Kiawah Island Golf Resort is one of the South’s pre-eminent resorts, located 21 miles south of Charleston along the South Carolina coast. It’s accessible via Charleston International Airport as well as the private airport on nearby Johns Island.
The 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline make it a popular getaway for travelers. There are over 10,000 protected acres, which are home to many species of birds as well as loggerhead turtles and alligators.
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The History of Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island was named for a local tribe of Native Americans. English colonists settled nearby in 1670 and in 1699, the island was purchased by Captain George Raynor.
It was sold and passed down through family members and around 1770, the Vanderhorst family lived in a mansion on the island. It remained in the family until it was sold to a logging company in 1950.
The first summer home was built on Kiawah shortly after, beginning the island’s development. In the 1970s, a plan was established with the Sea Pines Company, who developed Hilton Head and Amelia Island, to build the first golf course. In 1974, the resort and surrounding residences were created.
Accommodations at Kiawah Island
While a large part of Kiawah Island is residential, there are also places for vacationers to stay.
Southern Stays: The Sanctuary at Kiawah
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort opened in 2004 and has gone on to win a AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five Star awards. It boasts 255 guest rooms, most of which are oceanfront. There are also 10 executive suites along with three luxury suites, named the Charleston, Governor’s and Presidential suites.
All have king and queen beds along with Nespresso coffee makers, marble showers, soaking tubs, balconies, free WiFi, streaming-enabled flat-screen televisions, and luxurious robes. Rates start at $270 per night, depending on the room type and time of year.
Guests enjoy access to three saltwater pools, including adult-only ones. The concierge can also arrange a free shuttle to other parts of the resort. There’s also shops and a spa with 12 garden-themed rooms offering treatments, sauna, steam, and whirlpool services.
A new hotel and cottages are also scheduled to open in the next few years.
Villas and Condos at Kiawah Island
There are also 500 villas and private luxury homes, in varying sizes and styles. They’re great for families or groups looking for more space. Guests have access to some of the resort amenities as well.
They can be booked through companies like Pam Harrington Exclusives, ESPM Vacation Rentals, Kiawah Island Getaways, and Akers Ellis Rentals. You can also book on Booking.com with properties like Night Heron Cottage and Eugenia By The Sea. However, booking through third parties doesn’t provide the same resort amenities.
Andell Inn is another option, located outside the resort gates at Freshfield Village. This shopping area has a grocery store and shops selling beach essentials.
Eating and Drinking at Kiawah Island
There are plentiful dining options for all diets in every corner of the island. Some, however, are only accessible to Sanctuary guests. Others require advance reservations. All use sustainable seafood and ingredients from local farms.
The Ocean Room is the most notable restaurant, earning countless awards for its steaks and seafood. It’s the only eatery in Kiawah Island Golf Resort that has a strict resort casual dress code.
Jasmine Porch, also at The Sanctuary, is open all day for Southern-style dishes like the popular shrimp and grits. Loggerhead Bar and Grill is at the Sanctuary’s pool, with Latin-inspired dishes like fish tacos. Beaches and Cream is the essential ice cream shop with paninis, coffee, and snacks.
Town Center Market has quick to-go foods like sandwiches as well as souvenirs. Night Heron Grill and West Beach Cantina have casual Caribbean dishes.
At Osprey Point, Cherrywood BBQ and Ale House has craft beer with authentic barbecue. Turtle Point has the Italian fare at Tomasso and Turtle Point Bar and Grille.
At Cougar Point, you can get pub favorites like burgers at the appropriately named Players Pub. The iconic Ocean Course Clubhouse is home to the Ryder Cup Bar and the Atlantic Room.
Things to Do on Kiawah Island
Golfing at Kiawah Island
The first course, Harleston Green, and the first club, the South Carolina Golf Club, in America were established in Charleston in 1786. So it makes sense that Kiawah Island would be an important presence in the sport. It’s set to host the 2021 PGA tournament.
The island boasts seven courses in all, including public and private ones, and has been awarded by Golf Digest and countless other publications.
Five were designed by Pete Dye, including The Ocean Course, which was home to the Ryder Cup and countless others. It was also a filming location for Outer Banks and The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Osprey Point was designed by Tom Fazio while Turtle Point was created by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Clyde Johnston designed Cougar Point and Oak Point, respectively. Tee times can be booked through the resort.
Other Activities on Kiawah Island
There’s plenty to do if you’re not into golf. The Roy Barth Tennis Center boasts 19 clay courts and three hard courts with clinics and camps for all expertise levels. There are also kayaking tours, bike rentals, a fitness center, and, of course, the beach.
Kiawah Island for Kids
Young visitors will be sure to want to visit Night Heron Park. The 21-acre facility has bike rentals, three swimming areas, a game room, kids camps, and a nature center with a butterfly garden and naturalists.
A Note on Safety and Responsibility
Due to its coastal location, Kiawah Island Golf Resort takes sustainably very seriously. They have a focus on environmental stewardship through recycling, education on the environment, eradication of invasive plants, and re-planting of live oaks. Be sure to recycle anything you can during your stay.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is constantly changing. Some restaurants are closed or only open for to-go. Others have distanced tables or outside dining.
Elevators are for individual parties and all guests and employees must wear masks unless they are eating or drinking. Hand sanitizer is offered throughout. Follow the Modified Resort Services page for the latest information.
Have you stayed at The Sanctuary or Kiawah Island Golf Resort?