By Charlene Mixa
Kiawah Offers: Oceanfront Luxury, World-class Golf, Distinctive Dining & Fabulous Beach
Luxurious, unrivaled, spectacular and world class all describe Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Located on a spectacularly beautiful island near historic Charleston, SC, Kiawah offers a unique combination of distinctive golf courses, luxurious resort amenities, varied island activities, and gracious southern hospitality. Featuring five championship courses designed by the world’s leading golf course architects including Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. Its oceanfront luxury hotel, the Sanctuary, overlooks Kiawah’s famous beach and offers unsurpassed hospitality. With honors of Forbes Five Star and AAA’s prestigious Five Diamond Awards, the elegant hotel with its Lowcountry inspired spa and distinctive dining compliment an incomparable golf experience and exciting adventures for guests of all ages.
Spanish moss draped trees line the mainland road to Kiawah Island and then leads us over marshlands of the South Carolina low country. As we reach this barrier island, there is the sensation of returning to a different era where life was calmer, more elegant and serene. Turning on Sanctuary Beach Drive, the lush landscape and meandering lane leads to the Sanctuary, an elegant four story building reminiscent of a grand seaside mansion appearing to have welcomed guest for generations.
The moment we exit our car the Southern hospitality begins. Immediate greetings of “Happy Anniversary,” Mr. & Mrs. Mixa create a warm welcome. The staff is superb, alert to our every whim, consistently offering the highest level of guest service. An ultra-luxurious oceanfront resort and spa, the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort only opened in August 2004.
Celebrating our 17th Wedding Anniversary the Sanctuary is making sure this is a very special event. A bottle of champagne is already on ice in our luxury ocean view guestroom. With its custom made furniture, the spacious guestroom includes a sitting area with a couch, tables and chair. An elegant King size bed even has individual switches on each side of the bed for reading lights. Extra features are the wet bar, mini-fridge and large double closets with a safe. The desk with two chairs provides a good work area and complimentary high-speed internet is an unusual amenity for luxury hotels. A large armoire houses a flat screen TV. Designed as an ocean retreat the room has shuttered bathroom windows and doors, plus a scenic ocean view balcony. The lavishness continues in the bathroom with a large marble walk-in shower, dual vanities, a private water closet and a deep soaking tub.
Sunshine, an ocean breeze, white sand and the lure of the Atlantic Ocean beckon after our long drive. Crossing the boardwalk over the sloping dunes covered in coastal vegetation, we see the tide is out. The beach is at least 100 yards deep! It’s a walk just to reach the water. A fantastic beach! The compact sand and flat beach is terrific for walking or biking. Even as Floridians we have to agree that Kiawah Island has one of America’s finest beaches. Walking barefoot along the beach in the shallow ocean waters we see the uniqueness of Kiawah Island. The Sanctuary is the only hotel on this 10 mile stretch of beach! No crowds of people jostling for a spot of “sand.” Ah, the beach, the water, the cool ocean breeze and the feel of sand between our toes is a wonderful way to unwind.
For dinner we are off to the Osprey Point Golf Course clubhouse to enjoy some genuine house smoked southern BBQ. The Cherrywood BBQ and Ale House has a huge veranda with sweeping views of the course, the putting green, and a pond adjacent to the clubhouse. Sitting outside, we chat with a seven year old girl, who is intrigued with an alligator in the pond. Only its eyes and nose are. Our dinners are delicious! The Overnight Beef Brisket is actually smoked 18 hours and the Bourbon Marinated Salmon is lightly smoked and glazed with a zesty blood orange BBQ sauce. Being a southern girl, I enjoy the side of Cast Iron corn bread and sweet and sour collard greens. During dinner the alligator slips out of the pond. It’s at least ten feet and is actually beside another gator about 8 feet. The little girl and her brother are excited to see live alligators, this close and this big.
Soft music greets us as we open the door to our suite. Pastel rose petals in a heart-shape cover the center of the bed and plush robes are draped over each side. A wonderful touch! Now to open our bottle of champagne and slip into our robes for a romantic evening!
