Downtown area of Key West. Editorial credit: Markus Haberkern /

8 of the Most Welcoming Towns in the Southern United States

Welcome to the South, where the small towns are boundless in their local hospitality, offering international cuisine and attractions for everyone. These small towns, from the beaches to the mountains and every other type of enchanting scenery, are resplendent for outdoor adventures and relaxation in the pleasant weather throughout the year.

You can hike to the oldest covered bridge in Maysville, Kentucky, or let the Gulf breeze guide you along the flower-filled paths of Fairhope to the Pier overlooking Mobile Bay. From the resplendent mineral waters of Eureka Springs to the Caribbean-inspired Key West, boasting the southernmost beaches in the US, Beaufort welcomes you with a magnificent waterfront.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Downtown street in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Downtown street in Beaufort, South Carolina. Image credit Stephen B. Goodwin via Shutterstock

As the state's second-oldest and one of America's friendliest towns, Beaufort exemplifies Southern hospitality with a front porch culture of drinking sweet tea, chatting, and cooking crab boils. Enveloped in greenery, with everything from palm trees to weeping willows, it's only 90 miles to Charleston for a day trip! Consistently rated as one of the South's most charming towns, you can dive into Beaufort's blend of rich history and coastal flair, together with a great food scene including sea delicacies.

This three-century-old town offers a local, mouth-watering cuisine scene, featuring thick, spicy gumbo to enjoy between your boutique shopping excursions! You can amble around the historical center, from the centuries-old downtown to the waterfront district, which feels tailor-made for sharing special moments with loved ones. Beaufort unfolds with magnificent antebellum homes and heritage sites along the historic waterfront, where you can bask in picturesque views, enjoy strolls, and take in the sunset!

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

One of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations," as per the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Eureka Springs will exceed all expectations of a Southern retreat! From music festivals spinning blues and jazz to art and antiques, it bubbles over with charm any day, while the Eureka Springs City Auditorium hosts several top global names every year. You can enjoy an award-winning international cuisine scene, including savory Czech-German dishes, authentic Italian fare, and fresh Mediterranean flavors. There's the famous Basin Spring in the downtown park and the breathtakingly gorgeous cold water Blue Spring, resembling a sparkling blue lagoon, at the Heritage Center.

Humble about its natural blessings, this cozy north Arkansas town, nestled deep in the Ozarks, has a very down-home feel, with an entirely listed downtown area on the National Register of Historic Places. With welcoming artists' studios, romantic candlelit dinners, and extraordinary Victorian homes hugging the cliff sides, you will find a gallery galore, museums, and artistic expressions in plain sight, like on benches, murals, and sidewalk art! It's a real shopper’s paradise, featuring block after block of unique boutiques, fine art galleries, and craft emporiums. Eureka Springs also feels personal and secluded along winding mountainside streets.

Fairhope, Alabama

The beachfront in Fairhope, Alabama.
The beachfront in Fairhope, Alabama.

Often overlooked for nearby Daphne, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach, Fairhope extends its warmest invitation to all with sweeping vistas over Mobile Bay. Tiny yet vibrant, this captivating town feels like a home away from home, with an engaging community spirit and flower-filled streets, all of which make it one of the South's most beautiful towns! Home to many galleries and the annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Fairhope also boasts a brewery, a history museum, and the nearby Village Point Park Reserve.

From the Fairhope Outdoor Farmers' Market to prize-winning restaurants, you can indulge in local culinary delicacies over a family meal or friend gathering and join creative classes at the Eastern Shore Art Center, an immersive art world featuring inspiring galleries. The gentle Gulf breeze nudges you along Fairhope Pier and the Gulf's splendor with stunning sunsets. Oh, and you are welcome to take advantage of the natural annual "jubilee," the shellfish phenomenon when crabs, flounder, and shrimp flood the shallow bay!

Isle of Hope, Georgia

Charming waterfront Bluff drive on Isle of Hope in Savannah, Georgia
Charming waterfront Bluff drive on Isle of Hope in Savannah, Georgia

There's no place quite like this charming, census-designated community, with historic homes arranged around a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Skidaway River. As you prepare to embark on your journey, rest assured—there are no channels to cross, as the coastal riverside community enjoys a picturesque peninsula location amidst the beautiful marshes of Georgia’s tidewater zone. Easily accessible by car in under 30 minutes, being just 10 miles from Savannah, the town's low-key nature and laid-back vibe downtown embody the endearing old-South charm.

Welcoming you to an idyllic riverside respite for scenic R&R and recreation, Isle of Hope is an attraction in itself with deep significance to the state's past. Born as a historic retreat for nearby Savannah in the 1840s, its legacy extends to the incredible historic district and the waterfront. You can meander the endless rows of streets shaded by moss-laden oak trees with craftsman houses and taller buildings like the 19th-century wood churches. From easy-peasy strolls to the marshes stretching from Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean, the coastal walking paths are resplendent in the highlighting sunset!

