Leisurely biking along winding paths lined with centuries-old live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Sitting alone on a dock sipping coffee at sunrise watching eagles, herons, and osprey fly overhead. Paddling a kayak on the May River with a new friend and, to our surprise, spotting a family of manatees pop their heads up above the calm water a few feet away.
These are just a few of the extraordinary experiences in nature that visitors can enjoy at the upscale Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. Indeed, natural surroundings and abundant wildlife take center stage at this exquisite property set on 20,000 acres between Hilton Head and Savannah, Georgia.
Yet plenty of creature comforts and quintessential Southern charm also combine to make the Low Country resort such an appealing getaway not only for couples seeking rest, reconnection, and romance, but also families in search of a laid-back locale for creating lifelong memories.
On a recent hosted trip to the Montage Palmetto Bluff, I fell in love with the charming Southern architecture (those wraparound porches!), the extraordinary food, and the array of options for both recreation and relaxation. After all, it’s hard not to grow enamored with a vacation spot where communal “porching” — kicking back on an inn’s veranda with a glass of ice-cold lemonade — is a daily scheduled activity.
Here’s why I think the Montage Palmetto Bluff should be on your short list of luxurious vacation destinations.
Resort Grounds Are Spectacular
The main inn at Montage Palmetto Bluff is stately and sophisticated, but not pretentious, with its plantation-style pillars, two-story lobby with grand staircase, guest room balconies, and cozy library for gathering. Guest rooms are located here, and amenities like the spa, two pools, and fitness center are all a stone’s throw away.
But you’ll want to go farther afield to explore the sprawling property on foot, via golf cart, or, the most popular option, by bike. Cruisers are complimentary, and pedaling next to the marshes and lagoons, amid maritime forest, past the quaint riverside guest cottages, and through the residential neighborhoods (where some homes double as vacation rentals) is a great way to get acquainted with the resort, revealing surprises around every corner.
On your bike ride, you might take breaks to peer over a bridge in search of alligators, go to the river’s edge on the lookout for dolphins, jump on a wooden swing under a towering tree, or clamor around a giant treehouse. Better yet, cycle to Melt, the on-property ice cream parlor for a treat!
Activities Abound At Montage Palmetto Bluff
With such gorgeous surroundings and a South Carolina climate that allows for outdoor play year-round, it’s easy to while away the days just relaxing or swimming at the pool, spotting wildlife, going for walks or bike rides, playing a game of cornhole or bocce, and eating s’mores by the community firepit once the sun starts to go down.
But I recommend booking some only-at-Montage experiences that will elevate your vacation to another level. For example, a morning nature hike with an onsite naturalist gives incredible insight into the important conservancy work that’s focused on protecting the environment and the array of animals that make their home here.
A local outfitter provides ideal opportunities to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna on the river. You can choose to rent a paddleboard, canoe, or kayak and recreate on your own, but consider booking a tour with a knowledgeable guide to learn more about the area from an ecological perspective. Boat tours, kayaking tours, and fishing charters are all popular options.
Other organized, pay-as-you-go resort activities include teeing off at the Jack Nicklaus golf course or getting pampered at the spa, where locker room facilities feature a steam room, sauna, hot tub, and cold plunge pool. Then there are shooting clays, tennis clinics, art and history tours, bird walks, and kids’ nights out (babysitting with dinner).
And be sure to check the activity calendar for the opportunity to meet the pet-friendly resort’s canine ambassadors. That’s completely free — and the doggos are adorable.
Dining Options Are Varied And Delicious
Montage Palmetto Bluff is one of those locations where you’ll wish you could add just one more day to your vacation, if only for more time to continue to eat your way through restaurant menus. The dining options here are awesome, accommodating all sorts of palates.
I’d say my favorite on-site dining experience for my too-short stay was Octagon, perhaps because of its convivial bar and convenient location on the first floor of the inn, but also because the menu focuses both on farm-to-table freshness and some Southern favorites, such as fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and corn fritters. I loved all the vegetarian options and seasonal salads on the menu.
Cole’s is where you want to go for heartier comfort food. It’s a great spot to take the kids not only for best-ever fried pickles, mac ‘n cheese, pulled pork nachos, and fried chicken, but also because the restaurant is adjacent to … wait for it … a bowling alley! (That will cost you to play, but complimentary foosball, shuffleboard, and pool tables can help entertain the troops while you wait for your food.)
Two casual restaurants with outdoor seating include Fore & Aft, which is next to the family pool and has a menu focusing on Mexican-style fare, and Buffalo’s, found in the charming Wilson Village neighborhood with a grassy park square, retail shops, and even its own post office.
It’s easy to build up an appetite after being active outdoors during the day, and I don’t think you can go wrong at any of the restaurants at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
More Tips & Info For Visiting Montage Palmetto Bluff
- Accommodations range from guest rooms and suites in the main inn to freestanding riverside cottages and multi-bedroom homes. The king room that I stayed in during my solo stay was spacious, with a balcony overlooking a lagoon and within earshot of afternoon live music. If I had my druthers on a long weekend stay with my husband, I’d book a private cottage, but that does come with a much higher price tag than a standard guest room.
- The property implements a resort fee, which covers the use of bikes and fishing equipment, coffee in the lobby, nightly s’mores, golf cart or car shuttles around the property, and fitness facilities with daily classes.
- I don’t think there’s any reason to leave the gorgeous grounds, but if you did want to explore the nearby town of Bluffton, or even Hilton Head or Savannah, you could borrow a Cadillac to drive on your own.
- The resort’s history is fascinating, particularly that a paper company owner in the 1930s actually spearheaded the grounds’ conservation efforts. Wander through the upper halls of the inn to see historic photos or book a guided history tour to learn more.