I nearly forget where I’m going as I chat with my Uber driver, her distinct Charlestonian accent captivating me during our ordinary conversation about family, food and the differences between Canadian and American holidays. She sounds vaguely Southern, but her pronunciations are peppered with British, Caribbean and other influences — a reflection of South Carolina’s Holy City itself.
When I realize we’ve arrived at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in the city’s historic Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, I spend a moment taking in the stately 92-room hotel. Its architecture style is characteristic of the Lowcountry. A grand A-frame entrance is flanked by towering columns and there’s a deep wraparound porch lined with a string of spiky palmettos.
“Lowcountry” is both a region (it’s literally an area of low-lying land) and culture along coastal South Carolina and Georgia. It has roots in the traditions of the local Indigenous Peoples, European colonists and African slaves (Charleston, S.C., was the hub of the slave trade, often compared to New York City’s Ellis Island for slaves). Ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, grassy salt marshes and crab-filled mud flats, raised white-washed houses with tall shuttered windows, stifling humidity, the sound of people speaking Creole, shrimp and grits — you’ll get a different definition of Lowcountry depending on who you ask, but it seems to be more of a feeling than any one defining factor.
Whatever it is, I can definitely feel it inside The Beach Club too. Big glass jugs of sweet tea greet me as I step into the lobby. Polished finishes, like shiny coffee-coloured wood floors and ceilings, painted beams and grand chandeliers, mix with Caribbean-inspired accents — cobalt blue and coral orange-splashed rugs and furniture, turquoise walls and beachy lamps.
Lowcountry seems to be more of a feeling than any one defining factor.
“The building is designed to be suite-style boutique luxury,” manager Matt Early tells me as we walk through the hotel, exploring the amenities.
It’s a luxe hotel, for sure, but I wouldn’t feel out of place passing through the lobby to the pool in my bathing suit and a hotel robe, a glass of sweet tea in hand.
When The Beach Club opened in late 2016 as the latest addition to the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, it was named one of Fodor’s best new hotels in the world, and it’s still ranked as South Carolina’s top resort and one of the best in the South. It’s easy to see why.
While there are plenty of standard hotel amenities, like the Estuary Spa that offers massages, there are exceptional ones, too. Rooms are elegantly-appointed with white marble, dark wood, nautical accents and custom-made beds that seem to trap me in sleep. A 30-seat theatre plays movies every Saturday and can be rented for parties and screenings, a water taxi service run by the city shuttles guests from the marina across Charleston Harbor to the city’s downtown (if you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins splashing alongside the boat), and the award-winning Charleston Harbor Fish House serves local dishes with a view of the USS Yorkton, a decommissioned World War II-era aircraft carrier turned museum. At the fish house, I wolf down my smoked fish pâté and an order of crispy crab cakes with a pint of amber ale from the local Palmetto Brewery.
But where the Beach Club really shines is its outdoor space. A private beach with fire pits is perfect for breezy nights, while two private pools surrounded by luxury loungers, full-service private cabanas, a hot tub and a tiki bar that serves craft cocktails and snacks beckon me to spend the rest of my stay poolside.
“There’s a trend now where people want to step back from staying downtown and just relax at night,” says Early. “That’s The Beach Club’s niche.”
Back in my room, I step onto the balcony and see the late afternoon sun glittering over the water and downtown Charleston’s skyline. Below me a few kids splash in the pool, while a couple curls up on one of the big loungers to watch the boats coming into the marina. The air is salty, and I can smell the start of dinner service at the restaurant. If the Lowcountry is a feeling, I think I’ve found it.