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Travel Guide: A Weekend on Kiawah Island

Charlotte Magazine

October 4, 2021

Kiawah Island is one of several resort spots along the South Carolina coast where people go to play golf—including the best professional players in the world, who competed in the 2021 PGA Championship in May. Kiawah is so attractive to course developers, resort owners, and golfers because of amenities that nature provides free of charge: 10 miles of white sand beaches, live oaks, and marshes filled with ospreys, egrets, and alligators. It’s a 45-minute drive down the coast from Charleston’s boutiques and restaurants and less than four hours from Charlotte. Golf is the center of Kiawah’s life and economy, but you don’t have to be a scratch player to enjoy yourself here.

STAY: The Sanctuary Hotel and Spa at Kiawah, a luxury oceanfront hotel with 255 rooms, is the centerpiece of the Kiawah Island Resort, which also has 500 villas and rental homes that can accommodate up to 20 people. You can book a spa appointment and grab a round of drinks or a casual lunch at The Ryder Cup Bar and enjoy sweeping views of The Ocean Course and the Atlantic Ocean.

Grand Lawn Of The Sanctuary Photographer: Michael Cyra
The Sanctuary Hotel and Spa has guest rooms and rental homes that can accommodate up to 20 guests. Photographer: Michael Cyra

EAT: The KISS Café in Johns Island, 20 minutes north, serves what locals say is the best breakfast around. Bohicket Marina & Market, just outside the gates of Seabrook Island, is a great spot to grab a cold drink or an ice cream cone after a long day at the beach. Stop by Fischer’s Sports Pub & Grill, a laid-back restaurant with live music, happy hour specials, and crab-leg night every Tuesday. For a date night or special occasion, dine at FortyEight – Wine Bar & Kitchen in Freshfields Village, where you can nibble from a charcuterie board, feast on shrimp scampi or filet mignon, and choose from 48 wines by the glass. You can sample as many varieties as you want with a prepaid card that lets you choose between three tasting sizes at the self-serve wine stations. (They have 48 beers to choose from daily, too.) Save room for some local handcrafted chocolates for dessert.

The KISS Café on Johns Island serves the On the Go Burrito (above) and a Belgian Waffle topped with fried chicken (below). Courtesy KISS Café/ Donna Pilar.

Waffles And ChicKiss Cafe

PLAY: Bring your bike (or rent one at Surfscooter Bikes) and pedal around the oceanfront with the sand beneath your tires, or explore more than 30 miles of paved trails. Stop at Freshfields Village for a cream soda at Vincent’s Drug Store & Soda Fountain, then peruse the shelves for board games, sunglasses, greeting cards, and souvenirs. The outdoor shopping village has mainstays like Lilly Pulitzer and lululemon, plus a mix of local upscale boutiques. Check the event calendar for Music on the Green at the center of the village and pack a towel or beach chair to enjoy an evening of live music. For a quick afternoon adventure, the famed 400-year-old Angel Oak Tree is a 20-minute drive from the resort.

The Ocean Course, where Phil Mickelson won the 2021 PGA Championship in May, has 10 seaside holes, more than any other course in the country. The Sanctuary recently capitalized further on the setting when it opened The Cottages at The Ocean Course, four two-story, four-bedroom cottages next to the clubhouse that overlook the driving range and the Atlantic beyond.

The Ocean Course 16
A view of the 16th hole at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Photographer: Uzzell Lambert