montage palmetto bluff // our stay and review

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montage palmetto bluff

This past weekend, Andrew had a couple of days off from work. After researching a few destinations we could reach within driving distance and safely social distance at, we decided to book a stay at the beautiful Montage Palmetto Bluff. After hearing about it for seemingly months, I was so excited to experience all this this gorgeous property, set on 22,000 acres in the South Carolina low country, had to offer!

We arrived on a Thursday evening and stayed through Monday afternoon. Three full days and four nights felt like an adequate time to dip our toes into the highly-acclaimed Montage experience.

Today, I’m so excited to share our trip with you. I’ll be sharing what we did, what we loved, and… well, things we thought could use a bit of improvement. This trip was not comp’d in any way, and I hope our unbiased perspective helps you as you plan your trip!

 


 

 


 

What We Loved

 

The Views

 

Let me start out by saying that the views afforded by the Montage Palmetto Bluff are without a doubt some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. And not just because of the stunning architecture… the low country itself is naturally stunning! Growing up in Texas, I never really ventured up to the Carolinas. This was my first time experiencing the beautiful trees, stunning skies and gorgeous waterways of the low country. I had no idea what I’ve been missing!

Many of you recommended the five-story treehouse. We biked there on our first full day and climbed to the top for the most unbelievable view… highly recommend, it doesn’t take long to experience! I felt like I was in the middle of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

The Accommodations

 

Not only are the grounds themselves stunning, but the accommodations are beautiful as well. We booked a room at the main inn but were upgraded to a guest house room upon arrival. I have a fondness for traditional southern architecture and loved how tasteful, classic and charming each nook and cranny of not only our room but the property as a whole felt. Our favorite space? The library right next to the check-in desk!

The Food

 

With the exception of one dinner in downtown Bluffton (we ate at FARM and it was one of the best meals and experiences I’ve had in months) Andrew and I ate all of our meals at the various dining options at the Montage. We both remarked all weekend long about how delicious everything was. The service was, for the most part, top-notch as well!

The Octagon

Perhaps our favorite spot on-property, Andrew and I ate at Octagon for brunch three times during our stay. I particularly loved the veggie hash bowl (ordered with breakfast potatoes instead of eggs and it was life changing) and the biscuits, which were to die for.

We also enjoyed a fabulous lunch there, sharing the fried chicken sandwich and the blackened grouper sandwich (topped with fried green tomatoes, omg) and let me tell you, I cannot say enough good things about them.

A couple of tips: We never made reservations for Octagon and were able to get a table each time without any wait. The restaurant itself is large and seems to have a lot of seating! If the weather permits, I highly recommend sitting out on the beautiful porch.

Cole’s

Cole’s is a more casual option located a few minutes away (via shuttle) from the main inn. You definitely need reservations, and I would recommend making one that allows you to enjoy the sunset while you dine. The architecture is gorgeous (think Houston’s but a bit lighter) but the restaurant itself is very small.

Andrew and I shared a bucket of fried chicken and wow, easily the best I’ve ever had. In fact, everything we ordered was divine! Our only complaint was we didn’t have great service there. I’m not sure if our waitress had too many tables or what, but she only stopped by about three times our entire meal, and every interaction was very, very short and rushed, making Andrew and I feel like an inconvenience. Had that not been the case, we would have given it a 10/10!

Unfortunately, Cole’s is only open for dinner, Friday through Tuesday. I’ll get into this later on, but it would have been amazing if their hours had allowed for lunch and afternoon snacking as well, as the game room and bowling alley are in the same building.

Canoe Club

I was lucky enough to get us reservations for our final evening at the Canoe Club. It is definitely the nicest restaurant at the resort and offers a gorgeous view of the May River. We had initially planned for an 8:00 mealtime, but bumped our table up to 5:15 last minute. I’m so glad we did, as we sat on the porch and enjoyed the fabulous view the entire time!

The food was delicious. Lots of yummy seafood options, which Andrew and I were all about. I especially loved the oysters and tuna poke!

Room Service

I had heard wonderful things about the room service at Montage Palmetto Bluff, so Andrew and I decided to order dinner and dessert on our first evening. It was definitely yummy but didn’t necessarily blow us away. The menu was pretty limited as well! But let me tell you… the chocolate chip cookies are totally worth it.

We also ordered room service for breakfast one morning, and same scenario. Good, but not earth-shattering. We both enjoyed our mornings at Octagon more!

