The South's Charming Inns
Beaufort, South Carolina
The late author Pat Conroy loved this place for the marsh, live oaks, and Spanish moss. He even celebrated his 70th birthday here shortly after the inn's renovation last year. Your own experience starts with a glass of bubbly on the porch, where the view toward the salt water of Port Royal Sound almost assuredly promises dolphin sightings. Upstairs, the guest rooms are calming, with crisp linens complemented by cotton-scented toiletry items made from local goat's milk. Local is a pervading theme: The food is sourced nearby (coffee from a Charleston roaster, plus grits and biscuits made with products from Columbia's Adluh Mill), and the activities make the most of the coast. For outings, use the inn's kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and fat-tire bikes. Tour the town (which incendiary General Sherman didn't burn), or take jaunts to nearby islands to experience Gullah culture.
Bonus Points: Happy hour on the top deck showcases a shimmering sunset over the river. Rates from $226; anchorage1770.com
The Beaumont received the James Beard Foundation America's Classic Award in 2015—and no wonder. Keeping alive old-time dishes like "Yellow Legged" Fried Chicken is a lovely nod to the past. But when you add Dixon Dedmon—youngest in the five-generation line of family owners—reviving his great-great-grandfather's Kentucky Owl Straight Bourbon Whiskey, this inn clocks in at downright cool. Dedmon offers regular tastings for guests and guides them to stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (kybourbontrail.com). Now joining the white-tablecloth main dining room are Old Owl Tavern and the Owl's Nest at Beaumont Inn pub.
Bonus Points: Nondrinkers, always welcome, can explore the nearby Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and watch the horses run at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Rates from $143; beaumontinn.com
We can't decide which we like better here—the Wine-Thirty evenings featuring Beechwood's own varietals or the farm-to-table dinners held every Saturday. Rabun County is known for fresh organic eggs, crops from the field (notably tasty cabbage), and four local vineyards. You'll see that farm-to-table tradition reflected at Beechwood, where innkeepers Gayle and David Darugh celebrate their locale with cooking classes about three times a month. Tell them what you'd like to learn, or sign up for the upcoming class, Rustic Pizza and Tart Making. Outside the property, hike the convergence of the Appalachian and Bartram trails, white-water raft the Chattooga (of Deliverance fame), and fly-fish.
Bonus Points: The Grow-Cook-Eat Farm & Food Tours, which wind through productive croplands, end at the county's new food bank. Rates from $199; beechwoodinn.ws
Blair House Inn
Every other week, Blair House Inn opens its kitchen and offers cooking classes over three food-filled days. (Two-day classes are available, as well.) The inn also hosts five-course Saturday-night dinners that are exclusive to guests. Located at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, this inn comes with plenty of hills, ponds, and waterfalls to take in—plus a spa.
Bonus Points: A Vintner Dinner Series, which pairs their cuisine with impressive Texas wines, will be happening in January and February. Rates from $160; blairhouseinn.com
Bob Timberlake Inn
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Tar Heel artist-designer Bob Timberlake sells his work far and wide, but at this tiny inn, tucked into Chetola Resort, you sit, sleep, and otherwise live with his creations. Enjoy spa and yoga classes or kayak the 7-acre lake, and then come home to the Arts and Crafts style that reflects Timberlake's love of his native state. The library, anchored by a tall fireplace, is the place to thumb through LIFE and The Saturday Evening Post magazines from the 1940s, play board games, and mingle at the daily wine-and-cheese social. The artist's influence also shows up at Timberlake's Restaurant, which features some of his personal favorites: Chetola Jack Daniel's strip, bacon-wrapped quail breasts, and fried oysters. You might even meet the man. (He has a house on the property.)
Bonus Points: Enjoy outdoor sports such as the newly opened Chetola Sporting Reserve for professional shooting instruction and three sporting clays courses, Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing programs, and nearby downhill and cross-country skiing. Rates from $349; chetola.com
Café Cimino Country Inn
Sutton, West Virginia
Chef/owner Tim Urbanic delivers Southern Italian flavors with a tip of the toque to the mountains: robust cheeses, the family red sauce, ravioli with mountain ramps, and lots of ricotta. Urbanic also serves steak and seafood, as well as fresh pies from an outdoor oven. Nearby Sutton Lake is ideal for boating and fishing.
Bonus Points: The inn happily packs you a lunch—a fat, overflowing Italian sandwich. Rates from $145; cafeciminocountryinn.com
Elizabeth Point Lodge
Amelia Island, Florida
Expect a phone call about 10 days before you arrive here, just to chat about what you would like to do. The Dunlop family, who previously owned Savannah's Hamilton-Turner Inn, can easily direct you to their stretch of Atlantic beach (30 yards from your room) or onto a boat bound for the wilds of Cumberland Island. Enjoy eight golf courses, nature walks, sportfishing charters, shopping, and horseback riding. Or stay put and be pampered through breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Try the Mayport shrimp from just down the road.) Evening brings delightful wine-and-hors d'oeuvres events.
