Photo: Richard Leo Johnson

Get to know this enchanting community in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Palmetto Bluff, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay. 

The romance begins, in this Lowcountry community near the Georgia border, with those emblematic live oaks and Spanish moss. They grace the winding avenues here, where life combines a passion for nature with Southern civility, plus a sweet dose of sporting (golf, fishing, equestrian, and a brand-new shooting club), yachting on the May River and beyond, and culinary pleasures (including the annual Music to the Your festival). Along with the charming commerce of food, drink, and shopping in Wilson Village, the Montage Inn at Palmetto Bluff (opened in 2016) has added a shimmering new center to this best-kept secret on the Southern coast.

Palmetto Bluff by the Numbers

Population: 200
Average July high: 90
Average January low: 39
Median home price: $1.2 million
Average commute time: 24 minutes
Number of sunny days: 217

Best Beaches and Other Attractions

It’s a beach gift that arrives twice a day—at low tide. That’s when the May River Sandbar emerges, smooth and silky, from the water and becomes a slender beach playground for locals and visitors alike.

One of Palmetto Bluff’s most distinctive offerings is its sporting life, particularly fishing and shooting. Anglers can fish inland waterways, coastal shallows, or deep waters offshore; fly-fishing instruction is also available. The new Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club features clay stations winding through a 40-acre hardwood bottom.

And of course, then there’s the golf. Don’t rush through a round of golf at the May River Golf Club: with beautiful greens winding among live oaks and along riverbanks, the Jack Nicklaus designed 18-hole championship course is made for walking. Plus, the stroll will give you and your caddy plenty of time to discuss strategy on this challenging, par-72 course.

For the hard-core competitor, the Wilson Lawn and Racquet Club features two pristine croquet lawns (do not scoff—croquet players are among the most fiercely competitive). Finally, locals will tell you that this is the best trifecta at Palmetto Bluff: sitting on the chapel dock and swinging your feet over the May River, hanging out at summer concerts under the live oaks on the Village Green, and grabbing a drink at the Octagon Bar.

Where to Eat and Drink

Palmetto Bluff pours the excellent locally roasted King Bean coffee at all its restaurants, so good coffee is to be found everywhere in the community. Hit Buffalo’s corner café in Wilson Village for a cup with breakfast, or grab it with your morning paper at RT’s Market.

Jessamine, the Montage’s newest restaurant, serves three meals daily on a lagoon-side verandah and a bright and airy dining room. Prime steaks are the star of the dinner menu, while she-crab bisque and shrimp and grits put a Southern spin on brunch. The resort’s Canoe Club is more casual and imbued with even more local and coastal flavor, like wild-caught grouper and oysters pulled directly from the May River.

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Where to Stay

Surrounded by Lowcountry rivers and marshes, and blending seamlessly with the community edged with a nature preserve and webbed with hiking trails, the Montage Palmetto Bluff enchants with charming lagoon- and river-view cottages and a spa. The resort is awash in activities — hitting the links on the May River Golf Course, shooting clays at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club, tennis, yachting, and trail rides on horseback, to name but a few.