When February rolls around, I begin fantasizing about the beach; the sound of rolling waves washing across the sand, the seagulls belting out their never-ending harmonies and the feeling of sand squishing between my toes. I want a beach weekend and I want to be pampered and feel like a Queen (or King). South Carolina’s the best beaches are those in the Charleston area and no one does luxury and pampering like The Sanctuary at Kiawah.
Located thirty minutes south of Charleston, this consistently top-ranked, five-star hotel is where southern charm is at its best. From the moment you arrive, you feel like royalty. The guard at the gate will ensure you have a reservation or are a resident, before you are even allowed on the 10,000-acre island. As you wind around the roads dotted with golf courses and bike trails, you’ll see live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. These sights continue even after turning off the main road towards The Sanctuary, until the grand seaside mansion looms in front of you.
After the valet helps you with your baggage and parks the car, check-in is a breeze. The bell-man will show you to your room, which is lavishly decorated and spacious with a West Indies feel. Robes and slippers are provided for your comfort and Elemis bath products are furnished. There are deep soaking tubs in each room and all of the furniture is custom made. Then it’s time to relax.
Or not. With five championship golf courses, two world-class tennis clubs, 30 miles of biking trails, 3 pools, a multitude of recreational activities and a five-star spa there’s plenty to do on the island. Oh, and that’s not including the beach, which according to Dr. Stephen Leatherman aka The Travel Channel’s “Beachologist”, is one of the Top 10 beaches in America.
But, I first visit The Spa at The Sanctuary. It’s one of only 21 Forbes five-star spas in North America and is adept at pampering. Treatments combine low country and natural
elements with services such as a Mint Julep Facial and a Lowcountry Verbena Body Polish. One could spend hours; days even, in one of their twelve treatment rooms, the Riverbath Whirlpool, sauna or the steam room.
According to Golf Digest, “Kiawah Island has the best golf in the state,” so if golfing is on the agenda, the Pete Dye designed Ocean Course is a must. The 7,296-yard, par-72 course has been home to many championship games including the 2012 PGA Championship where Rory McIlroy ran away with 8-shot PGA victory. The course features ribbons of pristine sand dunes that stretch nearly three miles along the Atlantic Ocean and is reminiscent of great seaside links of England and Scotland.
But, no queen or king can go long without shopping and right before the main gate is Freshfields Village, an outdoor shopping and dining area that’s worth perusing. Local boutiques, an indie book store and galleries featuring local artists are some of the shops here. And except for a small smattering of restaurant’s and boutiques within Kiawah’s gates, the emphasis on the island is really on outdoor activities.
The best way to see the island is to rent a bicycle. The Sanctuary has a bike pavilion and after securing a bike, a helmet and a
map, it’s time to hit the trails. All of the bike paths are paved and mostly level so even inexperienced riders can keep up. There are lookout points to visit, such as the Marsh View Tower with amazing views looking out over the marshlands, and a stop at the Straw Market, a small collection of shops and restaurants will provide a nice rest break.
Kiawah is protective of its nature and natural resources and you’ll notice all homes and buildings are built to blend in to Kiawah’s diverse ecosystem. Family Life states that “Most resorts now have nature walks, but Kiawah probably leads the field with its loggerhead crawls, birding by bike, evenings of ‘songs and snakes’ and lectures on local ecosystems.” The beach is a nesting ground for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle and the 10 mile-long beach has protected sand dunes. Deer, alligators and a variety of birds can be seen frolicking in the marsh lands and even on the golf courses. Butterflies are also in abundance with the national monarch waypoint garden area onsite at The Sanctuary.
Fine dining goes hand-in-hand with feeling royal and you don’t need to leave the island for outstanding meals. Free shuttles are available from The Sanctuary so you don’t even need to drive. At The Sanctuary, Jasmine Porch showcases low-country
food with a twist and has a jazz brunch on Sundays. It also offers outdoor dining overlooking the pool and the ocean. The Ocean Room is a five-star restaurant offering local, grass-fed beef and a seasonal menu based on availability of fresh produce.
The Cherrywood BBQ and Ale House at the Osprey Golf Course is a great place to watch a game or sit outside overlooking the golf course. Their signature BBQ sauce made with coffee and pale ale is amazing as is their pulled pork nachos.
So no matter how you like to relax and be pampered-an afternoon on the beach, golfing or getting a spa treatment, The Sanctuary at Kiawah knows how to make your time away both luxurious and pampered so you will feel like royalty, if only for a short while.
Photos courtesy of Kiawah Island Golf Resort