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Inside Montage Palmetto Bluff, One of the World's Best Hotels

Abigail Williams

Travelers in search of paradise need look no further than South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

Many tourists in this corner of the state drive right through Bluffton, South Carolina on their way to Hilton Head Island. But one turn off May River Road lands you in 20,000 acres of lush woodland, pristine riverfront, and a charming community that gives even the best island in the U.S. a run for its money. Welcome to Montage Palmetto Bluff.

The library at Montage Palmetto Bluff. | Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

Voted one of the top 10 resort hotels in the South in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, Montage Palmetto Bluff has turned that renowned southern comfort into an art form. In fact, the staff puts all other hospitality to shame: a simple “my pleasure” feels like a kick in the shin after the over-the-top warmth and generosity I received at Montage.

On a recent trip, I was able to experience the allure of this property firsthand. Magnificent oak trees draped with Spanish moss line the main drive. Above, birds flit in loose flocks. Below, bottlenose dolphins play in the May River. If this sounds more like a scene from “The Notebook” than a real-life resort, you’re not far off. The inn has become a favorite for celebrities seeking a romantic getaway; Chris Pratt treated his wife Katherine Schwarzenegger to a birthday trip there, while Hailey and Justin Bieber hosted their lavish nuptials at the resort last fall.

The Somerset Chapel at Montage Palmetto Bluff. | Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

In the midst of all this romance you’ll also find activities for families, bachelor parties — even a girl gang of travel and lifestyle writers set loose in the Lowcountry. Over the course of our three-day stay, we golfed, kayaked, bowled, and shot sporting clays. To balance out all that activity, we enjoyed long, languourous meals and luxuriated in spa treatments. At Montage Palmetto Bluff, the unspoken motto seems to be: Play hard, relax harder.

There is no shortage of experiences for the active traveler staying at the Bluff. With its prime waterfront location, guests can enjoy sunrise canoe rides, paddleboarding, and water skiing. Avid golfers will be delighted to find an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course onsite. As for equestrians, Longfield Stables’ 173-acre farm offers pristine riding arenas. And don’t forget the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club; even novice shooters will have the time of their life taking aim at sporting clays.

A look at the grounds of Montage Palmetto Bluff. | Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

Had enough activity for the day? Treat yourself to a massage or facial therapy at Spa Montage. The spa’s Valmont and Tata Harper facials will leave you glowing. Take it from me — my pores haven’t been this clear since birth.

Whether you’re hiking or biking, swimming or spa-ing, there is one throughline that connects all parts of Montage Palmetto Bluff: the food. Guests have their choice of several decadent restaurants serving up prime Carolina fare, as well as southern Italian cuisine and Mexican food. Don’t miss the vaulted ceilings or waterfront views at Canoe Club — a stately dining room with heavenly seafood and other coastal offerings. And if you remember only two words about the Bluff, let them be these: Biscuit Bar. Weekend breakfasts at Buffalo’s will spoil you with fresh biscuits, sausage gravy, and a plethora of toppings.