Magnolia-lined cobblestone streets, stately plantation-style homes, rocking chairs set up on screened-in porches -- this is how many picture the South. And while not all areas below the Mason-Dixon line still have this storybook feel -- in fact, numerous Southern destinations we love (Atlanta and Dallas, for example) are some of the country's most booming metropolises these days -- you can still find locales that seem forever stuck in a slower, sweet-tea-induced way of life. That's often just the vibe we're seeking for a vacation, especially a weekend getaway this time of year, when Indian summer slowly transitions into fall. Our Oyster hotel investigators have visited the South's most adorable towns and uncovered the eight most beautiful inns below the Mason-Dixon line.
1. Olde Harbour Inn, Savannah
The 24-room Olde Harbour Inn is a charming, historic property across the street from the river in downtown Savannah. A 19th-century former warehouse, the inn gracefully marries modern furnishings with original features to create a fresh, homey vibe. All suites, the rooms are spacious and serene with a boutique hotel look. Serving daily breakfast (with an emphasis on Southern comfort foods like bacon and biscuits), evening wine and cheese, and ice cream at turndown, this upper-middle-range property takes great care to ensure guests' comfort.
2. The Inn at Middleton Place, Charleston
The Inn at Middleton Place is an upscale hotel situated on the historic Middleton Place Plantation with beautiful gardens, landscaped lakes, and a scenic river. The hotel’s 55 rooms have rustic, cabin-like interiors with hardwood floors, wooden shutters framing floor-to-ceiling windows, and wood-burning fireplaces. There’s plenty to do on the property including free tours of the plantation's House Museum and stable yards, and the hotel has a restaurant with an outdoor deck for alfresco dining with a view. The property attracts many couples seeking a peaceful getaway immersed in nature, and the secluded location is about 40 minutes away from historic downtown Charleston.
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3. Gramercy Mansion, Baltimore
This upscale bed and breakfast is housed within a 1902 English Tudor mansion, set on 45 acres outside of Baltimore. Eleven ornately decorated guest rooms feature luxurious amenities, such as two-person jetted tubs, fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, and other modern perks. Prices are quite reasonable (with lower rates in the winter), especially given the property’s elegant formal gardens, outdoor pool, and free made-to-order breakfasts.
4. Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast, Asheville
With a beautiful lawn with koi ponds, and eight elegant rooms with lovely furnishings, Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast Inn offers a charming place to stay in the historic Montford district. The mid-range, historic property serves a three-course breakfast that guests rave about, and evening hors d’oeuvres with wine. Free beverages, tea, and coffee are also available throughout the day. The property is a good fit for couples seeking a romantic weekend in a pretty setting, but guests should be warned there are some strict policies, including cancellation fees and minimum stay requirements.
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5. Melrose Mansion, New Orleans
Located in a quiet residential area on the outer edges of the French Quarter, this upscale hotel is an elegant mélange of renovated Victorian Gothic mansion and modern bed-and-breakfast. Fourteen simple but comfortable rooms, five of which are housed in an addition behind the main structure, offer plush beds, contemporary decor, and marble bathrooms. The rest of the property showcases a tasteful mix of old and new: modern white leather couches next to picture windows, marble floors, and contemporary art pieces. A small outdoor lap pool and tiny fitness center round out the amenities.
6. Blackberry Farm, Tennessee
This gorgeous farm inn is a secluded, serene haven for foodies and nature lovers. Guests can immerse themselves in the beauty of the Appalachians by enjoying the venue's 4,200 acres of land and all the various activities offered. The restaurant, The Barn, offers a true farm-to-table dining experience as a majority of the produce is picked from the property's garden. There's also a stunning, tranquil spa and two pools that visitors can enjoy. Guests can stay in luxurious cottages or in a charming room in the Main House.
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7. The Duke Mansion, Charlotte
The Duke Mansion, a quaint 20-room bed and breakfast, is a decidedly regal southern experience -- as you'd expect from an authentic southern mansion. The rooms are elegant and individually furnished with original artwork housed in ornate frames, oak furniture, and large porches. Unlike other historic hotels, the bathrooms are surprisingly spacious and modern, the ceilings are high, and there's a working elevator. The mansion's location in the upscale Myers Park neighborhood is also a plus, with shops and restaurants within walking distance.
8. Zero George Street, Charleston
Perfect for a romantic getaway, Zero George Street is an upscale boutique hotel near Charleston’s Historic District made up of five historic buildings surrounding a picturesque courtyard. The 18 rooms are stylishly appointed with chic furnishings and soft, creamy colors. Foodies are drawn by the culinary offerings which include a renowned restaurant that serves seasonal and local fare as well as a cooking school offering various classes; there's also a delicious free homemade breakfast that includes quiches, granola, and biscuits.