Lowcountry luxury at Palmetto Bluff

In the early morning mist, with a languid calm settling over the Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss, a strange sound in the distance roused me from sleep. Having spent enough time in the heart of the South Carolina Lowcountry, I immediately recognized the stirrings of an alligator clambering up a muddy bank on the May River. Heading out to the screened porch of my private cottage, cup of coffee in hand, I settled into a chair and let the aura of this place envelop me. This was the solace I’d been looking for.

Good things come to those who wait— as the old saying goes — and I had waited a long time for the opportunity to spend a weekend at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff Resort, a multiple-award winning property in the small-but-growing town of Bluffton, the gateway to Hilton Head Island. In 2010, the Auberge resort garnered three honors from Travel + Leisure magazine, including number one spa resort and number one for service in the U.S. and Canada. And after a few hours here, it was wholly evident that those distinctions were well earned.

To begin with, the rooms and cottages are nothing short of spectacular. High-end linens, fireplaces, steam showers, garden tubs, the aforementioned private porches with lagoon and river views, vaulted ceilings, plasma television—it’s all just a little slice of perfect. And at more than 1,100 square feet, I admit I was feeling a bit guilty having it all to myself. But I had snagged a great deal, thanks to a promotional package that gave me three nights for price of two—still expensive, but well worth the splurge.

Wandering over to the main clubhouse, I popped into the May River Grill for a quick breakfast on the outdoor terrace, which proved to be anything but quick as I was quickly absorbed by the pristine fairway views of the May River Golf Club. Finally tearing myself away while lamenting the fact that I didn’t bring my clubs, I headed back to the reception area to await the guide that would take me on a three-hour historic Bluffton excursion, which began with a boat ride across the river and took in centuries-old homes and churches, oyster warehouses, and visits to some local artisan galleries. A similar tour of nearby Daufuskie Island was also available, and I planned to give it a whirl on my (hopefully) my next visit.

The next day brought a completely different set of activities. It was time to go natural, and I started with a guided kayak fishing trip through the meandering creeks and marshes surrounding the resort. A few caught-and-released redfish later, I was happily tucked into an Atlantic Salmon burger and salad at Buffalos, a popular gathering place for the permanent residents of “the Bluff.” After a late-day run along some of the nature trails crisscrossing the property, I settled in for the night, eager for the next day’s explorations.

Although I’m not really into spa services for reasons which I myself don’t completely understand, I took a “when in Rome” attitude and booked the “20th Hole” gentleman’s treatment at the resort’s spa, which included a nice long steam followed by a deep tissue sports massage. Feeling both relaxed and energized, it was over to the River House’s heated pool with book in hand, where I spent the majority of the afternoon. Dinner was with some new friends at the Canoe Club, where I feasted on a Shrimp and Grits Martini and Ahi steak, capped with a couple glasses of Pinot.

It’s no great surprise that I didn’t want to leave the next morning, but the deadlines of the real world were calling. However, I was sated by the fact that I’d finally captured the experience of Lowcountry luxury I’d been pining for. I’d seen a lot and missed even more at Palmetto Bluff, but that’s a good reason to get back as soon as possible.

Peter Rerig is a Senior Writer for Vacations.com.

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