Friday, May 24, 2024
Home Southeast SE Places Restore & Refresh

Restore & Refresh

The Southeast’s best resorts and spas feature relaxation and luxury

By Lia Picard

Traveling can be a stressful time for many. With the added pressure of professional obligations like meetings or conferences while traveling, that stress can multiply. And that added stress can have adverse effects on your attendees—both mentally and physically. So, whether planning an event large or small, don’t forget to keep the well-being of your meeting-goers in mind when booking accommodations. Luxury spas, fitness spaces, and relaxing team-building activities make for welcome additions to any corporate getaway. Luckily, the Southeast offers no shortage of meeting and event destinations perfect for unwinding after a hard day’s work.

The grounds at Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, in Point Clear, Alabama || Courtesy of Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa

Exquisite Experiences

When someone suggested to Robyn Davis, president of RCD Events Worldwide in Atlanta, Georgia, that she host a sales kickoff for 200 people at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia, she didn’t think the company would go for it. People were coming in from Europe and Canada, and, at first, it made sense to her to stay in the city. “Then, we kind of changed the story and talked about how, in a city hotel, they would lose attendees [as they] go to bars, restaurants, and [tour] the city area [on their own].”

It was suddenly clear Chateau Elan would serve as an ideal location “because we would have most of the resort, and there’s not that much around it in Braselton,” says Davis. “So, it really gave the impression of it being a retreat, it kept people on-property, and they saw each other at the outlets within the resort.”

The sprawling property has 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including 12 conference rooms and four ballrooms, as well as a luxurious 35,000-square-foot spa that features an indoor pool with resistance jets, a dry Finnish sauna, and a wet eucalyptus steam room. The key feature, however, is the property’s vineyard, which—along with the brand’s grapes acquired from vineyards in South Georgia and California’s Lake County and Clarksburg regions—crafts 30 varietals of wine at the resort. Not only does an on-site vineyard create a picturesque setting for a meeting, but its presence also plays a role throughout the events, too. “Wine is an underlying factor with Chateau Elan,” says Davis, even if the program itself isn’t centered on wine.

Gracing the shores of the Savannah River in Savannah, Georgia, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa offers guests a classic Southern vibe with easy access to the city’s Historic District via ferry. The resort boasts 286,600 square feet of meeting space across 46 event rooms, with the largest-capacity space accommodating more than 10,000 people. After a long day of meeting or exploring, attendees can relax poolside, rest by a riverside fire, or de-stress at the Heavenly Spa by Westin. The Heavenly Spa by Westin features 21 treatment rooms and services ranging from seasonal body wraps, the Georgia Peach Sweet Tea Scrub, Matcha mud manicures and pedicures, organic facials, and others.

The Swag in Waynesville, North Carolina (about 40 minutes west of Asheville), is a boutique, all-inclusive property that sleeps 42 people in its cottages and inn—and that’s what makes it so great. Set on 250 acres along the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the boutique resort has nontraditional meeting space. “Oftentimes, when you buy out The Swag, the best meeting place is actually in the main dining room,” says Will Jones, the hotel’s general manager. “It’s not your typical meeting venue because it now feels like you’re having a gathering in somebody’s living room.”

Outside of meetings, attendees can take advantage of the hotel’s newly opened spa, The Still, which offers a selection of services including mud wraps, foot treatments, facials, and hot stone massages. Guests can also relax by enjoying scenic hikes, swimming in The Lookout pool, taking a yoga class, unwinding by a nightly bonfire (cocktail in hand), reclining in a hammock while reading a book borrowed from the eclectic Chestnut Lodge Library, and much more. 

Spa treatment room at Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans || Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Sometimes what makes a resort unique is something literally over the top. At the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans in Louisiana, which opened in the city’s former World Trade Center in 2021, Vue Orleans is just that. The 360-degree observation deck sits atop the building’s 33rd and 34th floors, offering sweeping city views from both indoors and outdoors. The space is available as a venue exclusively to hotel guests. The hotel can accommodate group sizes of up to 500 people and sits on the edge of the Mississippi River within walking distance of the French Quarter. Because of the hotel’s prime location in a city rich with culture, it’s easy for event planners to weave a taste of The Big Easy into their gatherings. “We bring the best of New Orleans to our clients, delivered with a Four Seasons lens,” says Stephan Miller, the hotel’s director of sales. Whether it’s a coffee break with a beignet action station, taking in the sights, an exclusive off-property tour, or a French-style beauty treatment at the spa, meetings and events at Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans have a true sense of place, Miller says.

Coastal Calm

Close proximity to a coastline intrinsically soothes, which bodes well for a gathering of co-workers and associates along the Southeast’s famous shores. In Bluffton, South Carolina, the Montage Palmetto Bluff enchants with its Lowcountry locale. Palmetto Bluff, a 20,000-acre resort community, sits on the May River and its salt marshes, and the community’s thoughtful design allows the people staying and living within it to take in the views from various trails, docks, and green spaces throughout. About 5,000 square feet of meeting space comprise tastefully appointed meeting and board rooms. Event planners often weave in oyster roasts along the banks of the May River, dinner parties with waterway views, and s’mores by the fire pits. Wind down following a busy day of meetings at Spa Montage, where inspiration is drawn from nature to create a spa experience that incorporates elements of Palmetto Bluff’s surrounding landscape into the available treatments, including herbal poultices composed of regional wildflowers. 

