Thirty years at Kiawah

FullSizeRender-5 2I tried writing from vacation on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, but to be honest I was just too “checked out” to focus on blogging. Usually our family beach week is too short for much of anything but a few stray Instagram posts; this year Steve & I spent a second, full week after the rest of the family headed home. It was frankly a self-indulgent, post-pandemic reward and we loved it.

We sometimes forget how long we’ve been coming to South Carolina. My son pointed out that we first came when he was twelve. Now he’s forty-two. (I have no idea how thast happened!) I guess thst makes it a serious tradition. We’ve missed a few years and occasionaly have come just the two of us. This year my daughter had a big work project so she had to pass. However, my son and daughter-in-law and our two grandsons were here with us the first week.

A lot of families find a home-away-from-home escape. Here in Chicagolond it’s often a beach in Michigan or a cottage in Wisconsin. We just happened to find Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Sometimes we came after family reunions in Atlanta or before visiting Grandma in Washington, D.C. We have stopped in Asheville and the Smokies, but this is always the destination. Are we boring? In a rut?

We liked the beach, which is long and broad and seems only vaguely crowded at high tide. There are no boom boxes or jet skis.


There’s a lot of beach chill’in.


And, some years, some very sandy play.


I took my camera along one morning on a walk to get coffee and a bagel.  Beyond the beach the the island is densely wooded with palms, palmettos and live oaks.



Kiawah Island was originally cleared and turned into a rice plantation. Eventually, however, the plantation was largely abandoned and the pines and live oaks took over. It was a fertile hunting ground until it was again privately acquired and strict environmental covenants were put in place to preserve the area.

The island is peppered with lagoons like this one. They’re pretty and they also support a lot of the wildlife. The sign in the lower left warms visitors not to feed alligators. (We saw at least one that lived here.)


This deer greeted us on a walk back from the beach.


Our son and daughter both have a healthy respecrt for nature, and I’m sure it comes at least in part from their time spent here. In addition to the obvious birds, deer and alligators, we’ve come across sea turtles on their early morning trek to the ocean. Naturalist-led trips in kayaks and canoes have opened their eyes to the plant and animal life and its threats.

Despite its reputation as a golf destination (the PGA tournament was just held on its Ocean Course), this is very much a family destination. Most accommodations are in cottages, villas or private homes. The only hotel, The Sanctuary, faces onto the Atlantic. Its generous stretch of ocean-side lawn is a sundown magnet for spontaneous soccer games, bubbles and adult conversation. This is especially true on Saturday nights when there is also live music. You can’t see it in this photo, but off to the right several couples took advantage of the live music for a little dancing. And off to the left, at the far edge of the lawn, soccer and frisbee shared the green space.


We often stop at the Sanctuary bar, for the people-watching as well as a drink. (And the charcuterie is pretty good, too!)


Here’s a view of the same bar early in the day. I just love the “clubby” feel of leather and dark wood combined with the  pond yachts and sweetgrass baskets on the wall. (Remember my sweetgrass affliction here?)


This broader shot of the adjacent lobby/lounge shows off more small seating areas to accomodate conversation, reading, and the occasional card game. It’s just very gracious. The ocean is right outside those beautiful windows, but there are no cheesy nets, buoys, or mounted fish to be found.


One of the things I first fell in love with here all those years ago was that everyone pretty much traveled by bicycle. This was at the height of my car-pooling summers when I spent entire mornings, it seemed, dropping off and picking up kids at camps and lessons. The first week we spent here I never got back in the car after we arrived! (Full disclosure: my husband left once or twice for groceries.) We still laugh about the post-dinner rides we took for ice cream, riding back along dark bike paths.


It’s reassuring that after 30 years, the bicycling tradition continues, and the beach remains pristine. There are more houses now and a very welcome grocery store, along with a few non-chain restaurants and boutiques, just off the island. But the essential character is unchanged.  I think that may be one of the things that keeps us coming back.

So, that’s where I spent the last few weeks. Now we’re home, weeding the garden, resuscitating plants that took a hit in  the heat wave here, and wondering what to do with a dozen cucumbers and almost as many green peppers harvested from my husband’s vegetable patch.

Have a great week! See you next time.

4 thoughts on “Thirty years at Kiawah

  1. Looks and sounds like an idyllic vacation, just the right antidote for these pandemic times…now if only SC’s political landscape was as appealing.


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