I will say, the room service was quite speedy compared to other resorts I’ve stayed at, which is a plus!

The Bikes

 

When I asked for recommendations while planning this trip, so many of y’all commented on the bikes! This was probably our favorite aspect of the property. Bikes are free and readily-available to resort guests. You simply walk up to the desk, sign a brief waiver and off you go!

Andrew and I spent most of our weekend on bikes exploring everywhere, which allowed us to really see and experience so much of what makes the Montage Palmetto Bluff special. We especially loved biking over to Moreland Village, where you’ll find a stunning view of the May River, a beautiful little chapel, as well as a cute little selection of stores, a restaurant (Buffalos, where we enjoyed a fabulous appetizer and glass of wine one afternoon), and a delicious ice cream parlor.

The neighborhoods of private residences on the property are breathtaking as well. We were taking major home-inspiration notes the entire time!

 


 

What We Didn’t Love

 

While we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Montage Palmetto Bluff, Andrew and I both agreed that our stay could have been better. I don’t believe this is because of the property itself, but rather due to the fact that, in hindsight, we didn’t plan appropriately. I will get into what could have made our experience better below so you don’t make the same mistake!

One thing to note about the Montage Palmetto Bluff is that it’s definitely a “pay to play” destination. There’s nothing wrong with that by any means, but I do think in order to make the most of your stay, you should be proactive about planning plenty of experiences!

Where I think I “missed it,” in this regard, was relying on the Experience Planner, a service provided complimentary by the resort, to help guide me in building our itinerary. I got in touch with an incredibly nice young man to make a few reservations and pick his brain about recommendations and, while he was so kind and helpful in making dining reservations, I hung up feeling like it was up to me and Andrew figure everything else out.

That feeling was solidified at check-in, where we didn’t receive any sort of map or recommendations for things to do. We didn’t mind at the time, as we were so excited to get settled in, but in hindsight that would have been a great opportunity to learn more about the property and be equipped with ideas for our stay.

One of the main reasons I had booked a stay at the Montage was for horseback riding. The stables looked incredible, and I was thrilled to see that this was an offering. On our call, however, the Experience Planner told me he wasn’t sure if the stables were offering trail rides due to the heat. Totally understandable, but it surprised me this wasn’t listed anywhere on the website and especially that the planner himself didn’t seem to know exactly what was going on. Not only that, but he didn’t seem at all motivated to get to the bottom of it or put me in touch with someone who knew for sure. I got a “shoulder shrug” vibe from him, if that makes sense.

I did get an email after our phone call saying he had confirmed that the stable was not allowing trail rides, and that he had booked a stable tour for us instead. For $50 a person. Crickets.

When I replied saying we weren’t interested, as we didn’t realize the tour would be $50 a person, he responded saying that it he was incorrect and it was $50 total. Again, I was surprised at the price and the lack of expertise, but we decided to go for it anyway.

Now let me tell you, that tour was absolutely one of the highlights of our stay. We had the best time with Becca, one of the trainers at Longfeild Stables, exploring the gorgeous facility and meeting some of the horses, and I do hope I return one day to ride there! The planning experience in and of itself just left an odd taste in my mouth.

Another moment that left us a bit bummed was on Sunday morning. After a fabulous facial and brunch at Octagon, Andrew and I looked outside to see rain. Since we had planned on spending the day at the pool, we decided to head to the front desk for a few rainy day activity recommendations. The staff member was so nice, but we found it odd that she directed us to the concierge instead of having ideas top of mind.

Our interaction with the concierge, however, was what really stumped us. When we repeated our request for rainy day recommendations, we were met with blank stares and a nervous laugh. “Hmm, that’s a great question! We don’t have anything going on right now, but if you give us your number we’ll call you if that changes.”

Andrew and I walked away feeling so confused. On such an expansive property, you’d think there would be something to do on a rainy day! We decided to make our way over to the game room, which I mentioned above as being right next to Cole’s, and spent the next couple of hours playing pool, shuffleboard, and foosball. While it was nice, I think we both felt a bit antsy to be spending our final day this way. To make matters worse, the bowling alley wasn’t open (it opens at 5), and even though there were plenty of staff members at next-door Cole’s preparing for the evening, they wouldn’t allow us to order any drinks or appetizers, which would have made the experience far more enjoyable.

All in all, we felt a little bit deflated that by Sunday afternoon.

