The Top 10 Resort Hotels in the American South
The South is one of the rare places where the touristic clichés — a rich culinary history, warm hospitality, and picturesque scenery, from the loblolly pines of North Carolina to the beaches of the Lowcountry — live up to expectations. That holds true whether your travels take you to a beach resort for sun and sand or an Appalachian escape for crisp mountain air and the prettiest valley views east of the Mississippi.
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 were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
This year, readers pinpointed Primland, a polished eco-retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, as their favorite resort destination in the South. It’s the property’s fourth consecutive time on the World’s Best list, and it’s easy to see why: the 12,000-acre estate, founded by French billionaire Didier Primat, who fell in love with the region, has a refined rusticity that embraces the surrounding environment. Guests can spend their days hiking, practicing archery, or fly-fishing in the Dan River, then return to the property for a treatment in the high-end spa, a nine-course tasting menu with wine pairings, or time unwinding in front of one of the Great Hall’s two fireplaces. “Primland pays attention to every detail,” said one reader.
Also on the list are several beach retreats, including two Georgia island properties, the Cloister and Lodge at Sea Island, as well as other mountaintop getaways like the Swag, an all-inclusive spot in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and Blackberry Farm, the food-focused estate on the other side of the mountains in Tennessee. “I so appreciated the sense of Southern hospitality,” remarked one reader of Blackberry Farm. Indeed: it’s a common thread among all of these resorts that’ll have you venturing to the South time and time again.
Read on for the full list of our readers’ favorite properties.
10. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina
9. Inn & Club at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
8. Lodge at Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia
7. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
6. Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
5. Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina
4. Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, Virginia
3. The Swag, Waynesville, North Carolina
2. The Cloister, Sea Island, Georgia
1. Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
This luxurious retreat pairs the best of outdoor excursions (fishing, riding all-terrain vehicles, tree climbing) with the ultimate creature comforts. It’s a Swiss chalet with a Southern accent: an imposing wood-and-stone lodge stands guard over the green, and the property is dotted with smaller cottages and tree houses that take inspiration from the tobacco barns and small mountain houses of Appalachia. All are outfitted luxuriously, but with an eye to homey comfort — this is a place for unwinding. And since there’s a range of room and cottage sizes, it’s the kind of spot you can return to again and again, be it for a romantic retreat, a small family get-together, or a raucous reunion with your most adventurous (and discerning) college pals.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.