Posted December 12, 2017 – Narrated by Carmen.
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*see our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
South Carolina is like your old aunt’s house – no sharp edges, pillowy and fragrant. The whispery rustle of satiny green leaves and silvery moss swaying on the breeze seem to invite you to “sit for a spell.” Enchantment takes over with offers of tea and cookies and handwritten recipes …
Thus, we lingered for weeks. For forty-eight days, to be precise, we cast aside those things that give us a sense of urgency or importance and we simply relaxed into the drift of Lowcountry bliss. Lord knows how many hundreds of bridges we crossed there all leading to the same soft, earthy conclusion that no matter what happens in the outside world, everything will be just fine in South Carolina.
October is our birthday month, so we decided to splurge for three weeks on Hilton Head Island … to relish the fresh local seafood …
hear the local story …
… visit with friends and ride bikes on the famous white sand beaches …
and crossed the bridge to Charleston …
… where we decided to stop downtown for lunch.
Now, we’ve done dumber things than try to park our 30′ rig in downtown Charleston (and, someday we’ll come clean on that) but this was a pretty tight spot …
… but worth the hassle to have a bite at Hannibal’s, famous soul food kitchen.
Noting evidence of considerable storm damage and repair work along the way, we drove on into Bluffton and then, just after crossing the bridge, we spotted the Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina sign on the left.
Early on, we learned to disregard the word “resort,” but a reliable source told us this place is the real deal. And that “e” at the end of Sunset Grille hinted this might not be the usual campground burger joint. Whoa! The possibilities for Birthday Month were beginning to take shape. Resort amenities plus fine dining? Harmony and balance! Libra Heaven!
Once again, we took a chance. So far the Sunday afternoon arrival has proven successful, and October being an off-season month in Hilton Head, conditions were favorable for scoring a first-class RV experience.
The friendly and professional staff greeted us with the happy words, “Yes, we have open spaces for the next few weeks!” Directing us to their fleet of golf carts, they invited us to take an open-air spin around the grounds to make our selection. The golf carts are a nice touch to reduce smog and noise and they keep the lanes open and safe for pedestrian traffic.
We didn’t want anything too extravagant, so we planted our new flamingo in a space with a garden, waterfall, and a backyard pool. Somehow, we would survive …
Pico was ready for a spa experience. This campground is very pet-friendly and there is a dog wash station large enough to handle any size pet.
All 200 sites are full-hookup with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Every site is paved and landscaped. Green screens between neighbors foster a feeling of seclusion. The sites are not as large as a State park, but these are some of the most spacious sites we’ve seen in a private resort. Some sites are shaded beneath mossy live oaks and pecan trees, others have full sun exposure.
With taxes, we paid $70.40 per night, making this one of our most expensive site rentals, but considering the location and amenities, we think it’s a bargain. The thirteen waterfront sites are $10 more per night. All sites are back-in and reservations are accepted. Each site is individually owned and unique. Ours had a waterfall, others had fire pits, custom patio furniture, built-in grills, umbrellas, hardscape and more.
The WiFi is the best we have had since Chassahowitzka River Campground. There are dozens of WiFi towers throughout the resort and each has its own bandwidth. The speed is fantastic! While we didn’t need our Verizon cell service, the signal at our site was great.
The tiled bathrooms are spotlessly clean and modern with large private showers. The laundry room was clean but in need of improvement. With 200 RV sites, plus the marina, they really need a much larger laundry with more machines.
This is a boating and fishing area. Recreational paddling is offered and kayaks and jet skis are available for rent, but swimming and paddle boarding is not advised. The first day of paddling, an encounter with a ten-foot-long gator in the river – still murky from the storm – renewed my appreciation for a sparkling gator-free swimming pool.
With two clean and better-than-average pools with a hot tub and sauna – also, tennis courts, exercise room, fishing pier, horseshoe pits – there are plenty of recreational opportunities at the park.
We weren’t expecting mid-Autumn to be so sultry. We made the best of it, taking long walks under the mossy oaks in the cool of the morning, lounging poolside in the afternoon with a book or just sitting beside the shady marina watching dolphin and manatees.
On Jim’s birthday at Sunset Grille, the staff directed our attention to a pair of manatees frolicking in the water below. Sunset Grille tops the list of our favorite restaurants. The dining experience pairs nicely with that magnificent view of the Intracoastal Waterway. Their interpretation of traditional dishes floats our boat and we became regulars for brunch and dinner. Everything was perfectly delightful, from the menu and service to the intimate setting. We dined all over Hilton Head and Sunset Grille is, by far, our favorite. Reservations are advised.
This resort feels like a gated community. The long private drive into the park provides seclusion from the highway and traffic noise. Even though the restaurant, marina, boat launch and campground are all open to the public, the park remained safe, quiet and serene. No wonder some choose this place as their permanent home. Many residents are seasonal or weekend regulars and some, like us, are just passing through.
We dreaded the drive into and out of the park. Without a boat, there was only one way to access the resort, and it was gnarly – even for SoCal drivers. The traffic on Highway 278 never lets up and there’s no stop sign or traffic light. We avoided this spot during peak hours.
The bike path stops a half-mile short of the resort, so we had to drive everywhere – even for one-or-two-mile jaunts. Cycling the shoulder of that busy highway was out of the question. So, we’d park the truck in free public lots, set up our folding bikes and connect to Hilton Head’s famous Cycling Pathway. What a fabulous experience! And a brilliant example of how world-class eco-tourism is done.
Once on the cycling path, Hilton Head’s your oyster – except for the many gated communities, or “plantations” you are free to explore …
… the Salt Marsh of Mitchellville Beach State Park
Just across the bridge on the mainland, there are two large outlet shopping malls. We stopped by Tommy Bahama Outlet Store for Jim’s birthday present. Locals are always the best unofficial concierge service, and we’ve found that the folks at Tommy Bahama are a valuable source of insider knowledge.
It took some doing to pull ourselves away from the many charms and generous hospitality of South Carolina. We know how much we missed and are already planning to see more of Charleston, Beaufort and Bluffton. But there are two sides to every Birthday Month – the two first weeks of October are Jim’s, and the second two weeks, mine. We’d spend the flip side in Savannah, Georgia – another famous and historic city that neither of us has ever seen …
LIB, the gift that keeps on giving.
|Our “BAMBI” rating system for Public and Private campgrounds and resorts explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!