The Top 5 Places to Relax & Unwind in the Coastal South



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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 burnout 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.

 

1. Greyfield Inn

Our first pick to disconnect from the outside world is 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 and fine furnishings. Don’t miss a scrumptious gourmet picnic lunch, but be back in time for cocktail hour and a candlelit dinner. selectregistry.com, greyfieldinn.com

 

2. Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Only Ernest Hemingway could have described the taste of oysters in his masterpiece “A Moveable 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

3. Stan's Idle Hour

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

 

4. Haig Point

A visit to Haig Point on Daufuskie Island is to disconnect from present-day distractions and embrace the past. Accessible only by ferry, 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

 

5. The Golden Isles via Kayak

“I’m on a boat y’all…” Andy Samberg and T-Pain made this parody digital short a hit on “Saturday Night Live”, but 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 the best times to paddle these tidal waterways, but for beginner kayakers, experts recommend making your first launch a guided kayak tour. goldenisles.com

 

To read more about the greatest places to eat, stay, play and shop in the South, subscribe now or pick up the June/July issue of South magazine.