Review: A Kitschy Stay At The South of the Border Motor Inn

by joeheg

We’ve always been a little obsessed about South of the Border. Located just off Interstate 95 in Dillon, SC, it’s right over the North Carolina/South Carolina border, thus the name. It’s also perfectly located as a stopping point for vacationers driving from the Northeastern US to Florida.

This is how I discovered the place. It was where we used to stop for gas, which was cheaper than what we could find in North Carolina. We would get out of the car to stretch our legs and check out some of the tackiest stores one could imagine. It was a perfect spot to buy fireworks, which were (and still are) banned in New Jersey.

Since we no longer make the drive to the Northeast from our home in Florida, opting to fly instead, we hadn’t visited South of the Border for years. Well, that was until we made it a point to visit when we were in North Carolina in 2018. We spent a whole day looking around the shops and even took the elevator to the top of the sombrero-shaped observation tower. The only restriction I put on the trip was that I didn’t want to stay at the South of the Border hotel.

I had childhood memories of staying at the campground, and I didn’t want to relive those experiences. However, sometime after our visit for the day in 2018, one of our friends stayed at the hotel (OK, motor inn) and said it was fine. In fact, it was as kitschy as the rest of the place, and he said staying there was like going back in time (Note from Sharon: This was when it became my life’s work to stay at SOTB for one night. It took YEARS until Joe finally said yes).

I finally caved and booked a room at the South of the Border Motor Inn. I figured if we got there, looked around and decided we didn’t want to stay the night after all, we could always find somewhere else to stay.

a sign on a wall


The only way I found to reserve a room at South of the Border is through their website.  It’s not the easiest website to navigate. Eventually, I was able to book a “King Single No Smoking No Pets” room. I paid the rack rate of $99 + tax, which came to $107.90. The hotel requires a 50% deposit to be paid at booking and the remainder due after your stay. I paid with the Citi Prestige, and the cost was reimbursed from the $250 travel credit.


a lobby with a reception desk and a fireplace

The lobby area is connected to the Pleasure Dome, which is the home of the hotel’s indoor pool. We were given our keys and a parking pass, and they also asked if we planned to use the pool and offered wristbands. I guess this is to keep non-hotel guests from trying to use the pool. The entire area smelled slightly of chlorine from the nearby indoor pool. But everything appeared to be clean so we went back to the car and drove to our room.

The Room

The South Of The Border Motor Inn is true to its name, as every room has a carport.

a building with a dome roof

We drove up to our hotel door and went inside. I don’t know what we were expecting and there were no other cars to be seen in our wing of the hotel. In fact, we didn’t see many cars at the hotel at all when we arrived.

a building with a roof over the garage

Entering the room, we were surprised at the size of it. It was really large.

a room with a bed and a television

The next thing that hit us was a prominent smell of cleaning chemicals (Sharon: Pine Sol. It smelled like lots and lots of Pine Sol. Like, a whole forest worth). I wasn’t worried about the room being clean as they made sure to wipe down everything with industrial-strength products.

But back to the room. We got the room we reserved. In fact, we even had a view of Sombrero Tower from our window.

a room with a window and a table and chairs

The bedroom was sparsely decorated. The bed was decent but not anything special. We had a high top table with 2 chairs, a wall-mounted TV, and a dressing cabinet. Two lights on the nightstands provided much of the light for the room.

a room with a bed and a table and chairsa room with a bed and a cabineta room with a bed and a table

The bathroom was underwhelming, to say the least. I haven’t seen a shower door like this in decades. The same could be said the for the light fixtures in both rooms.

a bathroom with a shower and toileta bathroom with a sink and a mirror

We did have a refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker, so at least South of the Border was trying to make it a comfortable place to spend the evening.

a black refrigerator and a microwave on a white shelf

Our room did have a second door that exited to the outdoor seating area.a row of motels with a lawn and treesa white chairs outside of a building

Hotel Amenities

They do have an outdoor pool area but it was already closed for the season.

a pool sign on a buildinga park with a tree and a playground

The indoor pool was open but we didn’t bring our swimwear with us.

a swimming pool inside a buildinga swimming pool inside a building

There are several dining options available at South of the Border. During our visit, we chose to have dinner at The Peddler Steakhouse. It was the only restaurant at South of the Border that had a crowd, and the food turned out to be surprisingly good. While it wasn’t the most amazing meal we’ve had, it exceeded our expectations for a steakhouse located inside a large sombrero.

a menu of a restaurant

Final Thought

a road with signs on it

Now I can say that I stayed overnight at South of the Border and ate dinner at the steakhouse. We even stopped by the newly opened bar for a nightcap before heading to bed. We headed out early the next morning and stopped for breakfast at the newly opened Buc-ee’s in Florence, SC.

I’m glad that I did it but it’s not something that I’m looking to do again – it’s still a very, very basic motor lodge. However, I wouldn’t rule out staying there if you’re in the area. It’s not like there’s much else around.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


lars March 2, 2024 - 7:36 am

This place seems awesome! I’m strangely attracted to these kinds of joints. I’ve been eyeing the Ho-Jo I-75 Ocala. Also love old-school beach motels.

De March 2, 2024 - 7:21 pm

This and Buccees on my list of ‘Touristy’ To Do’s


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