From Snug to Sumptious

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Photo courtesy of Anna Routh Barzin

PICTURED ABOVE: The exterior patio of The Mayton Inn in Cary looks out over Cary’s Downtown Park. The Mayton has built a strong relationship with the much-celebrated new park, which is already a Cary community centerpiece.

It’s the details that set apart these North Carolina boutique hotel experiences.


Not all hotel experiences are created equal. Most of us are familiar with the national hotel brands, whether we’re booking business travel or choosing a home base for a family vacation. But when it comes time to splurge, it’s nice to seek out elevated accommodations once in a while. Boutique hotels—trendy accommodations that offer refined personal touches—are perfect for such occasions. The typical boutique property has a limited number of rooms and offers unique touches that make the experience a bit more intimate. Some are located in repurposed buildings that honor architecture from another era. Others tie into the local culture or build a reputation for attracting a particular clientele. And while many of the venues cater to corporate clients, there’s nothing like making personal memories, whether it’s a wedding weekend, a romantic getaway or a milestone celebration. North Carolina is brimming with options in a variety of settings, ready to add some sophistication to your destination.

ABOVE: Peck & Plume, The Mayton’s restaurant, has incorporated birds and plants from Cary Downtown Park into its wallpaper and bar design elements. Photos courtesy of Anna Routh Barzin.


Craig Spitzer, The Mayton’s operating partner, views the inn as an extension of the Cary downtown community experience. “In our vision and efforts at the property we work to create a community gathering space—a real hub for downtown Cary,” he says. Locals are invited to enjoy meals at Peck & Plume and drinks at its bar, or on the all-weather patio overlooking Downtown Cary Park. The restaurant offers modern American dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as Saturday and Sunday brunch. Local businesses hold corporate events at The Mayton—the meeting and event spaces are a good size for that kind of activity—and the hotel often hosts staycationers and local wedding parties.

Out-of-town visitors are invited to join the community experience The Mayton has built. “Given that we only have 44 rooms, the team here can really connect with our guests and really welcome them into our place and into our home,” says Spitzer.

“It’s a great gateway—we see ourselves as ambassadors for all of what downtown Cary is. and an amenity to the rest of what the community has to offer.” Downtown Cary offers many options for visitors—breweries, ice cream, cocktails, boutiques, art galleries, parks and public art works, among other attractions—and The Mayton sits at the center of that activity.

One important aspect of The Mayton community experience is the beautiful Downtown Cary Park, of which The Mayton views itself as almost an extension. “It’s our backyard. And what better backyard could we ask for than that?” says Spitzer. Many design aspects of Peck & Plume, in particular, emphasize the special relationship The Mayton has with the park. (To learn about Peck & Plume’s design connections with Downtown Cary Park—down to its customized wallpaper—check out our online-only piece “Peck and Plume’s Unique Design Celebrates Its Connection to Downtown Cary Park.”)

The Mayton offers 44 rooms and suites, each unique in layout and character, nineteen of which have been renovated in 2024. Each room includes high-quality linens and amenities. The hotel has flexible spaces suited to birthday celebrations, cocktail parties, professional retreats and more. The Park Room and Peck & Plume together can host up to 140 guests. The Mayton also offers specials such as the Night Out Package, which includes a food and drink credit, and the Breakfast Included Special.

ABOVE: The Beautfort Hotel looks out over Taylor’s Creek. Guests can sometimes see wild horses on the opposite shore or dolphins in the creek. At the end of the day, visitors can relax with a glass of wine or a cocktail from the bar and look out at the sun setting over the water. Photo courtesy of The Beaufort Hotel.


The Beaufort Hotel offers 133 rooms in a resort-style setting on the banks of Taylor’s Creek. The hotel benefits from the popularity of the small Carteret County town, where there is no shortage of local attractions. Guest accommodations focus on seaside North Carolina decor in a variety of room styles, along with upgraded linens and bath amenities. Reclaimed wood and brick give the hotel a lodge feel.

“One thing we get a lot of comments on is the quality of the rooms,” says digital marketing manager David Cartier. “They’re really designed with that coastal North Carolina feel. We’re one of the few hotels where you walk in the bathroom and there’s a chandelier. We have some nice amenities, like blackout drapes so people can get a great night’s rest.”

While the hotel entices guests with its luxuries, much of the appeal is the town itself. Visitors can take guided tours that touch on 300 years of history and view the historic homes that once belonged to the town’s earliest sea captains and merchants. The town is known for its many annual events, including a wooden boat show, a music festival and historic homes tour.