With one side facing the Atlantic Ocean and the other surrounded by forest, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in South Carolina has oceanfront views that are unmatched. In fact, attendees can even enjoy those views from the hotel’s Heavenly Spa by Westin, now offering ocean-view rooms and suites. The 8,000-square-foot facility offers massages, facials, body treatments, nail care services, and more. The Westin boasts 38,832 square feet of meeting space across 22 event rooms, with its largest capacity being 1,600.

On Georgia’s St. Simons Island, The Cloister at Sea Island sits on 50 picturesque acres surrounded by riverways, marshes, and the Atlantic Ocean. The 100-year-old, 400-room property offers 30,000 square feet of event space that accommodates up to 500 event-goers. Surrounded by nature, attendees can relax post-meeting with an afternoon aboard the Sea Island Explorer, commune with the salt marsh dolphins and baby sea turtles, ride on horseback through the marshes, kayak at dawn, visit The Cloister Solarium, lay poolside, visit the fitness center, or unwind at The Spa at Sea Island.

The Spa at Sea Island, a Forbes Five-Star spa, draws inspirations from the surrounding salt marshes and sea to offer treatments that are natural, restorative, and therapeutic. Swedish massage, detox facials, sea mineral body masks, volcanic pumice exfoliation, and Breath Deep Baths are only a few of the treatments offered. Also featured at The Spa are a Relaxation Garden Atrium, a hydrotherapy pool, the Meditation Labyrinth, a cedar dry sauna, and more. 

Nestled on the Gulf-facing side of the barrier islands of Sarasota, Florida, Opal Collection’s The Resort at Longboat Key Club is a beach-lover’s dream. The 229-room resort features 12,000 square feet of meeting space boasting exceptional oceanfront views. With bustling marinas, rolling golf courses, and white sand beaches, the resort offers your eventgoers a dream getaway in between meetings. The Resort at Longboat Key Club’s island-inspired spa boasts 10 calming treatment rooms poised for soothing the senses and nourishing the mind, body, and soul. Recently added, the spa’s relaxation rooms now serve enhancing VitaJuwel crystalized water and Pamela Wasabi’s plant-based baked goods. Treatments available include the popular Signature Bliss full body treatment and massage, The Marine Anti-Aging treatment, lift and contour facial treatments, Vibro Acoustic Tables, and more.

Browsing spa treatment products at The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Sarasota, Florida || Courtesy of

“Our goal is to engage all five senses in nature-inspired smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and textures to open the body to healing,” explains a representative from Opal Collection. “Self-guided experiences are also being introduced, including no-touch systems that use sound, vibration, or color therapy. It’s all part of a larger initiative to bake wellness into the entire spa experience, from the moment you step into the space and to linger well beyond your stay.”

Additionally, each of the spa’s custom services comes with a treatment plan to continue the benefits of the treatment at home. “Part of Opal Spa’s culture is to educate guests on how to care for themselves once they leave,” the Opal Collection representative says. “The cornerstones are regular exercise, proper nutrition, peace of mind, and care of the face and body.” 

At the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, in Point Clear, Alabama, the hotel’s location on Mobile Bay allows attendees to connect in a way they might not get to farther inland. When attendees aren’t congregating in one of the 22 meeting rooms, meandering through the property’s butterfly gardens and leisure spots—including the on-site spa—proves to be conducive for networking. “The Grand makes it easy to relax, unplug, and recharge your battery,” says Kevin Hellmich, director of sales and marketing. “We hear all the time from new corporations that meet at the Grand: ‘Our team bonded more at the Grand than we ever have.’”

Another prime spot to network at the Grand is Bucky’s Lounge, named in honor of a longtime hotel employee. “There are nine fire pits by which you can hang out outside of Bucky’s, have a drink, watch the sunset, and get to know people,” adds Hellmich.

Ornate Influences

For a different coastal flavor, head to The Boca Raton in Boca Raton, Florida, a city known for its Spanish-style architecture and beautiful beaches, situated between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The historic resort comprises five buildings and offers 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The resort’s proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway and beach creates a laid-back—yet elegant—atmosphere, and five pools (including a lazy river) let attendees kick back in their downtime.

Meeting planners might also work with the 50,000-square-foot Spa Palmera, named Florida’s Best Resort Spa in 2022 by the World Spa Awards, to schedule appointments for meeting-goers throughout the duration of the event. Spa treatments include hydrotherapy baths, full-body treatments, facials, Ayurvedic massage, CBD restorative body treatments, and more. “The main draw for events at The Boca Raton is the opportunity to attend an event at an iconic property,” says Robert Cameron, the hotel’s director of sales.

The Palm Courtyard at The Breakers Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Florida || Courtesy of The Breakers Palm Beach

Farther up the Floridian coast, The Breakers Palm Beach provides an alternative option for hosting an event at a renowned beachfront property. The hotel, founded by Henry Flagler in 1896, has 534 guest rooms and 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. It’s hard not to feel swept away when entering the stately resort modeled after the Villa Medici in Rome. It’s palatial with Mediterranean-style architectural details and bright with natural lighting. A recent refresh gives the hotel a modern feel. Despite the resort’s large size, it can feel quite intimate, with 10 specialty restaurants, 25 poolside bungalows, and an indoor-outdoor spa at which meeting planners can host smaller events or as a way to offer attendees a relaxing break. Treatments available at the spa include custom massages, the Guerlain Black Orchid Treatment facial, and the Deep-Sea Pedicure.