An endless pink sky. Miles of dunes, some painted golf-course-green. A columned oceanfront mansion. Jumbo blue crab. A 90-minute, citrus head-to-toe, hot oil massage. Life is lovely at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island.
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a U-shaped, stately, Southern manor situated smack on an uninterrupted, 10-mile stretch of sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean, is the only hotel on this 10,000-acre island. While it feels remote, it’s only a 45-minute drive from historic Charleston, South Carolina.
The Sanctuary is a world class, Forbes Five-Star resort, surrounded by five prestigious green golf courses (90 holes), 22 tennis courts, (named No.1 Tennis Resort in the World) and three salt-water swimming pools. The Sanctuary Spa, ages 18 and older, is a complete full-service, garden-themed, destination spa. And, the 255 gracious rooms are spacious (the smallest is 500 square feet), all have balconies, of which 90 percent relish ocean views. In addition to the hotel, many among the 800 villas, luxury homes and oceanfront mansions are hidden among the trees; boardwalks link them to the wide-flat beach so hard-packed kids can ride ordinary bikes on the sand.
Kiawah Island remained remarkably rural, natural and pristine — with vast salt marshes, lush maritime forests, brackish water ponds and picturesque dunes. Visiting is a chance for your children to explore where Kiawah Indians lived in the 17th century and possibly see snakes, turtles and alligators among the birds and wildlife at the 21-acre Heron Park Nature Center. There’s no guilt involved for adult time when there’s an extensive Nature Program and three seasonal, counselor-supervised camps for ages 3–15: Kamp Kiawah and Adventure Camp and Camp Xtreme. Half, full or nighttime activities may include kayaking, cast netting, motorboat trips, paddle boarding, surfing, volleyball and archery.
Kiawah chefs serve mostly local and organic ingredients and will accommodate requests for even the most fussy eater; still, local Gullah specialties are featured on most Southern, especially Lowcountry, menus. (I watched Sous Chef Sean Michel tending to a whole pig, roasting on an outdoor spit and being prepared for a private group!) My daughter and I ate poolside, on a terrace at Jasmine’s Porch and took the shuttle for dinner at the Ryder Club Bar at the Ocean Course Clubhouse, where we sat on the porch overlooking the ocean and shared crispy shrimp.
Although Charleston, South Carolina, is easily reached for a daytrip (or a rainy-day one), there’s something to be said for lounging under an umbrella on a cushioned chaise lounge while the kids are at camp.