Retreat to The Southern Hotel
Sporting a full restoration, this historic hotel on New Orleans’ Northshore is a luxurious base for exploring the area’s many culinary and outdoor attractions.
Established as a physical and spiritual retreat in June of 1907, The Southern Hotel hosted guests attracted to the area’s cool breezes, piney woods and mineral springs for more than 50 years. After closing in the mid-1960s, the mission-style building held various businesses, including the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse and even a Dollar General. In 2012, a local attorney and preservationist purchased the property as a family venture and began what would be a $10 million renovation.
Important architectural aspects of the hotel were preserved, with original bricks, archways and layout of the corridors kept intact. Much of the decor was handpicked by owner Lisa Condrey Ward herself, resulting in a space filled with local artwork, modern furnishings and a color scheme that is both bold and restful.
Forty guest rooms were ready to welcome visitors when the hotel reopened for guests in June 2014. Although The Southern has a brand-new look and feel today, the hotel at the same time pays homage to its history along with that of the city of Covington by naming a suite after local writer Walker Percy and signature restaurant Ox Lot 9 after open spaces where residents used to park their oxen and wagons. Historic photographs of the city line the corridors, while a handpainted mural in the Cypress Bar depicts historic postcards of Covington.
Guests can also hang out in the plunge pool and outdoor courtyard (which hosts yoga classes periodically) take advantage of fitness and spa treatment rooms or curl up with a book in the lobby library. You may not want to leave your room’s plush linens or marble bath, but The Southern is a great jumping off point for exploring downtown Covington and the Northshore itself.
Stepping outside the front doors of the hotel puts you in strolling distance of downtown’s many shops and restaurants. Grab a cup of joe or a pastry at Coffee Rani, then browse the shops on Lee Lane. Art lovers will want to travel a few blocks over to Columbia Street and visit the St. Tammany Art Association and surrounding galleries. There’s also H.J. Smith’s Son General Store and Museum, an institution dating to 1876, and the Columbia Street Landing with a view of the Bogue Falaya River and a bit of hidden poetry.
For lunch, Lola‘s daily specials or “The Scoop” (chicken, egg or tuna) salad are a local favorite prepared by Keith and Nealy Frentz, both hailing from Brennan’s in New Orleans. Lola also serves dinner, but with so many great restaurants to choose from in Covington you’ll want to plan your meals wisely. Ox Lot 9 back in the hotel serves up a taste of Louisiana, with raw oysters and Fried Frog Legs as starters, Roasted Whole Yellowtail Snapper and Panfried Stuffed Rabbit as entrees and a Campfire Dessert that tastes like a grownup s’more.
Across the street, Del Porto‘s Italian-inspired menu is also an easy choice or head out to Hwy. 190 to Dakota for more contemporary Louisiana cuisine with a focus on fresh seafood. You could easily eat your way through Covington, which is why it’s important to schedule some time on the Tammany Trace bike trail or on the water.
The Covington Trailhead is just a few blocks from the hotel and includes bike rentals for $20 a day from Brooks’ Bike Shop for riding the 31-mile rails-to-trails path. Brooks also rents kayaks for paddling down the Bogue Falaya River, and the Bayou Paddle Co. leads group tours and paddleboard excursions in the area.
Reward yourself with a brew from Covington Brewhouse — their Rock & Roll Summer sounds about right for this time of year — or take a Saturday tour at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. The Southern’s Cypress Bar is also a swanky spot for a cocktail before bed. You can’t go wrong with the original Sage Advice. If you don’t come back from a stay at The Southern feeling a little bit wiser, you’ll at least be well rested.
Upcoming Events in Covington:
Covington Farmers Market – Saturdays and Wednesdays through the summer
Sunset at the Landing Outdoor Concert Series – Every third Friday through the summer
Columbia Street Block Party – June 26, July 24 & August 28
Bayou Paddle Battle Standup Paddle Relay Race – July 15 on the Bogue Falaya River at Chimes Restaurant
All photos by Deep South.
Thanks to Renee Kientz with the St. Tammany Tourist and Convention Commission for arranging our stay at the Southern Hotel and dinner at Ox Lot 9 back in March.