“We’re not a resort,” Cartier says. “We don’t have a spa or a golf course. So our amenities are what’s in the local community,” Cartier says. “We’re right across from the Rachel Carson Reserve, which has more than 25 wild horses. You can see them from the hotel, and you can get over by boat or take a kayak.”

The Beaufort Hotel offers waterfront dining at 34° North Restaurant & Bar, which features fresh local seafood, steak and seasonal menu items. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and an upscale dinner, along with weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Beaufort Hotel was named the best boutique hotel in the country for the second year in a row in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2023.

ABOVE: Exterior of The Everett Hotel in Bryson City. This building was originally the Bryson City Bank, one of the few small banks in North Carolina that survived the Wall Street Crash of 1929. It was renovated as The Everett Hotel in 2015. The Everett pairs luxury accommodations with a rustic aesthetic, in keeping with its location near the mountains. Visitors can enjoy views of the mountains and of Bryson City from The Everett’s rooftop terrace. Photos courtesy of The Everett Hotel.


Few places take the “boutique” description more seriously than The Everett Boutique Hotel & Bistro in Bryson City. The 10-room property is located on the southern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it serves guests who are looking for outdoor getaways. But the hotel’s cozy size and upscale offerings attract a variety of guests.

“We do a lot of family reunions, people who rent the whole hotel,” says co-owner Ron LaRocque. “We’ve done several weddings and a lot of girls’ weekends. We get a lot of fishing groups. We also get a lot of motorcycle groups, because they love riding through the mountains.”

The Everett opened in 2015 in the old Bryson City Bank building, built in 1908. Each room has a unique layout and features luxury bedding and rustic furnishings. With limited accommodations, the staff puts a premium on customer service. Guests enjoy priority at the full-service restaurant and exclusive access to a rooftop terrace that features both city and mountain views.

“We do a full off-the-menu breakfast for all guests, included with their stay,” LaRocque says. “They seem to really love that. We also bake fresh cookies and brownie bites and put them in our concierge area. Our guests keep coming back, and usually the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘Are you still doing the fresh cookies?’”

The Everett is in demand every season. Spring break is popular with families, summer is the busiest time of year, and fall offers the well-known mountain foliage. Then in November and December, the hotel and town fill with guests who come for the Polar Express experience at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

“We’re very four-seasoned,” LaRocque says. “But from the first week of November through December, the Polar Express is a huge end-of-the-year for the whole town.” The Everett was named the third best boutique hotel in the country in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2023.

ABOVE: The Ivey’s Hotel in Charlotte prides itself on the details—providing embroidered robes and slippers, for example, and high-end bath products. In Sophia’s Lounge, The Ivey’s cocktail bar, guests can enjoy drinks and desserts in front of an elegant fireplace. The Ivey’s Suite bedroom boasts a king-sized bed and centuries-old reclaimed French oak wood flooring. Photos courtesy of The Ivey’s Hotel.


The Ivey’s Hotel in uptown Charlotte focuses on high design, modern comfort and timeless art. The 47 well-appointed hotel rooms blend Parisian style with modern luxury. Guest rooms provide elegance at every turn. Custom furnishings and lighting fixtures complement 400-year-old French oak floors. Visitors can enjoy Frette Italian bedding, Nespresso coffee machines and locally curated snacks.

Sofia’s Lounge offers daily breakfast and dinner Wednesday through Sunday, along with a complimentary daily wine social. Concierge booking services are available for dining reservations around Charlotte, along with tickets to sporting events. The intimate Library Lounge is suited for birthday parties, baby showers and bachelor parties.

Forbes Travel Guide listed The Ivey’s as the only four-star hotel in Charlotte, and U.S. News and World Report listed it as the number one hotel in Charlotte and the number four hotel in North Carolina.

ABOVE: Built in the 1920s, the Manor House showcases artwork from across the world procured by the estate’s original owners, Bowman and Nathalie Gray, who were enthusiastic travelers. The spiral staircase from the Graylyn Estate Manor House. Photos courtesy of The Graylyn Estate.


If you’re looking for a getaway that harkens to another era, the Graylyn Estate in Winston-Salem is a good place to start. Completed in 1932, the Norman Revival–style Manor House was the country estate of Bowman Gray, the president of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. At the time, only Biltmore was a larger residence in North Carolina.

