The landscapes of the American South boast vast stretches of breathtaking forests and coastal vistas, inviting visitors to slow down and linger for a while. It’s no surprise that so many outdoor enthusiasts flock to Southern shores, lakes and hiking trails each year. But set apart from the more heavily trafficked parks and landmarks, South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluff is a 20,000-acre diamond among gems. Tucked between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC, this carefully protected eco-destination is a microcosm of the idyllic South. From multicourse dinners shared under Spanish moss to porch cocktails after a hunt, Palmetto Bluff blends outdoor pursuits and Southern hospitality. Thanks to the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, founded in 2003 with the mission of protecting the region’s lush maritime forests and winding tidal creeks, visitors to the Bluff can still experience the natural wonders just as they existed centuries ago — including endless opportunities for outdoor adventuring.
With a footprint that’s roughly one-and-a-half times the size of Manhattan, and surrounded by three major waterways — the Cooper, May and New rivers — Palmetto Bluff welcomes every outdoor enthusiast and offers the land as a gracious host. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular Southern backdrop for hiking, biking, horseback riding or simply setting out on a leisurely stroll, choosing your way from a network of pristinely manicured paths that weave beneath canopies of live oaks. But those in search of more active pursuits need not slow down. The wild beauty of the Bluff also beckons to sports enthusiasts, and here, it’s a way of life.
Palmetto Bluff has a rich tradition of hunting and shooting activities, dating back at least a century to its founding as a hunting estate in 1902. Visitors today can tap into the region’s history and test their aim at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club, a veritable institution in the area with 15 shooting areas, including sporting clay stations, a five-stand station and a wobble deck. All experience levels are welcome on this 40-acre tract. Of course, if you prefer gripping a 7-iron rather than a rifle stock, the 18-hole May River Golf Course offers a splendid alternative. The par-72 Jack Nicklaus Signature Course undulates along the riverbank for nearly 7,200 yards, offering a challenging diversion for both newcomers and experienced players.
The nearby Wilson Lawn and Racquet Club caters to athletes of a different ilk, offering eight Har-Tru tennis courts, two immaculate croquet lawns, two bocce courts, a well-stocked pro shop to help you dress the part and a collection of courtside shelters to house your spectators and fans. To help you warm up before your match, the River House and the nearby Canoe Club fitness facilities are stocked with state-of-the-art fitness equipment, and both have a saltwater pool for that all-important victory lap.
Water trail adventurers can paddle the scenic, 5-mile freshwater route that connects Wilson and Moreland villages or explore over 32 miles of nearby shoreline. The glimmering Cooper, May and New saltwater rivers wind around Palmetto Bluff and provide breathtaking tracks for boating, kayaking, canoeing and standup paddling. For those who time it just right, the May River retreats at low tide to unveil a hidden, picnic-perfect sandbar.
For a guided waterborne excursion, book a cocktail cruise on the century-old motor-yacht named Grace — a 60-foot antique vessel first commissioned in 1913 that is one of the last remaining gas-powered yachts from before World War I. Today, she escorts tours and private charters to some of the most picturesque spots along Palmetto Bluff.
If you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at fishing among the myriad ponds and lakes that dot the landscape, many of which are well-tended and have been kept sustainably stocked with largemouth bass and bream for the past 70 years. If saltwater fishing is more to your liking, you can also charter a vessel and cast a line for redfish, tarpon and sea trout among other fresh fare.
With its unmatched natural beauty and close proximity to more populated Southern hubs, Palmetto Bluff is the perfect destination for a weekend of outdoor pursuits.