As Spanish moss drapes the southern live oaks, moving gently in the breeze off the nearby Atlantic, the May River meanders past sleepy towns. It carries crabbers casting nets to nab the day’s catch, dolphins playing in the wake from their boats. Later, when the tide rolls out, the warm Southern sun illuminates the water, clear as glass to the bottom, where oysters nestle in the riverbed.
This is South Carolina’s Lowcountry: laid-back, tranquil, serene. This is a place that Inspirato Destination Manager Gayle Steiner couldn’t help but fall in love with.
Steiner was born and raised in San Diego, California, and began visiting the Lowcountry—the region along South Carolina’s coast—with her husband, Dustin, and his family in 2006. Enamored with the area, the pair made the move to Bluffton in 2013, and on a recommendation from her mother-in-law’s friend, Steiner started at Inspirato the following year.
She currently manages Inspirato’s Palmetto Bluff and Hilton Head Island destinations. Her welcoming nature, thoughtfulness, availability, and attention to detail have made her a favorite Destination Concierge among members. (She won a prestigious company-wide award for her superior service in 2017.)
“I just make them feel really, really welcome,” she said. “I try to make them feel well taken care of … like I would want someone to be for me.”
Inspirato members looking for a laid-back locale should look into a trip to the Lowcountry—or “Slowcountry,” as Steiner said it’s affectionately called by locals due to the relaxed pace of living. From the top farmers market in South Carolina (open rain or shine every Thursday), to dolphin cruises, golfing, historic tours, and more, the area is packed with Southern charm and plenty to do.
I think the Lowcountry … is like going back in time to a different place. It’s about food, the water, the culture—there’s so much history out here. It really is a place you just fall in love with.Gayle SteinerInspirato Destination Manager
But if there’s one activity Inspirato members shouldn’t miss when they visit South Carolina, Steiner put it simply: “Get out on the water.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean out on the ocean; the intercoastal waterways crisscrossing the Lowcountry, like the May River, provide plenty of opportunity for exploration. Many landmark destinations can be accessed via the water, like Charleston, Hilton Head, and Savannah, Georgia.
“You can take a water taxi to all these places,” Steiner said. “You can BYOB on the boat. And the water is like glass, with the dolphins swimming alongside the boat … which is amazing.”
Steiner also highly recommends a fishing, shrimping, and crabbing trip with Captain Chris and May River Excursions—members can learn to fish along the river and cast nets for crabs, and hire a private chef to cook up the day’s catch.
For other dining experiences, Steiner points members in the direction of two other staples: The Cottage is a historic Bluffton mainstay first opened in 1868 which roasts the fresh coffee provided in Inspirato’s South Carolina homes. And The Dunes House, located on the Palmetto Dunes resort property, is purported to have Hilton Head’s best fish tacos and is only available to guests staying at the resort or Inspirato members.
“The pictures don’t even do it justice,” Steiner said.
Ultimately, the friendliness, warmth, and welcoming culture of the Lowcountry is what made Steiner stay put on South Carolina’s coast, and the reason she can’t say enough good things about it.
“We fell in love with the Lowcountry, we fell in love with the May River, we fell in love with the culture and the people,” she said. “Just everything.”