CHARLESTON, S.C. — We slowly motored down the Ashepoo River, snaking through the swampy backwater river, across the fertile ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. A pair of bottlenose dolphins played in the shallow waters of the protected estuary, and an osprey soared overhead. We turned into Two Sisters Creek, rounded the bend and saw the string of floating oyster cages owned by Lowcountry Oyster Company, the largest oyster producer in South Carolina. We put-putted around the farm, and later, back at the dock, sampled several oysters.
Yes, this is a review of the recently opened The Loutrel hotel in Charleston, S.C. And while most guests laud the hotel’s swanky rooms and lovely rooftop terrace (more on that later), we were particularly impressed by its add-on experiences showcasing the city’s history and culture, such as oyster farm tours, guided historic neighborhood walks, and meet-and-greet events with local authors and artists.
The hotel, located in Charleston’s famed historic district, has been open less than a year, and has already received a host of accolades and awards, including Travel + Leisure’s 100 Best Hotels in the World and Conde Nast Traveler’s Best New Hotels in the World: 2022 Hot List.
We walked into a bright, spacious lobby, with wicker furniture and a large comfy swing hanging from the tall ceiling by thick ropes; fans twirled overhead. One wall featured a painting of a lush garden scene by local artist Linda Fantuzzo, and a nearby large format photo showcased a massive, old Spanish Oak tree dripping in moss. The botanical motif, designed by well-known architecture and design firm Michael Graves, is carried throughout the hotel, giving a nod to the city’s lush gardens and fertile surrounding landscapes.
The lobby opens to the Veranda Lounge, a sleek brass and wood bar area, serving handcrafted cocktails and small bites. We wouldn’t recommend dinner here (the city has so many other places to dine!), but we did enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail and charcuterie platter that was quite lovely.
In the morning, the Veranda Lounge is transformed into a light-filled breakfast nook, serving a European-style continental breakfast, which is included in your room rate. Other amenities include access to a private mezzanine level Clubroom, with complimentary beverages and locally made treats (cookies from the Grey Ghost Bakery!). It’s a nice, quiet place for guests to relax and escape the street bustle.
In the evening, the hotel hosts “The Finest Hour,” offering complimentary cocktails and nibbles. Every Thursday, a local guide joins the cocktail hour and provides an historical look at the city, and once a month, a local artist or author is invited to give a short presentation and meet hotel guests.
We didn’t spend much time in our rooms, but we could have — they’re lovely. There are 50 rooms in a variety of configurations, including corner rooms with views of the Ravenel Bridge or Charleston Harbor. Rooms have a soothing blue and gray palette, mini refrigerators, smart TVs, lush Matouk linens and bathrobes, and locally sourced complimentary snacks and beverages. The fresh flowers were a nice touch and carried through with the hotel’s botanical theme.
The hotel has a small fleet of bikes for guests to use, but we found it easy to walk to restaurants, King Street shops, and historic sites. We did take advantage of one of the hotel’s finest features. At the end of the day, we’d order a beverage of choice from the bar, and head up to the spacious rooftop terrace. Nightcap in hand, we’d take in impressive views of the French Quarter and the historic St. Philip’s Church. And in the morning, coffee (and newspapers) in hand, we’d do the same. 843-872-9600, www.theloutrel.com; rates start at $349.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org