Some people follow a pattern when they travel – like camping in National Parks, stepping foot in all 50 states or following a band around the country, like latter-day DeadHeads. I could be perfectly content spending years porch surfing, traveling from inn to inn in the South, where we have more charming accommodations than we have recipes for pimento cheese. My goal is to stay in all of best southern hotels. Here are a several of my favorites in every state.
Best Southern Hotels – Alabama
The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa
Point Clear, Alabama
One of our favorites and we’ve returned several times for the gorgeous landscaped grounds right on Mobile Bay and one of the best spas ever. It has a small beach for swimming and sunning, with complimentary kayaks and bikes. The sunsets are spectacular! Full review: 3 Amazing Southern Hotels With a Past, Sense of History
The Battle House
Another favorite where I’ve stayed several times, The Battle House was the scene for many society events in Mobile for a century. The location is perfect for exploring downtown Mobile and the grand lobby is stunning. There’s an outdoor pool and beautiful rooftop garden. The Battle House also has The Trellis Room, Mobile’s only Four Diamond Restaurant.
Full review: 3 Amazing Southern Hotels With a Past, Sense of History
My preferred mode of transportation is the golf cart. They are easy to drive, you have great visibility, and I can even back one up – something I struggle to do with a regular car. A fun little model was ours to drive during our stay at this beautiful resort in north central Alabama about 2.5 hours west of Atlanta.
Golfers have long been familiar with Pursell Farms because of the top-rated FarmLinks golf course. The 3,200-acre resort also has a spa and 12-station Orvis Shooting School, where I once again proved I am not a natural with a gun. Other activities here include horseback riding and a UTV Mountain Experience, where you’ll follow old logging roads up to the top of the mountain for scenic views of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Guests have several choices when it comes to accommodations – cabins, cottages and large homes perfect for bigger groups. The newest addition is The Inn at Pursell Farms, with fitness center, outdoor pool and 40 guest rooms, including a few that are pet-friendly. Hamilton Place is a gorgeous venue for a wedding.
For dining The Clubhouse Grille has grab-and-go options for breakfast and lunch. Old Tom’s Pub, a Scottish-American gastropub, is open daily at 11 a.m. for soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas and snacks. Sylacauga is the birthplace of Jim Nabors, aka Gomer Pyle, and you can play a round of pool on his pool table.
Slip off your golf cleats and get our of your yoga pants for a fine dining experience at Arrington, which overlooks the 18th fairway.
Best Southern Hotels – Florida
Art Ovation Hotel
I adored this hotel, with its art-filled spaces, rooftop pool and bar and live music in the lobby. My room had a turquoise ukulele and a sketchbook so I could fulfill my artistic, musical side. If I had one. The location is right downtown, within walking distance of shops, theaters, restaurants and Bayfront Park.
Elizabeth Point Lodge
Fernandina Beach, Florida
This 25-room property is right on the beach on Amelia Island with a beautiful porch. It has garnered plenty of accolades from travel magazines and inclusion in “1000 Places to See Before You Die.”
The Pointe Restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has ocean views and a wraparound porch for dining al fresco when the weather is nice. Breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres are included in the rate.
All the restaurants and shops of Fernandina Beach are close by. And this area has fabulous restaurants.
The Inn on Fifth
How I love staying on a club level, and the lounge at The Inn on Fifth was one of my favorites ever. The afternoon spread included a huge pile of artfully arranged shrimp. And I had a balcony overlooking 5th Avenue. The location is perfect for shopping and dining in this sophisticated Florida city. Full review: The Travel 100 Top 10 Hotels & Resorts
JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
Marco Island, Florida
This is one of the largest resorts I’ve ever stayed in outside of Las Vegas. I loved the huge pool area, wide white sand beach and the fun 10K Alley, the gaming and gastropub. A rum tasting with my toes in the sand at sunset at Kane Tiki Bar & Grill following by a fire juggling performer was a highlight. I had to keep my Lily Pulitzer top in my suitcase, however, as that’s what staff members wear and I didn’t want guests asking me for directions, thinking I worked there. Full review: The Travel 100 Top 10 Hotels & Resorts.
