We love an adventure, but when it comes to chilling with the fam, we can’t resist a little Southern charm and hospitality. There’s something undeniably bonding about waving to your neighbors, having a genuine conversation with a stranger and sipping sweet tea on your front porch. And for such genteel activities, the coastal towns of Bluffton and Beaufort, in South Carolina’s Low Country, are just the place. It’s got rich history, beautiful scenery, shrimp and grits, championship golf, countless rocking chairs and Southern charm for miles.
Why now: While many prefer to head south for the winter, the best time to visit the Low Country is during the fall and spring when the weather is optimal and there are tons of festivals and happenings.
Good for: Families seeking an easy getaway (under two hours from NYC) and an unhurried good time with great food, historic adventures and natural beauty.
Suggested stay: 3-7 days
• Exploring every inch of the 22,000 acre property at Montage Palmetto Bluff
• Nightly s’mores
• Perfecting your golf game at the May River Golf Course
• Taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic district and strolling along the waterfront in Beaufort
• Savoring all the Southern cuisine you can handle
What to know: You may associate the Low Country with Savannah, Charleston and Hilton Head, but there is plenty more to see when you travel deep into the Low Country.
Redefining Southern Charm and Hospitality
The Montage Palmetto Bluff really captures the essence of the Low Country. Its charm is evident from the very start of the four mile drive into the property that locals like to call the detox drive.
Throughout its 20,000 acres there is an abundance of riches and little details that make a big difference like fire pits for nightly s’mores, your own Southern cottage to call home and cozy porches with river views to watch the colorful sunset. The staff will greet you by name upon arrival and attend to like the family you always wish you had. The little ones are even offered Southern snacks and stuffed animals (one for each of the conservation animals on property) upon arrival.
From cottages to premier four bedroom homes, there are wonderful options for your family’s stay.They are outfitted with large soaking tubs and spa experience steam showers. And that’s just the beginning. You will love your back porch and river view, perfect for enjoying the Southern bourbon (or sweet tea) and pecans provided for you as you watch your wee ones run around through the grass. The cottage also comes with bicycles (and tricycles for the smaller set) and your own personal golf cart for exploring the expansive property.
There are endless experiences for kids and grown-ups alike, ranging from playground outfitted with custom-built, five-story tree houses with zip lines to Canoe Clubs with canoes kayaks and kiddie pools and from a serene spa to championship golf course. A grown up perk is access to the very exclusive May River Golf Course—an underrated tract, despite being the sixth ranked golf course in the state by Golf Digest. This Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is maintained as well as almost any course in the world; the fairways are forgiving and the greens are well sloped and quick by tour standards. It’s a first class experience from the driving range, which offers Pro V1 golf balls, to the challenging but fair 18 holes.
Bare Your Soul
And the moment you’ve all been waiting for: soul food. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff‘s River House Restaurant features ingredients unique to the area with exceptional Low Country preparations to match. Plus, it has stunning views of the river (hence the name). Don’t miss the seared Grilled Georgia White Shrimp, Georges Banks scallops with Carolina gold red rice and Crispy Skin Wild Striped Bass.And be sure not to skip dessert. The deep fried pecan pie and s’mores cake are well worth the calories.
For a casual lunch, check out the staple corner cafe Buffalo’s at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff and don’t hesitate when adding the fried green tomatoes on to your salad. And if you’re feeling adventurous, head out to St. Helena’s Island. Grab an (in)famous shrimp burger at the Shrimp Shack – it’s greasy but worth it. And if the setting looks familiar, that’s because it’s near where the shrimp boat scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed. It’s ok to get sentimental about this.
And for everything else RT’s market, a one-of-a-kind general store, had local treats and trinkets plus specialty items to bring and treasure at home.
The Happiest Seaside Town
Just 30 miles north in Beaufort, to be right in the heart of Beaufort’s Historic Landmark District andjust steps away from the waterfront, check into the Rhett House Inn. It’swelcomed countless historic and Hollywood figures, thanks to a rich history and twenty-plus movies filmed in the town. What the Rhett House has in spades is warm, welcoming ambiance. What it distinctly lacks is stress of any kind. Relish this fact; retreat to your charming room fitted with a Jacuzzi tub and fireplace, but not before you explore.
Take a short walk to the marina and hop on a historic carriage ride. You’ll see the Succession House, The Arsenal, St. Helena Episcopal Church, The Castle and more. When your history lesson is complete, wander over yonder to Waterfront Park—you’ll find a wide array of water-view restaurants as well as swings built to fit the whole family.
Head to Breakwater’s “new Southern cuisine” puts a modern twist on Southern comfort food, like the spicy southern calamari and Low Country paella.It’s also worth noting that proprietor Donna Lang is the definition of Southern hospitality. Saltus, a waterfront bistro, serves up some of the best shrimp and grits you will ever encounter. Then take your kids to Play Place’s new playground at the top of the park and then hit Yo Yo's ice cream shop, strategically located next door.
From the warmth and hospitality to fun adventures and from the tasty treats to the elegance and natural beauty, it is sure to be an idyllic family retreat. Once you get home, saying hello y’all to your neighbors, they might mistake you for a Southern belle or gentleman.
(Photos courtesy of the Montage Palmetto Bluff and Rhett House Inn)