A Week in the Lowcountry

It took us fifteen hours to get there, instead of the expected six. We fell into bed at 4:00 a.m. of the morning after we had planned to arrive, and were awakened at 7:00 a.m. by a tornado warning. We were telephoned by the front desk informing us that we’d overstayed our welcome and asking when we’d be leaving. And in between, we had one of the best times ever on a vacation.

The Destination

We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and we decided that a special trip was in order. Debbie researched potential destinations on the web and landed on an hitherto unknown place – to us, anyway – known as the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, located on the coast of South Carolina in a part of the state referred to as “the Lowcountry” (which, frankly, strikes me as a poor nickname, but if it works for them, who am I to judge?).

Palmetto Bluff is a 20,000 acre planned development, with beautiful custom homes living in harmony with rentals, town homes, and, of course, the Inn. The property has 35 miles of shore line along the May River and lagoons that wind through some of the most beautiful coastal forest you’ll ever see.

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The Trip

We were scheduled to leave Midland via Southwest Airlines around 1:00 p.m., and catch a connecting flight in Houston that would take us directly to Charleston, which is about two hours north of Palmetto Bluff. We figured we’d be in our room no later than 9:00 p.m. We figured wrong.

Thanks to a mechanical issue, we left late enough that we missed our Houston connection. SWA had thoughtfully booked us an alternate flight to Charleston…through Chicago. Long story made short: we landed in Charleston just after midnight, trudged out to our rental car in a steady drizzle, and drove on unfamiliar roads, much of which were under construction, to a destination we’d never been to, arriving after 3:00 a.m.

But get this: a bellman was waiting for us, greeting us with a smile, calling us by name, and he quickly loaded our bags and us into an overgrown golf cart and took us to our cottage. It was just a foretaste of the service we’d get all week.

The Accommodations

Our new home was a pristine 1100 square foot cottage with a vaulted ceiling, pine flooring, a full-sized fireplace with a wall switch-controlled gas log, and a screened private back porch overlooking the May River. Here are 11,000 words worth of photos; click for full-sized pictures.

The little alligator is Pierre, and if the housekeepers find him on the bed each day, they know not to change the sheets. You could say he’s an ecogator, but I wouldn’t advise it.

As you can see, the room was well-appointed and made for spoiling guests. We weren’t thrilled to have a Keurig coffeemaker – it’s not our favorite form of coffee – and the wi-fi was a bit on the slow side, but those were the only complaints we could come up with.

After a couple of days, however, we noticed that the lighting wasn’t as bright as it was when we checked in. We wondered if they’d come in and swapped out all the bulbs; it took us a while to notice the details on the light switches.


We’re a bit slow on the uptake, I guess, because we didn’t notice that every switch in the cottage had a tiny dimmer slider, and housekeeping had set all the lights to a more romantic [I suppose] level. We were happy to restore the lighting to a level more in keeping with our aging eyesight.

In any event, waking up to a view like this each morning provided plenty of atmosphere.

Morning sun through the shutters

The Surroundings

I could spend hours trying to describe the beauty of the landscape, but as always, pictures will do a better job.

Our front porch
Our front porch and bicycles

Our front porch
Even the path to our cottage was amazing.

View from our back porch
View of the May River from our back porch

May River at low tide
May River at low tide

Looking north from our back yard
Looking north from our back yard

Looking south from our back yard
Looking south from our back yard

The common area in front of our cottage
Part of the common area in front of cottages

Palmetto Bluff is crisscrossed with miles of paved walking/bicycling paths (and we discovered some additional miles of unpaved-but-smooth roads off the beaten path). Every cottage has two cruiser bikes assigned to it; they weren’t speedy but they were comfortable and well-maintained, and we put them to good use spending hours exploring the property. Some of the views were just stunning to our West Texas eyes.

View from bike path
Morning view from bike path; can you spot the gator head?

View from bike path
The paths meandered along these lagoons.

View from bike path
Wood and steel bridges with separate cycling
paths span the lagoons.

View from bike path
You sometimes felt you were on the world’s largest golf course.

View from bike path
The paths were wide, smooth, and well-maintained.

View down unpaved road
We did explore some of the undeveloped parts of the acreage. Never saw another person.

Around the Grounds

It seemed like everywhere we turned, there was something interesting to see.

Driftwood sculpture of nesting birds
A driftwood sculpture of nesting egrets was donated by one of the residents.

Driftwood sculpture of nesting birds

These fire pits were lit each night and all the ingredients for DIY s’mores were provided.

The community vegetable garden
There was a community garden…

The community vegetable garden
…and anyone could partake of its produce via the honor system.

Debbie on a rope swing
We couldn’t resist this rope swing overlooking the lagoon.

Exterior view of the chapel
A chapel on the grounds had a bell tower that announced the hour.

View from inside the chapel
View from inside the chapel

Sign at the swimming pool
The weather was delightfully mild during our stay…

The shopping center...one store
…and the shopping was delightfully limited (one store).

Plantation ruins
These are the ruins of the 19th century plantation/lodge that once dominated the site.

Burial site for hunting dogs
This small cemetery in back of the Inn contains the remains of beloved hunting dogs.

Palmetto Bluff Inn
And speaking of the Inn, this is it.

Oyster beds at low tide
Low tide exposed oyster beds as far as you could see.

Boats stacked like firewood
There were plenty of boats stored on site, but very little actual boat traffic. 

The Dining

We’re getting to the serious stuff now. Palmetto Bluff doesn’t have a plethora of dining choices – there were four restaurants on the property – but what it lacks in quantity it more than compensates in quality.

The River House Restaurant is located in the Inn, and it’s the most elegant of the alternatives. We ate there twice, once to celebrate our anniversary and again on the last night of the stay. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and observant, and the meals were memorable. In the afternoons, the restaurant offered a veranda menu of appetizers and libations.

River House dining room
River House veranda

The Canoe Club had a slightly more casual ambiance, but the menu was just as impressive, as was the staff, and the view was even more so. It’s on the second floor, and the full length windows that lined both walls provided beautiful views of the May River on one side and the lagoon on the other.

As much as we like the elegance of the River House, we thought the Canoe Club offered the most enjoyable combination of food and atmosphere on the property.

Canoe Club
The Canoe Club from the lagoon side

The May River Grill is located on the 18th hole of the golf course, serving only lunch and giving hungry and thirsty golfers a first-rate rest stop. We ate there the first morning following our arrival, and we weren’t too drowsy to be surprised at the delicious offerings of what we first thought would be basically a burgers-and-fries diner. We would gladly have enjoyed more lunches there, but it was closed the remainder of our stay for some maintenance.

May River Grill
The May River Grill as viewed from the golf course

View of the golf course

The golf course as viewed from the May River Grill

Finally, Buffalos served breakfast and lunch in a very casual setting. We bicycled over for breakfast every morning, and for lunch at least once. We were also fortunate to be there on a Sunday, because their breakfast buffet was not to be missed. We tried to eat on either the patio or the screened-in porch whenever possible; the photos below offer sufficient explanation, I think.

The patio at Buffalo's
The view from Buffalo's patio

Next installment: The Wildlife of Palmetto Bluff

Categorized as Travel