Find Your Center: Where to Unwind & Recharge Along Southern Shores
Lazy lunches on porch swings and running home for a sandwich between shifts are a thing of the past, especially in southern cities where we’ve caught up with the rest of the world. Hurried and harried, afternoon meetings become occasions to ponder when someone will invent a French press the size of a wine barrel.
Leaders of industry know burn out is unavoidable, but they adhere to a secret recipe that author and motivational speaker Scott Alexander revealed 37 years ago in his book “Rhinoceros Success”. Heads of major corporations, celebrities and fellow authors still turn to his advice for inspiration when the spiritual well runs dry.
“It's easy to charge like a rhino in the first flush of enthusiasm, but sometimes our batteries go dead and when that happens, go places,” advises Alexander. “Travel, so when you get home, you can find the same magic in your own backyard.”
Nothing throws a gracious southerner off kilter like short weekends and 10-hour work days. Fortunately, our surrounding states have a bevy of shorelines to transport weary overachievers to the water’s edge.
Here are our top picks to put the spring back in your step.
Restoration clears the path for new beginnings. That’s hard to do when real life comes along for the ride. Buried in electronics, too often we find ourselves adrift in a narcissistic abyss of selfies and shots of every scone we eat and silly facial expression we make. Close all the exits and get lost on purpose at these remarkable places.
Our first pick to disconnect from the outside world lets you leave it all behind. Literally. Once you hop on the seaplane to Florida’s Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, the only baggage you’ll need is a bathing suit and sunscreen. A Noble House Resort, Little Palm defines what it means to abscond to a tropical paradise. Travel to the private island resort is only by boat or seaplane – and once you check into your thatched-roof bungalow suite, good luck remembering your own name, much less your cares. Those blue water, sugar sand beach pictures you longingly covet glued to your office chair come alive at Little Palm, on private beaches where lounging is the most important order of the day. And just when you think you can’t get any more relaxed, take a stroll along the crushed seashell sidewalk to SpaTerre, the resort’s spa, before an evening of French and Pan-Latin cuisines. littlepalmisland.com
In homage to Mother Nature at its coastal finest, Greyfield Inn is part of the Select Registry family, a collection of lodging partners that must meet rigorous standards. In the case of this Cumberland Island gem, it far exceeds even those high marks as the only commercial outfit on Cumberland Island. A staggering 18 miles of beachfront helps define why Greyfield Inn is one of Select Registry’s top picks for isolated luxury. Against the backdrop of centuries-old live oaks, shell paths lead to pristine locales dotted around the island, including the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The historic Greyfield Inn continues its intoxicating combo of Lowcountry luxe indoors, with heirloom antiques and luxury rooms. The suite to beat is the Library Suite, for its views of the marsh. Don’t miss a scrumptious gourmet picnic lunch, but be back in time for cocktail hour and a candlelit dinner. selectregistry.com, greyfieldinn.com
Speaking of water locked vacations, a visit to Haig Point on Daufuskie Island is to disconnect from present-day distractions and embrace the past. Accessible only by ferry and no cars allowed, guests have two lodging choices on this former indigo and cotton plantation. Spend a night in the 1873 Lighthouse and you might catch a glimpse of Maggie Comer, the ghost said to haunt the structure overlooking the Calibogue Sound. The other option is the century-old Strachan Mansion relocated by barge to Haig Point from St. Simons Island decades ago. haigpoint.com
Courtesy of Select Yachts
“I’m on a boat y’all…” Andy Samberg and T-Pain made this parody digital short a hit on Saturday Night Live, showcasing what the rich and famous already know: there’s no better way to escape than on a yacht. Most of us don’t share their celebrity wallets, but seaworthy travelers have discovered Select Yachts. In much the same way large groups of friends and family have made private aviation rental more accessible to the masses, comparing a week at a luxury hotel with splitting a charter fee between several people narrows the gap. Best of all, rates are often negotiable and guests can customize charters according to budget. Select Yachts is a trusted resource for travelers who have made yachting their go-to vacation choice. Staff members tour charter destinations, inspect and manage vessels, and hire captains and crews so the process is a stress-free, board-and-go scenario. For divers, this is the pinnacle of vacationing with instant access to nearshore reef and shipwreck exploration. Some of Select Yachts most requested vessels include the 83-ft. Mustang, 81-ft. Alter Ego and the 42-ft. Piggybank or Calypso sailboats, all of which sleep up to six guests. selectyachts.com
