You Can Have Lunch With Dolphins At Palmetto Bluff


It’s virtual school lunchtime at Palmetto Bluff, a luxurious coastal community just north of Savannah, and you must decide between the merits of a gourmet taco by the pool or a sandwich to eat in the kayak while chasing dolphins.

If you opt for kayaking you’ll wander a live oak-shaded path down to the boat shed, slide your kayak into the water and scan the tranquil tidal expanse for a flurry of splashing and thrashing. Paddle towards the action and watch while an egret drifts overhead, taking up the lead. A moment or two later you’ll hear them before you see them—the peaceful exhale of multiple dolphins as they surface together. Around you the salt marsh hums with life—oysters pop and click as the tide recedes, a great blue heron squawks, the dolphins thrash and exhale, and tiny baitfish kiss the surface, popping out like popcorn. It’s this type of bewitching, mesmerized-by-nature moment that explains why so many people come to the Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort,(recently awarded a Forbes Five star designation) for a vacation and leave with a contract on a home.

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The Palmetto Bluff community sits between Savannah and Hilton Head on a wide expanse of tidal marsh and the May River. It is home to 13,000 years of history, 20,000 acres of land, 32 miles of riverfront, hundreds of employees, guests and homeowners, and one boss: Mother Nature. “Here, the land always comes first,” says Courtney Hampson, vice president of marketing at Palmetto Bluff. “Our owners and guests are more enamored with the quality of the things we don’t build and we are most proud of that.”

Nature is indeed the resident Palmetto Bluff Floozy, seducing even the most device-addicted individuals into heading outdoors. (It’s hard to keep your eyes on Instagram when dolphins are leaping in front of your kayak or an alligator is threading his way across the lagoon). And, The Palmetto Bluff Conservancy gets most of the credit for Nature’s decadence. Founded in 2003, The Conservancy began with the mission of protecting the maritime forests and winding tidal creeks. Since that time, it has evolved into a comprehensive organization with a staff of experts (including an archeologist) actively engaged in wildlife studies, historical studies, archeological digs and artifact analysis as well as in dictating construction and development guidelines. Guests and residents are invited to participate in the Conservancy’s work, from active research to guided tours, or virtual (for now) brown bag lunch lectures in the Conservancy Classroom. 

Whether you arrive here to recharge or simply change-up the monotony of remote learning, you will have access to year-round outdoorsy resort activities. Hike or bike the miles of trails, play tennis, skeet shoot, golf, fish, bird-watch, or just idle on your screened porch and enjoy the steady sounds of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Nature has her charms but the Montage team work their magic as well with smiling, anticipatory service that make this experience all about relaxed, easy luxury. Bring your dog and they’ll swoop in with special treats, dog beds and bowls. Bring your surly teenager stuck in virtual school—they are ready with Montage Academy, a new program complete with resident IT specialist and access to monitored study hall. Even those pesky printing needs are a phone call away and delivered to your doorstep.

Dining is a matter of deciding where you want to go. There are seven dining outlets scattered across the community and resort. At Fore and Aft you’ll get lagoon views and tasty tacos, Canteen is great for a grab and go meal, but the best views and cuisine come together at Canoe Club. The vaulted wood paneled ceiling resembles the interior of a canoe and the glass-walled dining room offers endless lagoon and ocean views. Octagon serves up a spectacular resort breakfast, and Coles is best for some southern barbecue and a game of pool—the biscuits here are a religious experience, be sure to order extra.

If social distancing is your concern, the community is well-positioned to offer whatever level of socially isolated vibe you want. Consider any one of the spacious stand-alone private cottages at The Montage. They also rent individual homes for a completely disconnected stay.

The best part of any day here is dusk—it’s rush hour for nature and happy hour for humans. Sip a cocktail and watch the egrets glide in for the evening. Then close your eyes and listen in— you’ll hear the distant call of birds bedding down for the night, the low hum of crickets and the hot high wail of cicada. Frogs chime in while traces of rain from an afternoon storm drip from the live oaks. Nature is a good boss when you let her have her way, but the folks at Palmetto Bluff already knew that.