 


 

What Would Have Made It Better

 

Andrew and I spent the 3.5 hour drive home talking through our experience and trying to pinpoint why the weekend, while enjoyable, wasn’t quite everything we were expecting, especially given the amount of money it cost. Here are a few things we think would truly make for a memorable Montage Palmetto Bluff experience, and I hope that they help you in your planning!

  • Splurge on a Cottage // Andrew and I stayed in a beautiful Lagoon Guest House King room, but realized during our stay that the way to really do it is to splurge on a private cottage. Now, it will cost you a pretty penny, but after our weekend experience, I really do think it would be 100% worth it. The cottages are not only gorgeous and cozy, but those with a River View truly have the most incredible view. They back right onto the river, with nothing but stunning scenery for miles! I think our experience would have been night and day different if we had stayed in a cottage… perfectly content to spend an entire day drinking coffee while taking in the view on the back porch, and spending nights by the fire with a bottle of wine!
  • Plan plenty of activities // If you’re not content to cozy up in a cottage all weekend, make sure you take advantage of the many incredible experiences Montage Palmetto Bluff offers. I think our biggest mistake was going into the weekend without having a full list of things to do. Granted, the horseback riding situation kinda threw a wrench in our plans, and when I tried to book us a sunset cruise even a couple of weeks in advance, they were already full, but in hindsight, I wish we had decided to pivot and try something else instead! We’re very chill travelers, and are usually quite content to spend weekends lounging around (hence why I think a cottage would have been perfect for us) but to really make the most of your Montage experience, I’d recommend planning at least one adventure a day. Do make sure you book ahead of time, though! And if you’re a horse lover like me, keep in mind that the stables are closed for trail rides until Labor Day.
  • Go with another couple, friends or family // While Montage Palmetto Bluff made for a lovely weekend away just the two of us, Andrew and I agreed it would have been even more fun with another couple or our families. The property is so well suited to families and groups, and there’s plenty of things for everyone to do… like fishing for the guys, spa for the girls, and s’mores for everyone after dinner. (Those are just examples, of course. I love to fish and Andrew may be a bigger fan of spa days than me!)
  • Experience the town of Bluffton during the day // I mentioned above that our dinner outside of the resort at FARM (definitely make reservations!) was truly divine in every way. We sat on a teeny table on the sidewalk and had the most fabulous sunset to enjoy as we ate! The only bummer is that we had made an 8:30pm reservation to allow for a full day at the Montage as well as ample time to explore Bluffton before dinner. We should have known that everything closes by 5pm! There seemed to be so many cute antique and clothing shops, but all windows were dark by the time we made it into town at 6pm. In hindsight, I wish we had made 5pm dinner reservation and explored from 3-5, while things were still open.
  • Go during cooler weather // Andrew and I both agree that we would love to experience the Montage during fall and/or winter. To be able to bike around and experience the beauty of the resort in the crips cool of autumn or the festivity of the holiday season sounds like a total dream! While we still enjoyed the property during the dog days of summer, the heat really did take it out of us and we think you could better experience everything the property has to offer when it cools down.

All in all, I feel like this weekend was a “warmup,” in a way, to the beautiful Montage Palmetto Bluff property. The downside? We experienced what not to do, and paid a pretty penny for it. The positive? Now that I’ve seen what doesn’t work, I feel like I could plan a perfect Montage getaway!

The last thing I want to do is to sound whiney or complaining, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of the snafus we experienced were due to our own choices. But many, many of you reached out asking for an update when we returned, so I want to make sure you have all the info and tools needed to ensure your Montage experience is the absolute dream it should be.

If you are interested in planning a Montage Palmetto Bluff getaway soon, I wanted to let you know of the fabulous deal Andrew and I took advantage of. We booked the Spirit of Now package, which comes with a $100 resort credit per night, a complimentary upgrade upon check-in as well as no deposit upon booking and free cancellation up to 48-hours prior to your arrival date. You’ll find all of the details here!

I really do hope that one day we return to the Montage Palmetto Bluff to experience everything it has to offer in the best way possible. The beauty of the low country now holds a piece of my heart forever!

Love from the Sunshine State,

Kate

P.S. It goes without saying that this is a tumultuous time for the travel industry. Andrew and I did a lot of research beforehand and were so impressed with the precautions being taken at the Montage in light of everything going on. We wore masks everywhere unless we were eating or alone outside, felt safe the entire duration of our stay, and were happy to support an incredible destination during this difficult time. (They were closed for 3 months in the thick of everything.) I completely understand and respect if travel isn’t something you’re comfortable with right now, and kindly ask you to do the same for us.

