A part of Charleston’s southern barrier islands, Kiawah Island is synonymous with a luxury lifestyle. From its pristine beach to its revered golf courses and award-winning restaurants, Kiawah is a captivating and charming island that is continuously recognized for its conscientious and sustainable environmental growth. As such, the beautiful island brilliantly marries seclusion, privacy, and nature with amenities, social activities, and real estate. If you’re lucky enough to vacation or buy a home at Kiawah Island, check out some of the best activities Kiawah has to offer:
Take in the Best of Kiawah
Grab Your SunblockSoak up the sun at one of the nation’s top ten beaches, according to Dr. Stephen Leatherman (Dr. Beach) and Conde Nast Traveler. The flat shoreline, gentle waves, and soft sand create a relaxing ambiance and rejuvenates tiring spirits. Kiawah boasts 10 miles of beachfront property and features a guarded swim area, picnic pavilions, grill areas, restrooms, outdoor showers, snack bar, and umbrella and chair rentals. Beachgoers often find sand dollars, starfish, and seashells along the shallow coastline and see dolphins strand feeding in the surf. Pets are permitted on the beach but must remain on a leash at all times.
Explore the GreensApart from its famed beach, Kiawah is perhaps best known for its spectacular golf courses. At Kiawah Resort, guests are able to tee off on five championship courses: Cougar Point designed by Gary Player; Oak Point designed by Clyde-Johnson; Osprey Point designed by Tom Fazio; Turtle Point designed by Jack Nicklaus; and, of course, the Ocean Course designed by golf architect Pete Dye. A challenging but entertaining greenbelt, the Ocean Course has hosted all of the major PGA Championships, including the infamous 1991 Ryder’s Cup, which was appropriately coined the “War by the Shore,” as the match came down to the final putt on Sunday. Golf Digest consistently ranks the Ocean Course as one of the top public golf courses in America as well as one of the most difficult. The breathtaking ocean views and manicured greens make playing golf at Kiawah a memorable occasion, no matter what the scorecard says!
Welcome to Kiaw-ahhhhhFor accommodations, visitors typically rent a home or stay at the opulent Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The Sanctuary Hotel, which is located on the resort property, is a Forbes five-star beachfront hotel and features two tennis complexes, both with Har-tru and hard courts; a leisure swimming pool; children’s splash pool; fitness facilities; yoga and cardio classes; casual to fine dining options; and the sensational Sanctuary Spa. The well-appointed spa offers an array of services for guests including facials, massage, skin rejuvenation, and nail and hair care. Estheticians, masseuses, and masseurs cater services to best suit your skin type and desired experience. Cherie Gallagher, who specializes in Kiawah/Seabrook real estate, has fond memories of going to the Sanctuary Spa with her daughter, Reilly. “When she was a teenager, we’d bike to the spa in sweatshirts and Uggs. She would visit the hair salon while I’d get a facial or massage. Afterwards, we’d hang out in the sauna, hot tub, and indoor pool. I learned more about her dramas than I probably needed, but lazing around with no itinerary and no cell phones was pure nirvana. We were perfectly pampered by the staff,” she nostalgically recalls. “I can’t wait to schedule our next appointment and make more memories there,” she enthusiastically adds. Full day treatments, spa melodies and couple’s retreat options are available.
Hit the Trails on HorsebackLocated on adjacent Seabrook Island, Seabrook Equestrian Center is a premier facility that offers three miles of trail rides, a jumping ring, green pastures, wash racks, and 42 ventilated stalls. Equine enthusiasts of all levels will enjoy taking the well-mannered mares and geldings on guided, scenic trail rides - hands down one of the best activities you can do in Kiawah. Experienced riders who can walk, trot, and canter independently have the opportunity to ride the horses along the beach. Seabrook Equestrian Center is the only facility in South Carolina that offers beach rides for competent riders.
