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Resorts across the American South attract travelers for their unparalleled hospitality and access to the region’s outdoor recreation. Whether they’re drawn to a cozy mountain cabin or a luxury beach hotel, Travel + Leisure readers return to the best resorts in the South — in this case, the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia — year after year for a relaxing escape from daily life.
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 (including safari lodges) were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city hotel, resort, or safari lodge based on their locations and amenities.
Frequent honorees No. 8 Blackberry Mountain and No. 9 Blackberry Farm, both in Walland, Tennessee, remained well-regarded by T+L readers. Of Blackberry Farm, one reader gushed: “I needed to get away and couldn’t find anyone to get off work at the same time, so I went alone. Twice. The food, the environment, the attention to detail, the spa, the meals — it was all amazing. I booked my next trip while I was there.”
Debuting on the list this year was another Tennessee property: No. 11 Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains, a 40-tent glamping retreat near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which readers voted as No. 9 on this year’s list of the best U.S. national parks.
The barrier islands of Georgia were also beloved by T+L readers, with three properties there ranking in the top 15. In fact, it was the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island that took this year’s No. 1 spot. Read on to learn why it won top honors as the best resort hotel in the South and for the full list of reader favorites.
1. Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia
Described by one voter as “an unspoiled environment where nature is celebrated,” this intimate resort — accessible only by boat — accommodates just 32 guests in six cottages and 16 individual rooms. Guests spend their days kayaking, bird-watching, fishing, and learning about the island’s wildlife — with no TVs or radios in rooms to interrupt nature’s sounds. That serenity is what led one reader to declare it “heaven on earth. There is no other place like this.” The island — one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, which placed No. 5 on this year’s list of T+L readers’ favorite U.S. islands — has only been open to the public since 1979. It has seven miles of barrier beach, plus 3,000 acres of forest and 8,000 acres of salt marsh to explore. Voters appreciated that the resort is all-inclusive: knowing that lodging, transport to and from the island, naturalist-guided experiences, and meals were taken care of allowed them to fully unwind.
More information: littlestsimonsisland.com
2. The Cloister at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 95.02
More information: seaisland.com
3. The Swag, Waynesville, North Carolina
More information: theswag.com
4. The Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, Virginia
More information: innatwillowgrove.com
5. Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
More information: oldedwardsinn.com
6. Half-Mile Farm, Highlands, North Carolina
More information: oldedwardshospitality.com
7. The Lodge at Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Georgia
More information: seaisland.com
8. Blackberry Mountain, Walland, Tennessee
More information: blackberrymountain.com
9. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
More information: blackberryfarm.com
10. The Tides Inn, Irvington, Virginia
More information: tidesinn.com
11. Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
More information: undercanvas.com
12. Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia
More information: salamanderresort.com
13. The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, North Carolina
More information: fearrington.com
14. Primland Resort, Auberge Resorts Collection, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
More information: aubergeresorts.com
15. Inn on Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
More information: biltmore.com