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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Southern Waterfronts

There’s something about being on the water that is almost universally appealing. For whatever reason, people respond to looking out over rippling rivers, listening to crashing waves and smelling salt air.

Waterfront real estate is always at a premium, and similarly, planners know that putting people on or near the water is always a smart move for meetings. History museums, lavish resorts or municipal parks: Any kind of venue can be waterfront, and in the South, being near the water usually means fun leisure activities for groups as well.

Stonewall Resort

Roanoke, West Virginia

Stonewall Resort sits on a crescent-moon-shaped peninsula that juts out into the waters of Stonewall Jackson Lake, a man-made lake on the West Fork River.

The resort is in Stonewall Jackson State Park near the town of Roanoke, West Virginia, nearly equidistant from Morgantown and Charleston. With 2,000 acres of state park land and a marina, the resort is an outdoor-lover’s paradise that also offers a 15,000-square-foot conference center.

“The tranquility of being on the lake, it transports you to a different world,” said sales manager Robin Poling. Because it is nearly surrounded by water, “really all of our rooms are lake view.”

The conference center is IACC-certified, so many of the meeting spaces are interior, including the nearly 4,200-square-foot divisible ballroom, but the 760-square-foot Oak Boardroom has “wonderful windows and views of the lake,” Poling said. Outdoor space includes patios, event lawns and a fire pit where guests can make s’mores.

At the resort’s marina, groups can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, paddleboards and aqua cycles to get on the water. The resort also has an excursion boat that goes out for an hourlong scenic cruise every evening from April through October. Meeting attendees can hop on the evening cruise to enjoy the scenery, or planners can reserve the boat for private cruises and receptions for up to 100 people.

Resort staff also take advantage of the outdoors for team building. The Build a Boat challenge is a popular activity that uses the lake; teams must build a boat out of cardboard and hope it floats. Vendors can also set up obstacle courses or do corporate Olympics at the resort. A staff naturalist will lead group hikes along the resort’s 16 miles of hiking and biking trails, including a walk along the lakeshore trail or a full-moon hike.

Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa

Savannah, Georgia

Sitting by the pool or mingling on the lawn, guests at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa have one of the best views in Savannah, Georgia: They can watch massive ships passing on the Savannah River and look across to the downtown skyline, where the dome of city hall gleams with real Georgia gold.

The resort sits on the banks of the river next to the 330,000-square-foot Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, which is connected to the 403-room hotel via a covered causeway. The Westin can sell directly into designated space at the convention center through one contract, making it a seamless process for the planner, said David Moses, director of public relations and communications for the resort. They call that designated space the Savannah Harbor Conference Center; the facility includes 13 meetings rooms, the largest of which is almost 4,200 square feet, as well as a 350-person auditorium.

At the resort, another 34,000 square feet of event space offers 15 meeting rooms, including an 11,500-square-foot ballroom. Two event lawns and the Riverfront Esplanade face the river, where a free water taxi ferries guests to and from downtown. The River Lawn is the site of the resort’s monthly First Friday oyster roast, an evening event that planners often arrange for their own groups. The 3,300-square-foot Harbor Ballroom is attached to the Harbor Lawn, which offers another 9,000 square feet, a central gazebo and river views.

The resort has an on-site marina and can arrange for guests to walk out of the hotel and board a riverboat for a scenic cruise. For smaller groups, the Westin partners with the Bloody Point Golf Club and Resort to take guests on a 30-minute boat ride to Daufuskie Island for a beach excursion on “10 miles of basically private beaches,” Moses said.

“If Savannah is a place where time slows down, it stops on Daufuskie Island,” he said.