Boutique Sleeps

December 2022


Turn in for the night in these intimate, upscale accommodations found in some of the state’s smaller burgs. Vacationers know the rewards of visiting villages and hamlets, where hidden gems often are found. Still, many of these jaunts are considered day trips or pass-throughs, sometimes because travelers believe the options for spending the night are limited or lacking when compared to familiar chains dotting the highways in and around major cities. The truth is that bypassing the well-known doesn’t mean you have to lose sleep over finding great accommodations. It’s quite the opposite, really. Several small towns boast fabulous locally owned boutique inns, where guests enjoy iconic Southern hospitality and restful stays.


Inside this stunning Florence boutique hotel that pairs swank with exposed beam- and-post ceilings and interior brick, 10 individually styled suites with names such as Devil’s Backbone, Lumber One and Frank Lloyd Wright highlight area art, history and music. Each suite, envisioned by local businessman Billy Ray Casteel, enlightens and delights with large, walk-in tiled showers, 55-inch televisions, wet bars, refrigerators, Peacock Alley luxury bedding and bath products by Reclaimed Spirit, a local Florence company. Slide into a provided soft robe and dial the GunRunner Spa for your massage before enjoying a pre-dinner drink in the hotel’s 3,200-square-foot common area. Relax amid the retro-chic décor with a craft cocktail while you admire the eclectic art adorning the open space.


This 3,200-acre resort in Sylacauga is a luxury camp for adults, offering an unrivaled Southern welcome. Guests, greeted at the gate, feel their shoulders relax as they enter an extraordinary scene of mountains, pastures, forests— all punctuated by ducks flying from lake to lake. While golf on FarmLinks, Golfweek’s No. 1- ranked course in Alabama, is Pursell Farms’ best-known activity, you also can unleash your inner warrior with axe throwing. Or, try archery, yoga, bike riding, swimming or pickleball. If your idea of fun is to sit and relax, the Spring House Spa offers specialized treatments, including a variety of facials and massages. Rooms offer pleasing details, from triple-sheeted beds to fine furnishings, and each of Pursell Farms’ three restaurants serves a variety of food, from Asian-inspired shrimp salad to steak and eggs in the morning. Weekends at Arrington restaurant, with its chef’s four-course, prix fixe menu, require reservations. It all adds up to a paradigm of regal, rustic relaxation in what has been a Pursell family operation-in-the-making since the 1900s.


Old Waters Inn, called the Tower Motel when it was built in 1956, anchors downtown Wedowee. The inn takes its name from the city and a Muscogee Creek Indian chief whose name means “old water,” a nod to a nearby creek. Previously, the closest luxury room was an hour’s drive away, but in 2021, Ramonda and Gene Crouch, Kim and Greg Frandsen and Tricia and Bernard Stearns opened the extensively remodeled Old Waters Inn at Wedowee. It offers 11 rooms and three suites, complete with sitting areas and kitchenettes. Cozy rooms known as The Heron, The Big River and The Nest offer distinctive furnishings and fabrics with designer touches. Amenities include contactless check-in, posh linens, spa-like bathrooms, Aveda bath products, 55-inch televisions and fast Wi-Fi. Located less than seven miles from Lake Wedowee Marina and within walking distance of the new Lake Wedowee Winery, Old Waters Inn’s luxury and convenient location make it the place to stay when visiting East Alabama.


Kim and Brian Wirth have transformed what was Auburn University’s Wittel Dormitory into an award-winning boutique hotel. The Collegiate, on the corner of Thach and Gay streets in Auburn, attracts parents and alumni beyond football season, partially because of its rooftop bar’s skyline view of the campus. The old dorm lives an encored life, rejuvenated with style and grace into 40 luxury rooms, many utilizing original furniture from the early 1900s. Walls hold carefully curated art, juxtaposing history with modern flair, all with a nod to Auburn and college life. Suites are spacious with two king beds; some boast private patios or balconies. The Collegiate is one of the few boutique inns that welcomes pets, and the pet deposit comes complete with a swag bag. Parking and traffic aren’t a worry because a courtesy golf cart carries you to campus and downtown hot spots.

Tricia Stearns is a writer and an owner of the Old Waters Inn at Wedowee. When the property’s renovation was underway, she researched locally owned, boutique inns across Alabama.

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