Best Waterfront Resorts in the South
The South is well-known for the hospitality of its people, the freshness of the seafood and the flavors of down-home cooking. What more could you ask for during a getaway? Well, it turns out, a lot! Resorts offer opportunities to do it all or do absolutely nothing in spectacular settings. Check out the following vacation options, which range from ultramodern island getaways to dignified historic grand dames.
On the beachfront where the Atlantic joins Currituck Sound, this Outer Banks resort offers nonstop motion or endless relaxation in peaceful waterside surroundings. Fly a kite beachside, hit a golf or tennis ball, go hang-gliding or roam with wild horses. Water lovers can take surf lessons, plunge into the Atlantic or lounge by the tranquility pool sipping on a drink from the Sandbar. The award-winning Spa at Sanderling offers coastal and seasonal treatments with views of tranquil Currituck Sound.
For refined dining, try Kimball’s Kitchen, (reopens on Memorial Day) and for all-day service, The Lifesaving Station is located in the 1874 Caffey’s Inlet Lifesaving Station. Although the closest marina is about 30 minutes away in Nags Head, this resort is too scenic to be excluded and OBX First Watch provides transport service to the resort.
Where to Dock: Pirate's Cove Marina or Safe Harbor Outer Banks
Hilton Head, SC
Unlimited land and sea recreation awaits on these 5,000 pristine oceanfront acres. Spend a morning touring the 605-acre forest preserve, explore the grounds on horseback or bicycle, or grab a kayak and join playful dolphins lounging along the beach.
The soothing rhythms of nature surround accommodations ranging from the romantic seaside hideaway Inn & Club at Harbour Town to the luxurious vacation homes for families. The Quarterdeck has a rooftop oyster bar with perfect sunset views overlooking Calibogue Sound.
Kiawah Island, SC
Designed to feel like a casually elegant seaside mansion, The Sanctuary’s live oak framed entrance gives the resort a centuries old ambiance. In addition to the golf course, spa and pools overlooking the coastal Carolina landscape, guests enjoy miles of wide beach that glow pink at sunset.
Eateries across the island offer a diverse range of culinary items true to coastal Carolina roots. It’s Lowcountry cooking all day at Jasmine Porch. Shrimp & Grits (buttered local shrimp, organic grits and tasso ham cloaked in sweet pepper, onion and tomato gravy) is irresistible.
A classic Southern escape nestled along the scenic May River, the Montage is set within an active 20,000-acre community between Hilton Head Island and Savannah. The collection of spacious cottages, suites and village homes honor the region’s rich heritage as does the Lowcountry-inspired fare served with traditional Southern hospitality. Salute the morning at Buzz with fresh brewed coffee and house-made pastries. The dinner menu at River House celebrates both land and water with steak, seafood and game offerings.
The resort encompasses an extensive nature preserve, plus golfing, fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Spa Montage uses local elements to provide authentic coastal plains wellness treatments inspired by nature.
Where to Dock: TPG Isle of Hope Marina
Centered on 5,700 virtually undisturbed acres, this award-winning resort offers the historic charms of the Jekyll Island Club and adjacent Island Cottages, or the modern appeal of the beachfront Jekyll Ocean Club. Throughout the property are a multitude of land and water activities, a variety of dining options, a sun-warmed pool with fire pit as well as direct access to the National Historic Landmark District and complimentary shuttle to the ocean beaches. From the pool deck of the Jekyll Ocean Club, follow the footpath over the dunes for a day on the sand.
The verandas surrounding the famed clubhouse dating back to 1888 were designed to provide spectacular views. Bring a Pat Conroy novel and nestle into one of the porch’s rocking chairs overlooking the croquet lawn and riverfront.
Where to Dock: Jekyll Harbor Marina
Palm Beach, FL
Recognized as one of America’s most iconic resorts, this Italian Renaissance-style hotel is situated on 140 acres of oceanfront property. Still in the hands of founder Henry M. Flagler’s heirs, this legendary property remains independent of chain affiliation.
The Breakers Mediterranean-style architecture is inspired by Italian villas of the 15th century (i.e. the Villa Medici in Rome) The palm-lined drive leads to a sea-side palace with a lobby influenced by the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carrega in Genoa. Steeped in the glamour of a bygone era, yet wholly current, there are two golf courses, 10 tennis courts, a Forbes five-star spa and an alfresco shopping plaza. The private poolside cabanas have flat-screens and concierge service.
Restaurants range from casual beachfront to stylishly sophisticated. The Circle’s arched windows offer glimpses of the Atlantic and a soaring 30-foot, hand-painted ceiling. Sunday mornings, seasoned travelers and locals come to The Circle for an artfully crafted buffet brunch experience.
Where to Dock: Town of Palm Beach Marina or Palm Harbor Marina
St. Petersburg, FL
Currently undergoing yet another reimagination project, the grandest of all the 1920s Boom Era hotels remains pink, proud and preserved. A wide range of celebrities and notables have graced The Vinoy veranda at one time or another.
The hotel’s history is fascinating. In 1942, it was leased to the U.S. Army Air Force and subsequently the U.S. Maritime Service as a training center and housing for military cooks and bakers. By the 1970s, The Vinoy had declined into a low-rent boarding house, commanding $7 per night, far less than the extravagant nightly rate of $20 in 1925. Ironically, in 1990 as the painstaking restoration of this local treasure began, the hotel revealed a treasure of its own. Workers discovered a vault containing 1,400 silver pieces stamped “The Vinoy” and wrapped in newspapers dated 1934. Most amenities including golf, tennis, spa, pools and dining areas are open during the latest upgrades.
Where to Dock: The Vinoy Marina
Little Torch Key, FL
& SPA |Little Torch Key, FL This secluded adults-only retreat features British West Indies-style thatched roof bungalows. A private island with crushed seashell paths winding through lush foliage and exotic wildlife, it is accessible only by boat or seaplane. All amenities, including an indoor-outdoor spa, deliver exotic charm reminiscent of a Balinese hideaway. A menu worthy of paradise is served in the plush dining room or at idyllic beachside tables.
Away from the island seclusion, find deep sea fishing, natural reef snorkeling or kayaking through the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, an amazing ecosystem for world-class diving, swimming, snorkeling and fishing.
Where to Dock: Little Palm Island docks
League City, TX
This tropically inspired getaway sits halfway between Houston and Galveston on Clear Lake, the country’s third largest boating destination. Kemah Boardwalk and its 60-acre theme park with chic shopping and waterfront dining options is just moments away.
Soak in the sunshine at the 185-foot oasis pool at the private cabanas and outdoor lounge. Swim right up to the bar for a poolside lunch. Evening time, dine al fresco at Opus Steakhouse and Bistro.
Where to Dock: South Shore Harbour Marina