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The May River Guest House at Montage Palmetto Bluff. (Image: Courtesy Montage Palmetto Bluff resort)

5 reasons to splurge on a family vacation at Palmetto Bluff

Charleston might be the trendiest place to visit in South Carolina, but a recent visit to the Montage Palmetto Bluff resort near Hilton Head proves there are plenty of reasons to drive right on by Charleston (okay, maybe make a quick stop for some biscuits and grits) and revel in a different side of this southern state. Here are five reasons why the luxuriously renovated resort is perfect for families seeking a splurge-worthy getaway:

Activities galore

You can tell the kids are going to love it here as soon as they spot one of the four ambassador Labradors playing with newly arrived guests. Each night brings out a s’mores cart bearing flavored marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate squares and skewers near the fire pit, and some evenings feature a bonus outdoor family movie. Of course, there’s a great family pool with an adjacent hot tub, plus bikes that can be checked out and used for getting around the property. They say many kids even learn to ride bikes there! There are also a few treehouses that the kids love to explore. You might even make it through the entire vacation without ever hearing the dreaded words "I'm bored."

Happy parents, happy kids

Moms and dads will appreciate that there are so many outdoor diversions to keep children from ever even missing their Xbox or iPad, such as biking, hiking, kayaking and archery. Other amenities that can lead to parental bliss include a bowling alley, a spa and a "porching" hour each afternoon, when guests can sit on the porch and drink lemonade or sweet tea and eat cookies. Later, a team of cooks sets up near an open fire to serve samples of four rotating culinary heirlooms: roasted oysters, shrimp and grits, frogmore stew or hoppin’ john. If you’d like to explore a bit farther afield, reserve a complimentary Cadillac from the concierge. Extras like these can make a vacation so much less stressful and so much more enriching.

Take a walk on the wild side

Since the resort works in concert with the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, there’s a ton of wildlife that families can spot during a stay here, including small alligators, large birds, armadillos and dolphins. Those who want to dive deeper into the area’s habitat can participate in research projects such as monitoring bald eagle nests, tour the conservancy’s lands, sign up for one of the lectures that might discuss sea turtles or take a class that teaches how to catch, clean and cook local fish.

Curl up in a cozy cottage

There are several types of accommodations on the property, and we loved our river-facing cottage suite with two rooms, a screened-in porch overlooking a large backyard and a view of the water, plus the luxurious bathroom with separate tub and shower. The cottages make it feel like you’re staying in a swanky hotel but with all the privacy and peace of a vacation rental. And for all of you urban parents out there, it’s pretty magical to be able to send your kids out to play or even to bike around the property while you relax with a book.

Get out on the town

Arrange for a boat ride or one of those complimentary Caddies for an afternoon of poking around the small town of Bluffton near the resort. Better yet, schedule your visit to town on a Thursday afternoon, when a charming farmers market pops up on the main drag of Calhoun Street, where there are also some cute shops, art galleries and a great little casual restaurant called The Cottage Cafe and Bakery.