The Top 15 Resort Hotels in the South in 2020

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on Mar. 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

This year’s lineup of top resorts across the American South are known for a variety of things — gourmet cuisine, rustic-chic mountain accommodations, seaside barefoot luxury — but one thing they all agree on is the importance of the region’s incomparable genteel hospitality. That affable Southern charm keeps visitors returning again and again. From historic mansions like the Willcox (No. 10) to luxe waterfront retreats like the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee (No. 13) and the Lodge at Sea Island (No. 6) to posh mountain hideaways like Old Edwards Inn & Spa (No. 3), these resorts represent the best the South has to offer.

The Fearrington House Inn
Courtesy of The Fearrington House Inn

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 World's Best Awards 2020

Barrier-island retreats abound on this year’s list, like No. 11, the Inn & Club at Harbour Town, on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina; the No. 8 Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, off the South Carolina coast; and two resorts on Sea Island that occupy the fourth and sixth spots. The 14th spot is held by Jekyll Island Club Resort, on Jekyll Island, Georgia, which one voter called a “beautiful, beachy property,” while another raved that “the club is like going to another plane of existence.”

Montage Palmetto Bluff makes the list again, moving from No. 6 last year to No. 2 this time around, thanks to a staff that is “so polite, so positive, and so friendly, without being overbearing,” according to one reader. “The kids (and adults!) will love the complimentary s’mores bar set up around the huge fireplace after dinner,” added another.

Continue reading to see which resort nabbed No. 1, as well as the rest of this year’s honorees.

1. The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, North Carolina

The Fearrington House Inn
Courtesy of The Fearrington House Inn

Score: 94.55

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Surrounded by rolling pastures dotted with striped Belted Galloway cows, this year’s winner has it all: extensive landscaped grounds, gourmet culinary offerings, and plush accommodations filled with antiques, sumptuous fabrics, and original artwork. As one respondent put it, the Fearrington House Inn is a “lovely place to spend a weekend,” and another wrote that “it is such a romantic place.” The 32-room Relais & Châteaux inn is also situated alongside the village’s restaurants, wine and cheese boutiques, and full-service spa, ensuring that everything a guest desires is a stone’s throw away.

2. Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina

Montage Palmetto Bluff
Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

Score: 93.68

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

Old Edwards Inn & Spa
Courtesy of Old Edwards Inn & Spa

Score: 93.33

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

The Cloister at Sea Island
Courtesy of The Cloister at Sea Island

Score: 93.12

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5. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

Blackberry Farm
Courtesy of Blackberry Farm

Score: 92.78

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6. Lodge at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia

Lodge at Sea Island
Courtesy of Lodge at Sea Island

Score: 91.58

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7. The Greystone Inn, Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

The Greystone Inn
Courtesy of The Greystone Inn

Score: 91.03

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8. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Courtesy of The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Score: 90.79

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9. The Swag Resort, Waynesville, North Carolina

The Swag
Courtesy of The Swag

Score: 90.59

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10. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina

The Willcox
Courtesy of The Willcox

Score: 89.81

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11. The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

The Inn & Club at Harbour Town
Courtesy of The Inn & Club at Harbour Town

Score: 89.68

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12. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa™
Courtesy of Dollywood

Score: 88.70

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13. The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee
Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton

Score: 88.59

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14. Jekyll Island Club Resort, Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Resort
Peter Frank Edwards

Score: 88.00

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15. Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg, Virginia

The Williamsburg Inn
Courtesy of The Williamsburg Inn

Score: 87.92

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See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.

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