Trails with a ViewIf you prefer water trails over hoof ones, take time to visit Tidal Trails, a local company established in 1997 that specializes in outdoor water excursions. From a paddleboard, kayak, or 6-passenger boat, guests are privy to personal encounters with Kiawah’s natural beauty. Often, groups will see dolphins playing in the surf or strand-feeding along the coastline; observe birds searching the marsh for fresh seafood; and learn about the region’s ecosystem and indigenous wildlife. Tidal Trails also leads surf lessons and camps during the summer months for property owners and their guests.
Shopping & SocializingAn outdoor, pedestrian-friendly venue, Fresh Fields Village is comprised of specialty boutiques, retailers, small businesses, and dining establishments. Anchored by Harris Teeter grocery store, shops such as Lilly Pulitzer, Scout and Molly’s Boutique, Southern Tide, Vineyard Vines, Indigo Books, Islands Mercantile, and Vincent’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain commonly feature in-store promotions and outdoor events. Fresh Fields Village hosts a variety of social activities each week including wine tastings, live music, yoga on the lawn, seasonal festivals, and family-friendly outings.
Biking Through the IslandWith approximately 30 miles of paved bike trails that meander across the island and ten miles of flat beachfront, biking is an ideal mode of transportation to truly explore the maritime forest and serene marshes. The Kiawah Conservancy offers a map of Kiawah Island that outlines the different bike paths. One of the most popular bike paths leads to Fresh Fields Village, but other adventurous routes lead to Night Heron Park, Rhett’s Bluff, Mingo Point, the Straw Market, and the watchtowers at Mark Hawk Lane and Marsh Island Park. On the beach itself, locals and guests enjoy biking down to Captain Sam’s Inlet to watch the dolphins strand feeding. Bike rentals are available through Alligator Bike, Seaside Cycles, Surfscooter Bikes, and Island Bike and Surf Shop.
Family FunWhether you arrive by bicycle, golf cart, or car, Night Heron Park is a fun destination for family members of all ages. The park includes a main swimming pool, a children’s pool with waterslides, playground, disc golf, volleyball, and scenic paths flanked with lush vegetation. The nature center offers an array of activities, sports, and crafts for the whole family to enjoy. An educational experience, children and adults are able to see alligators, turtles, and snakes exhibits at the center. Located just steps from the beach, Night Heron Park is a great spot for bird-watching, picnicking, and enjoying time with family.
Hit the High SeasThe saltwater estuaries, tidal creeks, and marshes around Kiawah Island yield unrelenting beauty that is best seen by boat. These eco tours often include in-shore fishing opportunities to catch redfish, spotted sea trout, flounder, and even the occasional shark! More adventurous anglers may opt for an offshore fishing excursion. Typically, these charters travel about three to seven miles offshore to catch a variety of fish along designated reefs. Many of the Kiawah fishing charters operate with “catch and release” philosophy. So, if you are hoping to bring home dinner, make sure you chose an accommodating charter. Bob Bush, who specializes in John’s Island and Kiawah Island real estate, recommends Captain Chris Keen of Keen Eye Charters for both inshore and offshore fishing trips. “He has two boats, is a super cool guy, and can put you on any type of fish that is in these waters.” says Bob. “Plus, he runs right out of Bohicket Marina, so it is really convenient,” he adds. Other popular charter companies include Sonny Boy Charters, Drum Runner Charters, and Near Coastal and Reef Fishing, which is affiliated with Kiawah Island Resort.
Take a Day Trip DowntownRepeatedly ranked as the #1 City in America and #2 City in the world (Conde Nast Traveler, 2018), Charleston is well worth a day trip. Located just 26 miles from Kiawah Island, visitors can spend the day gallivanting around downtown Charleston, visiting its historic landmarks, and learning about the Holy City’s complicated past. Walk down the cobblestone streets. Take a carriage ride through picturesque neighborhoods. Enter the Provost Dungeon. Shop at the City Market. Watch Gullah ancestors weave seagrass baskets. Visit the South Carolina Aquarium. And dine at one of the numerous farm-to-table, southern-fare restaurants. Although you will not be able to explore all of Charleston, you will get a fine taste of the city’s captivating charm.
For more information about Kiawah or Seabrook Island, or to preview real estate in the area, contact NV Realty Group.