When filmmakers conjure an idyllic Southern scene in a movie, they look to Spanish moss dripping from majestic live oak trees, perhaps with an historic riverboat gently gliding by in the background, with dolphins and pelicans in its wake.

But do places like this still exist?

At Palmetto Bluff, a 20,000-acre wonderland of preserved forests, marsh, and waterways, the Lowcountry magic is real. 

Humans have dwelled in this ecologically rich region for at least 12,000 years. Artifacts found at Palmetto Bluff, from clay pots to oyster shells, attest to the bounty of this place where sea and forests intertwine. The land was used for plantations during the Antebellum era and largely preserved throughout the 20th century as a hunting retreat.

Today’s inception of Palmetto Bluff is its most bucolic. Drawing architectural inspiration from nearby Beaufort and Savannah, thoughtful planning balances luxurious amenities with a land stewardship philosophy rooted in letting wild things remain free and preserving waterfront for the community rather than selling it.

Palmetto Bluff also includes all the trappings you’d expect in a resort community, executed at the highest level, from the Jack Nicklaus-designed May River Golf Course to a 13,000-square-foot spa and riverfront heated swimming pools. Newly opened Moreland Village features a game room and bowling alley while the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club lets marksmen of all skill levels take aim in a forested course.

Indeed, it’s outdoor pursuits that are Palmetto Bluff’s main attraction, with the day’s activities often determined by the tides. The May, Cooper, and New rivers converge here, intersected by a maze of creeks that total 32 miles of river and marsh front coastline. Protected by a dedicated non-profit, the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, environmental stewardship is the core tenet of local life. From migratory birds to deer roaming the woods to redfish tailing in the flats, there’s a sense here that the wellbeing of each inhabitant has been considered.     

That careful consideration translates to the luxurious accommodations and gathering places designed for human enjoyment. Wilson Village’s homes reflect traditional Lowcountry architecture, with pine floors and screened porches, while Moreland Village emphasizes indoor/outdoor living. Instead of starting with a cleared piece of land, Palmetto Bluff was built to complement what nature already presented.

Outside of the “town” neighborhoods, the Bluff’s “country” dwellings offer larger plots designed for families to grow, but still within a few minutes of eight onsite restaurants and lounges, from fine dining at the Canoe Club and Jessamine to casual hangouts like Buffalo’s and Cole’s. The emphasis on community and good food merge each November with Music to Your Mouth, a full weekend that celebrates the best of Southern cuisine and music.

Whether you visit for a day to kayak the May River or gather your extended family for a week of R&R, Palmetto Bluff’s Lowcountry paradise may feel like stepping into another world, but it’s real and here for the basking.