Southern Charm

by Becca Hensley

Let’s set the scene. With its king cakes and pandowdies, pink camellias, Spanish Moss dripping from anthropomorphic oak trees, storytellers (think Maya Angelou and Tennessee Williams), bayous, gators and grits, pimento cheese, boiled peanuts and hush puppies—the South has an indubitable charm all its own. Discover that famous hospitality at some of the region’s top-notch spas, from North Carolina to Georgia, and beyond.

Montage Palmetto Bluff Bluffton, South Carolina
They call it pluff. That’s the nutrient-rich, indigenous, oozy, salt-marshy mud that hails from the unspoiled May River, a skip away from Montage Palmetto Bluff resort. It turns out that spreading pluff over your body, a local tradition, can ease a number of ailments. With that in mind, the 13,000-square-foot spa has you “covered” when you book the Carolina Kur—a pluff body mask spectacular—and more.

But hanging out in the haven’s peerless wellness center isn’t the only good-for-you activity at this Low Country resort. Golf, horseback riding, sunset cruises, kayaking, bird watching, tennis—all come to mind as ways to lower blood pressure and build happiness. Expect old school southern gentility and globally inspired joie de vivre.

Four Seasons Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia
As glamorous as its main lobby (which drips with sparkly. chandeliers and swirls with a marble staircase), the Four Seasons Atlan- ta’s Midtown Spa simultaneously buzzes with an urbane, local vibe. Spa Director Eric Kittay draws from local artisans, such as Mama Soaps, whose lavender-rosemary products ennoble the signature Midtown Massage. One therapist, Alicia McMahon, brings her horticulturist skills to the treatment table. Her garden-fueled rituals harness the powers of aromatherapy. Experience Springtime Radiance, a scrub and massage treatment sure to relieve sinus pressure and muscle tension. “It’s talents and passions like this from our craftspeople that delight our guests time and again,” says Kittay.

The Umstead Hotel and Spa
Cary, North Carolina
Just sighing distance from Raleigh and a horn honk from a busy highway, The Umstead manages, nevertheless, to be as remote and tucked away as a cabin in the woods. In fact, the tranquil but tony resort invokes the verdancy of its surrounding, leafy Piedmont region. Its panoramic windows and rooms overlook a great lawn, a lake and an abundant mix of wildflowers, dogwood, maples, pines and oak trees. From that nature, the hotel’s bi-level, 16,000-square-foot spa conjures its “let nature heal” ethos. With an artful organic design concept (river rock, bamboo, granite) and a meditation courtyard, the spa space serves as the exemplar setting for its curative offerings, which run the gamut, but include North Carolinian De La Terre products.

The Cloister at Sea Island
Sea Island, Georgia
Since 1928, genteel luminaries have flocked to tiny Sea Island in southeastern Georgia to relish a slice of swanky beach life. En- sconced amongst salt marshes, and tidal creeks, fringed by a sugary beach, the island brims tastefully with cottages, custom residences and affiliated original inns—like The Cloister, the first guest lodging. Re- furbished, awash in tradition, it has catered to generations of families. Its 65,000-square-foot Spa at Sea Island, honored as a Forbes Five Star, offers an array of treatments in a transcendent sanctum, anchored by a water atrium. Go for the suitably named Southern Comfort, a bespoke Swedish massage.

The Greenbrier White Sulphur
Springs, West Virginia Abundant with entertainment options from geocaching to fal-conry, The Greenbrier, a majestic spa resort, dates back to 1778, when ailing visitors came to take succor from the natural sulphur springs in the area. Today, it emits a timeless quality of bygone sophistica- tion, thanks partially to its grand scale architecture, iconic Dorothy Draper-designed, Hollywood Regency-style interiors and (Southern) mannerly vibe.
Set amid mountains and bucolic countryside, the resort has repeatedly been named a best spa destination. Its lofty, 40,000-square- foot sanctuary incorporates the historic mineral waters into many of its treatments. Try The Detox Kur, which includes a toxin-eliminating bath, botanical mud wrap and a mineral-infused massage.

Old Edwards Inn & Spa
Highlands, North Carolina

“Mountain time,” an oft used phrase at Old Edwards Inn & Spa, a Relais & Chateaux property, embodies the spirit at this cozy inn in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Full of mystery, this region legendarily contains the intersection of ancient energy paths, resulting in a vortex, similar to Sedona’s. With understated elegance, the hotel as a whole, exudes European flair.
Its Spa, kitted out in rough-hewn timber and stone, mir- rors—and channels—the surrounding terrain. A bountiful garden and greenhouse supply herbs, florals and botanicals, often used for treat- ments. In fact, guests have the opportunity to request their favorite fresh herbs (such as mint, lavender, rosemary and sage) with a therapist beforehand, so they can be procured for foot soak rituals, pedicures, salt scrubs and the treatments.

Photographer: Patrick J O'Brien

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island
South Carolina

A smart mansion on the sea, the Sanctuary presides over Kiawah Island, a barrier isle, near Charleston. Dating back to the 17th-century, the expanse, rimmed by 10 miles of sparkling sand, has a bucket list reputation amongst the golfing set. But, the retreat, zig-zagged with bike baths, home to wildlife, blessed with the calming soundtrack of waves on the shore, also attracts leisure travelers who don’t tee off.
Everyone enjoys the various restaurants, recreational pursuits and stellar Spa at The Sanctuary. A Forbes Five Star awardee, the spa oasis offers a variety of restorative and beautifying treatments. Holistic facials with bespoke combinations of botanical reign. The Seaside Facial invokes the healing powers of marine life, including salts and polished seashells.

JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
Aventura, Florida

Purportedly conceived among friends, and designed on the back of a cocktail napkin, this popular resort just 12 miles north of Miami hums with activity. With pools and an exhilarating water park, the Mediterranean-intoned getaway fits the bill for family spa trips— the sort where you let the kids swim, while you spa. On 300 acres, with plenty of activities, it presents extreme peacefulness at its âme Spa & Wellness Collective. Three floors encompass the spa (with Himalayan Salt and Infrared Sauna Chambers; Aroma, Chroma and Music Therapy rooms; Cryotherapy; among other state-of-the-art, innovative features), as well as an immense fitness center, and the Center for Integrative Medicine and Holistic Rejuvenation.

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