Join in on the fun!

16 Comments

  1. Kaelie said:

    Hi Kate!
    I loved reading your review of the Montage! My fiance and I visit Hilton Head a lot and were considering doing engagement photos at the Montage – do you know if the grounds are open to the public right now?

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  2. stacy McCallum said:

    We felt exactly the same we wish we would have been given a heads up anout the limited Availability of restaurants snd activities we had to check multiple yimes to try to go to dinner and did mor of the activities listed bc they were either already full or closed on the days we canted to go. Its a lovely place but we would have loved to be informed that we should make reservations for everything weeks ahead of time. We are just a more seat of our pants group and that does not work here

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
    • stacy McCallum said:

      Sorry for typos would fix if i could

      Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  3. Ashley said:

    Thank you for such an honest review! Montage Palmetto Bluff has been on my bucket list for a few months now. My husband and I went to The Greenbrier the other weekend and it was such a wonderful experience! If Andrew has some time off again, I would definitely recommend making the trip.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  4. Maureen said:

    Thank you for being so honest in the review! I feel like it’s almost more helpful to hear the things you didn’t like and how to make it better. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a travel guide or destination review is just being nice to seem like everything was sunshine and rainbows when some not so great things happened.

    Also I totally get the desire to travel right now! I went a month ago and my mental health was so restored from it and I felt safe. We all have to do what’s best for us while supporting the travel industry. I have friends and family members who work in that industry and it’s awful how so many people are unemployed because of it.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  5. Alexa said:

    Great post, thank you for your honest!

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  6. Nessa said:

    You don’t sound whiney or complaining, in the least.
    I appreciate your honest review & guide as Palmetto Bluff has been on our short list of US destinations/places to visit. These are little hints, like a friend would give to help others make the most of their time.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  7. Victoria said:

    Hi! I definitely appreciate the honest post, but I also sense a bitter tone because there wasn’t anything gifted to you. Just my observation.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
    • Martha said:

      I didn’t get that sense at all!

      Published 8.26.20 · Reply
    • Kendra said:

      Hi! I didn’t get that feeling at all just my observation.

      Published 8.27.20 · Reply
  8. Allison said:

    I’m curious how comfortable you felt getting a facial during a pandemic? I’m dying for one but there is obviously no way for me to wear a mask during. And while the aesthetician probably wore one, that doesn’t eliminate all risk and they are right up in your face.

    And yes, please be patient with the hotel industry (Its been my career for 13 years). It’s a devastating time for us and the select people that are still working are so grateful for any business.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  9. C duff said:

    This is a great, honest review and is so appreciated! When we have traveled I’ve tried to call and ask very specific questions about availability and openings. I feel that the hotels don’t want to advertise that a bunch is closed, but then it can be disappointing.
    Bluff tin is the cutest little town!
    Good to know this place is a plan it all kind of destination. I prefer waking up and deciding what to do. Likely won’t be going here.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  10. Martha said:

    Love this review! I hope it was restful and relaxing, and the unbiased feedback is really helpful.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  11. Liz P. said:

    This is a place I want to visit, so this information is helpful. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t better to find a less storied place in a good, safe location, with a nice pool, and then with the money saved from staying in a resort hotel spend it instead on driving around during the day, antique shopping, birding, exploring the area, and doing the things Blufton and the low country is known for, and not expect so much other than a quiet place to sleep. Unless you have a room with a fantastic view, like you suggested. Beautiful scenery is the best and that alone can make for a nice stay. It’s true that this is still a difficult time, though. Glad you’re a trailblazer, which helps bring jobs back. Check out the Riverside Mission Inn. I stayed there in June and it was great. The rooms and pool are amazing; get a pool view. It’s a long flight for you though.

    Published 8.26.20 · Reply
    • Liz P. said:

      Not June; right after July 4th. By the way, the Mission Inn has a special package for small wedding parties of 10 people in their chapel courtyard for $1000, and it includes photography.

      Published 8.26.20 · Reply
  12. Kaitlin said:

    Did they clean your room frequently? We stayed at a Marriott offshoot in August and they didn’t clean it at all over 4 days, they tried once when we were there and said no thanks to that one offer, it was kind of frustrating. They said it was due to precautions but the room trash cans were tiny so we were emptying trash frequently etc ourselves. This was irritating considering the cost. At check in, they said cleaning every 3 days. So weird.

    Published 8.29.20 · Reply