Related story: Things to do in Marco Island, Florida
The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village
Fort Myers, Florida
Our room had a large screen porch with a fantastic marsh view. Alas, I was attending a conference and had very little time to enjoy it, but managed a few stolen minutes one day to take in the view. The hotel is on a marina, a lovely area to walk around and visit the shops.
Best Southern Hotels – Georgia
The Antebellum Inn
When I stayed in the charming Antebellum Inn in Milledgeville, Georgia, we enjoyed farmhand-size breakfasts, evening wine hours and a perfect location to explore this small former capital city of Georgia.
The six rooms include four suites, one room with twin beds and a cottage behind the pool that can sleep four. All rooms have private baths, 1200 thread count sheets, robes, free wifi and smart TVs. I was in the Garden Suite, which overlooked the pool and had the advantage of a large tub. Tubs seem to be disappearing from hotels everywhere, and I am not happy about it..
Every afternoon the Inn hosts a wine hour. Oh, how I love a wine hour to wind down after a busy day seeing the sights. The coffee table in one of the two parlors was filled with a tray with nuts and cheeses, and we were brought a glass of our selection of red or white wine.
I went down to breakfast the first morning and helped myself to granola, coffee, yogurt and some yummy butterscotch baked things in the sunny dining room with a fireplace and a sign reading “There is always something to be grateful for.”
But wait, there’s more! What I thought was breakfast was just a prelude. Out came a huge, hot meal with bacon, sausage casserole and cheese-laden hash browns, garnished with an orange and pineapple slice.
This bed and breakfast is in Georgia’s wine country, with enthusiasts claiming it’s the closest thing to a Napa Valley inn in Georgia. You can take a cooking class at the inn’s North Georgia Cooking School. A full breakfast is included with the room rate and the inn serves dinner on Saturday nights. There are two cabins and eight rooms, all with unique layouts and some with fireplaces.
We spent a few days here after Christmas one year and about had the place to ourselves. We had a huge storm one day, but enjoyed the sound of the rain, and were still able to do a lot of hiking on trails close by.
The DeSoto Savannah
This is my pick for a stay in this historic coastal city for its view, location, pool and amazingly comfortable bed. Full review: The DeSoto Savannah: Location, Fantastic Dining and Oh, That View
Tucked back in the woods of the Chattahoochee National Forest near Lake Rabun in Clarkesville, Georgia, Glen-Ella is a great place to stay to explore the many hiking trails and waterfalls of North Georgia. It has 16 guest rooms decorated with locally made furniture and a fine-dining restaurant.
The Georgian Terrace
While I rarely stay in this beauty just a few miles from my house, we did enjoy a staycation there once and I have attended many events in this historic hotel in Midtown Atlanta. The hotel opened in 1911 and has hosted Walt Disney, Calvin Coolidge and the premier party for “Gone with the Wind” in 1939.
Sometimes people ask me how prevalent southern hospitality is in Atlanta. I can promise you you’ll find it most everywhere you go, and particularly at The Georgian Terrace.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
They had to shove me in the boat when it was time to leave our beautiful fall weekend at this mansion on Cumberland Island in Georgia, accessible only by boat. If I had to select a porch on which to live out my days, it would be here on the 100-foot long one. I would rouse myself for the two-course breakfast, picnic lunch, happy hour and the three-course dinner. Activities include a nature tour, kayaking, hiking or hanging out on the secluded white-sand beach.
The inn was built by the Carnegie family in 1890. There are only 16 rooms in the main house and two additional cottages. Dinner is an elegant affair where guests are summoned from the library to dine together. The Kennedy family stayed here when John F. Kennedy Jr. famously got married in the tiny chapel on the island, and I had fun pondering which member had been in our room.
Lake Rabun Hotel
We spent the weekend in the cottage here one February with another couple and vowed to return soon. This charming mountain lodge is a perfect weekend getaway from Atlanta and the restaurant rivals any of the best in Atlanta.
There are 13 rooms in the main lodge, and two in the innkeeper’s cottage where we stayed. Built in the early 1900s, it features two bedrooms with private baths, a large living room with a cathedral ceiling and fireplace and a full kitchen.
