Insider's Guide to Spas
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina


Estuary Spa at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

Dana Wood

If “cozy” and “chic” got hitched and had an extremely polished child, it would be the Estuary Spa at The Beach Club at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina.

Situated just off the lobby of the Southern charming, two-year-old boutique property (currently #9 on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top Resorts In the South” Readers’ Choice Awards list), with nothing but a frosted glass door between you and the bustling-hotel outside world, Estuary should be the opposite of Zen.

And yet it isn’t. Once you plunk yourself down in that dimly lit, coastal-themed relaxation lounge, glass of magnesium-spiked coconut water in hand, you’re firmly nestled in your spa cocoon. That’s some serious sound-proofing.

Though it clocks in at a relatively tiny 2000 square feet, Estuary doesn’t feel remotely cramped. That’s largely due to the smart layout; rather than carve the space into umpteen treatment rooms to maximize guest turnover, the Beach Club opted for just five—three singles and two doubles. (Fun factoid: All the rooms are named for local birds—Pelican, Osprey, Heron, Avocet, and Ibis.)

Once you plunk yourself down in that dimly lit, coastal-themed relaxation lounge, glass of magnesium-spiked coconut water in hand, you’re firmly nestled in your spa cocoon.

A magnet for couples, those doubles rooms are in heavy demand year-round. “They’re a perfect place to unwind, reconnect, and spend quality time one-on-one with a special someone,” says Spa Director Tiffany Plestis. “We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, babymoons.”

Note to self: bring the husband next time.

Adventures in Bodywork

Arriving at the resort after a long week of work, tennis, and a session with a personal trainer who really puts me through the wringer, I opted for two massages. The goal? To have one of Estuary’s crack massage therapists pummel all the stress and kinks out of my coiled-up back and shoulders.

My two treatments couldn’t have been more different. The Nirvana Stress Relief Massage kicked off with a tough choice among four intoxicating Naturopathica Aromatic Alchemy essential oil blends—Chill, Inspire, Meditation, and Re-Boot. After a bit of back-and-forthing, I landed on Meditation, which is laced with sandalwood, cardamom, and frankincense. After a few deep inhalations, I’m treated to a vigorous rubdown disguised as an airy, floaty journey through a Moroccan spice market. Aaah . . .

The next day, I was in for a much more bracing Adventure In Bodywork: the spa’s signature Blue Eucalyptus Energizing Massage. Like Nirvana, it starts with essential oil inhalations, but then the journey gets real, with a series of what feels like karate chops underpinned with sinus-clearing ginger root oil to balance a beleaguered adrenal system.

Luckily for me, I got Sabrina for both treatments. Knowledgeable and thorough, she’s a skilled, versatile therapist who brings the major muscle when she needs to. She’s thoughtful, too, which I learned when she literally chased me through the lobby to return a diamond ring I’d left in her little jewelry tray. Oops! Hashtag Blame Sabrina; I was so blissed-out, I scooted off without my rock.

When I go back to the Beach Club (and I will go back to the Beach Club), I’ll make sure to get at least one face treatment. Although I was eyeballing the Vitamin C Brightening facial, there wasn’t time to partake. I’d also like to try the Espresso Mud Detoxifying Wrap, which, along with the Nirvana and Eucalyptus massages, is one of the spa’s most popular treatments.

Fresh Air & Domestic Pursuits

The “problem” with the Beach Club is that there’s just so much to do, wellness-wise, outside the spa. Located in Mount Pleasant, a half-nautical mile from Charleston proper and overlooking both the USS Yorktown and the sleek Arthur Ravenel bridge, it’s surrounded by lush scenery just begging to be explored.

Through a new partnership with Schwinn, the resort has a pristine pile of cruisers you can ride to nearby Sullivan’s Island, a stretch of sand and surf that’s just a little over six miles away. Not up for all that fresh air and exercise? Book a lecture or cooking class with a local guru instead. Suzanne Pollak, the enchanting Dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, can teach you and your group to make a mean biscuit or killer Old Fashioned. Helen “Hushup + Hustle” Hall, the young Instagram star and creator of Blender Bombs, can show you how to trim the fat from your morning smoothies.

And as part of its popular Mariner’s Club for kids, the resort will be hosting “Mindful Movie Night” this summer in its on-site 30-seat screening room. These nights will feature four mesmerizing nature films by Netflix darling Louie Schwartzberg— “Oceans,” “Gratitude,” “Whales & Dolphins,” and “Flowers.” During the summer, they’ll be screened on Saturday evenings. Year-round, they’ll be shown in the afternoons in the theater as a post check-in amenity.

A featured presenter at the recent Global Wellness Summit, Schwartzberg says he’s thrilled to have his labors of love presented at the Beach Club. “Watching my films has had a positive and calming effect on adults,” he says. “And I’m happy to provide the children today these moments of mindfulness, where they have one task—to focus on the beauty of nature and our planet.”

Note to self: bring the husband and the kid next time.


Dana Wood

Dana Wood

As a glossy-mag Beauty Director, Dana spent a total of 20 years at Condé Nast. That's a lot of moisturizer-testing. A transplanted New Yorker, she now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. When she's not playing tennis, she writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal and Alexa, a luxury style section published by The New York Post.