Bluffton, South Carolina

This getaway has it all: luxurious digs, flawless services, fine dining—all in an eco-friendly environment.

Kayak through Wilson Village.
photography by R.P. Washburne

SWING LOW COUNTRY: The late afternoon sun casts a golden glow across the marsh grasses that line the South Carolina coast dotted with gnarly cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. Palmetto Bluff, a 20,000-acre tract that runs from the headwaters of the scenic May River, skirts the Bull and Daufuskie islands along the Cooper River to the east, and gives way to the salt and freshwater marshlands of the New River to the west. The entire area is about two-thirds the size of Hilton Head Island, and approximately one-third of the property has been preserved by covenants and restrictions, including 6,500 acres of managed forest and 394 acres in conservation easements. MODERN LUXURY: At the heart of the property lies The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, (866-706-6565, an Auberge Resort and spa full of Southern grace and charm. Fifty individual guest cottages and cottage suites grace the banks of the May River, where, on a clear day, you can see Hilton Head Island in the distance. The luxurious rooms feature pine floors, a sitting area with a plasma TV, vaulted ceilings, fireplace, steam shower, and wireless Internet. Once you’ve parked your rental car and unpacked your bags, rent a golf cart for your stay. Miles of paved paths lined with interpretive signs loop through the serene woods, making it easy for you to wander on your own eco-tour. Be careful where you sit—what might appear to be a convenient log bench could be an alligator snoozing in the sun. CRITTER HEAVEN: Along with the thousands of woodpeckers and shorebirds, don’t be surprised to look up and spot bald eagles—the property is home to several mating pairs. A wildlife observation blind sits beside Lake Haynes and affords great views: watch for the new osprey nest on the trail. If you want a closer look, Kim Jones (843-706-6032), education director of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, will take you on a detailed tour and describe the area’s rich history and culture. COMFORT CUISINE: Contemporary Lowcountry dishes highlight the menu at The River House, The Inn at Palmetto Bluff’s premier dining room. Fresh local ingredients such as grouper, blue crabs, Sea Island tomatoes, and Silver Queen corn are gathered each morning from area farmers and purveyors and showcased on the evening menu. ACTIVITIES ABOUND: The May River Golf Club is an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed course, weaving 7,171 yards throughout the May River Forest. Several of the holes have greens overlooking the river, and all tee boxes and fairways feature Paspalum, the newest eco-friendly turf. (Watch out for armadillos and fox squirrels.) Deep-sea or fly fishing can be arranged with a phone call to the front desk, along with kayaking, boating, archeology tours, and painting lessons.

photography by R.P. Washburne

The Next Great Small Town?
Like what you see when you stay at The Inn? Then tour the surrounding planned residential community. Palmetto Bluff has been called the last great land treasure on the East Coast. A booming real estate business seems to back up the boast. The property is being developed by Crescent Resources, a joint venture between Duke Energy and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund U.S. The plans were inspired by areas such as Nantucket, Aspen, and Carmel—towns with strict architectural guidelines. The environmentally friendly neighborhoods, with lots ranging from a quarter acre to 25 acres, are anchored by The Village, a town in the making that already has a bookstore, art gallery, coffee shop, and brick-floored Buffalo’s Restaurant, which features pastries baked in a brick oven. The town chapel is a popular spot for weddings. Wilson’s Landing, a boating and social center next to the Village center, will be completed by the end of the year. The 260-foot dock and 88 rack spaces at the Boatyard will be an exotic port for private yachts making their way along the coast. Soon to come are the Canoe and Kayak Club, fitness center, and a casual restaurant and lounge, all designed with Southern hospitality in mind.

How To Get There

Delta ( flies daily to Savannah, GA. Take I-95 30 miles north. 
Inn at Palmetto Bluff, an Auberge Resort
Rates through May
Lagoon cottage $625
River cottage $725
Cottage suite $825


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