Destination USA: Kiawah Island

Visiting Kiawah Island Off-Season

February may not seem like the most logical time to visit one of South Carolina’s barrier islands, but it turned out to be perfect timing. Located about 15 miles south of Charleston, Kiawah Island is a bustling beach and golf resort area most of the year, but off-season it’s a perfect getaway. The beach is peaceful and uncrowded. Winter storms toss a variety of shells and creatures up onto the shore. Horseshoe crabs dig-in to molt, leaving their spiny shells behind. Long walks and bike rides are highlights of the day. The sand is packed hard enough to make Kiawah Island perfect for beach cycling.

Away from the shore, the island is crisscrossed with bike paths. Wildlife abounds on the island: dolphins and Loggerhead turtles; alligators; hawks and osprey, herons and egrets; deer, and even a few secretive bobcats. We loved just walking and trying to spot as many creatures as possible.

Day-trip to Charleston

From Kiawah Island, Charleston is a short drive away. We took a day-trip to explore the charms of that historic city.  From the Battery, one can view Fort Sumter in the distance, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  Walking through town one can get a glimpse of the way life once was in this important Atlantic seaport.  A large Straw Market, named for the many vendors selling woven baskets, draws tourists seeking a unique, handmade souvenir. Elegant columned homes with iron gates are reminiscent of other old southern cities like New Orleans. We especially liked looking for unique door-knockers.

Kiawah Island Eats

Kiawah’s area restaurants specialize in seafood, and we ate lots of fish, shrimp, crab soup along with locally grown vegetables and Southern fare like grits and fried green tomatoes. Our favorite meal was at the Fat Hen, between Kiawah Island and Charleston. They specialize in using locally-sourced ingredients, and take pride in their relationship with local farmers. Favorite dish: Mussels Provencal. See our full Yelp review for more details.

While we imagine the atmosphere is quite different in high-season, when well-to-do homeowners pour back into this exclusive, largely gated community, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on Kiawah Island. Special thanks to Donny’s Dad and Mayra for hosting us!

HERE are more photos from Kiawah.

About the author

Free-spirited traveler at peace on the slow road. Packs light and treads lightly. Tamara writes about the nomadic lifestyle and slow travel along with budget-friendly tips and destination guides.