It's not in the middle of historic Charleston; instead it's 23 miles west in the strip-mall suburbs, but Woodlands Resort and Inn, a member of Relais & Châteaux, may be the most atmospheric, full-service place to stay in the region. The house is quintessentially grand: a 31,000-square-foot 1906 mansion that is externally Greek Revival and internally Victorian-rococo. Its furnishings include mahogany fourposters, crystal chandeliers, ormolu clocks, Schumacher chintz. The only qualifier: One must like the color brown, since it predominates in the 19 bedrooms. The house's most requested room, 202, is one exception, popular both for its blue walls and celebrity pedigree (Richard Gere's pick when he stayed here.)
Other reasons to come up from Charleston: 42 intensely wooded acres containing two tennis courts (to which a tennis pro named Hans can be summoned for lessons), day spa, and swimming pool. And a restaurant that's so good even locals make the drive from the city. Chef Ken Vedrinski creates menus termed New American for lack of a better description. Basically what that means is that he has a masterful sense of flavors and creates dishes that are interesting, delicious, and make sense: greaseless, crisp soft-shell crab; honshimeji mushrooms with Chinese black-bean sauce; seared yellowfin tuna with heirloom tomatoes and pancetta; confit of halibut with sauerkraut-apple salad. Plus—a real bonus for vegetarians—he does one of the most creative and varied all-vegetable tasting menus around. Dinner, $170. Rooms, $295-$350. 125 Parsons Road, Summerville, SC 29483; 800-774-9999, 843-875-2600.