Exploring Montage Palmetto Bluff–A South Carolina Oasis

Montage Palmetto Bluff
Your swing awaits on the walking trails of Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort

Stunning, I must have used these words a thousand times on my recent trip to Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. Just 30 minutes from the great city of Savannah, Georgia (a personal bucket list city for me), it was a nice easy drive from central Florida and absolutely, without a doubt worth going to from anywhere in the country. The resort is set on over 20,000 acres and the scenery is just absolutely gorgeous. There is no detail forgotten and just when you think, “It can’t get any better than this,” it does.

The grounds are gorgeous with stunning views and walking trails, enticing you bounce out of bed early to get your morning run or walk in (They even have a running concierge). I selected a trail taking me along the river to a mossy oak covered path of trees. Throughout the property, there are many bridges and quaint spots—like the town center with the picturesque church—perfect for a destination wedding. There is something for the entire family and because of the various types of accommodations and activities, this property is perfect for multi-generational travel as well.

Bluffton, South Carolina

Montage Palmetto Bluff Conservancy

Montage Palmetto Bluff
The quaint village–perfect for a destination wedding!

Montage Palmetto Bluff has three types of accommodations—inn guest rooms and suites, cottages/residences and village homes. Guests of the resort can enjoy the entire property and the resort fee includes the use of kayaks and canoes, fishing poles, tennis, croquet use of the pool and spa facility (spa treatments are extra), fitness center and  fitness classes and a plethora of activities the resort has to offer. It even includes the gratuities for the bellman, housekeeping and the concierge.  The property boasts a Jack Nicholas 18-hole signature, private golf course, so if you aren’t a guest of the resort, you aren’t getting in. (Highly recommended on the golf club menu is the hotdog. It’s all beef, wrapped in bacon and well, shall we say some things are just worth having and this was.) Both golf and bike rentals are available at additional fees.

Montage Palmetto Bluff May River Golf Course
Views from the May River Golf Course

One of the things that excited me the most was seeing kids riding bikes everywhere. These days’ kids spend a lot of time indoors, so it was really nice to see them out enjoying the day with their families. And, who wouldn’t when you have an awesome bicycle with a bell and a basket? There is also a state of the art bowling alley and a game room on property. Did I mention the awesome tree houses? Just seeing a tree house brings me back to my childhood, I mean, “Who didn’t want a tree house growing up?” There are two of them on property—one more than four stories high with incredible views of the waterways.

img_33271

Montage Palmetto Bluff
Two awesome tree houses on the property
Montage Palmetto Bluff Bowling Alley
The state of the art bowling alley at Montage

We were treated to a tour of the lowlands of South Carolina. (I always recommend to clients to get out on the water if you have the chance. It changes your perspective of your vacation destination.) Our guide, who is also the fishing guide, entertained us with tales from a neighboring island where a landowner had placed buffalo so he could hunt. The problem was, he didn’t realize buffalo could swim and they escaped. Unfortunately for the buffalo, they escaped to a hunting lodge and as a result, one of the buffalo heads can be found inside the restaurant on the property, appropriately named, “Buffalo’s.”

Montage Palmetto Bluff
Sampling a local dish at Culinary Heirlooms

img_3330Other highlights include, the island for awesome family days, the homemade hot sauce at Cole’s, the food (delicious), Culinary Heirlooms (local cuisine featured every night at 5 pm for guests to sample), the luxurious and beautifully appointed spa (best facial I’ve ever had), and the s’mores cart. The inn offers fires and s’mores every night with a cart full of homemade marshmallows in different flavors (we were told to try the lemon marshmallow with the dark chocolate) and two different kinds of chocolate. It’s like you died and went to s’mores heaven! “Porching” occurs every day from 3:30 to 5:30pm at the River House where cookies, sweet tea, and lemonade are served and guests can hang out and enjoy the view of the river from their porch rocker. We didn’t have the good fortune to attend this event, but if it is anything like the shortbread cookies we experienced in our room every night, we’re absolutely certain we will not miss it next time.

Montage Palmetto Bluff
The s’more’s cart–chocolate and homemade marshmallows!

img_3270Montage Palmetto Bluff is a haven for families and couples looking to escape from it all and experience the outdoors. It’s just good old fashioned fun. There is no “I” left undotted, no “T” left uncrossed here. They go out of their way and the attention to detail is unfounded. A little boy I met put it perfectly when I asked him what his favorite thing was he had done there on vacation, “I get to shoot a bow and arrow.” He hadn’t even done it yet, but it was his favorite thing. Montage Palmetto Bluff is just that—it’s your favorite thing to do, even though you haven’t done it yet.

