“Kiawah should have been a poem,” someone wrote years ago, and how true those words are. Our first trip to Kiawah, May 1980, came about because of a friend’s recommendation. “What a funny name,” I said. He explained, “It’s named for the Indian tribe that lived there during the 1600s. In 1699, a so-called pirate named George Raynor was granted the land and after that, the island was handed down through two different families for the next 250 years. It was purchased again in 1951 then, sold to a real estate developer. You won’t believe how beautiful it is,” he promised.
The nine-hour road trip from Lexington, Kentucky took us through Tennessee, the Smokey Mountains and finally to a narrow lane off of Highway 26. The moment we drove down this tree-lined road leading us to Kiawah’s entrance we were captivated and enthralled by the ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Our first evening walk on the ten-mile beach at sundown was like entering a fairytale; soft dunes with sea grass blowing, tropical greenery with splashes of flowers and a trillion stars. On the way back to our rental house I said, “This place is magical.” My husband agreed and we’ve continued to own condos and vacation there ever since. We’ve also watched it grow and change over the 30 years.
In the ‘80’s there were many virgin areas that could be explored with rental jeeps and when lucky you could watch wild horses running in the sun. We collected vacated conch, whelk, oyster, and helmet shells and varying-sized sand dollars that were plentiful then and we were there times when endangered sea turtles hatched and made their way to the ocean.
Carolina Lowcountry food, with its mustard-based barbeque sauce, remains a specialty of many restaurants today, but our once favorite, “Rast’s”, which was a short drive off the island, closed in the early ‘90’s when the family lost their fortune trying to grow tomatoes. Lots of eating establishments have come and gone over the years, but a steady number continue to locate on and nearby with a variety of food choices. For those who like to cook in, there are fresh seafood markets, seasonal vegetable stands, as well as a specialty grocery at Freshfields Village, which also has restaurants and shops located near the entrance of the island.
For those who like to explore, the charming, historic town of Charleston is just 21 miles away. Bohicket Marina, with specialty shops, restaurants and boat rentals is less than five minutes off the island. Seabrook Island, also a short distance from Kiawah, has rental homes and shops. There are other tourist attractions in and around the area.
However, it’s difficult to leave this paradise. It’s a family friendly, safe heaven. Today, there are five world-renowned golf courses – Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye. You can ride bikes, swim, and canoe on marsh-lined creeks, play tennis and let your children enjoy Kiawah’s numerous special programs.
July 12, 2013