My husband Bill and I just got home from a delightful long President's Day weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We had considered going to New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, but the steep hotel prices and prospect of chilly weather drove us further south. We got a good rate at the Inn At Harbour Town, a luxury hotel on the Sea Pines Resort, a huge plantation turned into a gated community. While Bill and I are not usually keen to stay at resorts, we couldn't resist the Inn At Harbour Town after reading so many glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. I joined IPrefer.com, the Inn's preferred booking site, and got three nights in a king sized room overlooking the tennis courts for about $700. That rate also included two hours of tennis and breakfast. About a week before our arrival, I got a nice email from the property's general manager with suggestions of things to do during our stay.
Sea Pines Resort is a gated community where many people own homes. It has strict homeowner's association bylaws. Consequently, the neighborhoods all seem to flow together with lush greenness. Before we could get to the Inn, we had to stop at the main office to pick up a parking pass. The pass was good for our entire stay. All visitors, even those just going to a restaurant or the shops, have to register before going on the resort's property. Day visitors have to pay $5 for the pass, but Bill says he was not charged.
After picking up our parking pass, Bill and I headed to the Inn. We had little trouble finding it, since the lady at the main office gave Bill a map and instructions. I was aghast at the beautiful lush green golf courses that mingled so perfectly with natural wildlife, palmettoes, and wisteria. We pulled up to the inn, where a nice valet from Hungary was waiting for us. He addressed us by name as he unloaded our luggage and welcomed us, asking if we wanted to avail ourselves of his complimentary valet parking services or if we'd rather self park. Bill decided to self park, so the valet relieved us of our luggage while we moved the car. I noticed the valet and several other clerks were wearing earpieces. That's surely why he knew our names as we pulled up!
Our luggage was whisked up to our room while Bill and I sat at a desk to check in. Chloe, a lovely young lady from England dressed in an immaculate suit uniform, gave us our key cards, amenity cards, which entitled us to discounts on SeaPines owned restaurants and shops, and a $25 gift card, which was a gift from IPrefer.com
Chloe explained that she was just getting started with learning the front desk duties; therefore she was still in training. I never would have guessed that from her polished and professional demeanor. She took us on a brief tour of the lobby, showing us the balcony overlooking the breathtaking golf course, the library, the breakfast area, and a small bar which opens nightly for people who want snacks or nightcaps. After she showed us around, Chloe and her trainer took us to room 324, which we would call home during our stay.
We were very impressed with room 324. It featured elegant furnishings, including a king sized bed dressed in Italian linens, a desk, armoire with a 37 inch flatscreen television with a wide selection of channels including HBO, an iPod dock with a radio, a padded bench, mini bar, a chair with an ottoman, and a ceiling fan. Chloe showed us how to operate the thermostat. Behind the blackout curtains, there was a nice sized balcony with a table and two chairs.
Outside our door was a place to put a newspaper. We had a choice of USA Today or the local paper. We chose the local paper, but for some reason it was never delivered. That was no big deal, though, since a stack of papers is also left in the foyer by the elevators. This area is also where urns containing hot water, coffee, and decaf are kept in the mornings so guests can help themselves.
A dresser near the bathroom had a handwritten card from Chloe thanking us for staying at the Inn and a small bar of chocolate. Next to the card and chocolate was a real plant! In the closet there were robes. A stand near the chair and ottoman was stocked with several high quality magazines.
The bed was very comfortable. I will warn, however, that it's very high off the floor. It may be difficult for some people to get into the bed. If you're very short or have mobility issues, you might want to see if you can get a step stool. Otherwise, you might have to take a running leap to get on the bed! While it wasn't a huge problem, I could also hear the people in the room next to us through the wall.
Housekeeping services were excellent about keeping the room clean and stocked. The rooms get serviced twice a day; they are cleaned in the morning or afternoon, then in the evening, you get a very impressive turn down service that includes drawn curtains, turned down covers, dimmed lighting, and the radio turned on. On the nightstand, you'll find a small Molton Brown gift and two chocolates. The gift was different each night. Next to the gift, there was a small card wishing us good night and offering the next day's weather forecast.
The bathroom was a sight to behold. There was a huge soaking tub and a large shower with a rainfall head. The sink had a granite top and was outfitted with a toothbrush holder, cotton swabs, and cotton balls. There were also Molten Brown toiletries. The Inn offers a bath service. For $35, a butler will come to your room, draw a bath, light candles and give you large sized bottles of one of four types of Molten Brown products to include shampoo, conditioner, bath salts, soap and body wash. We did not partake of this service, but I did try out the bath. If you like to soak, I highly recommend the bath. On the other hand, I also recommend the shower, which is really decadent with its huge head.
On the third floor of the hotel, there is a small workout room that has a flatscreen TV, treadmill, ellipticals, bikes, and free weights. Bottled water is free and readily available. iPods are also available to borrow. Additionally, there's golf, tennis, raquetball, swimming, and horsebackriding available. You can also walk, jog, or bike on the resort's many pathways or rent kayaks at the marina.
The Inn offers breakfast for $12 a person or you can purchase it with your room ahead of time. The breakfast is continental style, with a variety of breads, cereals, pastries, fruits, hard boiled eggs, and juices. There is also an omelet station; a cook will make omelets or scrambled eggs. I tried an omelet the second morning and it was excellent.
If you'd rather have a hot breakfast, there are several restaurants within walking distance that offer them. Bring your amenity card when you dine at SeaPines owned restaurants and you'll get ten percent off your food purchases. Harbour Town is within walking distance of the hotel and there are plenty of shopping and dining options. Bill and I did end up eating a lot of our meals at the resort. We found the food to be mostly quite excellent if not a bit pricey, even with the discount.
On our last night, Bill and I hung out at the hotel's small but well stocked bar for a couple of hours. The bartender was a charming young man who was very easy to chat with. Unfortunately, the hotel's bar is pretty much an afterthought. There are only two bar stools available and a sound system plays Muzak somewhat loudly. I needed to drink to be able to stand the elevator music!
Great concierge services
The concierge services at the Inn are fabulous. Many of the people working at the hotel are students in hospitality programs in Europe. They have impeccable manners and are able to arrange whatever you need, from restaurant reservations to tee times to laundry services.
You never have to leave the grounds...
And I found this to be both a pro and a con to staying at the Inn At Harbour Town. On one hand, it is very convenient to stay at the Sea Pines Resort. It's very safe and plush. The grounds are immaculate and you don't really have to worry too much about crime. On the other hand, I have to admit that I got a little bored in Hilton Head. I found it very family and elderly oriented. I didn't think it was so great for youngish couples like Bill and me. Of course, we were visiting in the off season... come to think of it, I bet the resort gets very crowded in summer!
There are several ponds near the living areas. We saw signs warning against bothering the alligators living there. One afternoon, we actually saw two large alligators sunning themselves on the immaculate lawn.
We really enjoyed the Inn At Harbour Town. The staff was friendly and mostly very professional, and the accommodations were first rate. I don't know when or if we'll get back to Hilton Head, but if we do get there again, we would not hesitate to stay at the Inn again. It really is gorgeous. We did hear, however, that the Inn will soon be expanded from 60 rooms to 160 rooms. I only hope the Inn doesn't lose any of its personal charm when it's expanded.
For more information: www.seapines.com
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