Getting there: Fly into Savannah, Georgia (airport code SAV). Transportation to the resort can be arranged or you can rent a car and drive. It’s about 30 minutes.

Guests of the resort who are the Art of Travel clients receive a room upgrade (subject to availability), a $60 dollar daily breakfast credit per room, and a $100 spa credit per stay.

Curacao—The Urban Chic Gem of the Caribbean

@theartoftravelcompany

I really didn’t know what to expect when we docked in Curacao. During my days at Islands and Caribbean Travel and Life Magazines, it wasn’t an island we covered frequently. The only thing I had heard was it was “colorful” and “not like any of the other islands in the Caribbean.” (We docked there on our recent ten day cruise on the Norwegian Jade.)

@theartoftravelcompany
Docking in Curacao on the Norwegian Jade

The dock itself is charming. I loved the inviting little white tents with “Welcome to Curacao”. And, in the background was something I’d never seen in the Caribbean—a modern bridge towering over the skyline of the island. The Queen Juliana Bridge is a focal point of the skyline. It’s one of the tallest bridges in the world, weighing 3,400 tons and is 185 feet above sea level over Santa Ana Bay. Traveling over the bridge is a little harrowing when the wind is blowing, but the views are spectacular.

@theartoftravelcompany
View of the Queen Juliana Bridge with the Swinging Bridge below

The only way to describe Curacao is Caribbean, urban chic. It has the vibe of the Caribbean with all the vibrant, gorgeous colors; yet Willemstad with the view of the Queen’s Bridge overhead, gives it an urban chic kind of feel. With outdoor cafes, shops, and restaurants, it has the bustle of a city with the laid back vibe of the Caribbean.

@theartoftravelcompany
Colorful Curacao

Oddly enough, Curacao is home to another unique bridge in the Caribbean—the Queen Emma Bridge. Also known as, “The Swinging Old Lady,” this floating, swinging bridge connects two parts of historic Willemstad—the Punda and the Ortobanda districts. Sixteen floating pontoon boats support the bridge and two motors allow it to swing open to let ships enter the port. It truly is one of the most unique bridges in the world and certainly the Caribbean.

@theartoftravelcompany
The Swinging Bridge in Curacao

Things to Do In Curacao

  • Visit the Curacao Distillery Home to the world famous Blue Curacao liqueur and housed in the historic 19th century mansion Landhuis Chobolobo .
  • Take a local driving tour—Ben Tours offers a luxury motor coach tour and includes ice-cold beer, water and wifi. The tour takes you to the distillery and two scenic overlook spots before dropping you back at the dock or you have an option to get off in town and explore. It’s a great overview of the island.
  • Explore the Punda area of Willemstad for shopping, outdoor cafes and local eats. Afterwards make your way to the Netto Bar, the oldest in Curacao (and one of the oldest in the Caribbean) for their famous Rom Berde (green rum).

Where to Stay in Curacao

@theartoftravelcompany
Luxury awaits at the gorgeous Baoase Resort in Curacao

The gorgeous Baoase Luxury Resort is the perfect place for a romantic escape.  Located on the south side of Curacao, the resort offers 23 rooms, suites and villas to restore your well-being.  The resort also has a spa for wellness seekers and offers yoga and detox programs. With beaches, golf, hiking and exceptional diving, Curacao is the perfect place to wander, relax and unwind.

New York City Three Ways: Couples Getaway

Visiting New York City can be a bit overwhelming; especially if it is a short visit or your first time. There is so much to see and experience, it can be difficult to decide on an itinerary and how to determine what is possible to accomplish in a 24 hour period. I had the opportunity recently to visit the city on 3 separate occasions with 3 different companions: my husband, my brother, and my husband and children; ages thirteen, eleven, and three. Each visit was customized to fit the audience.  In the first of our blog series on New York City Three Ways, I have provided our “Couples Getaway” Itinerary and how we accomplished our experience.

Trip One:  Couples Getaway

I had the opportunity to get away without the kids for the night with my husband.  We won a pair of tickets to a celebrity chef dinner experience through my credit card company. As soon as we secured an overnight sitter, we made our plans for a date night in the Big Apple.

2:00 pmArrived via Metro North to Grand Central Terminal.  We are so fortunate to be a train ride away from NYC.  The cost of two round trip train tickets is about the cost of overnight parking an SUV in a New York parking garage.

The Art of Travel Company NYC Couples Getaway
No kids!! Waiting for Metro North at the New Haven train station

Just arriving in the iconic station is exciting, it really is so grand a station.  Many tourists and photographers spend some time here, just photographing the beauty and hustle and bustle of it all.  Thanks to our former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Grand Central exists today after almost being torn down in 1968.  She partnered with the Municipal Art Society to create the Committee to Save Grand Central Station and as a result, this amazing architectural building, which celebrated it’s 100th anniversary in 2013, still exists today.