It doesn't take a yacht to experience the astounding views along Georgia's waters. In the Golden Isles, kayakers escape to the waters of this peaceful marsh respite all year long. Top kayaking excursions include St. Simons Island, Brunswick and Blythe Island Regional Park, Jekyll Creek adjacent to the Tidelands Nature Center Boat Launch and Sea Island resorts guests of The Cloister, Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club and Inn at Sea Island. Consult charts for best times to paddle these tidal waterways, but for beginner kayakers, experts recommend making your first launch a guided kayak tour. goldenisles.com
Best Bets for Weekend Getaways
Courtesy of Eau Spa
What happens when massage therapy, private cabana hosts, cupcakes and Champagne come together? At Eau Spa in Palm Beach these items are all part of the social spa concept. The après spa experience almost rivals the luxe treatments where guests sink into day beds strewn throughout a lush garden after paddling around in dipping pools. eauspa.com
Lock yourself away at the just opened Beach Club at Charleston Harbor in any of the 92 guest rooms and you’ll have a room and balcony with views of the largest marina in the Carolinas, the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. No need to leave the resort – everything is within reach. If you’re trying to evade capture or just sit quietly to ponder the great American novel, this is the place to do it. charlestonharborresort.com
Courtesy of Palmetto Bluff
In the sultry Lowcountry surrounding Palmetto Bluff, travelers find the east coast’s biggest remaining waterfront property and 32 miles of riverfront and nature trails. A big draw is one of the south’s finest equestrian centers. Palmetto Bluff is part conservation preserve, part AAA Five Diamond dining at the Montage Resort for an explore by day, indulge by night experience. palmettobluff.com
Only Ernest Hemingway could have described the taste of oysters in his masterpiece ‘A Movable Feast” so accurately. From shellfish to smoked pork, the southern coastline overflows with food that inspires creativity and ignites passion. These are a few of our favorite places to find your own moveable feast.
Amelia Island is taking its rightful place among storied culinary locales, gaining ground with celebrity chefs and epicures alike. Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort books up months in advance for its Fish to Fork event every May. Not surprising, since Omni hotels remain steadfast in their allegiance to regional gastronomy. (Omni Nashville shaves its country ham like prosciutto and has a biscuit bar, for example.) Chefs from around the country participate in the dock-to-dish festival against the breezy backdrop of Amelia Island’s water views. It’s an easy 45-minute ride from the Jacksonville Airport. Between meals, take a tour of the town’s Victorian architecture and finish up at Fernandina Harbor Marina. omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation
Come October, gourmands in the know make a mad dash to the last bastions of Old Florida for the state’s most coveted fruits de mer, succulent stone crabs. Crabbers call it the prime rib of crab and diners have precious little time to gorge on the juicy crustaceans, since they go out of season in May. Florida’s left coast is the place to beat for this culinary recharge where visitors bypass the masses and stick to the locals. At Stan’s Idle Hour on Goodland where the cook-your-catch blackened seasoning remains a closely guarded secret, don’t dress up. Your flip-flops and t-shirt are all the better to capture the river of drawn butter you’ll spill on yourself. stansidlehour.net
Chef Jamie Lynch may be one of the most creative chefs ever to grace the Charleston food scene – grace being the operative word for her inventive restaurant, 5Church Charleston located in an historic 5,000+square-foot church with stained glass windows and Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” text hand-painted on the ceiling. Order the house ramen with pork belly and local rockfish. 5churchcharleston.com
Courtesy of 492 Charleston
