Palmetto Bluff embarked on a new chapter in its storied history of hospitality this month as the Bluffton community celebrated the grand debut of its newly expanded five-diamond resort.
With golden shears — and a little muscle — Alan Fuerstman, founder of Montage Hotels & Resorts, cut through a garland of greens draped across the resort’s front steps Tuesday as he declared Montage Palmetto Bluff open for business.
“The magic begins now as our staff and guests come together to showcase the complete resort expansion,” he said. “We are thrilled to bring our signature style of service and Montage programming to the inspiring and culturally-rich destination of Palmetto Bluff.”
Montage Hotels & Resorts, in partnership with Crescent Communities and The Athens Group, recently wrapped up a $100 million expansion of the resort that added 152 new accommodations to the 48 existing guest cottages, three new restaurants, two additional meeting rooms, and a 7,000-square-foot ballroom. The inn started taking reservations Sept. 1.
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“When The Inn at Palmetto Bluff opened more than a decade ago, it quickly became one of the most sought-after resorts in the country and possibly the world,” said Andrew Carmody, president of Crescent Communities’ residential division. “We are proud to unveil the expansion that will carry us into the next decade.”
When The Inn at Palmetto Bluff opened more than a decade ago, it quickly became one of the most sought-after resorts in the country and possibly the world. We are proud to unveil the expansion that will carry us into the next decade.
Andrew Carmody, president of Crescent Communities’ residential division
The May River sets the scene for Palmetto Bluff, a 20,000-acre luxury waterfront community that boasts a conservatory, equestrian center, a Jack Nicklaus golf course, kayaking, boating, fishing, a shooting range, tennis, croquet, shopping, restaurants and a spa.
The inn has been named one of Travel & Leisure’s “Top Romantic Hotels” in the world. It also was recently named first on the magazine’s list of best resorts in the continental U.S. and has AAA’s Five Diamond award, among other honors.
With the latest development, Montage Palmetto Bluff now encompasses 200 guest accommodations, six dining experiences, three distinctive pool venues, two wedding chapels, a spa, and more than 16,000 square feet of event space. The resort also plans to add 300 new jobs with the expansion, said Christine Wrobel, public relations and marketing manager for Montage Palmetto Bluff.
“We expect to attract a wide array of leisure, group, wedding and social guests to the resort,” Wrobel said, noting that the new Somerset Chapel is already reserved for upcoming nuptials.
THE ULTIMATE SOUTHERN RESORT
The largest undertaking of the expansion was the development of a new inn, designed by Hart Howerton, HKS Hill Glazier Studio and Wilson & Associates, and developed by The Athens Group.
One of the things you’ll see is the ultimate respect for what was already here (in Palmetto Bluff). We didn’t try to change it or put our signature on it. We just expanded on it.
Kim Richards, president of The Athens Group
The vision to build the ultimate Southern resort didn’t include altering Palmetto Bluff’s romantic surroundings to fit the new buildings, but rather the opposite.
“When I came to Palmetto Bluff 25 years ago, I fell in love with it. It is one of the most unique and beautiful places I’ve ever been,” said Kim Richards, president of The Athens Group. “I also knew it wasn’t broken, that what was here was about as good as it got. All we had to do was respect that.”
The finished product ties into the community’s existing architecture while seamlessly blending green space and forest. The classic, Southern-style building also sits on an expanded lagoon waterway.
“One of the things you’ll see is the ultimate respect for what was already here. We didn’t try to change it or put our signature on it,” Richards said. “We just expanded on it.”
The inn includes 74 guest accommodations, a lively lobby lounge, and new eateries Jessamine and Octagon Bar & Gathering Place. The building is also home to Spa Montage, which offers 13,000 square feet of serene space and includes outdoor relaxation areas with hot tubs and cold plunge pools, eucalyptus steam rooms, and redwood saunas. The spa has 13 treatment rooms, fitness center, and a full-service salon under the leadership of celebrity stylist Dennis Stokely.
The backyard of the inn features two new pools and lagoon-side dining at Fore & Aft, which overlooks the natural bird sanctuary known as “Bird Island.” All three new restaurants and Spa Montage are open to the public.
A NOD TO THE PAST
Meant to be a place of retreat and Southern hospitality, the three-story inn was inspired by and pays homage to the R.T. Wilson Jr. mansion built on the property in the early 1900s, with its vast front porch and entry columns and a grand interior space adorned with antiques and fine art.
“The idea was to make the resort feel like a grand Southern home with the sweeping staircase in the lobby, vaulted ceilings, reclaimed pine floors, and authentic antiques sourced from throughout the region,” Wrobel said. And like any true plantation home, the inn also features a cozy library with a fireplace, and an air-conditioned Carolina room with floor-to-ceiling windows.
Everything about the inn is part coastal, part maritime forest, and very much Lowcountry.
Christine Wrobel, public relations and marketing manager for Montage Palmetto Bluff
The design throughout the inn is coastally-inspired, and the furnishings and accessories reflect the subtle colors and natural surroundings of the resort — Spanish moss grays, pine needle greens, river clay browns, ocean blues, and crepe myrtle crimson.
Local art plays an important role, with an extensive collection of pieces by artist West Fraser that celebrate the natural beauty and history of Palmetto Bluff. Original photography from R.T. Wilson’s travel companion, Mr. Graves, also grace the walls and depict the community’s rich past.
“Everything about the inn is part coastal, part maritime forest, and very much Lowcountry,” Wrobel said.
Palmetto Bluff is the first East Coast location of Montage Hotels & Resorts. Montage Palmetto Bluff joins sister properties in Laguna Beach, Calif.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; Deer Valley, Utah; Kapalua Bay, Hawaii; and Los Cabos, Mexico, which is scheduled to open in 2018.
To celebrate the launch of Montage Palmetto Bluff, the resort is offering special rates starting at $299 over select dates through December. Bookings have already exceeded expectations, Carmody said. For more information and reservations, go to www.montagehotels.com/palmettobluff.