The 15 Best Resorts in the South

Located in popular destinations like the barrier islands of Georgia and the mountains of Tennessee, the best resorts in the South emphasize the region’s incredible natural wonders.

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Resorts across the American South attract travelers for their unparalleled hospitality and access to the region's outdoor recreation. Whether they're drawn to a cozy mountain cabin or a luxury beach hotel, Travel + Leisure readers return to the best resorts in the South — in this case, the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia — year after year for a relaxing escape from daily life.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels (including safari lodges) were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city hotel, resort, or safari lodge based on their locations and amenities.

A guest house at the Lodge on Little St Simons Island
Cassie Wright/Courtesy of Lodge on Little St Simons Island

Frequent honorees No. 8 Blackberry Mountain and No. 9 Blackberry Farm, both in Walland, Tennessee, remained well-regarded by T+L readers. Of Blackberry Farm, one reader gushed: "I needed to get away and couldn't find anyone to get off work at the same time, so I went alone. Twice. The food, the environment, the attention to detail, the spa, the meals — it was all amazing. I booked my next trip while I was there."

Debuting on the list this year was another Tennessee property: No. 11 Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains, a 40-tent glamping retreat near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which readers voted as No. 9 on this year's list of the best U.S. national parks.

The barrier islands of Georgia were also beloved by T+L readers, with three properties there ranking in the top 15. In fact, it was the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island that took this year's No. 1 spot. Read on to learn why it won top honors as the best resort hotel in the South and for the full list of reader favorites.

1. Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Living area in a guest house at the Lodge on Little St Simons Island
Phillip Murdaco/Courtesy of Lodge on Little St Simons Island

Described by one voter as "an unspoiled environment where nature is celebrated," this intimate resort — accessible only by boat — accommodates just 32 guests in six cottages and 16 individual rooms. Guests spend their days kayaking, bird-watching, fishing, and learning about the island's wildlife — with no TVs or radios in rooms to interrupt nature's sounds. That serenity is what led one reader to declare it "heaven on earth. There is no other place like this." The island — one of Georgia's Golden Isles, which placed No. 5 on this year's list of T+L readers' favorite U.S. islands — has only been open to the public since 1979. It has seven miles of barrier beach, plus 3,000 acres of forest and 8,000 acres of salt marsh to explore. Voters appreciated that the resort is all-inclusive: knowing that lodging, transport to and from the island, naturalist-guided experiences, and meals were taken care of allowed them to fully unwind.

Score: 96.76

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2. The Cloister at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia

Exterior terrace of The Cloister at Sea Island resort
Courtesy of The Cloister at Sea Island

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 95.02

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3. The Swag, Waynesville, North Carolina

A guest room with a mountain view at The Swag resort, in North Carolina
Chelsea Lane/Courtesy of The Swag

Score: 94.81

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4. The Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, Virginia

Nighttime exterior view of The Inn at Willow Grove
Courtesy of The Inn at Willow Grove

Score: 94.50

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5. Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands, North Carolina

A guest room at the Old Edwards Inn & Spa
Courtesy of Old Edwards Inn & Spa

Score: 93.78

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6. Half-Mile Farm, Highlands, North Carolina

A guest climbing the stairs to a cabin at Half-Mile Farm
Courtesy of Half-Mile Farm

Score: 93.24

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7. The Lodge at Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia

A living room area at The Lodge at Sea Island
Courtesy of The Lodge at Sea Island

Score: 92.29

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8. Blackberry Mountain, Walland, Tennessee

A guest room with a view at Blackberry Mountain resort
The Ingalls/Courtesy of Blackberry Mountain

Score: 92.17

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9. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

A pool, lounge chairs, and umbrellas at Blackberry Farm
Courtesy of Blackberry Farm

Score: 91.70

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10. The Tides Inn, Irvington, Virginia

Aerial view of the hotel and marina at The Tides Inn
Courtesy of The Tides Inn

Score: 91.60

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11. Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Looking into a guest tent at the Under Canvas Smoky Mountains glamping resort
Bailey Made/Courtesy of Under Canvas

Score: 91.50

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12. Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia

Pool at the Salamander Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Salamander Resort & Spa

Score: 90.58

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13. The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, North Carolina

The gardens of the Fearrington House Inn
Courtesy of Fearrington House Inn

Score: 90.09

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14. Primland Resort, Auberge Resorts Collection, Meadows of Dan, Virginia

View from Primland resort interior to fall scenery
Courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 90.00

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15. Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Overview of the property at the Inn on Biltmore Estate
Courtesy of The Biltmore Company

Score: 89.49

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