Lauren Raps of Travel Prospect, an independent affiliate of Travel Experts, is just back from a week at South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluff and a visit to the Tides Inn on the Chesapeake in Virginia.
Earlier this summer, after spending four months quarantined with my husband, three sons and Nellie, our Labrador retriever, I was in desperate need of a change of scenery and aching to travel. We all were.
While I was getting lots of positive feedback from clients about flying, we preferred to rent the biggest car we could find, bring the pooch and make a stop on the way home. What a great decision it was.
Our priorities were to stay at places where we were confident of having high standards of cleanliness and safety without sacrificing the experience we would normally have at the destinations. Both Montage’s Palmetto Bluff and The Tides Inn delivered on that and more.
We drove overnight leaving the New York City metro area at 8 p.m., which had us arriving in South Carolina at 9 a.m., and after stopping for a quintessential Southern breakfast in Bluffton, SC, we were checking into our private residence at Palmetto Bluff by 11 a.m. The home was spotless, and with a new COVID-related policy, which enforced a 24-hour cleaning window in between guests.
Throughout the week we took part in all the resort’s wonderful activities, and dined at all our favorite restaurants — with the exception of the bowling alley at Cole’s, which made complete sense (I’ve always questioned bowling shoes and balls even under normal circumstances). One new thing at the resort are the food trucks each night. Maybe because restaurants have limited seating, each night a fun, eclectic and regional food truck was brought in.
The staff took great strides to keep things clean and sanitized without being obtrusive about it. Restaurants had spaced-out seating, with all staff wearing masks. Pool areas were cleaned every few hours and you could easily head over to another pool if needed.
The Palmetto Bluff region is breathtakingly beautiful. Close and convenient to the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, it offers many outdoor activities. The day we charted a boat to explore the rivers is one of our favorite memories as dolphins swam alongside us and we got to dock at Daufuskie Island. A tour around was special.
Here are some tips for Palmetto Bluff:
- Save room for the complimentary s’mores offered nightly at the fire pit.
- If you are a tennis player, book one of the cottages near the courts so you can easily roll out of bed and hit the courts early.
- Through the on-premise activity provider, Outside Palmetto Bluff, book a scenic tour of the waterways and get to see the dolphins right outside your boat.
The Tides Inn has 66 refreshed guestrooms and four new luxury suites.
The next property we chose to visit on the way home was The Tides Inn — owned by the Enchantment Group, which runs several of my favorite properties, including their namesake in Sedona. I honestly had never heard of the Inn until I found myself researching five-star, dog-friendly mid-Atlantic coastal resorts. It was a halfway point on our way home, and while it’s a very historic property for the Washington, DC crowd, it’s newly renovated with many exciting projects and enhancements on its horizon.
With two restaurants (one more fine dining and a fantastic oyster house on its riverside dock) — we were thrilled with the caliber and variety of the food. They recently brought on a new sommelier and mixologist so my mission to explore those options while the kids played with Nellie on the Chesapeake shore made for a wonderful night.
The revamped activities program is amazing — kids club was kid tested and approved by my youngest and the non-motorized water sports options were new, clean and plentiful.
The nearby town of Irvington is charming with great small restaurants, wine bars and a fantastic winery called the Dog & the Oyster, which was of course dog-friendly, too, and a quick bike ride away (the hotel provides terrific complimentary bikes for all guests).
The hotel too was spotless, safe and the staff enforced COVID-related policies also in a way that didn’t compromise the experience.
- For breakfast get the savory “Dutch Baby.”
- At sunset, head to Fish Hawk for the local oysters.
- Bring your pooch! They treat dogs like royalty; they may have spoiled Nellie more than me.
This was a wonderful trip for our family regardless of what’s going on in the world. We were able to eat great local foods and have super-fun experiences unique to both regions. I did underestimate the need to make my reservations for spa and dinners in advance as I thought perhaps with fewer people traveling would result in more availability but that was not the case; be sure to book ahead.
Perhaps a silver lining in this uncertain time is the exploration we are all doing in our beautiful country.