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These more remote islands are well-worth the drive or boat trip, whether you crave outdoor adventure or five-star luxury.
The salt-marsh estuaries that entwine the leeward side of this three-mile long island offer some of the area’s best inshore fishing, dolphin watching, and kayaking. A state-maintained park allows visitors to experience the solitude of Capers, but there are no facilities, so campers must bring all provisions, including a permit from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
- Barrier Island Eco Tours: Don’t have your own boat? Then hop aboard these naturalist-guided boat tours, including regularly scheduled eco tours, fishing charters, and private beachside cookouts. (843) 886-5000, www.nature-tours.com
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR): Call for a free permit and rules for camping on the island. (843) 953-9300
Comprised mostly of a gated community of showcase homes and a resort, the 12-mile long island is the swankest, and one of the largest, of our barrier islands. A golfer’s nirvana, it boasts five award-winning courses, most notably the windswept Ocean Course.
- Kiawah Beachwalker Park: Located before the security gates, this county park offers the only public beach access on Kiawah. Lifeguards are on duty for the designated swimming area, and chair and umbrella rentals are available. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (May through Labor Day). $7 per vehicle. (843) 768-2395, www.ccprc.com
- Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Dine in one of the resort’s numerous restaurants or stay at the five-star Sanctuary Hotel and gain access behind the gates—at least the first set! (800) 654-2924, www.kiawahresort.com
Accessible only by boat, this 64,000-acre preserve located north of town is a naturalist’s haven with more than 16 miles of footpaths weaving across the island. It’s also the largest loggerhead turtle nesting ground outside of Florida, as well as a vibrant rookery for more than 250 species of birds.
- Coastal Expeditions: Take the 30-minute ferry ride while a naturalist describes the tidal creeks and their inhabitants. Bring plenty of hydrating drinks and sunscreen, since the island is completely undeveloped. (843) 884-7684, www.coastalexpeditions.com
A vacation spot long-favored by local families, this sprawling 67-square-mile island is home to working farms, historic plantation homes, and an eclectic group of businesses, including Coot’s Lounge, the Serpentarium, and McConkey’s Jungle Shack, where the kitschy décor (think rubber crabs and plastic pail ketchup holders) is just the sort of vibe you want in a rustic beach café.
- Edisto Beach State Park: An oceanfront park and campground with hiking and biking trails and a 4,000-year-old shell midden. (843) 869-2756, www.southcarolinaparks.com
Photographs (2) by Cilinia Powell and courtesy of Kiawah development partners/photograph by Steve Uzell.