Virtuoso Traveler December 2017 Long Weekend: South Carolina’s Low Country

Long Weekend: South Carolina’s Low Country

Cottages line the May River at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Cottages line the May River at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff
South Carolina’s Lowcountry is sweet on the senses and long on the charm, oozing with Southern hospitality, palpable history, and unexpected culinary treats.
 
“The Lowcountry’s draws are its natural beauty, slow pace, and friendly people,” says Connie Valimont, a Virtuoso travel advisor based in Beaufort, South Carolina. “This area is continually featured on top 10 lists like ‘Best Places to Retire’ and ‘Happiest Towns.’ The qualities that make it such a desirable place to live also make it the ideal destination for a carefree long weekend.”
  
Base yourself at Montage Palmetto Bluff, a resort within the historic community of Palmetto Bluff. Backed by the May River, Palmetto Bluff once comprised 21 plantations, then later became the swanky estate of wealthy New York banker R.T. Wilson Jr. In addition to the resort, with its 74-room inn, screened-porch cottages, and guest houses, the community is also home to two steepled chapels and an upscale general store, giving you the impression that you’re residing in smalltown America.
  
Here, our recommended three-day itinerary.
Grace on the water.
Grace on the water.
Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff

Day One

The resort’s floating matriarch, Grace – named in honor of Wilson’s younger sister, Grace Wilson Vanderbilt – is still a beauty at age 104. Don’t miss the chance to tour the May River aboard the restored 60-foot vessel, one of the last remaining gas-powered yachts built prior to World War I. During your leisurely 90-minute morning cruise, watch for bottlenose dolphins, sharks, and manatees, and hear about Grace’s long and colorful history.
 
Later, board the speedy Hinckley picnic boat, zipping down the river to nearby Bluffton, named for its high-bluff location. “The historic town center has really come into its own over the last several years, with great antiques shops and restaurants,” says Valimont. You can easily walk the Old Town, but for “transportainment,” hitch a ride on one of the new Bluffton Bike Taxi pedicabs and you’ll get an entertaining history lesson as you sightsee.
 
Time your Bluffton visit to include a meal at Farm (1301 May River Road), an intimate and aptly named farm-to-table restaurant that opened in Old Town last year. Menus feature what’s fresh and available that day; a recent visit saw flounder ceviche, May River oysters, asparagus salad with squash blossoms, and a fresh-squeezed-grapefruit cocktail. Tables fill quickly, so have your travel advisor reserve ahead.

Day Two 

Grab breakfast at Buffalo’s (1 Village Park Square) in Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Village. Look for Lowcountry favorites such as the buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy and the impossible-to-resist sticky buns. Next, head to Beaufort, a Southern belle of a town 30 miles north of Palmetto Bluff. Ride a horse-drawn carriage through The Point, an oak-shaded neighborhood of antebellum mansions, and check out the new Santa Elena History Center (1501 Bay Street), where exhibits establish the region’s prominence as the first European settlement in America, predating Jamestown and Plymouth.
 
Your Virtuoso advisor can arrange a guided walk of the city’s historic district or even a tour of memorable filming locations from The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, and The Prince of Tides. Fans of Pat Conroy’s novel The Prince of Tides will want to visit the new Pat Conroy Literary Center (308 Charles Street), which pays homage to Beaufort’s native son.
 
Back at Montage Palmetto Bluff, gather around the fire pit for “Culinary Heirlooms” – complimentary small bites created by the resort’s chef. It’s a great way to sample Lowcountry classics such as Frogmore stew (a one-pot dish typically made with shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob) and shrimp-andgrits – not to mention the resort’s barrel-aged Artillery Punch.

 

Day Three 

Skeet shooting has a long history in this neck of the woods. Partake in the tradition with a lesson at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club, which offers an elevated sporting clay station that’s perfect for beginners. While all the instructors will quickly put you at ease, sharpshooter Sarah Sanford, who notes that “some of the greatest marksmen are women,” is a natural.
 
For equine pursuits, the resort’s Longfield Stables – a 173-acre farm, boarding, and training facility – offer guided trail rides on four good-natured horses. (They’ve also recently added a pony for junior guests.) Be on the lookout for dashing deer and sleeping yearling alligators while trotting through moss-shaded forests and across pond-dotted pastures.
 
Ride over, it’s time for some Lowcountry pampering at Spa Montage. Soothe any sore-from-the-horse muscles with a soak in the whirlpool and a Warm River Stone Massage. Another popular treatment: the Signature Carolina Kur Experience, which includes a full-body mask made from the May River’s indigenous mineral-rich pluff mud.

The Lowcountry Lowdown 

Our tips for a laid-back long weekend.

When to Go 

Virtuoso advisor Connie Valimont suggests visiting during April and May, when “everything’s in bloom, the windows are open, and the weather is ideal every day.” She’s also partial to fall – October particularly – for its many festivals and more moderate temperatures.
 

Where to Stay 

Montage Palmetto Bluff is the centerpiece of a private 20,000-acre community that includes a marina, eight dining venues, three pools, and an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The resort’s 200 guest accommodations comprise an inn, cottages, guest houses, and vacation homes.
 

How to See More of the South 

Your Virtuoso travel advisor can work with American Excursionist to create a bespoke vacation steeped in Southern charm. As one possible example, they created a 16-day self-drive itinerary where you can experience handson Lowcountry cooking demonstrations while staying at Montage Palmetto Bluff, visit the Memphis studio where Elvis once recorded, follow the Blues Trail through Mississippi, take a mixology class in New Orleans’ French Quarter, discover Savannah on foot, learn about the civil rights movement in Martin Luther King’s birthplace in Atlanta, and more.

Cooking shrimp-and-grits at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Cooking shrimp-and-grits at Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff
The Montage Palmetto Bluff.
The Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff
Montage Palmetto Bluff’s Longfield Stables.
Montage Palmetto Bluff’s Longfield Stables.
Photo by Montage Palmetto Bluff

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