Carriage Tours are a good way to see Historic Charleston
Carriage Tours are a good way to see Historic Charleston

For cruise passengers departing Charleston, there are a couple of options for exploring the Old South. One is to stay in Charleston; the other is to stay 30 minutes away, on beautiful Kiawah Island.

While Kiawah isn’t Bermuda or Barbados it is an exotic island destination — with alligators, palmetto trees and tropical foliage. Equally appealing is that Kiawah can be combined with Historic Charleston, a 30-minute drive to the north.

Bucks On The Beach

The drive from US Highway 17 to Kiawah through South Carolina’s Low Country sets the mood for this laid-back, Southern-style vacation. Lovely live oaks draped in Spanish Moss shade the narrow, two-lane road that wends its way to the blue Atlantic. The sprawling oaks eventually give way to vast patches of Spartina grass set among picturesque marshes.

Kiawah Island is named for Native Americans who lived here in the 1600s. Developers who came much later made only a small imprint. Hidden among the oaks and palmettos are five championship golf courses, world-class tennis, award-winning restaurants, and a variety of family-oriented nature and recreational activities. Accommodations, thoughtfully designed, include the beautiful Sanctuary and 600 villas and luxury homes, managed by Kiawah Island Resorts.

What soon becomes apparent is just how undeveloped the island is. During my trip, I saw a buck, with a stately rack of antlers, on the beach. Visitors quickly learn that such sights are not unusual, as deer are prevalent on this 10-mile-long stretch of sand. So are bobcat and alligators (numbering 600). Animals are so abundant, in fact, and so important to the island ecology that the resort employs 60 naturalists during summers, and 10 full-time naturalists year-round. They head up the nature programs available to visitors.

Kiawah long has been recognized as one of America’s premier golf destinations. Kiawah also hosts kids and teen programs during peak season, and your kids will likely enjoy Kiawah more than Charleston. Mine do. Particularly popular are the oyster roasts at Mingo Point, a spit of land on the road that leads back to Charleston.

Charleston’s Charm

Like Spanish moss hanging from live oaks, time appears to be suspended in Charleston. But even though it is widely regarded as America’s most historic city, Charleston offers much more than a look back at its antebellum past.

Settled in 1680, Charleston provides the visitor with a strong sense of continuity linking the past with the present. But America’s “most mannerly city” also presents visitors with great shopping, fine accommodations and such excellent cuisine that its restaurants frequently garner top billing in glossy travel magazines and national newspapers. Among the city’s most popular choices for dining: Hank’s Seafood, The Peninsula Grill and Charleston Grill.

Charleston claims many bed and breakfasts downtown, plus a fair number of upscale hotels, including Charleston Place. Located in the heart of downtown Charleston, this fine hotel — its lobby graced by a beautiful Georgian open-arm staircase — is so centrally located that all downtown attractions are within a comfortable walk. Ask about Club Level access. You’ll appreciate the pampering on the upper two levels of the hotel.

With just the right mix of history, city, recreation and beach, Charleston and Kiawah make for a perfect match.

Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Kiawah and Charleston.

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