South Carolina

A Southern Getaway That Feels Like a Home Away from Home

Last updated 8th May 2019

If Montage Palmetto Bluff feels less like a resort and more like a gracious community, that’s because it’s part of a residential enclave in Lowcountry South Carolina. The gated 20,000-acre preserve on the banks of the May River has a genteel hotel and vacation cottages, suites and homes for visitors, as well as privately owned houses in leafy neighborhoods.

Guests appreciate the property’s peace and quiet and small-town charm – kids can roam free, strangers smile and give directions – along with its luxury amenities and spectacular golf course. Here’s a look at what makes this relaxing family-friendly destination so ideal.

Rooms with a View

The plantation-style retreat, located near Bluffton and about 35 minutes from the Savannah/Hilton Head airport, offers beautifully appointed accommodations of all sizes. Rooms at the 74-room Inn fit up to four people and a baby (courtesy cribs are available). There are also a variety of standalone residences on site, starting with three-person guest houses and four-person cottages, each with a view of the lagoon, river or forest. The five-bedroom homes, meanwhile, take up to 16 people making them ideal for multi-gen trips or even family reunions.

For sumptuous stays, book one of the Inn’s speciality suites. The Presidential Suite, a 2,500-square-foot one-bedroom abode, complete with estate furnishings, is the most deluxe. It can also be connected to an adjoining room for a second bedroom.

Outdoor and Indoor Adventures

The best way to explore the property – and find the two enormous tree houses – is by bicycle. Guests can take a shuttle to the Carriage House, where two-wheelers, tricycles for adults and kids, tandems, child seats, trailers and helmets are for rent. For those who prefer the speed and ease of motorized transport, golf carts are also available to rent.

The resort offers a huge selection of land and water activities, including golf at the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and practice facility, tennis, bocce, kayaking, paddleboarding, salt- and fresh-water fishing, horseback riding, archery, sporting clays shooting and swimming at the three pools. Kids are welcome to try every sport and take lessons, as long as their parents agree to it.

Perhaps most enchanting for youngsters is hiking the maritime forest. The Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, which manages the land and conducts wildlife and environmental research, holds frequent lectures, workshops and walks. On a recent tour, guests climbed up a ladder to see a tiny Eastern Screech owl sleeping in a wooden bird house.

Kid Activities Galore

If parents need time to get a massage or facial at the Spa Montage or want some time alone, they can drop children aged 5 to 12 at Paintbox, a children’s program held in a dedicated room at the Inn. Kids are entertained with a mix of games, crafts and movies, as well as outdoor activities like scavenger hunts and lawn games. Prices start at $70 for a half day and there’s even a $70 evening program (including dinner) on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 – 10 pm so parents can have a date night.

Animal-loving children can drop by the Inn’s lobby every weekday from 3 to 3:30 to pet the three canine ambassadors: River, Cooper and May. These English labs are extra friendly and lovable.

Kids who relish a challenge can earn Montage Merit Badges for completing activities like catching a fish. The reward for completing 12 achievements is a special prize and “Gilbert the Gator” status.

Fast or Fancy Fare

Even the pickiest young eaters will find something on the menu at the eight eateries, which offer kids’ menus or special choices. Room service and private dining are also available.

At the Inn, the Octagon Porch dishes up classic Carolina cuisine while the Octagon Bar features classic and creative bites, entrées and cocktails – set to live music on weekends. Buffalo’s, located across from the chapel in Wilson Village, is the place to go for brunch (don’t miss the weekend Biscuit Bar), market salads, sandwiches and fresh-spun ice cream. Head to Cole’s for Southern specialities like spicy fried dill pickles (delicious), fried chicken and a smokehouse barbecue platter. And when you’re done eating, go bowling in the adjacent lanes.

Ready for something sweet? Roll up to the S’mores Cart, a dessert cargo bike serving complimentary treats made with homemade flavored marshmallows.

For an unforgettable grownup meal in historic Bluffton, head to Farmand savor the four-course chef’s tasting menu. And because you’re down South, order the Hard Iced Tea – if it’s still on the always-evolving beverage menu.

By Alev Aktar