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Bluffton, South Carolina — located just outside of resort hotspot Hilton Head — is currently the fastest-growing town in the state, and for good reason. Thanks to a burgeoning arts district, a spate of new restaurants, historic architecture that predates the Civil War, and a scenic spot on the May River, this Low-Country community, like its island neighbor, is now attracting legions of visitors. For travelers who truly want a taste of easy living during their stay, there’s no better place than the Montage Palmetto Bluff. And in fact, there’s no other. This luxury resort is the only one of its kind in the area. Here’s a report on our recent visit, and some ideas on how to stay here for less.
Budget Level: Luxe ($300+/night)
Lodging Type: Resort
What You Need to Know
With a series of elegant cream-colored buildings situated under a sea of palms and dark-leafed live oaks, Montage Palmetto Bluff is as striking to look at as it is secluded. Situated at the end of a dramatic, winding drive, you’ll feel like you’re in another world once you enter the grounds. Typical Low-Country architecture — think cottage-style structures with wide porches and many-gabled roofs — typifies the resort, especially because some of the buildings are in fact jaw-dropping private homes. (You’ll share the grounds with permanent residents who call Montage Palmetto Bluff home every day of the year.) Rooms and cottages at the resort are stately but not stuffy with richly textured upholstery, fireplaces, and furnished outdoor patios. Hotel room-style lodging (typically the most affordable) can be found at the stately central inn and nearby guest houses while suite-style digs with more of a residential feel are located mostly in stand-alone cottages.
Well-heeled families — especially multi-generational families — make up much the clientele here, and the mood around the resort is distinctly relaxed. Beyond the restaurants and some low-key evening programming, there’s no real nightlife and an early-to-bed ethos is common — to save energy for the next day’s sightseeing excursions on the May River, naturally.
Who Will Love It
Sophisticated travelers who run screaming from resorts that party hard will find a perfectly restful spot here. Add excellent service, a long list of stimulating-but-never-draining activities, and one of the best restaurants in the area and you have a formidable high-end getaway.
Who Might Not
While coastal South Carolina might scream beach, Montage Palmetto Bluff has its attention focused elsewhere. If you’re a beach bum needing easy access to the ocean, you’ll be happier with the enormous stretches of sand on Hilton Head island.
Canoe Club, the resort’s handsome wood-paneled restaurant, serves “river-to-table” cuisine that includes locally caught oysters and shrimp, plus sophisticated takes on southern classics like chicken and waffles and deviled eggs. It’s a great spot to celebrate a special occasion. We also love the afternoon program known as “porching,” where guests gather to socialize and enjoy a complimentary beverage, and evening s’mores-making around an open fire.
Beyond your room or cottage, wifi and parking are included, and there are a number of resort events and activities — including porching and s’mores — you can attend without charge. Ask for the schedule when you arrive. We also recommend stopping by the spa, whether you’re having a treatment or not. The heated whirlpool, sauna, and steam rooms, all of which feel private and peaceful, are free for guests to use.
Fees and Extra Costs You Should Know About
You can expect a $40 per night resort fee. The property’s many excursions and programs cost extra and run the gamut from straightforward (a scenic boat tour on the May River for $50 per person) to fully bespoke and complex (custom excursions to nearby Daufuskie Island or Hilton Head). The property’s concierges can plan almost anything, for any number of people, at any price.
How to Get a Deal
Prices start to drop at Montage Palmetto Bluff when temperatures and humidity rise. In July and August, it’s not uncommon to find hotel room-style (non-suite) accommodation for around $300 per night. This is a bargain for a luxury resort, if you can stand the heat. You’ll also find several special offers on the property’s web site, including one that includes a third or fourth night free through August. For the latter, we found cottages for $420-$470 per night — a solid deal.
In the Neighborhood
Montage Palmetto Bluff is somewhat of a country unto itself. There are good dining and entertainment options on the resort, including the ultra-posh “convenience store” RT’s Market, which sells basics like toothpaste and batteries alongside gourmet snacks, gifts, and expensive bottles of wine. But you’ll need a car to reach the town of Bluffton, with its line of galleries and restaurants. It’s about a 20-minute drive away. To reach Hilton Head, you’ll drive for about 30 minutes.
Savannah/Hilton Head airport is an easy 40-minute drive away.
The Bottom Line
This genteel coastal resort is a great choice for a splurge, a celebration, or just a place to get away from it all.