Bonus Points: Open your window to enjoy a nice soundtrack of ocean waves. Rates from $245; elizabethpointelodge.com
Foley House Inn
You get the feeling that the staffers here aren't just casually offering to walk your dog—they're eager to provide your canine with company while you explore Savannah. Located directly across from Forrest Gump's famed bench on Chippewa Square, the inn boasts yet another legend in chef India Fireall. Her repertoire of morning grits won't repeat a single number during your stay. (Wish for the mushroom-Parmesan grits.) Fireall's sweets appear at afternoon tea, followed by hors d'oeuvres at the nightly wine event— no mere cheese and crackers here—and the food follows you home, as the inn's monthly newsletter includes recipes. The main building dates back to 1861 and is rumored to be haunted. Not to worry, though. Like so many other guests before, you will leave rested and happy.
Bonus Points: The Savannah Theatre (savannahtheatre.com), incorporated in 1838, sits on the same square and presents A Christmas Tradition from November 24 through December 26. Rates from $199; foleyinn.com
Hope and Glory Inn
In this 1889 schoolhouse turned inn, the spa is called Recess, the restaurant is the Dining Hall, and (our personal favorite) the bar is Detention. Ever-present owners Peggy and Dudley Patteson pair fresh Chesapeake Bay oysters and soft-shell crabs with wines from their vineyard, The Dog and Oyster.
Bonus Points: Saturday-afternoon cruises on the Faded Glory, with pourings of Dog and Oyster wines. Rates from $240; hopeandglory.com
The Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
Now more than a tour stop, the 1828 Houmas House is welcoming overnight guests. Walk beneath 200 yards of oak trees, and stroll 38 acres of lush gardens. Sample a seven- to nine-course tasting menu (paired with wines) at Latil's Landing Restaurant. Lodging options include six period-inspired buildings, built in 2012. And, oh yes, that tour of the main house comes with your room.
Bonus Points: Must-order items include the lamb chops marinated in Community Coffee with chicory and the gumbo loaded with fresh seafood. Rates from $350; houmashouse.com
The Inn at Fontanel
Southern Living Hotel Collection
Golf carts named Dolly and Barbara zip you around the acreage that once belonged to country star Barbara Mandrell. And though you're just "three to four songs" from downtown, the inn is as close (or as far) from the Music City action as you choose. This much is certain: People here know Nashville. (For starters, Mandrell's very connected daughter, Jaime Dudney, is the director of hospitality.) Getting good advice—about everything from wining and dining to boot-scooting—is a daily perk. Or you might just want to nestle in at this former Southern Living Idea House turned lodging. The ambience here is simply elegant; the offerings, deluxe: Enjoy a two-hour zip line course; a winery tasting room; a functioning distillery with nips of the spirited product; made-to-order breakfasts; and Cafe Fontanella restaurant for upscale Italian fare. There's even a Goo Goo Cluster candy bar on your pillow at night, just about guaranteeing some sweet dreams.
Bonus Points: Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater on the grounds hosts such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Boston, and Michael McDonald. Rates from $374; fontanel.com
The Inn on Pamlico Sound
Buxton, North Carolina
CEO and general manager Steve Nelson swears that Hatteras Island is cooler than the rest of North Carolina—in every way—thanks to trade winds that nudge the mercury down in summer (or up in winter). They allow Nelson to garden every day, producing for your enjoyment 40 different fruits, greens, herbs, and vegetables to accompany fish and oysters fresh from the morning catch. Grab one of the inn's bikes to pedal the neighboring village; paddleboard or kayak; stroll Cape Hatteras National Seashore (nps.gov); or hobnob with artists, academics, and authors. (Nicholas Sparks polished off Nights in Rodanthe here.)
Bonus Points: Dolphins, otters, and ospreys put on a show. Rates from $128; innonpamlicosound.com
The Inn at Willow Grove
Southern Living Hotel Collection
After sipping Prosecco at check-in, follow your butler to your room. He'll quietly turn down the bed at night, deliver morning coffee and beignets, and double as your in-house concierge, pointing the way to historic Montpelier or to the hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park (montpelier.org; nps.gov). Sample crab cakes and an award-winning wine list, and visit wineries or craft breweries with complimentary passes from the inn.
Bonus Points: Canapés appear at 5 p.m. in the Salon. You should too. Rates from $325; innatwillowgrove.com
John Rutledge House Inn
Charleston, South Carolina
Relaxing beneath the elegant canopy of a regal bed, with the room lit only by the flicker of a gas fireplace surrounded with marble, you might very well doze off and dream of the past. It's almost inevitable. The parquet floors, the original plasterwork on walls and ceilings, the soft satin on sofas, and the inn's historic memorabilia have a way of transporting you back to old Charleston. So does the notion of John Rutledge himself—just imagine him, along with his patriot pals, scrawling draft after draft of the U.S. Constitution in the ballroom where you now leisurely sip afternoon tea. Rutledge went on to sign the historic document, inking his name forever in the annals of American history. Though you have all the niceties—Tempur-Pedic mattress, flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, and breakfast in your room or the courtyard—you'll enjoy your brush with the past far too much to get caught up in modern amenities.
