By Devorah Lev-Tov
July 08, 2020
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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.

Credit: 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.

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

Credit: Courtesy of The Fearrington House Inn

Score: 94.55

More information: fearrington.com/inn

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

Credit: Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

Score: 93.68

More information: montagehotels.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of Old Edwards Inn & Spa

Score: 93.33

More information: oldedwardsinn.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of The Cloister at Sea Island

Score: 93.12

More information: seaisland.com

5. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

Credit: Courtesy of Blackberry Farm

Score: 92.78

More information: blackberryfarm.com

6. Lodge at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia

Credit: Courtesy of Lodge at Sea Island

Score: 91.58

More information: seaisland.com

7. The Greystone Inn, Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

Credit: Courtesy of The Greystone Inn

Score: 91.03

More information: greystoneinn.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Score: 90.79

More information: kiawahresort.com

9. The Swag Resort, Waynesville, North Carolina

Credit: Courtesy of The Swag

Score: 90.59

More information: theswag.com

10. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina

Credit: Courtesy of The Willcox

Score: 89.81

More information: thewillcox.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of The Inn & Club at Harbour Town

Score: 89.68

More information: seapines.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of Dollywood

Score: 88.70

More information: dollywood.com

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

Credit: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton

Score: 88.59

More information: ritzcarlton.com

14. Jekyll Island Club Resort, Jekyll Island, Georgia

Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Score: 88.00

More information: jekyllclub.com

15. Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg, Virginia

Credit: Courtesy of The Williamsburg Inn

Score: 87.92

More information: colonialwilliamsburghotels.com

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