The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island
St. Simons, Georgia
One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed, Little St. Simons is the only place I’ve ever had fried catfish for breakfast. You won’t find luxurious accommodations here, but you will find a quaint lodge, unbelievably good food and activities that include swimming in the pool or at the secluded beach, nature tours and a wonderful swing to just sit and watch the tide roll in.
Accommodations include a room in the lodge, or one-, two-, or three-bedroom cottages. The island is 11,000 acres with seven miles of beach and only 32 guests, so it’s a true getaway. The nightly rate includes three meals a day, and the food is fantastic. Picnic lunches are available as an option instead of eating in the Hunting Lodge dining room. Each evening starts with a social hour with appetizers and there’s a Friday night oyster roast when oysters are in season.
There’s a naturalist for tours of the island or guests can take bicycles and explore on their own. There’s also a pool and kayaks for exploring the marshes.
The room was exquisite at this charming small inn in Clayton, Georgia, but it’s the food that was really the stand-out. Make sure to eat dinner here and try to save room for the overindulgent breakfast. The front porch swing is just made for sitting and just gazing at the mountains beyond.
Marriott Savannah Riverfront
Savannah, GeorgiaLocated at the end of River Street, Savannah Marriott Riverfront features spacious guest rooms with balconies overlooking the Savannah River. See full story: On the Waterfront at Marriott Savannah Riverfront
Best Southern Hotels – Kentucky
21c Museum Hotel
This hotel is at the top of my list of places I’d like to stay in the United States, as Louisville is one city I’ve yet to visit. Whenever I see an image of one of the works of art in this hotel/contemporary art museum, I vow to make it there. I’ve actually spent very little time anywhere in Kentucky. Ah well.
In addition to 91 hotel rooms, 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville has 9,000 square feet of exhibition space in five 19th-century warehouses. These are free and open to the public so even if you aren’t staying here, make a point to visit.
The 21c Museum hotel collection includes several other locations, including Durham, NC, Oklahoma City and Nashville.
Best Southern Hotels – Louisiana
The Inn at Houmas House
Housed in a collection of cottages nestled among trees, each cottage has with a small front porch area with rocking chairs and white columns. The property is located on a bend of the Mississippi River, but you can’t see it as a huge levee has been built to protect the area from flooding.
A stay at the inn includes a one-hour guided tour of the Houmas Mansion and gardens as well as an elegant breakfast for two. Full review: 3 Amazing Southern Hotels With a Past, Sense of History
New Orleans, Louisiana
This is our pick when we stay in a hotel in New Orleans. Located in the French Quarter on Chartres, Hotel Provincial is on the National Register of Historic Places, always a bonus in my book. Just like people, I love hotels with a past. It has a beautiful courtyard with lush gardens and some rooms have a view of the Mississippi River. The Ice House Bar has happy hour daily from 3-6.
Best Southern Hotels – Mississippi
The second I walked in and saw the bookcases surrounding the check-in counter, the pink hardwood floors and the seersucker curtains, I knew I’d love this hotel. My hotel key that replicated the student i.d. card for an Ole Miss student allowed me entrance to my collegiate-themed room, complete with a blue book for note-taking and lamps that were made of trophies. The hotel encourages Ole Miss students to study there, providing comfortable lounging areas, free wifi and plenty of desk space. The views from the rooftop bar face towards The Square.
Related story: Amazingly Fun Things to Do in Oxford, MS
Best Southern Hotels – North Carolina
The Carolina Inn
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Called the University’s living room, the Carolina Inn is right on the campus of the University of North Carolina and has been a favorite of visitors since 1924. While some of the 185 rooms are on the small side, they are all big on charm and the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Make sure to eat in the spectacular Crossroads Restaurant, which offers brunch, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Lake Toxaway, North Carolina
I spent my 40th birthday at this gorgeous property in the North Carolina mountains on Lake Toxaway and I couldn’t have asked for a betting setting to usher in a new decade.
It all started with Savannah businessman George Armstrong built a vacation home for his wife Lucy, completed in 1915. Her home opened as Greystone Inn in 1985. The inn has 30 rooms, each with a small desk and some with fireplaces, lake views or lakeside terraces.