2:05 pm.  Head down the corridor to the entrance of the Metro station. 

*Always have cash on hand to purchase a metrocard.  Often times, the credit machines are down, and cash is the only way to pay.

*There are no locker and bag check facilities in Grand Central or Penn Station.  Most hotels offer bag services so you can explore the city without luggage in tow, but plan accordingly.  We packed for our trip with just one backpack.

2:25 pmFraunces Tavern  54 Pearl St. Green Line to Bowling Green Station.   This restaurant and tavern is considered the oldest tavern in NYC. Originally built in 1762, General George Washington gave his farewell speech to his men here, in 1783, following the Revolutionary War.   It was actually used for a time by the Continental Congress until Washington DC became the official capital of the US.  The restaurant offers some unusual but delicious dishes, including Scotch Eggs and Chicken Pot Pie. If you are not interested in lunch, definitely order a round of drinks in the authentic, early American saloon.  The bartenders are not necessarily the friendliest you’ll find, but certainly know how to make a fantastic Manhattan or Old Fashioned.   If you have the time, tour the Fraunces Tavern Museum.    If the whiskey bar is open and you imbibe in such haberdashery, just sitting in this cozy, wood paneled lounge, in leather bound furniture, is worth the cost of a well drink.

*If time allows, you are within walking or a short metro/uber/taxi ride away from The Brooklyn Bridge : the #1 most visited attraction in NYC.  If you have never been (or even if you have), it is quite a magnificent sight. Head uptown on the metro from Bowling Green to Brooklyn Bridge City Station.  

3:50 pm.  Back to the Metro to travel uptown to our hotel.

We have been to Times Square several times and I am not into the pressure cooker atmosphere of the area.  Being accosted by costumed men and women for photos and then tip money is not my idea of fun, but we did walk through to reach our hotel for check in.  If you have never been, look for the Naked Cowboy, often found there, feel free to have your photos taken with Mickey Mouse, Toy Soldier, Elmo, Batman, etc. etc.  Take a few images of the iconic glowing screens and hordes of tourists from all over the globe. In warmer weather, you may find a market of sorts, with souvenirs and several food vendors.  We perused a few and did purchase three,  “I Love NY” tee shirts for the kids.

6:00 pm.  After check in and dressing for dinner,  we walked the short distance from New York Hilton Midtown, to The Knickerbocker Hotel : the location of our celebrity chef dining experience.

Before dinner, head to the St Cloud Rooftop at the Knick. The rooftop has a fairly large seating area, table service or a walk up bar. As the sun sets, it is lit with strung lights and the glow of the nearby skyscrapers.

** As I stated, we won tickets to a celebrity chef dinner, hosted by our credit card company. Here is an alternative plan, I experienced on a previous NYC overnight:

7:00 pm Eataly 200 5th Avenue. It is a 20 minute walk from The Knick to Eataly. You can walk, hail a cab, or take the Times Square/42nd Ave Metro on the Yellow line to 23rd Street. It is very close to the Metro.

Eataly is a bit hard to describe. It’s an incredible marketplace, filled with wines, cheeses, meats and bread; there are cooking demonstrations, counters to sit and enjoy a drink, an appetizer or a sample or two. There are several restaurants that are first come, first serve and some where reservations are highly recommended. It is a very busy, popular spot, so if you have your heart set on a particular restaurant to enjoy a leisurely meal, absolutely plan ahead. If you are the type to just go and experience this vibrant eatery, it will not disappoint. Take your time eating, drinking and shopping!

10:00 pm 10 minute walk to The Empire State Building 338-350 5th Avenue

The Empire State Building needs no introduction, and should be experienced at least once while in NYC. Tickets can be purchased to visit just the 86th floor observatory, up to the 102nd Observatory, or a VIP experience that allows the ticket holder to skip the line. There are quite a few queues, lots of waiting, and several elevator rides before you finally reach the top. I am a fan of VIP treatment, but did not find it necessary the night we visited (about 10 pm on a Saturday). We really did not have to wait in line; there was quite a bit of walking and weaving through the barriers, but we did not encounter crowds until we reached the 102nd floor.

Uber/Taxi/Metro to Hotel or, depending on when you decide to end your night

After Dinner Drinks at  The Stagecoach Tavern  An authentic- feeling Irish bar with Guiness on tap and shandies on the drink menu. I really wonder if the waitstaff is truly from “the old country”, or it is part of the atmosphere of the tavern to be surrounded by true Irish patrons, but either way, we enjoyed listening to the accents.