Hilton Head Island off South Carolina’s southern coast has long been a hotbed for extended getaways and ultimately, relocation from points north. Travel + Leisure readers perennially vote it the best island in the continental U.S. for a reason: there are so many ways to “do” luxury here.
With the addition of new flights from Delta, United and America directly to Hilton Head Island Airport, the island is also more accessible than ever. In fact, more than 2.7 million people visited the Hilton Head-Bluffton-Beaufort area in 2019. Close to 80% were repeat visitors spending between two weeks and two months in the area.
There’s also a reason for Hilton Head’s adopted tagline of “Golf Island.” The island’s history, economy and future are inexorably tied to a sport at the center of an $80 billion industry, nationally. Each year, golf’s impact on the area culminates with the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage at Pete Dye’s famed Harbour Town Golf Links.
And that’s exactly where our sojourn begins.
The Sea Pines Resort, Inn & Club at Harbour Town
With three championship golf courses and hundreds of villas spread over 5,000 acres, there are myriad ways to experience The Sea Pines Resort. However, for a boutique indulgence within the resort, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town is the perfect choice.
With an enviable setting near the first tee of Harbour Town Golf Links, this 60-room panacea is only a five-minute jaunt to the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Elegant décor coupled with legendary service and a host of premium complimentary amenities creates an indulgent and unforgettable guest experience.
A refreshing dip in The Inn’s intimate outdoor pool or enjoying a meal and stunning golf course views from Links in the Harbour Town clubhouse are among the simple pleasures of a visit to The Sea Pines Resort.
The well-appointed guest rooms feature elegant furnishings and modern conveniences. From crisp Egyptian cotton linens to design elements that blend seamlessly with the natural beauty of Harbour Town, no detail has been overlooked. A dedicated concierge team sees to every guest need, ensuring a relaxing and seamless experience.
In season, guests have access to the Sea Pines Beach Club, including daily use of premium beach chairs, towels and umbrellas, a cooler stocked with bottled water and access to food and beverage service, including alcoholic beverages, on the beach.
Or many guests make it an evening at the beach, with cocktails in the second floor Ocean Lounge overlooking the Atlantic, serenaded by live music. From there, it’s an easy walk downstairs to dinner at Coast, a perennial favorite lauded for its fresh seafood, oyster menu and extensive wine list.
In addition to Harbour Town, guests have access to acclaimed Heron Point by Pete Dye and award-winning Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III, combining to form the highest-ranked triumvirate in the state.
For more information, visit www.seapines.com.
Montage Palmetto Bluff, May River Golf Cub
Located just off the island in idyllic Bluffton, Montage Palmetto Bluff is the ultimate luxurious getaway for travelers who love to be outdoors. Set within 20,000 acres of Palmetto Bluff’s maritime forest and surrounded by 32 miles of riverfront, the boutique resort offers an extensive selection of outdoor activities.
Guests can enjoy boat tours with dolphin watching, salt and fresh water fishing or standup paddle boarding. For those who prefer mainland activities, specifically Hilton Head’s unofficial pastime, the Jack Nicklaus-designed May River Golf Course awaits.
Opened in 2004 to national acclaim, Nicklaus returned in 2017 to completely restore the layout to its original form. The Golden Bear’s deft delineation between formal and native bunkers adds a unique design element architecture aficionados will appreciate.
Any pain inflicted by a tempestuous loop through the ever-challenging May River can be eased by the nightly s’mores around the fire pits outside of the River House.
The resort also features three pools, eight restaurants, the Wilson Lawn & Racquet Club, and horse stables. Lastly for pure relaxation, the resort also features Spa Montage, with a number of treatments with partners including Tata Harper and Valmont.
For more information, visit www.montagehotels.com/palmettobluff.
The Private Side of Sea Pines
Visit for a week or a month, relocate and stay for a lifetime. This is the unofficial mantra around Hilton Head’s premier private club, Sea Pines Country Club. The fact of the matter is, an estimated 50% of repeat island visitors eventually move here year-round.
A luxury, Lowcountry lifestyle beckons them, often consisting of golf, tennis, biking the island miles of dedicated multi-use paths and leisurely walks along one of America’s most underrated beaches. The island’s subtropical climate is ideal for year-round outdoor activities and pursuits.
A private, invitation only enclave situated just behind the gates of famed Sea Pines Plantation, members are not required to live “inside the gates.” The club sets up perfectly for those relocating to Hilton Head or east Bluffton who want freedom of residential choice.
The club is well-positioned for the next wave of relocations, invigorated by a visionary plan for the future and ample capital investment.
Sea Pines Country Club’s “re-imagination” began with a $2.7 million renovation of the main clubhouse in 2017. This first phase resulted in an entirely new dining facility, the Blue Heron Pub and Grille, a 24-meter outdoor pool and resort-style deck, as well as an indoor saline and children’s splash pool.
In 2019, the club leveled-up its health and wellness game with the debut of a stunning new $3 million fitness center. Completely renovated and expanded from 2,500 to 7,300-square-feet, the new facility features the latest cardio and strength training equipment, as well as a grab-and-go café and infrared sauna.
A new second floor with a balcony overlooking the tennis courts and golf practice range features a multi-purpose room for group classes and gatherings. Locker rooms have doubled in size to accommodate the infrared saunas, a popular post-workout amenity. The group fitness lineup now includes yoga, Pilates, spin, full-body strength training, TRX and water aerobics. Physical and massage therapy round out the offerings.
Fitness notwithstanding, golf is still major draw at Sea Pines Country Club. The Club Course is the only private course inside the Sea Pines gates. Originally designed by Arnold Palmer and Frances Duane in 1973, it opened just four years after neighboring Harbour Town at Sea Pines Resort.
The Club Course is a quintessential example of Lowcountry golf course design, with its narrow, tree-lined fairways, doglegs, subtle green complexes and lagoons. There’s a since of intrigue on every tee box as to what comes next.
New for 2020, Sea Pines Country Club debuted a four-court pickleball center and bocce court, capitalizing on the global popularity of these socially-driven activities. The 60-foot long bocce court overlooks the expansive tidal marsh behind the clubhouse
For more information about the club and membership, visit www.seapinescountryclub.com.
Article by Shane Sharp, a golf and travel writer based in Greenville, S.C. and owner of Southbound 4, a content marketing and public relations business.