In catering to the luxury market, it’s the little touches and the service flourishes that set a spa apart. Auberge begins to distinguish itself upon check-in, when I am asked to choose two health elixirs to be added to my post-treatment beverage. I change and settle into a chaise situated beside a roaring fireplace in the genteel lounge to await my therapist, as an attendant drapes a hot pillow around my neck. And, for a healthy twist on a decadent Southern specialty—bananas foster—I’m served banana chips soaked in rum!
Like the Inn itself, the spa exudes an elegant, yet beachy, air via its cottage-style décor. Hues consist of warm neutrals, and stunning abstract paintings provide splashes of vibrant color. A bastion of dark wood floors, wainscoting and whitewashed beam ceilings, the spa feels warm and homey in spite of its sophistication. According to Fetzner, it’s not uncommon for guests to request names of specific paint shades so they can recapture Auberge’s zen-yet-cozy allure at home.
Throughout my treatment experience, service continues to be spot-on—and innovative, despite its diligent respect for local tradition. Before I lie back onto the table to receive the High Cotton Scrub & Rub (90 min./$240), my therapist invites me to inhale several different herb blends while explaining the benefits of each. I settle on Wild Rice and Mulberry Leaf, partially for its singular, earthy smell, but also because the ingredients were picked on property, by my therapist, who also carefully muddles my selection into pine sea salts before performing my gentle sloughing.
Following the luxurious scrub and massage, I take in one of the spa’s signature offerings, a Bath on the Bluff (30 min./$75). Like porching, it is among the most straightforward of experiences: Relax to the soundtrack of nature while soaking in a clawfoot tub on a private outdoor veranda overlooking Palmetto Bluffs’ forests and lagoons. Because the staff so ardently believes in the importance of taking time for this centering ritual, each of Auberge’s eight treatment rooms features a private, al fresco tub. Indeed, I float blissfully as I luxuriate in the tub and drink in the tranquil view.
“The baths are an identity trait for us,” explains Fetzner. “Years ago in the South, grandmothers would heat water on a stove, for bathing in a copper tub situated on the porch. We sought to honor that tradition and celebrate outdoor bathing.”
Another signature offering revolves around “Pluff Mud”—the dark, soft and nutrient-rich mud found on the banks of the nearby salt-water May River. To stay as true to the real thing as possible, the spa analyzed samples of the riverbed to create its own, trademarked Pluff Mud, which Fetzner describes as “food for the skin.” Guests can opt for the Palmetto Pluff Mud Wrap (90 min./$240) or, for a particularly whimsical slice of low-country life, pairs can spring for Spa Boggin’ (150 min./$395 pp).
The Spa Boggin’ is inspired by the traditions of the Gullah, a local culture of indigenous people who still reside in the sea islands off of South Carolina and Georgia. One pastime dating back to the 19th century was for courting couples to go boggin,’ or frolicking, in the Pluff Mud. Auberge brings the tradition alive by allowing recipients to detox together in a private pine and cypress steam room before receiving a pine sea salt exfoliation. They are then left alone with a big bucket of mud to apply to each other, play with and rinse off in a steam shower before getting back onto treatment tables for side-by-side massages, followed by Baths on the Bluff. Champagne and strawberries or oysters (seasonally) are then served to the happily soaking “boggers.”
“We’re really giving couples the gift of touch, and the opportunity to reconnect, with this service,” says Fetzner. “It’s wonderful to hear the playful laughter of adults.”