-block walk brings you to the shops and restaurants along little Blowing Rock’s Main Street. And you needn’t leave the resort to luxuriate in the full-service spa or enjoy a leisurely meal at Timberlake’s restaurant. After dinner, snag a chair on the porch by the fire pit or stroll down to the lake, where you can cuddle up by the bonfire on Friday and Saturday nights.
Whether you choose an active getaway or a laid-back one, Chetola is all about connecting people with the natural world. “I want people to leave feeling refreshed and having a perspective on things that’s just a little simpler,” says P.J. Wirchansky, the resort’s director of marketing. Sometimes all it takes is to disconnect from what your norm is, and Chetola hits the mark as the place to do it.”
/// Bistro Roca If certified Angus Beef brisket and lobster mac and cheese are your idea of comfort food, do as the locals do and head for this wood-paneled dining room near downtown. 143 Wonderland Trail, Blowing Rock. (828) 295-4008
/// The Speckled Trout A restaurant and bottle shop, The Speckled Trout shakes up a mean cocktail while delving into Appalachian cuisine in dishes such as cracker-crusted North Carolina mountain trout with hoppin’ John. 922 Main St, Blowing Rock. (828) 295-9819
/// Timberlake’s Located inside the historic Bob Timberlake Inn, Chetola Resort’s restaurant favors High Country fish and game. 185 Chetola Lake Dr (off US-321), Blowing Rock. (800) 243-8652
/// The Blowing Rock Don’t miss the town’s namesake geographical feature, a dramatic wind-blown rock formation that looks out over the Johns River Gorge, 3,000 feet below. 432 The Rock Rd, Blowing Rock. (828) 295-7111
/// Gaines Kiker Silversmith Drop in the shop of Blowing Rock artisan Gaines Kiker, whose lovely handcrafted jewelry takes its fluid lines from geometrical forms. 132 Morris St, Blowing Rock. (828) 295-3992