The Best Vacation Spots In Every Southern State
While every state in the South boasts more than just one vacation spot worth your while, there are always a few that stand out in the crowd. What do you do once you have those narrowed down? Well, look no further. We picked the best vacation destination in every Southern state—so you don’t have to. Whether you want to feel the salty breeze in St. Simons, sample some bourbon in Bardstown, dig into a bowl of the slap-your-mama gumbo in Breaux Bridge, or turn back time in Williamsburg, there’s a perfect getaway for you, just begging to be visited this year. Here are the best vacation spots in every Southern state.
While Gulf Shores and Orange Beach see their fair share of beach vacations, we can’t get enough of this small town on the Bay. If you love the Gulf Coast as much as we do, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere more scenic—with its antebellum homes, streets lined with live oaks, and charming, walkable downtown. We recommend staying at the Grand Hotel Marriot Resort, a pre-Civil War landmark that's dripping with Southern charm.
Arkansas: Eureka Springs
Dating back to 1879, this well-preserved town boasts streets lined with remnants of Victorian architecture. The area is known—and the town is named—for the hot springs that bubble out of the Ozark Mountains; but it also offers plenty of stunning lakes and rivers for fishing, kayaking, and cruising. Pair those excursions with the quirky shops you’ll find in town, and you’re set with a fun-filled vacation. There’s no shortage of things to do in Eureka Springs.
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach
This charming Mid-Atlantic town offers a colorful boardwalk that’s a mile long and lined with good food and family-fun amusements. If visiting during the off-season, Rehoboth Beach’s tiny size may be a welcome change. You can ride bikes lazily down tree-lined streets, and every local is a friend. This seaside town always blows travelers away with its crystal clear water and beautifully kept beaches. Stop in Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats for a pint of Delaware’s favorite beer.
Florida: Key West
Key West is unlike any place else in the world, which is why—out of every white-sanded, emerald-watered beach town in Florida—it still has to win out. Part Caribbean island, part New Orleans, this oasis makes you feel far, far away; even if only for a few days. You’ll know you’ve made it when you see the airport sign that reads: “Welcome to the Conch Republic.” For an authentic stay, pick Old Town for its mix of bed-and-breakfasts, inns, and hotels—all colorful and quirky, some riddled with history, and most surrounded with the island’s lush vegetation. Pay a visit to the Hemingway Home on Whitehead Street, manned by a gang of six-toed cats; and shop and eat along Duval Street, which hosts the heart of all the action.
Georgia: St. Simons Island
As you cross the bridge to this Georgia barrier island, you’re welcomed by warm ocean breezes, canopied oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and old-school Southern charm. This longtime favorite getaway lets Southerners turn back time, with historic spots like the stunning Christ Church, Frederica, and 90-year-old ritzy resort, The Cloister at Sea Island. Indulge in the island’s delicious eats, from the South’s Best Barbecue Joint, Southern Soul Barbecue, to the beloved seafood dive, Crabdaddy’s.
Bardstown is not only Kentucky's second-oldest city and the "Bourbon Capital of the World," but it just happens to sit at the head of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With its 1892 courthouse and revitalized Main Street, this town makes having good times (and a few bourbons) just too easy. You can grab a bite at the Old Talbott Tavern, which began operating in 1779; or have some fun on the Kentucky Railway Museum’s Train Robbery. No matter what, make sure to fit in a day dedicated to following the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Louisiana: Breaux Bridge
Were you expecting to see New Orleans sweep this state? While it’s always a great time to visit the Crescent City, we’re turning down the volume and throwing this small town loaded with Cajun character into the ring. Located in the heart of the Acadiana region of southern Louisiana, Breaux Bridge offers your fill of the most authentic Creole cuisine to ever grace your belly, a beautifully preserved downtown, and a genuine bayou setting. Known as the crawfish capital of the world, the whole town practically shuts down for the annual Crawfish Festival. Plus, it’s only a little over two hours to New Orleans, if you want to make it a roadtrip.
Maryland: Rock Hall
Known as the “Pearl of the Chesapeake,” Rock Hall sits directly on the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, offering the quintessential Bay experience. This sleepy harbor town wins our vote for vacation spot because it boasts an authentic salty spirit. With 12 marinas, a yacht club, and a custom sailmaker in town, it really is a sailors’ dream. Whether you’re in the mood for oysters or soft-shell crab, you’ll get your fill here.