The property features 85 guest rooms on a 55-acre property. Guests can choose from well-appointed rooms in a variety of buildings, each boasting some of the original features. The Manor House has 34 guest rooms, 13 of which served as the original bedrooms and sitting rooms for the Gray family. The public areas are full of historic touches, including Egyptian tapestries, ornate paneling from a French chateau and carved wood panels from Damascus.

“Guests are drawn to the Graylyn Estate for the ‘stay-like-a-Gray’ luxury experience, exploring history at the touch of their fingertips and feeling at home on our historic property,” says Carrie DuPre, the marketing manager at Graylyn.

With an expansive property, Graylyn is a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor weddings, but also caters to smaller groups and more informal occasions.

“Graylyn is the ultimate getaway for ‘staycations,’ romantic weekends and history lovers,” DuPre says. “Our romantic getaway package includes champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, early check-in, late check-out, roses in the room, a keepsake print of Graylyn, and breakfast for two the next day.”

Dining at the estate is equally upscale. Chef Mark Fortino oversees an exquisite dinner menu, including prime filet mignon with butter poached lobster, served in the Manor House dining room or on the elegant outdoor patio that overlooks the estate.

Graylyn Estate was named the fifth best boutique hotel in the country in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2023.

ABOVE: The Heights House Hotel drawing room retains many details from the mansion’s original craftwork. The canopied, king-sized bed in the historic king room boasts a beautiful view of the hotel grounds. Each book, work of art and decorative item in the Heights House library and throughout the hotel was hand-selected by co-owner Sarah Shepherd.  Photos courtesy of Monica Slaney/photographie:fourseven


The Heights House mansion in the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh is steeped in local history. Sarah Shepherd and her husband Jeff, co-owners of Heights House Hotel, have married its historic nature with contemporary design and amenities. “This is a very old, nearly 170-year-old house,” says Sarah, “but it was extremely well-made. We made it fresh and brought in modern touches while letting the architecture shine through … I’m really proud of how we fuse the old and the new.”

Originally known as Montford Hall, the Italianate-style mansion was completed in 1860 and is one of the few Raleigh buildings remaining from before the Civil War. The mansion’s architect, William Percival, directed the renovation of the North Carolina State Capitol’s rotunda, a project that inspired his work on the beautiful Heights House cupola.

The home has nine en suite guest rooms with a full capacity of 20. With 10,000 square feet, it boasts plenty of common spaces—a library, lounge and drawing room indoors, and a parlor where people can enjoy wine and beer, or cocktails put together by the hotel’s mixologist. Outdoors, guests can gather at the fire pit or on one of the two front terraces.

Sarah emphasizes the attention to detail that Heights House offers. The small number of rooms means the staff can offer personalized attention to each guest, who are offered prosecco upon check-in and local treats in their rooms. “I picked everything in our hotel,” says Sarah, “from the shampoo you use to the sheets, the robes … things that I love and products I would love to use.”

Heights House emphasizes reaching out to its neighbors and bringing the Raleigh community into the hotel experience. “I passed by this house every day on my way to work,” says Sarah in regards to what inspired her to open Heights House, “and I was like, ‘Wow, this need to be saved, and it should be open to the community—local community and visitors—to show them how awesome Raleigh is.” The hotel offers locally sourced amenities, and free bikes so visitors can wander the city easily. They also welcome community members into their space to enjoy drinks at the parlor, picnics and live music on the lawn, afternoon teas and monthly supper clubs. (To learn more about Heights House’s afternoon teas, check out our recent, online-only piece in our sister magazine Midtown “Three Places to Take Your Mother for Afternoon Tea.”)

ABOVE: Each room at The Lighthouse has a balcony or patio with a view overlooking Kure Beach. The newly-renovated Lighthouse Inn bedrooms let in light and fresh ocean air. Photos courtesy of The Lighthouse.


If you’re looking for a beach getaway far removed from the hustle and bustle, The Lighthouse is your answer. The family-owned boutique hotel offers nine recently renovated apartment suites, all with ocean views and bright, modern interiors. Each room includes a small kitchenette and a private patio or balcony overlooking the ocean.

Guests can enjoy beach access in front of the property as well as from their rooms. Take a stroll along the boardwalk to the Kure Beach Pier and cap off your day by relaxing in the comfortable lounge chairs around the hotel’s fire pit.

There is no shortage of activities near the hotel. Guests can explore the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Old Wilmington City Market and Fort Fisher State Historic Site. Casual dining, an arts center and bars provide other options.

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