March 2012

Behind The Gates - Hilton Head Plantation, Indigo Run, Palmetto Hall, Port Royal


What does “Lowcountry Lifestyle” mean to you? Does your vision include beaches, golf, sunshine, tennis, outdoor living, boating, entertaining, fishing, mild winters, kayaking or paddle surfing, gardening, crabbing, wine and food festivals, dining out and nightlife?

Is it a big house on the beach or overlooking a fairway, or a house in a neighborhood that reminds you of where you grew up? Maybe it’s not a house, but a villa or townhome…who wants to mow the lawn with all this other stuff to do anyway?

Surely something in there is on your list, but not everybody’s list is the same. The thing is, the South Carolina Lowcountry offers all of it and then some, and there’s a neighborhood somewhere around here that matches your personal vision.

You’ve heard clarion call from your friends in the real estate business that this is a great time to purchase a home because prices are more favorable to buyers than they’ve been for some years. If you are ready to take that advice any time soon, we’re here to help.

No, this isn’t going to be a catalog of available listings or a market report or anything of that nature. You’ll have to pick up the phone and give your realtor a call for that. On these pages, over the next several months (and perhaps beyond), we’re going to profile the various local communities in terms of lifestyles and amenities to help you identify where you should be looking if you’re in the market.

The series begins this month with a look “behind the gates” into some of Hilton Head Island’s private residential communities, starting at the north end of the island. In the coming months, we’ll work our way to the mid-island and south end communities—not necessarily in that order—and then we’ll cross the bridge into Bluffton and beyond (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).

In this issue we’re going to look at Hilton Head Plantation, Indigo Run, Palmetto Hall, and Port Royal Plantation. Location-wise, these four communities share a proximity to important points of interest such as the retail, professional services, and entertainment on Main Street, Festival Centre, Northridge Plaza, Pineland Station, and Port Royal Plaza; the public schools and Island Rec Center; Hilton Head Airport; and Hilton Head Hospital. Of the four, only Port Royal fronts the Atlantic Ocean, but all are a short drive to the island’s north end public beach accesses.

Some of the things that differentiate these communities are obvious, and some are more subtle. We’ll give you a taste here, but the best way to find out which community best suits your lifestyle is to enlist the services of an experienced, local realtor who can take you behind the gates to see for yourself.

It’s such a cliché, but in this case it’s impossible to avoid. When you’re talking about non-resort private residential real estate developments on Hilton Head Island, there is only one about which you can say, “something for everyone,” and it would only be a small exaggeration. That would be Hilton Head Plantation. This is not a slight aimed at other properties, it’s just that Hilton Head Plantation is so vast—it covers almost 4,000 acres—that it is the only one that could possibly accommodate as many lifestyle needs and offer as broad an array of amenities as it does.

Realtor Andy Twisdale of Charter One Realty does a lot of his business in Hilton Head Plantation and offers this perspective: “In the planning stages, you had the patio homes, you had the full-size homes, you had the waterfront and golf view homes, so from the beginning it’s given a broad range for all different kinds of people.” That remains true today. Within Hilton Head Plantation you can find anything from a modest, entry-level home to something larger, more aspirational, perhaps with a sweeping view of Skull Creek or Port Royal Sound, and everything in between. When the nest empties and it’s time to downsize, The Cypress, a luxury retirement community is located within the plantation’s boundaries.

There are no required memberships for property owners, but there are plenty of opportunities and facilities for recreation and social activities inside Hilton Head Plantation, including four golf courses. Dolphin Head Golf Club features the island’s first Gary Player designed course, and Bear Creek Golf Club offers the convenience of no tee times and no waiting to play its Rees Jones designed track. Both are private and member-owned. There are also two semi-private courses, Oyster Reef Golf Club and The Country Club of Hilton Head, where membership is offered, but not required to play golf.

Spring Lake Recreation Area, a community park open to all HHP residents, features a swimming pool, tennis courts, and playgrounds, as well as the Spring Lake Pavilion and Plantation House. Both accommodate a variety of social gatherings and are available to be rented by property owners for private engagements.

Dolphin Head is a favorite spot for plantation residents to take a stroll along Pine Island’s beach or a jog along the Bluff Walk overlooking Port Royal Sound. A small clubhouse and playground provide space for casual gatherings.

“I think what people like best about the plantation are the natural amenities,” said Peter Kristian, general manager of the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners Association. Seven miles of leisure paths wind through the plantation and around its many lakes and lagoons, some of which are stocked for fishing. Residents can also mingle with nature in the Cypress and Whooping Crane Conservancies. According to Kristian, Whooping Crane Conservancy is the largest fresh water wetland from Virginia to Florida.

Plantation residents keep busy in other ways as well. “You’ve got all these different activities that take place here,” Twisdale said. “There are 27 different clubs that meet at the Plantation House and the other clubhouses.” Those clubs’ interests range from dance, to bicycling, to art, to farming, to yachting, and on and on it goes.

