Kiawah Island Is The Hamptons Of The South

Inside South Carolina's exclusive members-only community.

Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island Real Estate

For wealthy Southerners, is what the Hamptons is to New Yorkers. Like Long Island's uber exclusive east end, hotels are intentionally scarce—to keep tourists out. If you're not a homeowner or a house guest, the only option to stay on island is , a grand Five-Star resort resembling an old Southern estate that was built in 2004.

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A private residence on Kiawah Island.
Courtesy of Sarah Bray

Although the wedding-ready ballrooms and lively lobby bar at the Sanctuary are worth the visit, is behind the private neighborhood gates where a hotel room key won't work.

A private home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Courtesy of Kiawah Island Real Estate
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Beyond privacy and exclusivity, the attraction to the 10-mile long coastal region, mindfully dotted with mansions, is nature. A 33-mile drive from the Charleston airport, the unspoiled barrier island (where the Kiawah River meets the Atlantic) is covered with sprawling live oaks and palmetto trees and serves as a reserve for deer, bobcats, gray foxes, raccoons, river otters, and ospreys.

Bird watching on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Courtesy of Sarah Bray
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It's a preppy (dresscode is ), family-friendly country club lifestyle where slow days are filled with low country oyster roasts, bird watching and bike rides. The tone is laid back for most residents, except for golfers. Here, the game is taken seriously.

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For Southerners, there is Augusta and then there is at Kiawah. Home to the 2021 PGA Championship, the Ocean Course is one of only four courses in the United States to have hosted every major PGA event.

Kiawah Island’s exclusive Cassique community.
Courtesy of Kiawah Island
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The view from hole 11 at The Ocean Course.
Courtesy of Kiawah Island

But access to Kiawah's courses and club houses (like Ocean, Cassique and River Club) is reserved for members and homeowners only. Living on a golf course-cum-nature reserve does come with a price, but the offerings are suitably gorgeous. You can find listings .

A private residence within Kiawah Island’s Cassique community.
Courtesy of Kiawah Island Real Estate
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