Kiawah Island is a beautiful treasure located 33 miles outside of Charleston, SC with 10 miles of pristine beaches, thousands of acres of preserved maritime forests, marshes and sand dunes. Not only is this private island a gorgeous paradise perfect for adults wanting to relax and get away, Kiawah Recreation offers an extensive variety of kid and family friendly activities and events to keep the entire family entertained.
Kiawah is consistently awarded “best” titles, most recently being named one of the 2018 World’s Best Islands in the Continental USA by Travel and Leisure Magazine. More importantly, Kiawah offers something for everyone. Families can relax their days away on the tranquil beaches or partake in new activities every day of their stay. Each one of our vacations on this beautiful South Carolina island paradise has been unique.
Here is a summary of some of the best experiences we’ve had on Kiawah Island as well as what I hope are helpful insider tips to make your time there as amazing as ours.
- Freshfields Village– This town center is our first stop as we drive through the roundabout to Kiawah. We usually stop and have lunch at one of the many restaurants to decompress from the long drive and have a team meeting about what we want to do during our stay. (This year Cantina 76 and Fuji Sushi & Grill were faves). It’s so much fun to chat about everyone’s ideas for the week and we always make sure each kid gets to experience something on their wish list. Our next stop is the Harris Teeter where we stock up on supplies (including lots of junk food we allow only while on vacation). We try to stay organic and GMO free all year but my vacation indulgence? Cap’n Crunch! Of course, local shrimp, wine and cheese are always on the list so that we can enjoy it in the evenings from the view we always make sure to have at our rental. Freshfields hosts several events throughout the week including outdoor concerts and movies, workshops and a farmer’s market so we check the schedule and mark the ones we don’t want to miss on our calendars. The Village is a great welcome to your Kiawah Island vacation and a fun place to bike back to during the week. There’s an ice cream shop, a coffee spot and a great bookstore, as well as a drugstore and toy store. We’ve danced on the lawn to the local bands, enjoyed movies on the green and of course, shopped here. We get all of our souvenirs in the Village and pick up things we need from the shops when we invariably forget something. (Ahem, beach chairs, towels, sunscreen, boogie boards) Listen, packing for six ain’t easy!
- Bike Riding– One of our favorite activities on Kiawah is bike riding. The bike paths are extensive and take you through forest, past marsh and even to the beach. We consider this a highlight of our time there. The scenery is just gorgeous. We bike at least 10 miles every day and try to explore the island from end to end. We spray on the sunscreen and bugspray, the kids tighten their helmets and we go out for adventures in the early mornings or late afternoons. Sometimes we plan ahead using the available maps but most of the time we choose a leader for the day and let them choose the paths for us. The best part of our adventures is the wildlife sightings, which include osprey, deer and alligators. My husband spotted an alligator coming out of the water and snapped a photo. Meanwhile, the kids and I were safely 3.6 miles away since to me, alligators coming out of the water is code for BIKE FOR YOUR LIFE! We make sure to bring a camera and always have lots of reasons to pull it out. We love that even in the busiest summer season, the island never feels crowded. We can bike for a long while before spotting other humans so, as always, we take advantage of the “stage’ and belt out showtunes. Yep, people always know we’re coming! Be sure to get your bicycle rentals booked in advance here.
- Night Heron Park Pools- (For Resort Guests Only) Night Heron Park is not only the hub for family friendly activities and events for guests of the island, it is also home to two private pools for resort guests. A Jr. Olympic- sized family pool and a heated children’s pool featuring two awesome open flume slides were huge hits for all in our family. There is a toddler splash zone with baby bouncers and a toddler gator-slide, water cannons and a dumping bucket for even more water fun. But the best part for the adults is being able to sit in a chair in the water and cool down with our favorite beverage. 😉 We learned on our first trip to Kiawah about the awesome beverage cups. “The Cup” is available for sale and the price includes the first drink, plus discounts on all drinks during your stay. SO worth it. Servers attend to your food and beverage needs and it makes a day at the pool effortless when towels are provided, multiple lifeguards are on duty and the kids can have sandwiches and treats brought to them at the first sign of low blood sugar. If you don’t rent a home with a private pool, you will definitely want to be a guest of the Kiawah Golf Resort or look for homes that participate in the resort program to enjoy this private amenity. Remember, ONLY Kiawah Golf Resort guests or guests renting a home with resort access can use the Fitness Club and Night Heron Pools.
- Dolphin Encounter– Dolphins! Need I say more? We try a new activity each year and this past vacation we enjoyed the beauty of the marsh as we took a boat ride through inlets and creeks in search of wildlife and dolphins. This was one of our favorite family friendly activities during our week long stay. We booked an early morning excursion which gave us a great excuse to get up early and take advantage of the cool, crisp air. The kids squealed at the first sign of a dolphin pod and I just might have squealed even louder. There’s something so magical about these creatures and seeing them in their natural setting is awe inspiring. We spotted playful dolphins throughout most of our 2 hour ride and were lucky enough to have one come right up to our boat to say “hey“. The captain regaled us with stories about the history of Kiawah, spotted wildlife for us and gave us a lesson on marsh life. It was a perfect morning. Call Kiawah Recreation at 843.768.6001 for more information and reservations.
- Mingo Point Oyster Roast and BBQ– This traditional Lowcountry event features a riverside oyster roast, an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring Southern BBQ specialties, live entertainment, and a Kid’s Zone. We have so much fun at this event every year enjoying the food, meeting other visitors to the island and dancing along to the band. (We’re usually the family starting the conga line). The Roast is on Mondays and is such a great kick-off to the week. I love chatting up the locals for recommendations for the remainder of our stay on the island. There are spectacular views from the dock leading to the marsh which makes this one of my favorite spots to take family pictures. The kids are accustomed to the 30 minute photo sessions by now and have perfected their smiles and poses. They must love me a lot. This is a popular family event so be sure to call (843.768.6001) or email ahead! PS-“The Cup” works here too. 🙂
- Beaches– What can I say about these pristine, beautiful, long Kiawah beaches? We love lazy days at the uncrowded beaches, tucked under an umbrella and lounging on beach chairs while the kids play in the nearby surf, build sandcastles or wade with boogie boards in hand. Sure, the beaches are fun during the day but our family tradition is heading back to the beach in the evenings and taking long walks by the shore. Nighttime at the beach is a magical time when everything is lit by only the light of the moon. We play glow in the dark frisbee and have lots of laughs as we chase each other down in a game of tag. We always get into a “blended family huddle” by the shoreline and give thanks for the time we’ve spent together. The kids always have sentimental thoughts they share and it’s one of the most memorable moments we have on vacation. We end these huddles with a big shout out of ….lights, camera, FAMILY (’cause we’re dorks). PS- Want to travel light? Rent umbrellas and chairs right on the beach.
Where to Stay on Kiawah Island:
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort– For a true luxury experience, stay at this gorgeous beach-side 4 story hotel that looks and feels more like a mansion. The Sanctuary is the Resort’s AAA 5 Diamond luxury hotel and spa, boasting an impressive AAA Five Diamond rating and 5 championship golf courses. 90% of the 255 rooms have ocean views and guest services .
This beauty is worth a visit even if you don’t stay here- the grand rooms inside, the view from the back, the 5 star luxury spa and the Ocean Room, the hotel’s signature Forbes Four Star/AAA Four-Diamond restaurant are all worth a stop in your itinerary. For more information and reservations, visit kiawahresort.com.