A quality bargain stay right between Bluffton  and Hilton Head  is the Holiday Inn Express Bluffton (35 Bluffton Rd., 843/757-2002, www.ichotelsgroup.com , $120), on U.S. 278 as you make the run onto Hilton Head proper. It’s not close to the beach or to Old Town Bluffton , so you’ll definitely be using your car, but its central location will appeal to those who want to keep their options open.
For an ultra-upscale spa and golf resort environment near Bluffton, the clear pick is the Inn at Palmetto Bluff (476 Mt. Pelia Rd., 843/706-6500, www.palmettobluffresort.com , $650–900) just across the May River. This Auberge property was picked in 2006 as the number-two U.S. resort by Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Despite its glitzy pedigree and extremely upper-end prices, it’s more Tara than Trump Tower. The main building is modeled after a Lowcountry plantation home, and the idyllic views of the May River are blissful. Lodging is dispersed among a series of cottages and “village home” rentals.
Needless to say, virtually your every need is provided for here, though the nearest off-site restaurant of any quality is quite a drive away. That will likely make little difference to you, however, since there are three top-flight dining options on the grounds: the fine dining River House Restaurant (843/706-6542, breakfast daily 7–11 a.m., lunch or “porch” menu daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m., dinner daily 6–10 p.m., $30–40); the May River Grill (Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., $9–13) at the golf clubhouse; and the casual Buffalo’s (843/706-6630, Sun.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Wed.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., $10–15).