In addition to all of that, Hilton Head Plantation has the all-important location. The main gate is situated right at Main Street, giving residents easy access to all of the professional services, shopping, and entertainment located in this “town center” to Hilton Head’s north end, and the hospital and public library are minutes away. The public school complex and Cross Island Parkway are a short drive from the rear entrance.

Longtime resident Lori Hall has a brood of children ranging in age from four years to college aged, and she thinks Hilton Head Plantation is the ideal place. “It’s close to schools, shopping…everything,” she said. “I love having things like a summer camp for my kids a bike ride away, and it’s great to know that we have first-class security keeping an eye out.”

“People want to live in Hilton Head Plantation because it does have a good variety of people and a lot of families,” Twisdale added. “And it’s close to everything while being set off from the resort trade.”

There are four characteristics that seem to rise to the top when you ask Indigo Run residents why they live there: Location, location, location, and newer homes. “We recently took a survey of our property owners and asked them why they chose to buy or build in Indigo Run. The most popular answer was its proximity to both ends of the island,” said Brad Phillips, general manager of the Indigo Run Community Owners Association. Indigo Run’s main gate is minutes from the shopping, dining and services at Festival Centre and Main Street, as well as Hilton Head’s public school complex, the library and the hospital. From the back gate on Marshland Road, it’s a short ride to the Cross Island Parkway and the south end, or to the beach accesses near Folly Field and Chaplin Park.

“What also makes Indigo Run a desirable choice is that it’s newer construction,” said Brad Wilson of Charter One Realty. “Most of the homes were built after 1992.”

“It’s for people who want something that doesn’t look dated, and is in a private, gated community,” added Drew Butler, also of Charter One. Larry McElynn, a 12-year denizen of The Golf Club at Indigo Run, agrees. McElynn and his wife Judy were so struck by Hilton Head Island’s beauty when visiting years ago that they decided to buy some real estate. “Most of what we were shown were older homes…not what we wanted,” he said. “Our realtor suggested that we might be better off buying a lot and building new. So he showed us Indigo Run, which was in the early phases of its development at the time, and we bought a homesite to hold until we were ready to move to the island permanently. It turned out to be great advice.”

Indigo Run residents enjoy a setting that is pure Hilton Head natural splendor—mature trees, lagoons, lakes, and flowing streams—with the privacy afforded by a gated community where there is no commercial activity. “They see it as a true bedroom community,” Phillips said. And there is ample opportunity for recreation. The landscape and abundant wildlife create an ideal arena for fishing, bird watching, or photography, and miles of leisure trails wind through the neighborhoods for bicycling, running, or simply taking a stroll.

Golf enthusiasts can choose between Indigo Run’s two clubs, the semi-private Golden Bear Golf Club, or The Golf Club at Indigo Run for a more private golf experience. Both are managed by ClubCorp of America, which brings with it the added benefit of membership in the ClubCorp Network, giving access to other ClubCorp golf courses around the country.

But club membership is not a requirement for Indigo Run property owners, and memberships are not “all or nothing.” For example, if golf isn’t your thing, you might opt for a social membership. Or perhaps you’d like to take advantage of the Olympic-sized pool or Har-Tru tennis courts at Sunningdale Park (also managed by ClubCorp). “It offers so much to so many different people in a la carte form,” Butler said.

The five neighborhoods comprising Indigo Run also provide choices to suit a variety of lifestyle needs. The Golden Bear features single-family homes, many with lagoon or fairway views, on short cul-de-sac streets. The Golf Club is a newer gated development within Indigo Run where you’ll find single-family homes, also with golf and water views, but somewhat larger than those in The Golden Bear. Berwick Green is a neighborhood of club homes, townhouses and garden-style homes, and features its own private community pool.

Across Marshland Road and behind their own gates, Broad Pointe and The River Club are situated on the shores of Broad Creek, offering spectacular waterfront and sunset views from many of the homes. Broad Pointe features a private 700-foot pier and a private pool and spa. Similarly, The River Club residents have use of a private pool as well as two tennis courts.

Regardless of neighborhood, one thing that sets Indigo Run apart from some other Hilton Head developments is its low density. There are approximately 1,000 homesites on its 1,400 acres, which gives it a tranquil, uncrowded, neighborly character. Being new to Hilton Head, Jan Steffe and his wife Janet moved into The Golf Club three years ago not knowing quite what to expect. “We found a house that we liked, but had no idea what a gold mine we’d just walked into,” he said. “All the neighborhood events, the Men’s and Women’s Clubs, and such nice, friendly people were all a pleasant surprise.”

“It’s really easy to make friends here,” McElynn said. “You really feel like you’re in a special place.”

Newer homes and accessibility are also two of the main attractions in Palmetto Hall, another of Hilton Head’s “youngest” non-resort private residential communities located just off of Beach City Road near the new Mathews Drive/Beach City roundabout. From there you are mere minutes from Main Street and Festival Centre, the public school complex and the hospital, and it’s a straight shot down Beach City Road or Mathews Drive respectively to get to the parks and recreation in the Fish Haul Creek area or the Folly Field beaches.

