From the coast to the countryside, these getaways promise both relaxation and energizing fun

By Amy Brecount White

March 9, 2023

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photo: courtesy of sea island

Inshore flat fishing at Sea Island in Georgia.

Lazing around on vacation, reading a book and chilling by the beach may be exactly what you need. But sometimes, by day two, you might itch to stretch your muscles and boundaries a bit. These destinations across the South, from a coastal getaway in Virginia to a sporting paradise in Alabama, offer multiple means to dive into vibrant landscapes, try out some new skills, and encounter nature in uplifting ways.

Tides Inn

Irvington, Virginia

Immersive excursions on the Rappahannock River, also known as “the oyster capital of the Chesapeake Bay,” offer guests a delicious dash of science at Virginia’s Tides Inn resort. Before taking part in one of the guided trips, many people relate to oysters only as a food source, says Will Smiley, the inn’s staff ecologist. “All leave with a better understanding of oysters’ ecological importance and their ability to filter water.” Afterwards, visitors slurp the roasted bivalves at the oyster education dock, which overlooks the bay and resort. On the crabbing jaunt, guests bait a pot, pull up a full one, and enjoy the Old Bay–enhanced fruits of their labor. 

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photo: Courtesy of Tides Inn

Barnsley Resort

Adairsville, Georgia

These three thousand acres along the Appalachian foothills are a playground for guided horseback and UTV rides, as well as target practice with axes, archery, and air rifles. The nearby sister property, Beretta Shooting Grounds, offers two fourteen-station clay courses in the woods and over ponds along with a covered five-stand range and a long-range rifle challenge course. Up your game with the experienced instructors certified by the National Sporting Clays Association. 

Maison D’Memoire

Rayne, Louisiana

On thirty lakeside acres, these restored bed-and-breakfast cottages provide a romantic launchpad for activities in Cajun country and include a full, savory breakfast delivered to your doorstep. Owner Lyn Guidry recommends sampling the seasonal delicacies, like boiled crawfish, along with taking airboat rides on the Atchafalaya Swamp to explore this often-misunderstood wilderness and marvel at alligators and egrets. Nearby hands-on tours invite you to taste the local cuisine and tap your toes to live Cajun music. 

Pursell Farms

Sylacauga, Alabama

Traverse this 3,200-acre country resort through guided horseback rides, stargazing tours with an astronomer, and UTV mountain tours. The Orvis shooting grounds feature a sporting clays course, wingshooting opportunities, and a fly-fishing school with seasoned instructors. Learn multiple casting techniques, vital fishing knots, and how to choose the right flies for the moment. They focus on warmwater catches, such as bass and sunfish, but their lessons apply just about anywhere.

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photo: courtesy of Pursell

Pursell’s twelve-station sporting clays course.

Sea Island Resort

Sea Island, Georgia

Encounter this barrier island’s native wildlife by patrolling for nesting turtles and hatchlings along five miles of private beach, taking naturalist-guided walks, riding a horse along the beach, or scouting the salt marsh on a dolphin tour. Try to tame the waters yourself at surf camp or by kiteboarding, sailing, and kayaking. Broadfield, the nearby sporting club and lodge, offers 5,800 acres of woods and a bass-rich lake along with a sporting clays course, quail hunting, and falconry.

photo: courtesy of sea island

Wild Dunes

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Set amid 1,600 acres of barrier islands northeast of Charleston, this Atlantic oceanfront resort tempts you to explore waves and beaches by pedal and paddle. Try kayaking with dolphins, ocean fishing, paddle boarding, or taking a naturalist-guided boat tour to an undeveloped island. Your artsy side can dip into painting classes, sweetgrass basket weaving, or just studying nature’s majesty beneath the live oaks.

photo: courtesy of wild dunes


Franklin, Tennessee

This newly opened resort just twenty miles north of Nashville emphasizes the 325-acre site’s farming roots with wellness and adventure offerings. Traverse their trails on mountain and e-bikes or get a birds’ eye view during your workout on the aerial obstacle course that winds through the woods. Deepen your bee knowhow by hiking hillsides with a honeybee keeper, or trace your food’s journey from seed to plate with both a farmer and a chef. David Mishkin, the executive property manager, recommends trying one of the falconry experiences, too. “The birds are flying free above your head,” he says. “It almost takes you back in time.”

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photo: Heather Durham Photography

The aerial obstacle course at Southhall.