The brilliant sunrise and roar of the ocean entice us for an early morning dip. As the tide comes in the waves are crashing and it is a much shorter walk to the water. Afterwards we enjoy a continental breakfast on the balcony and then drive next door for our round of golf.
Turtle Point Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is a low-profile design with fairways and greens utilizing the existing landscape. Playing the course we find the fairways and greens blend into the natural barrier island setting. While fairways are wide, we learn to beware. Near the greens there is water to carry and those ever famous Nicklaus-style ball snatching bunkers. The course keeps us alert and we appreciate the ocean breeze on this warm summer day as we make the turn to the back nine. Extra challenges are found on the back nine and especially the three-hole ocean front trio. Dunes form the border of #15 a par-4 with narrow fairways, so staying down the middle is a must. Then the par-3 #16 is deceptive on the distance and yardage to carry to the green. In addition, the strong coastal winds enhance the challenges of these ocean holes. A very enjoyable and challenging round of golf and playing as a twosome, our round is only 3 ½ hours.
The Southern Kitchen at The Straw Market near the West End of the Island is perfect for a late afternoon lunch. Crispy hushpuppies curb our appetite while we make our selections. Specializing in Lowcountry favorites, the fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese spread is a must for me. Preferring a seafood option, they whip up a fried oyster sandwich for Richard. Both meals are terrific and now we are ready for some relaxation.
Sun, surf and sand await us as we are back on the beach. An attendant supplies us with lush beach towels, complimentary bottles of water and comfy beach chairs under an umbrella. After a dip, we relax and soak up some rays. Later we move to the bright huge pool area with a family pool, kiddy pool and a separate adult infinity pool. The pool is refreshing after the salt water and sandy beach. Of course more relaxation is in order in the ultra-comfy beach chairs with thick pads to assist us in “kicking back!”
Tonight is the official celebration for our anniversary with dinner in the Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course Clubhouse. With detailed directions from the Concierge, we drive to the Ocean Course at the extreme eastern end of the island. Gaining notoriety for the 1991 Ryder Cup, “War of the Shore”, the Ocean Course was the setting for a dramatic and emotional ending where the last hole of the match and a “missed” putt gave the USA a one-point victory. We didn’t get to play the Ocean Course as it is being readied for the 2012 PGA Championship. From the veranda the course stretches along the Atlantic Ocean with a very demanding layout. Golfers also have to contend with strong winds that whip across the links. We see that the Ocean Course will definitely present a major challenge for golfers and create an exciting 2012 PGA Championship.
The Atlantic Room, Kiawah’s premier seafood restaurant, has grand views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Ocean Course. Seated near a window we admire the majestic setting and the grand dining room. Sharing the appetizer of oyster on the half shell and a fresh Farmer’s Market Salad, the sun sinks lower on the horizon, giving the area a magical glow. We have a slow enjoyable dinner in this beautiful restaurant. My Blackened Local Redfish with pan seared stone ground grits, and Swiss chard is complimented with the tomato jam and Hollandaise. Richard’s Pan Seared Snapper has broccoli-rabe, fingerling potatoes with a rich ragout of fennel purée, Mepkin Abbey oyster mushrooms, and sundried tomato butter. Both are superb! We end our dinner with Peaches and Cream, a nice light dessert. The service was excellent with the wait staff very attentive.
We wind our way along the island roads to the Sanctuary for our final evening on Kiawah. The grand lobby is quiet but the piano player is playing some beautiful music. Relaxing with after dinner drinks in the elegant lobby, we relive our wonderful experiences on our visit and consider options for future visits.
Kiawah Island is a “world away” yet really only miles from the outside world. Guests will enjoy its unique island setting with so many options for activities and adventures. Whether hitting the links, bicycling the many paths, enjoying the beach, going to a camp, or exploring the coastal wildlife areas in a kayak, guests will find this a truly wonderful island get-a-way. Going for a few days or a long vacation, it is a unique, fun and enchanting experience.
If you go:
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, SC 29455; 800.654.2924; www.kiawahresort.com