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Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide


Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com


Just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, is a long, winding two lane road flanked by centuries-old live oaks. While the drive down State Road S-10-20 (Bohicket Road and then Betsy Kerrison Parkway) is destination enough, the golf and resort community at the end of it will make the trip even sweeter.

The road ends in a roundabout. Take the first road to your right, and you'll go to Seabrook Island. The second road leads to Freshfields Village, a shopping and dining area that services the area. We're headed to Kiawah, so we're going to take the last exit off of the roundabout, skirting Freshfields Village, and continuing on Kiawah Island Parkway further into the marsh.

If you're headed to Kiawah Island as a part of your visit to Charleston, you won't be disappointed. Here's everything you need to know about vacationing on Kiawah!




Where to Stay

When choosing a spot to stay in Kiawah, you'll want to decide if you'd rather have the amenities of a hotel or the comforts of home.

If you go the hotel route inside the gates, Kiawah has exactly one option: The Sanctuary. This gorgeous hotel is within the first gate of the resort and has a highly rated spa, two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, a small shopping area, and an onsite restaurant. I've never stayed there, but I have walked through it multiple times to browse in the shops and smell the very nice (very expensive) air.

There's one additional option if you expand your hotel search to outside of the gates: Andell Inn. It's located inside Freshfields Village, just a short bike ride from the beach. It has its own amenities, so if you want to play golf or tennis at Kiawah, you'll have to book that separately.

If you go the homestay route, you've got plenty of options: you can rent a villa or apartment through Kiawah Resort, or you can rent from a third party. Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO), Homeaway, and the local real estate companies all offer rental properties within the resort gates.

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com
The living area of the house we rented on a recent trip to Kiawah
My family has been to Kiawah multiple times, and we've always gone through a third party for our rentals. When you go this route, make sure to clarify if you'll have access to the neighborhood's pool(s) and amenities: some rentals include this, bike rental vouchers, and/or beach chairs, but it varies by property.

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com
Our rental house in 2012--just inside the first gate

Also note: there are actually two gates within the Kiawah Resort. The first one is the one that most people go through: you'll only need to go through this gate if you're staying at the Sanctuary. The second gate marks a more exclusive area of the resort with the gigantic celebrity homes. While you can't drive through either of the gates if you're not staying there, you can freely bicycle anywhere in the resort, no matter where your home away from home is located.


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What to Do

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com
The Ocean Course

Since Kiawah is a golf resort (and was the location of the 2012 PGA Championship), there are obviously plenty of golf courses to keep you busy during your stay (five, to be exact). It's also a great place to stay if you're into tennis, and it offers two different tennis complexes, private coaching, and group lessons.

However, if you're completely uncoordinated like me and people tend to laugh and point whenever you do anything more rigorous than walk in a straight line, you're probably thinking, "Why in the world would I vacation here? I'll be that pasty weird person in a line-up of fit, tanned people in plaid and polo shirts."

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com

I'm happy to tell you that there's much more to Kiawah than just golfing and tennis. There are multiple pools for the different subsections of the property, Heron Park Wildlife Center (where you can get up close and personal with native snake species--yuck), a Junior Naturalist Program, summer movies under the stars, fishing tours, kayaking tours, and 30 miles of bike paths.

Some of my favorite times on Kiawah have been meandering on the bike paths, gawking at the houses that cost more than I'll make in my life combined.

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com

To be a resort, there's a surprising amount of wildlife, so have your camera and the ready when you see a gorgeous heron or intimidating gator!

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com

And if all of that still seems like too much, there's 10 miles of beach on which to relax and read. (I'll let you guess my favorite things to do on Kiawah!)

Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com


Where to Eat

Within the gates of Kiawah resort, you've got many, many options on where to dine. The resort has everything from an ice cream shop (Beaches and Cream in the Sanctuary) to make-your-own pizza (The Market at Town Center) to a formal seafood restaurant (The Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course Clubhouse).

Just outside the gates at Freshfields Village, you've got even more options: a cute sandwich shop at the gas station (seriously! There are freshly made paninis and wraps each day at lunch), a local coffee shop, and a hot lunch counter at the Harris Teeter. There's even a Starbucks inside the Harris Teeter if you can't find what you need at the local coffee place.

How to Get There

Head south out of Charleston on Highway 17. Approximately 3 miles past the 526-17 intersection, you'll see a stoplight at Main Road and Highway 17. Turn left onto Main Road. Main Road will cross over 700 and will become Bohicket Road. Continue on this route (State Road S-10-20): it will turn into Betsy Kerrison Parkway. When you reach the roundabout, take the third exit onto Kiawah Island Parkway. Stop at the first gate to get your pass and map.

Know before You Go:

  • Freshfields Village has a grocery store and lots of shopping if you want to find a souvenir.
  • If you're renting a house, and you've forgotten a gallon of milk or some bread, don't go to the convenience stores within the resort. You will pay (no joke) at least twice what the price is at the Harris Teeter grocery store in Freshfields Village, so drive the extra five minutes outside of the resort for your sundries. 
  • There are also several places within the resort that sell Kiawah Resort-branded shirts, polos, tees, and hats. Check the Sanctuary, the golf clubhouses, and the nature center, and the small convenience stores around the resort. 
  • If you're just visiting Kiawah for the day, you can rent bikes in Freshfields Village and tour the resort on your own. It doesn't matter if you're staying at the resort--if you're on a bike, you can skip stopping at both gates! 
  • There's a county-run beach just outside the first gate. If you want to see the unspoiled beaches of Kiawah without renting a house or staying at the Sanctuary, this is a great way to spend the day. 

If you're looking for more awesome vacation and spring break spots along the Southern Atlantic coast, check out my 20 favorite islands in the area (spoiler alert: Kiawah Island is one of them)!

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Have you been to Kiawah Island? If so, what did you do or see?

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Vacationing on Kiawah Island, South Carolina: A Complete Guide | CosmosMariners.com

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to book through one of the above links, I will receive a small commission at no charge to you. Other than that, I received no compensation for this post. I just love Kiawah!