Resorts maintain rankings

The Woodlands Inn in Summerville again has been awarded the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star rating for accommodations and dining.

The state's top-rated travel properties retained their distinct status for 2010, making no room for new South Carolina members in their elite club.

Forbes Travel Guide, formerly known as Mobil Travel Guide, and the AAA/CAA each awarded four top honors within the Palmetto State in their separate, annual Five Star and Five Diamond rankings of North American hotels, restaurants, and, in the Forbes review, spas.

The Woodlands Inn in Summerville remained the only property in the Carolinas to receive a AAA Five Diamond and a Forbes Five Star rating for accommodations and dining. It has maintained the AAA distinction for 14 years and earned its first dual Five Star rating in 2003.

Opened in the mid-1990s, the Woodlands Inn was acquired about three years ago by the Salamander Hospitality brand owned by billionaire Sheila Crump Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television.

Johnson personally oversaw the Parsons Road getaway's renovations last year that updated its former English country garden feel.

Around that time Travel + Leisure magazine selected the Woodlands Inn as the No. 1 hotel for service in North America and third in the world, the only U.S. lodging to make the cut in that survey.

The resort's latest Five Star ranking in the restaurant category was announced about a month after Nate Whiting, executive chef at the Dining Room at Woodlands Inn, left last month for Tristan in downtown Charleston.

One of Salamander's corporate chefs will continue working with the culinary staff until the Woodlands hires a permanent replacement.

The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Resort earned its fourth consecutive Five Diamond and its third Five Star rating for accommodations. Also the Spa at the Sanctuary claimed its third Five Star in the spas category.

The $125 million oceanfront lodging, owned by Virginia billionaire Bill Goodwin, opened in 2004 with the character of a seaside mansion.

It earned the title of best resort on the U.S. mainland in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards this year.

The Wentworth Mansion marks the third South Carolina property, and the only one in downtown Charleston, to earn and maintain Five Diamond distinction from AAA, a feat it first achieved six years ago.

The Wentworth Street property belongs to hotelier Rick Widman's Charming Inns group, which also includes John Rutledge House Inn, Kings Courtyard Inn and Fulton Lane Inn.

In all, AAA awarded Five Stars to 113 hotels and 52 restaurants across North America.

Forbes Travel Guide gave Five Stars to 41 lodgings, 17 restaurants and three spas across North America. It also named eight Four Star hotels and dining establishments in South Carolina, including five in the Charleston area.

The travel guide ratings are based largely on reports from clandestine expert reviewers.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or