Southern houses and porches-the two pair up as perfectly as peanut butter and bananas. Sometimes referred to as a piazza or veranda, a porch can transform an ordinary house into a warm, inviting-and sometimes stunning-home. But the fronting structure of a house is more than just another pretty architectural face. Porches are essential retreats that beckon us to catch an elusive cooling breeze while hiding from the heavy-handed Southern sun, outdoor parlors for welcoming the morning with a mimosa or chatting with neighbors over a glass of iced tea; the favorite "room" of the house where you can gently rock to the sound of an afternoon shower or be lulled by the pulsing spark of fireflies on a summer night. Great porches exemplify the graciousness of South Carolina living, and you are invited to experience that richness. Enjoy a time-honored Southern pastime by pulling up a chair and sitting a spell on some of the state's grandest porches.
Hearthside Manor, Abbeville
It's easy to get wrapped up in the warmth of the generous veranda at Hearthside Manor in Abbeville. This Victorian bed and breakfast is surrounded by towering shade trees, including two 150-year-old Deodar cedars thought to be the oldest this side of the Mississippi. The graceful, pendulous branches of the trees lend privacy to this elegant porch, which makes it perfect for intimate talks or quiet reflection.
The Willcox, Aiken
One of the most coveted pleasures at The Willcox is spending time on the stately columned porch, which runs the length of this historical residence now operating as a grand hotel. The Colonial Revival architecture makes it easy to imagine you're part of the 19th-century aristocracy that favored this equestrian town during the Gilded Age. Grab a rocker and match wits with your partner over a game of chess, or sip a glass of wine before retiring for the night. The surrounding magnolias and live oaks add to the relaxing Southern aura.
Cuthbert House Inn, Beaufort
Waterfront elegance and cool breezes lure respite seekers to the ample veranda of Beaufort's Cuthbert House Inn. Serene views, complete with Spanish moss and magnolias, are a specialty at this antebellum bed and breakfast that sits on the Beaufort River. The veranda is the place for daily social gatherings, where you can chat up fellow lodgers, enjoy sunset cocktails and bask in the surrounding natural beauty.
Breeden Inn, Bennettsville
Porches, porches, porches, porches-there's no shortage of them at Breeden Inn in Bennettsville. It's a definite advantage to having four elegant guest homes on one lush property. Pick a porch and sink down in an oversized bamboo reading chair, channel your childhood with a turn on an old-timey glider, enjoy an al fresco breakfast or secure the Gathering Room, which once served as a summer sleeping porch. For the ultimate in privacy, the Robin's Nest suite in the Garden Cottage has its very own porch with views of the garden, a National Wildlife Federation certified habitat.
Bloomsbury Inn, Camden
Imagine the Civil War diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut sitting on the veranda of the Bloomsbury Inn documenting her observations. That's a likely scenario, given that Chesnut often visited the circa-1854 Camden home of her sister-in-law. The veranda is actually what's called a rain, or Carolina, porch, specially designed so the roof overhangs the porch's deck-a pretty nifty design considering South Carolina's reputation for summertime showers. Rain or shine, refresh yourself with a cat-nap in the porch hammock, then join other guests on the porch for cold beverages, azalea gazing and good conversation.
Two Meeting Street Inn, Charleston
Perhaps the most recognizable porch in Charleston is found at Two Meeting Street Inn. The sweeping arched piazza of this Queen Anne-style mansion, a father's wedding gift to his daughter, has become a symbol of romance and gracious living, and it has served as inspiration for countless artists and photographers. Majestic views of 100-year-old live oaks, the Battery and Charleston Harbor beyond will compel you to linger and linger.
Edmondston Alston House, Charleston
A three-story piazza is the architectural hallmark of this antebellum modified Charleston single-house, but it's the view that will take your breath away. Tours of this historical property include the piazza, where you will thrill to panoramic views of Charleston Harbor. From that perspective, Gen. P.T. Beauregard observed the April 12, 1861, attack of Fort Sumter, which heralded the onset of the Civil War.
Snagging an outdoor table at Husk is a lesson in planning ahead, but one well worth your foresight. The façade of this iconic Charleston eatery captures all the flavor of the South with first- and second-floor verandas that draw the eye and the crowds. Dine on some of the finest eats in the nation beneath the gentle whir of ceiling fans. One look and you'll agree that the charm and ambiance of these outdoor dining rooms are an integral part of Husk's allure.
Kaminski House Museum, Georgetown
The colonnaded piazza of Kaminski House in Georgetown offers a charming example of courtship, Old South style. There you'll find a joggling board, a Southern-style bench supported only at the ends so that the middle "joggles." In the early days of this antebellum home-turned-museum, young couples would meet on the porch and sit on opposite ends of the joggling board with a chaperone in the middle for good measure. If the chaperone approved of the arrangement, he or she would leave the couple alone for a few golden moments, during which time the young lovers would joggle up and down on the board until they were finally sitting shoulder to shoulder. Plan a visit to test your joggling skills or snag a comfy rocker and watch others give it a try.
Abingdon Manor, Latta
With more than 2,000-feet of veranda space, Abingdon Manor in Latta is a porch-sitter's dream. Claim your spot and rock the afternoon away with the property's lovely gardens as a focal point. Fascinating fact: The wood for the country inn's 40 columns was sourced from trees grown on the land of original owner, James H. Manning. The Greek Revival architecture paired with the seemingly endless Southern-style verandas makes Abingdon Manor one of the most visually stunning inns in South Carolina.
Rosemary Inn, North Augusta
Who could resist a leisurely hour or two on the porch of this antebellum beauty? Circa 1902, the Rosemary Inn overlooks Augusta, Ga., and the Savannah River, as well as its home-base, North Augusta, S.C. Twelve (count ‘em-12!) columns give this bed and breakfast grandiose Southern appeal. For the ultimate porch pleasure, take a snooze in an authentic Pawleys Island rope hammock. That's nirvana, Southern style.
The White Home, Rock Hill
There are no rockers or swings, but you won't want to miss seeing this Rock Hill stunner. The Gothic porch of the White Home, a replica of the one added to the house in the mid-1800s, reflects design trends that became popular in the 1840s. Considered one of the earliest examples of Victorian style outside of Charleston, this historical house shows off the intricate, highly decorated trimmings of its porches to impressive advantage. Once your eyes get their fill, step inside to view the exhibits and learn more about the town and property.
Homey. Warm. Tranquil. The wraparound porch at Sunrise Farm Bed & Breakfast is a special place where pastoral views banish all traces of fast-paced living. From the comfort of a wooden rocker, savor freshly baked cookies, do some bird watching and imagine what the view was like a generation ago. Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this home offers plenty of beautiful scenery to satisfy the most demanding porch sitters.