Kiawah Island: Anything but golf

Adirondack chairs waiting for the next guest on the flagstone patio outside the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island.

Published August 11, 2012  Battle Creek Enquirer

When the 156 top players at the 94th PGA championship tee-off on August 6, they’ll face a course with more seaside holes than any other in the Northern Hemisphere — 10 holes on the ocean. Now wait a minute. Golf? Anyone who knows the Indulgent Traveler knows that golf is not my sport.  With the exception of the Olympics, you won’t find me following any televised sporting event.

The PGA tournament will be happening on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, 45 minutes from Charleston. And trust me, you can spend fabulous time on the Island without venturing near the links. Ten miles of beaches was the siren’s call for me, not to mention a five star resort, The Sanctuary. Driving up to the columned entrance, our first encounter with the level of service we would come to expect was with the first of several transplanted Michiganders, the doorman who handled our bags.  Full of useful tips about where to park, he moved us seamlessly from our car to the registration desk.

Walking into the lobby, you can’t miss the floor to ceiling windows looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. The lobby is dominated by sweeping two story staircases on either end.

When I first started writing this column, I developed an indulgent traveler checklist to measure how various lodgings stacked up. Our room had all the checks: a balcony with a table and chairs and an ocean view; a huge tub; a marble walk-in shower; luxurious bedding and lots of pillows; high quality soaps and shampoos. I could go on but you get the picture.

A chair and umbrella call guests to the beach

Who wanted to stay in the room with the ocean calling? I selected the infinity pool nearest the ocean. A nice man fixed towels on my chaise and raised my umbrella before sending someone to take my food and beverage order. Heavenly but pricey, a theme of the resort.  The same kind of service awaited on the beach and you could wiggle you toes in the sand.

Later in the afternoon, we decide to explore the Kiawah River via kayak from the Heron Park Nature Center. Our guide was patient with us novice paddlers. She showed where we could scoop up the prized Pluff mud used for expensive facials. I was gung ho to scoop out a bunch until she told me about the millions of fiddler crabs living in the mud, eating bits of organic matter. After paddling, we took a quick boat ride to see the dolphins at the mouth of the river.  We caught a great show of dolphins eating dinner, where as a group they strand themselves to chase fish up on the sand. After gorging, they wiggle back into the water.

Miles of inland marshlands awaits visitors by kayak

We were also hungry for dinner. The award-winning Ocean Room was a fine dining, white table cloth service steakhouse. To start, I couldn’t pass a cold, Johns Island corn soup with blue crab. We choose a special 32-ounce bone-in, local, grass-fed steak that easily served three of us. Two kinds of potatoes, pureed and truffled french fries complemented the meat. Dessert was heavenly flourless chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream.

And if our stay couldn’t get any better, I took an hour for the signature massage at the Spa. My massage therapist was a young woman from near Lansing, who found her way to the island and never left. I could’ve spent days in the spa with a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.

After spending a few days on Kiawah Island, I could understand the attraction of my fellow Michiganders and everyone else. To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara who would have felt at home here, “Kiawah! … I’ll think of some way to get back. After all… tomorrow is another day.”

If you go: Kiawah Island Golf Resort,  http://www.kiawahresort.com