There’s a spa onsite and other activities include tennis, hiking, golf and croquet. An afternoon champagne cruise around the lake on the Miss Lucy is a highlight.
Omni Grove Park Inn
Asheville, North Carolina
This historic inn nestled in the mountains in North Carolina is one of the best spa hotels in the Southeast. It may be my favorite spa in the world, actually. It features a huge grotto with pools and warm cascading waterfalls to massage your body. There’s also a heated outdoor pool open year-round with magnificent mountain views.
You get to the inn by driving up a narrow mountain road, lined with beautiful homes. The inn is a large u-shaped property with a huge lobby with fireplaces large enough to stand in.
High Hampton Resort
Cashiers, North Carolina
Like summer camp for grown-ups but you have to dress up for dinner, High Hampton Resort is in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Cashiers, North Carolina where it has been welcoming guests since 1922. It’s great when you want your kids (and spouse!) to disconnect – there are no TVs or telephones but there is golf, tennis, a spa, and a lake for boating, fishing and swimming.
We’ve visited a few times, staying once right by the lake and the other times in the main house where the room sizes and shapes may be quirky, but we woke to the smell of bacon cooking downstairs, which reminded me of my childhood. Sunday brunch is an event, with the most amazing Bloody Mary I’ve ever had, a meal in itself.
Meals are served in a large dining hall, reminding me of the dinner scenes of “Dirty Dancing” but with far less drama.
Old Edwards Inn and Spa
Highlands, North Carolina
I barely shed a tear when I dropped my baby off at college (sorry, buddy!) as my husband and I jumped in the car and immediately headed to Old Edwards Inn. The accommodations, the spa, the food – all first rate at this charming European-style resort in the middle of Highlands, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s one of the top luxury hotels in the South, IMO.
Best Southern Hotels – South Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina
We spent two wonderful nights here while exploring Beaufort, South Carolina, now one of my favorite cities. Housed in a former home built by a planter, the main house has several rooms with water views. We stayed in a newer building out back, a bit more private and with a separate entrance. A full, elegant breakfast is included with your stay.
Charleston, South Carolina
We discovered this boutique hotel years ago and it’s one of our favorites. Located in the historic district within walking distance, it now combines properties – one at 19 Venue made up of five historic warehouses from 1780, and 26 Vendue with two historic warehouses from the 1800s. Every room is different. The rooftop bar has amazing views of Charleston.
In 2014, The Vendue branded itself an art hotel and now has more than 300 original works of art with daily art tours. A stay here includes an art reception with wine and canapes each night, milk and cookies in the evenings and complimentary continental breakfast.
Charleston, South Carolina
If you’re looking for one of the nicest 5-star hotels in Charleston, SC, look no further than Planters Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property. I confess – I haven’t stayed here, but I did enjoy a slice of its famous coconut cake at Peninsula Grill. And I relaxed in the elegant lounge when my friends Beth and Ray were staying. With gorgeously furnished rooms and impeccable service, Planters Inn is the place to experience the full luxury experience of the South.
Best Southern Hotels – Tennessee
My husband collected several years of brownie points when he whisked me away to a cottage in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Walland, TN to celebrate a big birthday. This 4,200-acre resort has so much to do — we enjoyed kayaking, hiking, biking and a massage in the spa. Pricey, yes! But unforgettable and home to the best biscuits I’ve ever had. I’d put it against any of top hotels in the United States.
When my son was a student at Vanderbilt we loved staying in this boutique inn downtown, which opened in 2009 close to the campus and other Nashville attractions. It recently added an entertainment venue and Writers Studios with spaces for artists and musicians.
The hotel features a Tesla Model S car guests can use to travel within a three-mile radius.
Union Station Hotel
Housed in a former train station built in 1900, Union Station Hotel now has 125 guest rooms, restaurant, bar and meeting space. The barrel-vaulted lobby is magnificent, 65-feet-long with gold leaf medallions. The hotel is on Broadway, within walking distance of the honky tonks.
Best Southern Hotels – Virginia
This historic inn was our choice when we’d go back to Charlotteville for reunions at the University of Virginia, where my husband and I both went to school. We’re both history buffs and liked that the builder, James Dinsmore, purchased the land from Thomas Jefferson, founder of UVa. Dinsmore was also the master carpenter for several of the original buildings on the grounds.
