Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Best Places to Retire in South Carolina


Kiawah Island (population approximately 1,160) is a barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean, 24 miles south of Charleston. Its land area is 11.2 square miles and it is five feet above sea level. Initially the Native Americans, whose name it bears, occupied the island. The next occupants were two families who constructed homes, beginning in 1802, and for a number of years Sea Island cotton was farmed on the island. One of the mansions built at the time still stands. The island was also occupied from time to time in periods of war to guard the city of Charleston, about 20 miles up the coast, from a possible attack from the sea.

In 1974 much of the land was developed into a world-class resort and residential community called Kiawah Island Resort ( It includes four world-class golf courses, two award-winning tennis complexes, three pool complexes, the 150-room Kiawah Island Inn, Night Heron Park (a 21-acre site) and nine restaurants and lounges. The resort also manages the rental program for 500 villas and luxury private homes. The town of Kiawah Island was incorporated in 1988 to provide locally-controlled, responsive government, and prevent potential annexation by the city of Charleston. The town provides many services and programs such as emergency preparedness, garbage collection and wildlife studies.

The island has 10 miles of private, undisturbed Atlantic beach, acres of salt march, pine forests and massive live oaks. There are 30 miles of paved bike trails, and opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and crabbing. Shopping on the islands (Kiawah and neighboring Seabrook Island) includes a general store offering groceries and necessities, a farm market, bookstore, fish market, gift shops, boutiques, and the pro shops.

Nearby Charleston (population 100,000), a charming and culturally sophisticated city, is the major resource center for Kiawah. Just 24 miles away, it offers a great variety of amenities including excellent art galleries, antique shops, dining for any taste, excellent live theater and dance, a professional symphony, opera, choral music, festivals and much more. It also has acute care hospitals and the Charleston International Airport.

Arts & Culture

Charleston Symphony Orchestra has nearly 50 full-time professional musicians. It performs a busy year-round schedule with a major concert series, community concerts, special events and school programs throughout the state.

Spoleto Festival USA offers 17 days and nights of performances in disciplines from opera, theater, music/theater and dance, to chamber, symphonic, and choral music.

North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center is a 14,000 seat complex that is home to the South Carolina Stingrays ECHL hockey team, the Charleston Swamp Foxes, and the new NBDL North Charleston Lowgators basketball team. The Performing Arts Center is a 2,300-seat facility with full production capabilities. It is home to the Broadway Nights Series, as well as other entertainment.

North Charleston’s Cultural Arts Program hosts a variety of entertainment through the year. Its Dinner Theater Series at The Charleston Area Convention Center Ballroom runs from fall to early spring. Plays, City Gallery exhibits, festivals and outdoor concerts “Sunday in the Park” at Park Circle are on the list of events through the program.

There are more than 20 galleries in Charleston, and in 1999 the Charleston Fine Arts Dealers Association was founded by a number of the gallery owners and artists to develop Charleston into a fine arts destination.

Patriots Point, located in nearby Mt. Pleasant, is one of the world’s largest naval and marine museums. Here you can board the aircraft carrier Yorktown and other permanently moored ships.

Charleston has many interesting museums, ranging from the Gibbes Museum of Art to the Karples Manuscript Museum and the Confederate Museum

If you are looking for fine dining, a raw bar, a French restaurant, live jazz, low-country fare, outstanding seafood, and great ribs — Charleston has it all!


Bohicket Marina, located just outside the security gate of Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island, is a superb marina with 200 wet slips, and dry storage for another 100 boats. It offers boat rentals and charters for onshore and offshore fishing, cocktail cruises, or exploring the ocean creeks.

Kiawah Island Resort, with its five award-winning golf courses, is considered to have one of the finest collections of courses in the country. The Ocean Course is a 7,300-yard layout that has hosted both the Ryder Cup Matches and the World Cup of Golf. The course was designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1991.

Osprey Point golf course, designed by Tom Fazio, is a par-72 layout that offers water views on every hole. It includes four large, natural lakes, salt marsh and forests of live oaks, pines, palmettos, and magnolias as its backdrop.

Turtle Point golf course is a Jack Nicklaus design that has been selected for several important championships, including the PGA Cup Matches. It has a three-hole stretch directly along the Atlantic Ocean. It also features a very impressive clubhouse with a ballroom that will host 380 people and a 1,500 ft. hospitality suite.

Cougar Point was designed by Gary Player. It features holes playing along broad expanses of tidal marsh, offering beautiful views out across the Kiawah River and acres of needlerush and spartina grass.

Oak Point golf course, located one mile outside the main gate to the island, is the newest course. It is Scottish-American style course that borders on Haulover Creek and the Kiawah River, and along salt marsh lands, interspersed with live oaks.

The tennis program on Kiawah has received many accolades – including being ranked 6th among Tennis Magazine’s “Greatest Tennis Resorts.” Its two complete tennis centers offer clay and hard courts, fully-stocked pro shops and complete services.

The Charleston Battery professional soccer club plays its home matches at Blackbaud Stadium, located on Daniel Island.

Carolina Ice Palace has two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks for year-round public skating, both youth and adult hockey, and figure skating.


Charleston Southern University was founded in 1964. It is a fully accredited four-year independent liberal arts college affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Enrollment is 2,800.

The Citadel was founded in 1842 as The Military College of South Carolina. It enrolls 1,900 men and women in 19 degree programs.

The College of Charleston, founded in 1770, was incorporated into the state’s college system in 1970. Its mission is to provide a liberal arts curriculum offering quality education in the arts, sciences, education and business to 8,000 to 9,000 students. The graduate school was established in 1972 and offers 17 programs and five Masters degrees.

Senior Programs

The Lowcountry Senior Center in Charleston is a state-of-the-art facility designed and built to offer recreational opportunities for area residents age 50 and over. Residents are encouraged to take part in exercise classes, educational sessions, personal development, sports activities, computer labs, fitness workouts, trips, and other activities designed to encourage participation through social interaction.

College of Charleston Center for Creative Retirement (CCR) offers continuing education programs for seniors. It is a member-led organization focusing on enriching the mind through continued learning at the College of Charleston. CCR is a learning center for members to pursue academic interests and a “clearing house” to share members’ unique talents and lifetime experiences. Established in 1993 at the College of Charleston, the CCR program is patterned after similar to institutes at over 100 universities in the US. It is also affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network to provide opportunities for domestic and international travel and study.


Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center is a 596-room acute care and teaching hospital.

Roper Hospital, now a part of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, was founded in 1850 as the first community hospital in the Carolinas. It is a 453-bed acute care facility and a regional referral center. Services include a heart center for cardiac rehabilitation, a cancer center, orthopedics (including a joint replacement center), a neuroscience center and more.

Charleston Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of Medical University of South Carolina.


Charleston International Airport –



The Post and Courier (Charleston) –

Property Taxes

Charleston County Tax Assessor –

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

Kiawah Island does not have a Chamber of Commerce. The Charleston Chamber’s web site is: and the Chamber for nearby Edisto island is .

State Aging Agency


Charleston – 24 miles
Myrtle Beach – 119 miles
Beaufort – 82 miles
Hilton Head – 109 miles
Savannah – 119 miles

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