This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
The top resorts across the American South have one important thing in common, and it’s a factor that keeps guests returning again and again: it’s unparalleled hospitality, which draws rave reviews from T+L readers year in and year out. In this year’s rankings, resorts in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas each have their own lists, but across the rest of the region there was plenty of variety among voter favorites, including posh waterfront retreats, luxe mountain hideaways, and historic mansions turned resorts.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
Farm retreats are abundant on this year’s list, like perennial list-maker No. 9 Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, and No. 15 Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Half-Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina, came in at No. 2 this year; one voter called it a “secluded heaven with the most amazing lake and mountain view.” Another reader had high praise for Half-Mile’s farm-to-table food, mentioning that there’s “fine dining, even at 8 a.m.”
Elsewhere, Primland Resort, Auberge Resorts Collection, nestled at the base of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, came in at No. 6 this year. The getaway, which recently joined the Auberge Resorts Collection, enchanted voters with terrific service as well as wide-open spaces and plenty of privacy. “Primland is exceptional in every way,” said one respondent. “The secluded location and amenities make this property a memorable one,” added another.
But it was the Inn at Willow Grove, not far from Shenandoah National Park in the town of Orange, Virginia, that took this year’s No. 1 spot. Read on for the full list of reader favorites and to learn why it won top honors as the best resort hotel in the South.
1. The Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, Virginia
A restored 1770s estate tucked among vineyards of Virginia’s wine country and framed by old-growth trees, this year’s winner positively exudes charm. Guests can stroll among the manicured grounds, take a dip in the heated saltwater pool, dine at the Vintage Restaurant & Pub, and indulge in a pampering treatment at the Mill House Spa. The Inn at Willow Grove is “hands down the best kept secret” in the South, one voter said. The 25-room escape impressed other readers with thoughtful details like a welcome drink (often a glass of prosecco), concierge service, nightly turndowns, and daily delivery of beignets to each guest room. “It is a truly relaxing, world-class escape,” as one voter summed it up.
More information: innatwillowgrove.com
2. Half-Mile Farm, Highlands, North Carolina
More information: oldedwardshospitality.com
3. The Swag, Waynesville, North Carolina
More information: theswag.com
4. Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia
More information: littlestsimonsisland.com
5. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
More information: oldedwardsinn.com
6. Primland Resort, Auberge Resorts Collection, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
More information: aubergeresorts.com
7. Blackberry Mountain, Walland, Tennessee
More information: blackberrymountain.com
8. The Cloister at Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia
More information: seaisland.com
9. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee
More information: blackberryfarm.com
10. Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia
More information: salamanderresort.com
11. The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia
More information: ritzcarlton.com
12. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
More information: dollywood.com
13. The Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg, Virginia
More information: colonialwilliamsburghotels.com
14. The Greystone Inn, Lake Toxaway, North Carolina
More information: greystoneinn.com
15. The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, North Carolina
More information: fearrington.com
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.