Forbes Travel Guide editors covered a lot of events in 2018, but none of them were more fun than Palmetto Bluff’s Music To Your Mouth. If you could scramble a concert series, a food festival, a parade of homes and summer camp into one glorious weekend, you’d have an idea of the good time we had here. Any more explanation would only confuse things, so do yourself a favor and just go ahead and pencil a trip to Bluffton, South Carolina, into your schedule this coming November.
However, if you don’t want to wait that long, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t head that direction right now. Palmetto Bluff — this 20,000-acre playground roughly 30 minutes from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport consists of permanent residences, vacation home rentals and the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Montage Palmetto Bluff — hosts cool events throughout winter and spring. And on top of the action-packed calendar, the destination also delivers world-class accommodations and wonderful cuisine, making it a coastal Carolina getaway we can’t get enough of.
If you’re not in the market for any of the million-dollar homes for sale at Palmetto Bluff, do as we did a recently and simply call one of the village houses your castle for a few days. With the vacation houses (ranging from quaint two beds to massive five-bedroom stunners), you’ll still enjoy the same breakfast nooks, wrought-iron handrails and private screened porch — in this case, though, you’ll have to return your door key to the Montage desk once your vacation ends.
The way these gorgeous homes dot the streets of Wilson Village ever so perfectly between live oaks, it feels like you’re in some sort of dew-dipped utopia. Lanterns flicker with real flames. The occasional car happily shares the road with a passing family on bikes. And that object you see floating off in the distance of the river is a gator.
But even if you’re staying at Montage Palmetto Bluff, you can feel the same peaceful energy. Many of the units at the 73-room inn look directly onto the lagoon in the hotel’s backyard. So, it won’t matter if you’re relaxing in one of the 385-square-foot rooms or sprawled out in the 2,500-square-foot Presidential Suite; expect breathtaking views, estate-quality furnishings, claw-foot tubs and other luxuries to come standard.
The cuisine around Palmetto Bluff makes no apologies about having a distinctively Lowcountry taste. During the aforementioned Music To Your Mouth festival, chefs from south of the Mason-Dixon Line showed off their skills. And while we loved just about everything we tried from Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston and Jacksonville’s Chris Dickerson, some of the best dishes came from right on property. Chef Nathan Beriau’s team cooked up May River oysters and other Southern treats that were so delicious we went back for thirds.
But even when there’s no friendly competition going on between the on-staff chefs and their out-of-town brethren, you can find similarly sumptuous selections around the Bluff. Buffalo’s, for instance, specializes in Italian done with a pinch of Southern twang (see: burrata and toast with ham and Georgia olive oil or Saul’s Lasagna stuffed with locally picked vegetables). And then there’s the newly renovated Canoe Club, reopening in March, that sells whatever the local waters provide.
When it comes to breakfast, the tastiest option may be Octagon Porch. If you’re overnighting at Montage, make your way on down to the darling first-floor restaurant to choose from a selection of traditional favorites (buttermilk waffle, applewood-smoked bacon) and colorful specialties (egg white wrap, green juice) that will energize your morning.
The Big Events
If Music To Your Mouth was a food festival with a side of guitar plucks, Field + Fire (February 1 to 3) can probably be best described as an outdoorsman’s showcase that tastes even better than it sounds. In its second year, this parade of waders and Woolrich jackets celebrates the region’s rich sporting tradition through clay shooting tournaments, falconry displays, fox hunt exhibitions and all kinds of other fun in the forest. You can sign up to participate in the action or spectate from afar.
Should you fall in the second category, you’ll probably find Field + Fire’s non-gaming lineup to be almost as impressive. Respected chefs such as Denmark’s Mark Lundgaard-Nielsen and Mississippi’s John Currence will make sure you stay full between the action while singer-songwriter Lauren Jenkins and country performer Drake White will have your feet moving long after the ducks have scattered for the day.
If you can’t make it to Field + Fire, Palmetto Bluff keeps the good times rolling in March with the Palmetto Bluff Marathon (March 10). In typical fashion for this vibrant community, you can expect a live band and some barbecue waiting after you cross the finish line. Proceeds from the event will go to the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, a non-profit that ensures the area remains looking beautiful and keeps educating people on its importance.
The Small Joys
Palmetto Bluff doesn’t only focus on making your feet move and toes tap, though. The site of more than 100 archeological sites and at least 15 plantations, the Bluff has plenty of interesting stories to tell. Register for one of onsite archeologist Mary Socci’s informative cemetery walks to hear a few of them. As you trek about the gorgeous campus, Socci won’t mince words about the soil’s Confederate past or the slaves who once tended fields of indigo and cotton. She’ll also call out neat architectural quirks and point to pet graves you probably didn’t even notice during your stroll the day before.
When it’s time to put down the history books and pick up a paddle, Palmetto Bluff has many options for you to pursue. Try kayaking, go fishing or take one of the complimentary bikes over to nearby Moreland Village for a few games at Boundary Bowling.
Do as much (or as little) as you’d like around the property this winter and spring. Just be sure to be at the fire pits behind River House Lounge at nightfall. That’s when everyone gathers to roast s’mores. And trust us, you haven’t lived until you’ve made the campfire treat at dusk under the Lowcountry’s tall pines and weeping willows.