Things 2 Do

See, stay at the top 15 resorts in the South

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many travelers to cancel cruises, postpone trips that include flights and seek alternative travel plans. But there is some good news. The South features plenty of great resorts.

Travel + Leisure recently spotlighted some of the region’s top picks when it unveiled its World’s Best Awards. The awards honor the best in the travel industry as determined by readers’ experiences. One of the awards recognized the Top 15 Resort Hotels in the South. Readers judged hotels based on facilities, location, service, food and overall value.

The Fearington House Inn in Pittsboro, North Carolina, grabbed the top spot on the list.

“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” Travel + Leisure noted in the results.

The Fearington House Inn offers 32 guest rooms that feature antiques, original art and fresh flowers. It’s a AAA five-diamond resort located on a historic farm near Chapel Hill.

It’s about five hours from Atlanta.

Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina earned the second spot.

Montage Palmetto Bluff is nestled along the May River in the Lowcountry of South Carolina between Hilton Head Island and Savannah. The resort encompasses an extensive nature preserve, walking trails, two vibrant villages, marina, restaurants and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.

It’s about four hours from Atlanta.

The Old Edwards Inn & Spa in Highlands, North Carolina was named the third best resort in the South.

“Situated in the heart of downtown is a European-style resort and mountain retreat with luxury guestrooms, suites, cottages, and vacation homes, premium leisure amenities, farm-fed restaurants and a world-class spa,” the Old Edwards Inn & Spa notes on its website. The property offers golf and numerous experiences including romance, pampering and adventure packages.

The North Carolina Highlands routinely rank as one of Atlantans top getaway destinations. It’s a little over two hours from Atlanta.

Sea Island and the Cloister and known for being a world-class resort, but there are some activities on the south Georgia island that you might not know about.

The highest-ranked Georgia resort on the list is The Cloister at Sea Island. It checks in at number four while The Lodge, another Sea Island property ranked sixth. The Cloister earned a Forbes Five Star rating the last 11 years, while The Lodge earned the five star rating the last 18 years.

Blackberry Farm is located in Walland, Tennessee. That's just south of Knoxville and about 3 hours from the Atlanta area. (Photos by beall + thomas photography)

Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, made the list at No. 5. Southern Living named it its top resort in the South in 2018. The resort is south of Knoxville and about three hours from the Atlanta area. It’s a luxury hotel and resort situated on a 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a spa, brewery and working farm on the property. The resort offers plenty of wine and dining options, musical entertainment, workshops and more.

Activities include horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, hiking and paintball.

Checking in at No. 7 is The Greystone Inn in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina.

“There are endless things to do, although it’s perfectly alright to do nothing at all,” the company’s website notes.

Whether great food, a trip to the spa, fishing, kayaking, whitewater-rafting or exploring waterfalls is on your vacation wish list, the Greystone Inn delivers.

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina earned the No. 8 spot.

“This South Carolina luxury beach resort hotel delivers Forbes 5-Star service and unequaled accommodations. Meticulous attention to detail, distinguished service and unparalleled luxury paired with a truly sumptuous setting,” The Sanctuary’s website notes.

“This is hands down the nicest beach that I’ve been to,” visitor Terry Talley told “I lived in Myrtle Beach for six years and it seems to be more like a party-type atmosphere. This is a lot more family-oriented, a lot more laid back.”

“This is about being together,” Mike Touhill from Kiawah Partners told about a trip there several years ago. “It’s about spending time more than it is about buying experiences and shopping and that sort of thing. We feel that offering avenues and venues for people to come and enjoy each other’s company at no cost is an important part of being on vacation.”

The Swag Resort in Waynesville, North Carolina checked in at No. 9 on the list while The Willcox in Aiken, South Carolina, was No. 10.

The Inn & Club at Harbour Town on Hilton Head earned the 11th spot. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa in Pigeon Forge was 12th. Two more Georgia properties made the top 15 list. The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee was 13th while the Jekyll Island Club Resort was 14th. The Williamsburg Inn in Virginia rounded out the list.

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