The South's Best Stays 2021
Our favorite stays in the South are spots that feel like home, but they're also packed with all the amenities you could ever dream of. Some are cozy and quiet, others are shiny and new, and a few are all-inclusive mega-stays that invite you to lounge as long as you like. (We like the sound of that.) All of them are as welcoming as can be; in fact, they're the most inviting stays we can imagine, and we're happy to share them with you.
These bookable spots are perfect places from which to jump-start your exploration of their surroundings, whether that's in the mountains, along the coasts, or in Southern cities and small towns. However, these stays are also destinations in and of themselves, so you might be tempted to stay put, kick back, and relax for the duration of your visit. (We totally get it.) Check in any time of year, and stay awhile—the South's Best stays will be glad to have you.
The Bristol Hotel
We love a stay that delivers the best of both worlds with historic character and modern style. That's what you'll find at The Bristol, Hotel, which opened in 2018 in the Congressionally designated Birthplace of Country Music. This 65-room boutique property downtown preserves original architectural details but adds a rooftop bar, Lumac (with Appalachian Mountain views), as well as great dining at Vivian's Table. Check out the Sunday brunch menu, which has Peanut Butter Waffles with roasted banana and warm syrup. Have them with a Ghost Pepper Bloody Mary.
bristolhotelva.com, 510 Birthplace of Country Music Way, Bristol, Virginia 24201, 276-696-3535
This unhosted bed-and-breakfast in the Texas Hill Country has four suites housed in a 1901 bowling alley that was part of an even older German athletic club. New owners came along in 2018, and they're booking not just the bowling alley suites but also some freestanding cabins and an Airstream. The property sits on Cypress Creek, just northwest of San Antonio, so big-city attractions are at the ready. The town of Comfort is cute as a cowboy, with much of it part of a National Historic District.
camp-comfort.com, 877-836-1748, 601 Water Street, Comfort, Texas 78013
Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection
Opened in 2020, this elegant resort is the former Italian Renaissance Revival home and 10-acre estate of wealthy cotton distributor and real estate developer Edgar Howard "Commodore" Perry. Built in 1928, the property became part of the Auberge Resorts Collection in 2017 and now offers an incredible country-in-the-city experience, with gorgeous landscaping and gardens, Lutie's restaurant, and on-site instructors teaching wellness, Pilates, yoga, and meditation. Monthly palm readings are available in the library.
aubergeresorts.com/commodoreperry, 866-976-4312, 4100 Red River St., Austin, Texas 78751
Charleston, South Carolina
The java shop here, Clerks Coffee Company, is an homage to the most valued store clerks in George W. Williams' wholesale grocery, the ones he granted partnerships to in the 1800s. The grocery has been through many incarnations, none more impressive than the new Emeline hotel, which opened last year. It has the upscale accoutrements you'd expect from a Charleston stay, plus an amazing courtyard with a fireplace. Countryman Mini Cooper house cars and custom Emeline bikes are at your disposal. Enjoy on-site dining at Frannie & The Fox.
hotelemeline.com, 843-577-2644, 181 Church Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29401
The South's Best Stays
Highlander Mountain House
Highlands, North Carolina
This cozy clapboard inn was built in 1885. With 18 rooms in the main house and bunkhouse, it practically oozes rustic authenticity and Carolina charm. Enjoy all-day service at The Ruffed Grouse tavern, where the dining room invites you to savor local fare as you sit by a roaring fire.
highlandermountainhouse.com, 828-526-2590, 270 Main Street, Highlands, North Carolina 28741
Historic Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant
Cabbage Key, Florida
On this Gulf island off the South Florida coast, peace and quiet reign. You won't find any traffic jams (or pavement), and you'll need a boat to get there. A stay on Cabbage Key is a worlds-away experience, thanks to its sandy paths, historic stays, and open-air restaurant. We're not sure of the eatery's actual name; we just reference the gazillion dollar bills that are plastered over every available surface and call it what everybody else does: "the bar with all the money on the walls." (Whether it really inspired Jimmy Buffett's song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" is up for debate, but let's just say it did. It makes for a good story.) Explore 100 virtually undisturbed acres, and sleep with the ocean breeze blowing through the open windows of your 1930s cabin. While you're at it, have a cheeseburger—you know—in paradise.
cabbagekey.com, 239-283-2278, 13771 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia, FL 33922
Inn at Carnall Hall
What's now a gracious hotel overlooking Old Main Lawn on the University of Arkansas campus began as a women's dorm in 1905. The inn has been on the National Register of Historic Places since the early 1980s. You can walk from your well-appointed room to the Razorbacks' home turf or to hopping Dickson Street.
innatcarnallhall.com, 479-582-0400, 465 N Arkansas Ave., Fayetteville, AR 72701
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
No doubt, a shout went up in Ocean Springs when this beautiful 11-suite hotel opened in a historic building on Porter Avenue. One of the prettiest small towns on the Gulf Coast, Ocean Springs long endured a dearth of appealing stays, which made it, by necessity, more of a day trip from nearby Biloxi. But not anymore. Enjoy a grab-and-go market and casual fare at Eat Drink Love, or have a cocktail at The Wilbur, The Roost's speakeasy bar. The hotel is within walking distance of the waterfront as well as a stellar downtown that's loaded with shops, galleries, and local restaurants.
roostoceansprings.com, 228-285-7989, 604 Porter Avenue Ocean Springs, Mississippi, 39564
The Salty Mermaid Hotel
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Surf's up, Moondoggie, so let's head to The Salty Mermaid. This place is Florida-beach retro at its best, a 1960s motor court renovated precisely right—bright colors, whimsical (but not cheesy) decor, friendly staff, and a spacious lawn with lounge chairs and umbrellas overlooking the only pool you'll need—the Atlantic Ocean. Your spacious room has both a front and back door, so loading and unloading are easy, and you can walk right out to the beach without weaving through a lobby or crowded pool deck. It's an easy stroll to Flagler Avenue, where all the beachfront action is. P.S. You can drive on stretches of the beach here.
saltymermaidnsb.com, 386-847-8909, 301 Buenos Aires Street, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32169
Vandyke Bed + Beverage
East Nashville's Five Points neighborhood got a shot of übercool (not that it needed one, but still) when this "immersive concept" hotel opened in 2019. Besides eight drink-named rooms and suites (Rum, Champagne, Tequila), the Vandyke has a ground-level restaurant and bar, a patio, and a courtyard, plus a rooftop gathering spot. This is not the place to come for children's programs (no one under 21 is allowed). It's also not cheap—so bring your girlfriends, and split the room costs. You'll be walkable to Nashville's hottest and hippest. Bye-bye, carpool.
vandykenashville.com, 615-730-5023, 105 S 11th Street, Nashville, Tennessee, 37206