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The Inn at Harbour Town: A Touch of Europe in South Carolina

Driving through the main gate of Sea Pines Resort for the first time is a beguiling experience. It may be because no building on the property is taller than the highest blossom-kissed magnolia or moss-draped oak. Perhaps it’s because you’ll notice more bikes than cars tooling around the property. Whatever seizes your attention the first time, the beauty of Sea Pines will enrapture you many visits after.

Anchoring the tip of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina since 1957, Sea Pines Resort was the first eco-planned resort community in the world. The Inn at Harbour Town, a 60-room inn located within the 5,200 acres of Sea Pines, mirrors a European boutique hotel complete with an English butler staff. Kilt-clad gentlemen greet guests upon arrival. At check-in, you’ll discover many of the other staff hail from Germany, England, Holland, and other European countries. A simple “Hello” spoken in a European accent does more than a box of dark chocolates — especially when spoken by said Kilt-clad gentleman.

Named one of the top fifty US Resorts by Conde Nast magazine (among many other laurels), the Inn exudes romance and simple luxury. Frette linens and down pillows grace the beds, making them immensely difficult to roll out of in the mornings. The spacious marble bathroom includes a stand-up shower, a large soaking tub and lighted make-up mirror.

If you are reluctant to leave the tranquility of your room, but are desperate for some spa time, you can still enjoy the services of The Sanctuary, a European day spa. In-room treatments like a Swedish massage, Hot Stone Massage or the Sanctuary Scrub will make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

If you’re a coffee zealot, having a complete coffee (and tea) service stationed at each elevator in the mornings is a big plus. Lounging on the balcony watching the early golfers tee off at the first hole on Harbour Town Golf Links was a great way to start my day.

Ardent golfers will appreciate the opportunities surrounding them on Sea Pines. Harbour Town Golf Links, a Pete Dye / Jack Nicklaus course, is host to the Verizon Heritage, on the PGA Tour. In addition, Sea Marsh Course and Ocean Course are other settings to improve your game.

Other sports-related options include two hours of complimentary tennis per day; free use of bikes to take in the beauty of the grounds; or spend time lounging by (or in) the pool.

With 63 weddings on the property last year, the Inn is no stranger to romantic gatherings. Couples can tie the knot at the Fountain Terrace, with the backdrop of the Harbour Town Golf Links. The most popular spot for couples is the legendary 18th hole which overlooks the Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Tempting as it may be to remain within the confines of Sea Pines Resort, a sundry of activities is available around this beguiling island for those who do actually venture out.

Positioned on the Intra-coastal Waterway, Hilton Head encircles 42 square miles of semi-tropical, pristine, low country geography. You won’t find any bright neon lights or bright signage on this eco-conscious island. Subtle signage blends in with nature, a far cry from many popular beach destinations. Enjoying these organic surroundings should be quite easy. Bike trails are numerous (and popular), with many rental places available. Other outdoor diversions include kayaking, sailing, dolphin-watching cruises, horseback riding and nature-based tours / nature preserves. Gullah heritage tours are also a great way to connect with the island’s culture and history. Of course, lounging on the beach with a cocktail in one hand and a good book in the other is always an option!

Shopping is the other important sport to take in while visiting Hilton Head. More than 200 shops await you here. From elegant boutiques and art galleries to an indoor mall and outlet shopping, the area teems with ways for you to spend the vacation dough.

If you need to refuel from all that shopping and biking, dining options are varied and plenteous. Here are few spots to consider.

The Old Fort Pub has been a Hilton Head mainstay for 35 years. Situated on the banks of the Intra-coastal Waterway, the restaurant’s view almost matches its menu. Named for the adjacent Civil War shore battery, Fort Mitchel, Old Fort Pub offers “New Southern” fare with an ample wine list. Linger in the lobby a bit to take in some history, as Civil War photos flank the walls.

Aqua Grille and Lounge, with its oceanfront location and indoor waterfall, boasts quite the dining atmosphere. Add unique, fresh seafood dishes, a raw bar, and a 400-label wine list for a great place to unwind and indulge your taste buds.

More casual options include Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery and Cafe for front porch dining and the best chocolate chip cookies you’ll ever devour. All original recipes, from salads and sandwiches to fresh baked breads and sweets, lure diners. Rachael Ray even featured Signe’s on an episode of “$40 A Day” — her fave being the French toast!

Hudson’s On the Docks, overlooking Port Royal Sound, serves up a variety of seafood, chicken and steak. The hushpuppies are hopelessly addicting — and complimentary (thankfully!). Be sure and pace yourself with those things. You don’t want to miss out on a great dinner.

Whether you hide away in the sanctuary of Sea Pines Resort, or venture out and about on the island of Hilton Head, many things you encounter here will woo you back for more.

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