5 things to know about Montage Palmetto Bluff
Editor’s note: The resort hosted the author during Montage Well Living Weekend. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by Montage Palmetto Bluff or any other entity.
International travel at the moment can still feel like risky business, where ever-changing restrictions and difficult entry rules remain a nuisance. Thankfully, domestic travel is still an option, and this summer I decided to ditch my passport for a short-haul trip to South Carolina to experience Montage Palmetto Bluff, a storied resort known for peerless Southern hospitality in storybook natural surroundings.
I mainly visited for the resort’s first Montage Well Living Weekend, but experienced enough of the resort to truly understand what the (overwhelmingly positive) fuss is about.
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If you’re considering a stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff, read on for five essential things to know.
1. It’s considered one of America’s finest luxury resorts
Accolades come a dime a dozen for Montage Palmetto Bluff, carrying the legacy of its former life as Inn at Palmetto Bluff when it was managed by Auberge Resorts pre-2013. It is a Forbes five star-rated resort and a consistent entrant on “America’s Best Hotels/Resorts” lists from reputable outlets such as the U.S. News World Report and Travel + Leisure.
Guests here (including several famous ones) come to the gated South Carolina retreat for low-key luxury, switched-on service and a truly unique natural setting, covered in wispy Spanish moss oak trees and inland waterways. There is a world-class 18-hole golf course, a massive pool-flanked spa and salon, boutique shops and restaurants and stunning views of the wildlife-rich May River, which guests can explore from the resort's several boats and watersport vessels.
It’s a luxury resort fit for families as well, as are other Montage properties, with dedicated swimming pools (there’s an adults-only one as well), several kids programs and eye-catching treehouses.
2. It’s set within a sprawling conservancy
Montage Palmetto Bluff is, in essence, a resort within a resort. Palmetto Bluff is a protected maritime forest and community with non-Montage-affiliated residential villages, sporting facilities and other amenities sprinkled throughout the area. The conservancy is massive at more than 20,000 acres — one and a half times the size of Manhattan — with more than 35 miles of pristine riverfront.
The resort’s base within a nature reserve means guests are surrounded by the elements. Several species of birds (including bald eagles) reside here, as do deer and countless other animals, plus bottlenose dolphins in the river. Be aware, though, that alligators are present in the resort’s freshwater bodies, such as the main lagoon. Though there have been no incident reports, it’s still advised to keep an eye peeled, especially with children in tow.
Getting around and exploring the greater resort’s endless winding paths and sites such as its equestrian center, shooting ranges and multi-sport racquet club is made easier with Montage’s transport options: take the complimentary guest bicycles, call for a shuttle pick-up, rent a golf cart or reserve a joyride in a Cadillac within or outside of the property, exclusive to Montage guests.
3. Its River View Cottages are the way to go
There are 200 rooms, suites and cottages at Montage Palmetto Bluff. The main inn, housing the reception, spa, library, and the Octagon restaurant overlooking the lagoon, has rooms and suites and is the most convenient option for accessing most of Montage’s facilities. But for the ultimate and most private experience, their standalone cottages are highly recommended.
The cottages are the bucolic, whitewashed homes you’d expect in the Deep South, fitted with screen porches and working gas fireplaces. Some cottages face the oak-dotted forest, others face the lagoon, but the prime addresses face the May River (River View Cottages). The latter provides ample private outdoor space above the bluff, and allow for front-row views of river life. Inside the cottages are vaulted ceilings, sturdy wooden furnishing and floors and marble bathrooms that come with separate steam showers and deep soak bathtubs.
Aesthetic-wise, all of the accommodation types are similarly appointed with classically Southern design with modern comforts.
If you need more than one bedroom, there are stately residences and homes for rent with up to five bedrooms in each.
4. It’s an 'I Prefer' member
As a Montage-branded property, the resort is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resort’s "I Prefer" hotel rewards. This program grants guests access to early check-in and late check-out privileges, complimentary room upgrades, free Wi-Fi and special member rates that start at around $515 per night for a standard room.
Breakfast is not included on standard bookings, but I Prefer members can opt for the Bed and Breakfast package that provides daily complimentary breakfast for two for around $40 per night.
We weren't able to find any reward availability for Montage Palmetto Bluff. However, for comparison, a one-night stay at Hotel Bennett, Charleston, costs 75,000 I Prefer points.
5. It's a great spot for special events and weddings
With several charming, upscale venues peppered throughout its villages, Montage Palmetto Bluff is in-demand all year round for events such as group retreats and small conferences. This is especially true for weddings: Ever since the world got wind of superstar couple Justin and Hailey Bieber tying the knot at one of the resort’s chapels in 2018, wedding bookings here have boomed (even during the pandemic).
However, if you anticipate being in your accommodation in the evening and might consider wedding party noise to be a nuisance, do call the resort to ensure you’re far from the reception venue, as you can hear wedding bands and emcees loud and clear from outside when close by.
Guests often come for birthday celebrations and family outings. Montage runs their own special event programs, too, such as this summer's inaugural Montage Well Living Weekend, a wellness-focused experience with notable health/spiritual leaders and Dr. Deepak Chopra as the keynote.
Montage Palmetto Bluff is as close as one can get to a Southern fairytale (and refreshingly, without the colonial tropes). It’s an excellent getaway for both families and couples seeking refuge or recreation in a gorgeous U.S. maritime setting without the crowds.