7 Things to Do in Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Follow winding, oak-shaded roads 25 miles southwest of downtown Charleston's cobblestone streets and celebrated restaurant scene, and you'll find yourself on Kiawah Island. Carved by the Kiawah River on one side and fronting the Atlantic Ocean on the other, the barrier island is a true escape. Here, nature reigns supreme: ten miles of beaches roll out along the Atlantic; cicadas form their own sort of soundtrack; and lights-out is often determined by the sea turtles' nesting season. Even so, there's plenty to do for travelers who like their time in nature punctuated with good food, luxurious creature comforts, and a frozen drink in hand. Here are seven things to do in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Stay Like a Local
For access to all of Kiawah's amenities, from bike rentals to pools, you'll have to stay on the island. For an experience that's luxurious but unpretentious, book a room at The Sanctuary, an oceanfront hotel known for its five-star service and elevated onsite dining. For families who want a little room to spread out (or a kitchen), villa and home rentals are a smart choice; reserve through the resort directly, or book through a site like VRBO or Airbnb.
Spend a Day on the Sand
On the west end of the island, Beachwalker Park is Kiawah's only public beach access feels like a hidden gem, thanks to its wide, unspoiled expanses of sand. It offers the best of both worlds too: in addition to the ocean frontage, you can also score views of the Kiawah River here.
Hit the Links
Five state-of-the-art golf courses are open to the public. For avid fans of the sport, the Ocean Course alone makes Kiawah worth the trip. Host to two PGA Championships, the 18-hole course is not for the faint of heart. Raised above the dunes to capitalize on the expansive shore views, golfers are also subjected to ocean breezes (which don't exactly make for an easy or predictable trip around the green). Try Cougar Point for marsh views and a slightly less technical experience.
Go for a Cruise
One of the best ways to explore the island is to leave the car in park and take a beach cruiser for a spin (you can reserve them through the resort or bring your own). Between 30 miles of paved trails and 10 miles of hard-packed beach, there's no shortage of routes to explore. Ask for directions to the Marsh View Tower, an observation deck primed for birdwatching and soaking in the marsh and river scenery.
Visit Heron Park Nature Center
The naturalists here will school you in many of the species who call the island home, from bobcats and white-tailed deer to loggerhead sea turtles and American alligators. Sign up for a guided tour, like "Back Island Birding", "Marsh Kayaking," or "Ocean Seining and Beach Combing," or ask for their recommendations for the best nature-spotting places in the area.
Explore Freshfields Village
Built around a lush lawn, Freshfields Village has plenty of restaurants and shops to explore, plus a boutique stay, the Andell Inn. Pick up a beach read at Indigo Books; snag treats for your four-legged friends at Dolitte's; and gear up for island adventures SeaCoast Sports and Outfitters. Start the morning with coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Java Java; settle in for grilled cheese and a milkshake at retro Vincent's Drugstore & Soda Fountain; or cap off the day with house-made frosé from newly opened The Co-Op. Check their calendar for seasonal events, like summertime's "Music on the Green" concert series and farmer's market.
Venture to Bohicket Marina & Market
Make the short drive to neighboring Seabrook Island for a taste of the area's salty maritime culture. Snag a umbrella-shaded table on the upper deck at Salty Dog Café for fresh catch, a cold beer, and riverfront views of the boats coming and going from the marina.