It has only nine room, each different than the others, and some a bit quirky. Since our last stay it’s undergone a renovation, but here’s hoping the original charm remains. Farm Bell Kitchen has been added, and guests here receive complimentary brunch.
Linden Row Inn
We discovered this historic inn years ago and always return when we visit Richmond. It has 70 rooms and suites in seven connected historic rowhouses from the 1850s and has been run as an inn since 1988. Guest rooms are decorated with antiques from the same era.
Linden Row is on the National Register of Historic Places and the location is great for walking to any attractions downtown or to take a stroll down to the river.
We stayed in a spa suite with a huge four-poster bed, sitting area, fireplace and balcony. The 84 guest rooms also include cottages and private estates. Facilities include The Spa at Old Edwards Inn, outdoor swimming pool, two fitness centers and clay tennis courts.
Meadows of Dan, Virginia
I fell in love with this gorgeous luxury resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains as we drove up the long driveway on the 12,000-acre property. It’s bigger than Bermuda, really! Accommodations include your choice of a cottage, mountain home, tree house or a room in the lodge, where we had a large suite with a mountain view.
There’s an indoor pool, spa, golf, sport shooting, archery, air rifle, disc golf, horseback riding, water sports, biking, sporting clays, yoga and tomahawk throwing. We went on an RTV tour one day. It’s kind of like a souped-up golf cart and we had a blast racing up mountain trails and over streams.
At night there’s a star show in the silo, which is an observatory. It was cloudy the night we went but we enjoyed the experience anyway. Dinner at Elements, the fine dining restaurant, was excellent, and we also enjoyed lunch in 19th Pub with golf course and mountain views.
Best Southern Hotels – Washington, DC
We really felt spoiled by our stay here on the club level. In addition to the bar down the hall, we had our own bar in our room, complete with martini spray. Martini spray! I’d never even heard of it before but knew we’d be putting it to good use. We had a balcony with magnificent views of the city and the location is perfect.
“Look at this pillow,” my husband exclaimed as my daughter and I stepped into our suite. “It’s got Monticello on one side and the Rotunda on the other!” I have never heard my husband get excited about any pillow, or any type of décor really, but it was the references to the University of Virginia and his beloved Thomas Jefferson that sparked the enthusiasm.
It was one of the most beautiful suites we’d ever stayed in, plenty spacious enough for my daughter to join us for the evening from her apartment in the city.
Opened in 1923, its 99 guest rooms and public spaces are filled with antiques.
It’s the oldest continuously operated hotel in DC, opened in 1922. This inn has just 35 rooms, some with shared baths so be careful when booking if a private bath is important to you. We love its quaintness and good location for siteseeing.
Southern Hotels That Are On My List to Visit
I haven’t made it to these properties yet, but they are on my list because they’ve been recommended by my friends. If you’ve been, comment below and let me know what you thought.
Asia Bed & Breakfast Spa
While I haven’t visited Asia, my friends the Murphys raved about this 5-room inn with a private spa, a 10-minute walk from Asheville, North Carolina.
This charmer is just 10 minutes from Chattanooga, Tennessee, across the street from Rock City Gardens, on top of Lookout Mountain.
Printmaker’s Inn at Forsyth Park
If you’ve dreamed of staying in a Victorian mansion, this 1896 beauty in Savannah, Georgia, fits the bill. Set a spell on the porch overlooking Forsyth Park after a day spent exploring the other squares and many antique stores nearby.
I remember my parents used to visit this historic property dating back to 1878, but I’ve yet to visit this huge resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia.
The Inn at Little Washington
Sadly, I have not stayed at this 18-room top-rated inn renowned for its food in the countryside of Virginia. A complimentary tea is served in the afternoons and bicycles are provided to tour the town of Washington, Virginia.
The Tennessean Hotel
This hotel features 82 guestrooms in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee
When you are conducting your hotel search on southern hotels check the Facebook/Twitter pages to find the most recent hotel offers.
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– Jan Schroder is an Atlanta-based travel writer and has traveled extensively around the South, the only place she has ever lived.