I can’t plan a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, without adding a day to explore beautiful Edisto Island. And if you love golf, you can easily spend an entire vacation on Kiawah Island, home to five championship golf courses and a luxury resort appropriately named The Sanctuary.
Edisto Island is less than an hour from Charleston down Highway 174, a National Scenic Byway. Giant live oaks coated in silvery Spanish moss line the road. From the early 1700s to mid-1800s, Edisto Island was characterized by large plantations where slaves grew and harvested rice in the wetlands. The rice culture declined after the Civil War, and many of the plantations were purchased by wealthy sportsmen for use as hunting retreats. Undeveloped and unpolluted, the habitat remains diverse and filled with wildlife.
I like to continue down the highway to the Edisto Bookstore for maps and Lowcountry books. Say hi to Emily Grace (exquisite feline) and give her a kiss from me. This is the kind of bookstore I could lose myself in for a few days. Continuing on, the highway ends at the ocean; turn right and meander across endless beaches littered with seashells. Rent bikes or kayaks at Island Bikes, across from the SeaCow Eatery and their must-have pies (OK, have the local shrimp, crab cakes, or flounder and smoked sausage first). Thus fueled, hike or bike the beautifully marked and maintained trails in the 1,200-acre Edisto Beach State Park. You can overnight in one of the two campgrounds or seven furnished cabins. In the 4,600-acre Botany Bay Plantation, you’ll find the remnants of two grand houses, Seabrook and Bleak Hall. A perfectly preserved 1840s ice house boasts interior walls made of “tabby”—lime, sand, water, and oyster shells. Botany Bay Beach, reached only on foot or by bike, is littered with blackened skeletal remains of live oaks uprooted during hurricanes. On the jungle side of the state park, a trail leads to a pile of bones and shells—Indian Mound, left by Edistow Indians over 4,000 years ago. You can also book a hunting or inshore or offshore fishing excursion with Single Shot Guide Services. More luxurious accommodations are available at the Wyndham Ocean Ridge.
Kiawah Island is just 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, and its resort offers golf and luxury on a grand scale. You can stay at The Sanctuary Hotel, the resort’s 255-room luxury retreat, one of 500 resort villas, or a private home rental. The Sanctuary is the epicenter of the resort, with a spa, prime steakhouse and sushi lounge, Lowcountry cuisine restaurant, and tropical oceanfront café.
Choose from five championship courses, or play them all! The Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, which has hosted the PGA Championship and other tournaments, has a reputation for turning single-digit handicaps into double-digits with progressively more demanding holes and variable ocean winds. Scenic marsh views on the front nine open up to expansive ocean views with rolling dunes on the back nine, so plan on 18 holes for the full experience. The other courses are Osprey Point designed by Tom Fazio, Turtle Point by Jack Nicklaus, Cougar Point by Gary Player, and Oak Point by Clyde Johnston. Kiawah is one of the world’s top-rated tennis resorts, too. The resort’s two tennis complexes feature 19 Har-Tru courts and five hard courts. Adult and junior programs, camps, and private instruction are available.
You can learn more about local wildlife at the resort’s Nature Center or through walking tours or kayaking or paddle boarding tours that will help you identify indigenous flora and fauna. Supervised kids' and teens' programs, archery, surf, or art lessons, and much more are offered, and if differing interests cause you to split up, the complimentary resort shuttle will transport everyone to their desired destinations. Add a trip to Edisto or Kiawah next time you fly to Charleston Executive Airport!
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