by STEVE WINSTON
The first thing we felt, after arriving at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, was that we had our own “private” island. When you drive up to it, the cares and frantic pace of the outside world seem to slip off your shoulders.
For some years, in fact, it pretty much was a private island. The first inhabitants were the Kiawah tribe, who lived here in the 1600’s. Later on came wealthy planters. The island was owned by the same family from 1802 to 1951. And these early residents must have been on to something.
Situated in a beautiful slice of the South Carolina Low Country, Kiawah Island Golf Resort exudes a distinct Old South charm…and the unhurried pace of a gentler time. But there’s nothing un-hurried about the pace with which it picks up awards. It’s an AAA Five-Diamond Award winner, a “Forbes” Five-Star Award winner, and it was named by “Conde Nast Traveler” as both the No. 1 island and the No. 1 resort in America.
The main building is The Sanctuary, constructed in the style of an old plantation home. There are 255 guestrooms here…and almost every one of them faces the ocean. We stayed there…but you don’t have to. There are also 450 villas (1-4 bedrooms) and 90 luxurious private homes, ranging up to eight bedrooms. And everywhere we strolled, there were beautiful outdoor terraces and lawns.
Dining? Well, even the pickiest eater can find something here – because there are 10 restaurants, ranging from Italian (Tomasso) to Low Country seafood (Jasmine Porch), and from signature steaks (The Ocean Room) to great ice cream (the wonderfully-named Beaches and Cream). And, yes, we pretty much tried them all.
Here, you can seclude yourself in the lap of luxury, at the Sanctuary Spa. Unless you’d rather be out on one of the five championship golf courses, designed by luminaries such as Ton Fazio, Pete Dye, and Jack Nicklaus. “Golf World” called this the top golf resort in America. And the legendary Ocean Course will host the PGA Championship next year.
If you prefer to hit a ball over a net rather than down a fairway, though, Kiawah Island was named the No. 1 tennis resort in the world by tennisresortsonline.com, and No. 2 in America by “Tennis” magazine. What does that mean for you? Not just one tennis complex, but two, each with its own pro shop. And, between the Roy Barth Tennis Center and the West Beach Tennis Club, 28 courts.
Bonnie Collins, a meetings manager at a large corporation, chooses Kiawah Island for her company’s events, because of the golf and the accommodations.
“The golf at Kiawah Island is acknowledged to be excellent,” she says. “The courses take advantage of the island’s natural beauty. And each of them has its own special flavor and its own special challenges. And the accommodations – and the choice of accommodations – are excellent, as well. I usually know within fifteen minutes of walking into a property whether or not it will work for us. But it didn’t even take me that long with Kiawah. I knew as soon as I walked in that this was the place for us.”
Kiawah Island’s Old South ambience and its laid-back lifestyle can be addicting; many of the island’s current homeowners first came here on vacation, and fell in love with the place.
We walked every day on the ten miles of wide beach, and it often seemed like no one else was around. The island is dissected by a river, and fringed with hidden lagoons and coves perfect for a sunset picnic. As the sun goes down, it dapples the surrounding marshlands with a hundred reflecting colors. And because there are no city lights here, you’ll be amazed at what you can see in the sky after the sun goes down.
Even with all this, you’re only 20 miles from the red-brick sidewalks and colonial homes of Charleston. But – like us – once you get here, you may not want to leave!