It might’ve taken the Mississippi Gulf Coast a decade to recover from being virtually erased by Hurricane Katrina, but this string of coastal towns is back and better than ever. Make Biloxi your home base, but travel the less-than-an-hour drive along the coast to beach towns like Gulfport and Bay St. Louis. Get cozy in the beachfront White House Hotel, with its traditional Southern exterior and sleek modern interior; and later, cook your own catch at local restaurants, such as Shaggy’s or Morton’s.
Get a taste of lake life in this Missouri getaway spot. The most foolproof way to enjoy your stay? Book it at Big Cedar Lodge, a resort set on 4,600 acres. You can head out kayaking or cruising on Table Rock Lake, or you can enjoy other outdoor activities like sand volleyball and archery. Feeling stressed? Spend an afternoon in the 18,000-square-foot spa, or maybe calm your mind at one of the resort’s group painting classes. It’s the type of place that families revisit year after year—because they love it that much.
North Carolina: Asheville
It’s time for a mountain escape that’s both laidback and exciting. From Biltmore to breweries, Asheville offers something for everyone. It’s home to this year’s South’s Best Brewery, Highland Brewing Company, which happens to be the city’s first legal brewery since Prohibition; as well as one of our Southern Living Hotel Collection members, the ever-charming Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill, affectionately described by the owner as being "in the middle of everywhere.”
This Oklahoma city deserves more than a drive-by. The rugged, yet surprisingly hip town has a cool downtown district and five-star restaurant scene. Stop in for dinner at Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy, a romantic spot, or Burn Co. BBQ, a casual joint. Not to mention, Tulsa is only an hour and some change to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the revitalized small town within which Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has housed her passion projects. Visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, Drummond’s bakery-deli-shop hybrid, as well as her recently opened Boarding House, an inviting eight-room “Cowboy-Luxury” inn.
South Carolina: Hilton Head Island
The Palmetto State’s coastal towns show the very best of its Southern beach charm and culture, with Hilton Head Island leading the pack for sinking your toes in the sand and living a slower pace for a spell. Not only does the barrier island serve up 12 miles of pristine coastline (just 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia), but it practically spills over with laidback seafood restaurants, classic resorts like Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes, and its flat and wide Atlantic beaches.
We’re making a case for this rock n’ roll, barbecue-crazed city because we could all use a hearty dose of Elvis and melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork. Memphis has gone through a resurgence that makes it an ultimate destination for foodies, music lovers, and history buffs alike. As one of our travel editors aptly put it: “At The Peabody hotel, it's 1943, 1984, and 2017 all at once. My grandmother dances to big band music on the Skyway while my mother sits on a sofa in a sequin dress and heels and I sip a gin and tonic in the Lobby Bar.” If that doesn’t sell you, we don’t know what will.
Texas: San Antonio
Austin, step aside. We’re tapping San Antonio this time around. If you only think of this city as the home of The Alamo, get ready to be blown away by one of the South’s Best Food Cities. You can’t leave without spending some time in the Pearl District, once a 23-acre brewery complex, now a hip neighborhood that houses the city’s cooler-than-cool food hall, award-winning restaurants, and year-round farmers’ market. This historic city is filled with Texas style infused with a distinct Hispanic flair, making it a totally unique spot to visit this year.
The Colonial magic of this historic town offers a complete escape from reality and a quick turn back in time. Founded in 1683, it’s hard not to feel the American legacy in this Virginia vacation spot. The Williamsburg Inn offers a stunning setting to make your home base, with its towering white columns and historic Regency style. Surprisingly enough, the shopping is a hit with travelers that want to bring home some authentic wares.
West Virginia: Charleston
This is the other Charleston on the rise, and the up-and-coming town is more than worth a visit. West Virginia might be steeped in American history and completely dominated by the Appalachian Mountains, but the capital city has been in the midst of a cultural renaissance of sorts, with cool shops, quirky storefronts, trendy restaurants, and a restored 19th-century freight station that’s now an indoor-outdoor market popping up everywhere. Stop in the Swiftwater Café and General Store that’s known for drawing the downtown office crowd with its hearty breakfasts, locally roasted coffee, and topping-heavy West Virginia hotdogs for over ten years.