Key West, Florida

The famous Sloppy Joe's Bar on Duval Street where American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway frequently attended in Key West
The famous Sloppy Joe's Bar on Duval Street where American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway frequently attended in Key West, via Fotoluminate LLC /

Home to some 26,000 locals, Key West fuses the tropics with genuine southern hospitality, featuring pristine beachside scenery and a historic downtown heart, laden with sites, dining establishments, and family attractions! The idyllic waterfront, with iconic pastel-colored houses and seafood places overlooking the ocean, offers access to the serene Smathers Beach and the best lookout from Southernmost Point. It is best to visit from March through May to avoid crowds and enjoy attractions like the Hemingway Home and Museum and the Harry S. Truman Little White House, while the beaches here turn from daytime lounging to exciting nightlife.

Maybe it's all the southern air here in the idyllic slice of the southernmost continental United States, but the Caribbean-like atmosphere and scenery inspire artists, visionaries, and authors. From the serene Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to the beating heart along Duval Street, Key West embodies a home far away from home. With a blend of cultures, backgrounds, and a local, one-of-a-kind brand of comedy, you can watch artists and photographers at work, immersing themselves in their passion. Even Ernest Hemingway sought to live and write here, seeking an 'escape from the ordinary', on the farthest island in Florida's keys.

Maysville, Kentucky

Historic Buildings in Maysville, Kentucky.
Historic Buildings in Maysville, Kentucky.

Maybe it is all the craft bourbon, but there's much more here on the banks of the Ohio River! This photogenic town, featuring the prominent 'Opera' landmark, attracts live theater fans from around the country with its two wonderful historic theaters. The Washington Opera House, beautifully restored since 1889, is a working theater and home to the Maysville Players, performing since 1964, at the end of the walkable main downtown shopping district. The grand 1920s Russell Theatre, opened as a cinema in an indulgent Spanish Colonial style and once graced by red carpet attendee and Maysville native Rosemary Clooney, offers tours by appointment. The floodwall murals offer a welcoming stroll, featuring 1998 artwork by Robert Dafford that depicts the city’s early river history.

Cummins Nature Preserve features camping, picnic shelters, and a diverse habitat with a pond and wildlife trails, hosting occasional events like those during this holiday season. Just 12 miles away, Dover Covered Bridge is great for a daylong hike or bike ride to Kentucky's oldest covered bridge of 60 feet over Lee’s Creek in a unique queen-post truss design since 1835! Downtown is a shopper's paradise, boasting independent boutiques offering unique gifts, home furnishings, and decor, extending through Old Washington's historic district. You can keep browsing veritable treasures of locally produced, handcrafted, and unique goods, with on-site restaurants, cafes, and even public restrooms. The Pogue family, six generations in the art of distilling bourbon, welcomes you for the best booze.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets
Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets, via Billy Hathorn on Wikipedia

Pronounced 'Nack-a-tish', there lies the first surprise—this quaint yet perky town was Louisiana’s oldest, established in 1714! Natchitoches, the star from Steel Magnolias, is also "One of Dozen Distinctive Destinations” for Historic Preservation of French Creole architecture, cuisine, and the glue that holds it all together—Southern grace. You can experience the charm of the original French colony in Louisiana to this day along its landmark Historic District with historic fort sites and museums. The oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory, Natchitoches, is also the inviting Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana.

Visitors can enjoy shopping, dining, and attractions, with something exciting always unraveling nearby, thanks to a calendar full of vibrant events and festivals. Bursting with natural charms and cultural attractions, it's easy to find a homey stay offering royal treatment at any time, most vibrant around the imminent, annual, can't-miss Natchitoches Christmas Festival with magic for the whole family. From strolls along Cane River Lake to hiking in the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, there's also the serene Oakland and Magnolia Plantations to mingle among friendly locals in the summertime bloom.

Oxford, Mississippi

An American flag waves above the City Hall of Oxford, Mississippi.
An American flag waves above the City Hall of Oxford, Mississippi.

Home to the University of Mississippi, this vibrant and walkable college town is for every type of traveler! Centrally located in the state, Oxford offers the perfect degree of luxury and Southern elegance with a laidback, youthful vibe and student prices for exceptional culinary experiences. From unique shops to upscale restaurants and bars, the town square is Oxford's beating heart, with highlights like Proud Larry's and Rooster’s Blues House. Oxford welcomes you with a nod to William Faulkner, featuring literary landmarks and attractions like "The Library," which becomes an eclectic performance venue after hours.

Home to just under 30,000 people, Oxford feels much larger, known as the "Cultural Mecca of the South," where creativity abounds with local and visiting musicians, artists, and writers who find inspiration in each other, history, and its small-town charm. You are welcome to stroll the campus, cheer for the Ole Miss Rebels, enjoy regular musical evenings, and visit "The Lyric," known for great performances at any given time. Chancellor’s House, with its timeless charm and grandeur of the past, offers refined service, while Graduate Oxford, right on The Square, is funky and comfortable with plush decor and a hip lobby where you can meet locals at Cabin 82 over the best breakfast, or enjoy fine dining at The Coop's rustic rooftop bar.

In Conclusion

You can experience the glory of old Southern architecture in Louisiana's oldest town, Natchitoches, the star of Steel Magnolias, bursting with southern French and Creole flair. This bed and breakfast capital extends its most vibrant welcome now, during its Christmas Festival, with magic for the whole family.

The horseshoe-shaped community of Isle of Hope, at the bend of the Skidaway River, welcomes you just 10 miles from Savannah. Visit Faulkner sites in Oxford or Hemingway's favorite, Key West, to seek your own inspiration for an "escape from the ordinary!"

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