“I’m going to take people to Palmetto Hall if I sense that they want to be in a residential neighborhood, and that they don’t want to be in an older community, because they’re worried about maintenance and resale value,” said Robbie Bunting of Dunes Marketing Group, when asked whom he would steer toward Palmetto Hall when showing property. It’s also a good fit for somebody from out of area who is not ready to move to the island immediately. “For some people who are several years out, buying a home doesn’t make a lot of sense, but getting your foot in the door does,” Bunting said. “Palmetto Hall has available homesites that they can buy now, and they’re not penalized as to timeframe for construction; they can build whenever they’re ready. Right now land is running at really compelling prices.”

That Palmetto Hall is home of the Palmetto Hall Plantation Club and two of the island’s more prestigious golf courses, Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp, might give the impression that it is a golf community, but Bunting says otherwise. One of the smaller non-resort developments on the island, Palmetto Hall is a single neighborhood, and the Property Owners Association makes efforts to cultivate a close-knit community. Everything from the architectural style (Southern classical is preferred, where front porches serve as a means to give you more of an introduction to your neighbors) to club membership is aimed at building community. This community-building mindset is what truly tips the scales in Palmetto Hall’s favor with a lot of folks.

“Palmetto Hall requires membership, but they offer the flexibility of golf or social memberships because they recognize that everybody’s interests and needs are different,” Bunting said. “Not everybody is a golfer. Not everybody has kids. The flexibility makes it more attractive to more people, and club membership tends to pull the community together. You get to meet your neighbors, not by the name on their mailbox; you know them on a first-name basis because you ran into them at the pool or at another club event.”

And those neighbors won’t tend to all fall into one dominant age group or demographic category. It’s not all retirees. It’s not all hardcore golfers. It’s not all families with small children. Palmetto Hall is gaining popularity with people who are moving south end to north end in a natural migration from something resort oriented to something more permanent. “We’re seeing a lot more families moving into Palmetto Hall,” Bunting said. “I think it’s got a good rep as far as that goes.” As a matter of fact, he can tell you firsthand.

“My wife and I were raising our two sons in Palmetto Hall, and they loved it. As they got older, we noticed that they weren’t really taking up golf, so we thought we’d try something else and moved to an off-plantation home with its own deep-water dock…give them a taste of a Huck Finn lifestyle. Frankly, my sons still haven’t forgiven me for moving them out of Palmetto Hall!”

“It has a peacefulness and tranquility…and it really captures the persona of the island,” said Julie Toon Pawley, owner and broker-in-charge of Toon Pawley Real Estate. Pawley was speaking of the residential neighborhood in Port Royal Plantation, which she believes is ideally suited to the homeowner who likes to partake in all of the recreation and activities that Hilton Head Island offers, but would also like to retreat to a quiet, friendly neighborhood when it’s time to go home. “The main reason that you would buy in Port Royal is that you like the peace and quiet and you love the beach. It’s got a lot of beachfront,” she said.

Port Royal is located at Hilton Head’s northeast tip (the “heel”) and is the site of some of the island’s most private beaches, fronting both the Atlantic Ocean and Port Royal Sound. It is Hilton Head’s only totally private oceanside planned residential community; there are no short-term rentals and no public access golf courses within the gated area, so beach access is limited to residents and their guests.

Pawley’s own enthusiasm for Port Royal as a private residence is certainly genuine. She sold a home there to her parents, Ralph and Nancy Toon, back in the ’80s, and they’re still there. “We had a place for many years in one of the resorts on the south end,” said Ralph, “but we eventually wanted to move away from the short-term rental trade.”

“We had a picture in our minds of a quieter place where things wouldn’t turn over so much,” added Nancy. Port Royal turned out to be the perfect fit. Nancy also noted that the north end location is more convenient to shopping centers and other services.

Port Royal’s marketing and communications director Mary Noonan, a 15-year resident, agrees that the privacy, peace, and quiet are wonderful attributes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Port Royal isn’t an active community. “We’re not sitters!” she said. Need evidence? There are 16 different clubs listed on the community’s website, many of which meet regularly at the Port Royal Beach House, a popular gathering place that is available to residents for parties and other private events. Adjacent to the Beach House is an Olympic-sized community pool and playground, and there is also a four court tennis center located within the gate.

The Plantation Club gives Port Royal residents access to resort style amenities just outside the gate in Port Royal’s public section, including the Barony, Planter’s Row, and Robber’s Row golf courses, the Port Royal Racquet Club’s 16 tennis courts, a croquet court, and the social activities that go along with membership. “It’s an ideal compromise, amenities plus the privacy,” Noonan said.

Behind the gates will continue next month, highlighting the amenities of Sea Pines, Palmetto Dunes and Shipyard Plantation.

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