By D. Hunter Rothwell contributor

Resting in the heart of the South Carolina coastline
is a barrier island known as Kiawah.
This southern paradise was named for the Indian
tribe that inhabited the island and greeted the arrival
of the first European colonists to the region.
The tribal leader, called the Cassique of Kiawah,
led the English colonists to settle nearby Charlestowne
Landing, later renamed Charleston.
Wild island
Since 1974, Kiawah has experienced a steady
transformation from a rural plantation surrounded
by wild, overgrown marshland into a
world-class resort. Although there has been development
over the years, no resort has exceeded
Kiawah’s effort to maintain the land’s natural
beauty and habitat. Deer, bobcats, ospreys, river
otters and gray foxes are just a snapshot of the
island’s wildlife.
Beware of alligators! The island’s fresh water
lagoons are home to a large population of the
creatures. Islanders have no problem spotting
these prehistoric beasts for a photo opportunity.
The island extends east to west and faces south
into the Atlantic Ocean, so beachcombers can
enjoy both sunrises and sunsets. Warm Atlantic
water, gentle tidal currents and plenty of room to
roam soothe even the weariest souls.
Kiawah offers a 10-mile stretch of large, flat,
sandy beach, free of crowds and eyesore amusements.
But there’s no public access, and you must
be a resident or a guest to get into this area.
Five award-winning golf courses are scattered
around the island. Designed by some of the best
in golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and
Tom Fazio, Kiawah’s courses are among the most
highly rated in the world.
The crown jewel is The Ocean Course designed
by Pete Dye. As one of only 17 “5-Star” rated
courses in North America (Golf Digest), the
course offers more seaside holes than any other in
the Northern Hemisphere.
The Ocean Course will host its first major when
the 94th PGA Championship rolls in this August.
Also, Kiawah Resort is ranked the “No. 1
Resort in the U.S.” by Golf World, and is a golfers’
dream come true.
Lodging and Touring
The most affordable way to enjoy Kiawah is to
stay in one of the 900 villas that cater to golf, tennis
and family activities.
There are plenty of luxury amenities available,
including The Sanctuary Hotel & Spa (“Forbes
5-Star Rating”), an antebellum style, seaside mansion.
The Sanctuary offers 255 spacious rooms
and is adjacent to the world-renowned Roy Barth
Tennis Center.
The best way to see the island is to rent a beach
cruiser and bike around on Kiawah’s network of
paved leisure trails. Ancient oak trees tinseled
with flowing moss keep the island well shaded
from the hot sun. Bask in the breathtaking views
across the low country marshes or hit the beach
for deep-sea and salt water fly-fishing.
There are camps and activities for kids and adults.
Shopping and dining are all over the island, and
Charleston is only a 30-minute drive away, and
offers endless choices as well as some of the most
historical sightseeing in the country.
If you need a break from the long Montana winter,
a trip to the Old South and some Southern
hospitality might be just what the doctor ordered/