I have known the South Carolina of Pat Conroy’s creation since my twelfth summer, having discovered The Prince of Tides on my parents’ bookshelf. (Admittedly, I was always more compelled by anything that was ‘Now a Major Motion Picture’.) That was the summer I learned what it felt like to mine the depths of a writer’s soul; to understand, deeply, origin, ‘anchorage and port of call’. I had never seen his landscapes with my own eyes but through that story and subsequent others, I could taste the salty marshes, feel the sultry southern air and see the noble mansions that lined his streets. After a week in the bustling Holy City, we cannot more ardently recommend the quick, and frequently breathtaking, sojourn to Kiawah Island. It was the other half of our South Carolina equation — the country mouse to stately city life — the full picture.
In an age where marketing often trumps reality, The Sanctuary instantly makes good on the promise of its name, enveloping you in a warm embrace of polished mahogany, crackling fireplaces and standout service. A pinnacle of southern charm and gentile welcome, we wasted no time easing into the business of unwinding, lulled instantly by the relaxing murmur of the tides just beyond our windows. Even the basic rooms are luxuriously appointed with a sinking tub and fully stocked bar. (It can really burst a girl’s champagne bubble having a bottle of sparkling without a proper flute to go with it, right?)
Rise & Shine
Having logged a deliciously restful night’s sleep, you’ll want to bound out of bed and begin exploring the island. But first, breakfast at Jasmine Porch. Downton Abbey drawing room meets your classiest neighbor’s front stoop, you’ll want to do the civilized thing and read the paper while you take your coffee or tea. Delectable menu options range from healthy to hearty and the service is exceedingly warm and accommodating.
The beauty of the island draws you in, bewitching you with her magic. In fact, this was the site of one of our sister’s heavenly nuptials and we’ll be ever grateful that she introduced us to her secret escape! Hop on one of The Sanctuary’s bikes and begin exploring. Just 10-miles wide and home to exotic species like blue herons and the mythic loggerhead turtle, the lowland nature conservancy is utterly enchanting. Ride past dreamlike wooded clearings and some of the most beautiful houses you’ve ever seen in real life. Bonus: you get to experience the magic of literally biking on the hard-packed sand beach.
Spas and cliches tend to go hand-in-hand: rejuvenate, recharge, renew. But stepping into The Sanctuary Spa really makes you feel like you’re leaving it all behind for a bit. The welcome is gracious and peaceful and the facilities luxe and comfortable (no cattle call-style shrugging into a robe while you try to stuff your belongings into a mini locker). Sip cucumber-lemon infused water or local teas while you relax in the Solarium, the live oaks softly swaying in the windows. The mineral whirlpool, steam room and sauna complement the indigenous-inspired treatments and offerings like The Lowcountry Escape or Head-to-Toe Sanctuary will have you believing in the healing power of southern hospitality.
Gifts + Mementos
Freshfields Village is a charming, one-stop hub for island-inspired shopping and you could easily spend half a day perusing fine boutiques with a uniquely Kiawah flair. Stock up on colorful prints and leisurewear at Roberta Roller Rabbit and Lilly Pulitzer or cleancut men’s threads at Southern Tide. Appoint your dream home at the elegant Aubergine Home Collection or peruse the stunning seaside outpost of Charleston-based decor haven GDC Home. Independently owned Indigo Books showcases a unique selection of Southern authors as well as a perfect Crane & Co. stationery collection (a Gather fave). Pick up some essentials at Kiawah Wines and The Village Market by Harris Teeter, one of the cutest grocery stores we ever did see. And don’t forget to save room in that carry-on for The Sanctuary finds; the resort has its own impeccable selection of Carolina brands and boutiques full of perfect gifts.
Out & About
Golf, tennis, running and walking trails, surfing, fishing, kayaking, croquet, paddleboarding, beach yoga – Kiawah Island is adult summer camp (if summer camp offered delicious cuisine, fluffy cloud beds and a world-class spa). After a day of whatever brand of recreation fits your fancy, may we suggest you retire to the stately lobby for Old Fashioneds and Fitzgeralds?