492 sets the stage for local products to shine, sourced from fishermen to farmers. Chef Josh Keeler has set his masterpiece on King Street where tables brim with sharing plates. It’s a culinary impossibility to choose just one dish, but consider making the chicken Milanese with sunny side up egg, turnips and mustard part of your menu. 492king.com
Courtesy of the Dewberry
The Dewberry Charleston overlooks Marion Square, where owner John Dewberry has created an ideal place to grab a cocktail, fellowship with friends and make new ones. It recently opened in the former L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building after nearly a decade of tender loving architectural care. In Henrietta’s guests find a brasserie feel (think steak frites and mussels) but the restaurant also features the unexpected, like lamb with Vadouvan curry. thedewberrycharleston.com
Courtesy of Andrew Cebulka for The Darling Oyster Bar
The Darling Oyster Bar is a Charleston staple for patrons who love the scene as much as they love the sea. Only the gorgeous food could outshines these diners with colorful shellfish towers and fresh catch artfully prepared. The usual suspects receive the Darling Oyster Bar treatment, too. Even the ubiquitous shrimp and grits dish gets elevated to new heights with crispy Brussels sprouts, country ham, fennel and a fried egg. thedarling.com
Courtesy of xiao bao biscuit
Xiao Bao Biscuit means Asian soul food but to Charlestonians, it’s code for ‘must have’. In a town where so many restaurants serve similar menus, Xiao Bao Biscuit presents a refreshing take on Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Do not miss the okonomyaki, a Japanese cabbage pancake, but be sure to upgrade with a helping of pork candy (crispy pork grated to the consistency of sawdust.) Chinese flavors abound in the Chao Shou Sichuan pork and shrimp dumplings immersed in a toasted chili broth. xiaobaobiscuit.com
It used to be commonplace to leave an important member of the family behind while the rest traveled on vacation. My how times have changed. The lodging industry has taken notice, upping the ante to lure pets and the owners who worship them. Here are a few of our favorite places where Fido or FeFe can come along on your R&R.
Open Gates Bed & Breakfast in Darien, Georgia is the definition of gracious hospitality. The owners place chocolates from the chocolate factory across the street on guests' beds and Open Gates' crepes won BedAndBreakfast.com's Best Breakfast award -- but their warm welcome extends beyond the culinary kind. The Open Gates welcomes pets in their Garden Room adjacent to the carriage house. This four-legged friendly lodging option has a private entrance and sitting porch, along with a private bath, king and twin beds for spreading out. Two blocks from Open Gates' wrap-around porches through a quiet neighborhood, the waterfront beckons. At night guests can meander back from restaurants and bars just in time for a goodnight stroll. opengatesbnb.com
In the Florida Panhandle, Natural Retreats boasts a bundle of pet-friendly Cape San Blas rental houses with plenty of room for four-legged loved ones to roam. These beachfront properties are just as luxe as their non-pet counterparts, replete with private pools and million dollar views of the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone can relax on wrap-around porches after a long day at nearby dog-friendly beaches. During doggie naps, owners can busy themselves with a tour of the 130-year-old Cape San Blas Lighthouse and climbing sand dunes. naturalretreats.com
Anchorage 1770 owners and staff understand and appreciate the bond between dogs and their humans, honoring it with two dedicated dog-friendly rooms on their Beaufort, South Carolina property. As if Anchorage 1770 couldn’t be any more charming, canine guests are invited to be part of their Sea Dogs Program, named for Caribbean pirates who frequented early Beaufort. A 1902 article called the mansion the “finest and most elegant in town” and it still retains that title. Known as the William Elliott House for its first 100 years, it became Naval officer Rear Admiral Lester Beardslee’s home in the late 1800s. Sumptuous digs aside, film buffs flock to Beaufort for on-location tours from Forest Gump, The Big Chill and The Great Santini among other movies shot in the area. Beaufort also lures anglers for its quick access to offshore fishing. Recently, Hunting Island State Park reopened after a long recovery from Hurricane Matthew. anchorage1770.com
No one appreciates furry friends like the folks in the Aloft hotel chain. Aloft Jacksonville takes the blue ribbon for going above and beyond. Repeat guests have reported arriving to find a printed photo of their pet attached to customized goodie bags brimming with biscuits and a stuffed toy. alofthotelshub.com