Bonus Points: Decanters of port and sherry on a sideboard launch your shopping expedition to King Street just around the corner—or welcome you back. Rates from $306; johnrutledgehouseinn.com
Lookout Point Lakeside Inn
Hot Springs, Arkansas
There's plenty to draw you to this terrific inn: the famous springs; horse-racing season (January through April); an active art scene; the community of herons, loons, ducks, and occasional bald eagles; and the rooms themselves. But the main attraction is Lake Hamilton. Co-owner Kristie Rosset, one of a gaggle of U.S. innkeepers who share recipes on the blog Eight Broads in the Kitchen (eightbroads.com), teaches cooking classes every other month. She'll gladly whip up breakfast and send you off to explore the Ouachita Mountains.
Bonus Points: The inn's labyrinth (a circular maze) is designed for walking meditation. Ask for lessons, or just put one foot in front of the other. Rates from $259; lookoutpointinn.com
Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast
Magnolia Springs, Alabama
You might have caught an episode of Bob Vila's HGTV show Restore America about the restoration of this Victorian house, showcasing polished beaded board, heart-pine floors, and a wraparound porch facing a canopy of oaks down the sleepy street beyond. It's both sophisticated and sentimental. Anglers will find a river just a block over, and you can spot soaring eagles and ospreys along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (backcountrytrail.com) in Alabama's nearby Gulf State Park. Sample delicious dry-aged and wet-aged steaks, as well as the freshest catch from local waters at Jesse's Restaurant (jessesrestaurant.com), an easy saunter away. Quaint Fairhope sits about 25 minutes to the northwest for shopping, or find bustling Gulf Shores and Orange Beach about 30 minutes southeast.
Bonus Points: Stand on the banks of the Magnolia River around 10:30 a.m. to watch the U.S. Postal Service make deliveries by boat. Rates from $199; magnoliasprings.com
Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens
Southern Living Hotel Collection
Rooms here feature a mix of authentic pieces and reproductions from the early 19th century. Also on the property are a croquet court, a pond for catch-and-release fishing, a gazebo, gardens, and a pergola—all on 26 truly throwback acres. That's what you do here—slow it down and plunge into real people's histories. Don't be surprised to meet guests from around the globe at chef Mary Taylor's delicious breakfasts. Take advantage of the inn's Thanksgiving dinner and special meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Bonus Points: The Natchez Spring Pilgrimage (beginning March 18, 2017) offers home tours, or plan ahead for the smaller pilgrimage in September and October. Rates from $215; monmouthhistoricinn.com
Snug Hallow Farm
Owner Barbara Napier has seen it many times: Wives conveniently "forget" to tell their husbands that Snug Hollow Farm is vegetarian, that it has no TVs, and that cell phone service will be spotty. After tasting the beautiful lettuce, eggplant Parmesan, fried apples, Tuscan bean soup, and bread baked fresh daily, the guys get over it. With yoga, massage therapy, 300 acres of walking trails, and stargazing, you might be too relaxed even to seek out the bourbon, horses, and crafts nearby.
Bonus Points: True confession—there's Wi-Fi at Snug Hollow Farm, so you can connect if real life seems all that important (but it won't). Rates from $149; snughollow.com
The Southernmost House
Key West, Florida
The stairs here emit a charming creak, as if Florida Curry Harris, daughter of the state's first millionaire, were descending gracefully to welcome you to her 1896 mansion—which is literally on the southernmost point in the continental U.S. A homey lobby leads out to the seawall, lined with chairs facing a vast watery infinity. Amenities include a zero-entry pool, pop-up bar, four-poster beds, and morning breakfast.
Bonus Points: Guests hop into a pink eight-passenger golf cart for complimentary trolley service to happening Duval Street. Rates from $315; southernmosthouse.com
You know you're in the Lone Star State—just two hours from Dallas—when you're invited to help count the cattle, mend a fence, or travel by covered wagon to feed the longhorns before the morning biscuits and gravy. The choice at Wildcatter Ranch is all yours—you can be involved, semi-involved, or not involved at all, luxuriating from the sidelines. Involved means saddling up General, Thunder, or Wildfire (a few of the 32 resident horses) for private or group rides on 25 trail-laced acres. Hop in a Jeep to tour the ranch's thriving Angus operation. And easily engage with the cowboys to hear tall (but true) tales of life in the wide-open spaces of Texas. There's an infinity pool, a spa for ranch-style relaxation, and the Dinner Bell at Wildcatter restaurant for evening meals of chicken-fried steak, hand-cut steaks, or barbecue ribs with wines from the well-stocked cellar. Polish it off with s'mores at the fire pit before retreating to rooms themed around moments in Texas history (Oil Boom, Famous Chiefs—you get the idea).
Bonus Points: Enjoy skeet shooting, archery, and vast views of green rolling hills for a totally Texas vacation experience. Rates from $209; wildcatterranch.com