Discover Kiawah River

An Escape to Lowcountry Paradise Is a Short Road Trip Away

Article by Gayle Bryan

Photography by Gayle Bryan/Keene Eye Marketing

Originally published in Aiken City Lifestyle

The drive from Charleston to Kiawah Island is magnificent. I love traveling through the picturesque marshlands and the feeling of being surrounded by the aged live oaks on the approach to the island. Just a few miles before hitting the roundabout that leads to Seabrook Island, Freshfields Village and Kiawah Island, there is an unassuming sign that marks the entrance to Kiawah River. 

I crossed the threshold to the Kiawah River development for the first time a few years ago with Coastal Expeditions on an excursion they call Sunrise and Spoonbills. They are my go-to when I want to explore the waterways and forests of the Lowcountry. I was unfamiliar with the Kiawah River but trusted Coastal to show me a good time. On the short drive into the community, I passed fields bursting with colorful wildflowers and crossed over marsh areas teaming with wading birds. Off to the left, I saw produce sprouting up from an area obviously designated for farming. My curiosity peaked long before I saw the beautiful coastal-styled homes with the stunning Kiawah River as their backdrop. 

I spent a lovely morning exploring the river by kayak in glorious golden light, followed by a hike through some of the marshland and maritime forests that are part of the 2,000-acre planned community that is Kiawah River. That outing was memorable for many reasons, including my first good look at a roseate spoonbill. I was rewarded with one of my favorite pictures of all time: a painted bunting in the spartina grass at dawn. 

Kiawah River has been on my radar ever since that first visit. My love of the Lowcountry (and my niece and great-niece) finds me in the Charleston area regularly, and when close, I take the turn into Kiawah River to see if I can spot a roseate spoonbill and to see how the development is progressing. 

The recent addition of 11 bungalows available for short-term rental caught my attention. It is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from here, so I suspected they might be a perfect getaway for Aiken residents. 

The folks at Kiawah River graciously arranged a behind-the-scenes visit for me. Sadly, my husband could not escape, but a friend was happy to be my wingman on this adventure. We spent two nights in The Spoonbill.

The Bungalows were designed by Julia Starr Sanford of Starr Sanford Design, known for influencing the Alys Beach community in the Florida Panhandle. Amanda Lindroth furnished the interiors in a way that I can only describe as cozy elegance. 

I was delighted to receive a call from my pal, Tayt Stafford, who runs the Coastal Expeditions outpost at Kiawah River the day before the trip. He had been asked to take us out on a bit of hiking and kayaking tour. Stafford knows the tides, the behavior of the wildlife and pretty much anything else you might want to know about the ecosystems that make up the Kiawah River community, so when he suggested that the time was right to catch the roseate spoonbills, we quickly followed. Stafford delivered, and after a short walk, we observed about 30 spoonbills in action. 

Next up was a kayak tour. Tayt did a fantastic job making my non-kayaking friend comfortable and showed us both the wonders of the Kiawah River. Basking in the sights, the sounds, the wildlife and the spectacular artistry of the Creator is my happy place. Kiawah River is a great place to experience all of it. 

On day two, we got a tour of the Spring House. It has a fitness center, event and meeting space, cabanas, a shaded bar and two pools overlooking the water. It has become a central gathering place for residents and guests, which we were able to experience firsthand at the weekly Friday evening happy hour. 

One hundred acres of the Kiawah River community is a working farm. A big part of what makes Kiawah River such a unique development is the marriage of upscale coastal living with sustainability. Weekly harvests are available to residents and sold in local farmers' markets.

We spent some time at The Goatery, part of the Kiawah River Farm. Dawn introduced us to some goats and showed us how they produce their handmade goat cheese and other high-quality goat milk products. 

Several residents mentioned that the dolphins are beginning to strand feed in the river. We didn’t see it there, but we stopped by Beach Walker Park on Kiawah Island (just a few miles away), made the jaunt to Captain Sam’s Spit and were treated to an incredible show!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love Kiawah River. The Bungalows are perfect for a peaceful getaway or an opportunity to check out the development and the available homesites. Rental information is available from Seewee Properties (seeweeproperties.com).

Basking in the sights, the sounds, the wildlife and the spectacular artistry of the Creator is my happy place. Kiawah River is a great place to experience all of it. 

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