Ultimate Locals Guide to a Family Vacation in Kiawah, Seabrook, and Johns Islands
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Kiawah, Seabrook and Johns Islands can be perfect destinations for everyone in the family. World class golf courses abound and downtown Charleston is only about 25 minutes away (depending on traffic) but the internet is full of information on those subjects. This article is for the rest of your vacation and offers a few hints and tips you may not find anywhere else. While we hope anyone planning a visit to our edge of America will find this article helpful, we’re writing this one with families in mind. We’ll draft similar posts for those of you planning a trip with girlfriends or a couples getaway, that will include our favorite watering holes and other more grown-up options.
Many visitors to our islands stay at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort so we’ll start there.
Like we said, and the name implies, golf is king at this resort. You can find information about the courses here. Kiawah also offers a lot of other activities as well. Mingo Point, located before the gates of Kiawah, is open to the public. The Mingo Point Oyster Roast and BBQ is every Monday evening during the summer season, and on some holidays. The ticket price may sound a little steep at first but it is all you can eat and the quality of the food is top notch. The events also feature local bands, people to help you shuck oysters, face painting for kids and opportunities to shop for crafts, and products from local artisans. There is a small nature center at Mingo that is open all summer long. You can schedule tours there even if you aren’t a guest of the resort, but we suggest doing that in advance as availability is limited. Click here for info about dolphin encounter boat rides and here for kayak rental information.
You don’t need a boat to observe our area’s plentiful dolphin population though. We believe the best place to commune with these fascinating marine mammals is where the Kiawah River empties into the Atlantic, dividing Kiawah and Seabrook Islands. You’ll have the best luck seeing them in action an hour or two before low tide (check the paper for tide tables or download the free Tides Near Me app). You might even get lucky and get to see them strand feeding - a unique behavior captured here on video. Keep in mind, the resort restricts traffic onto most of the island but the public can access one of the nicest beaches in the Lowcountry at Beachwalker Park with a small parking fee during the summer season. The lot can fill up quickly during the busy season. When the beach lot is full, or your tan is starting to get a little pink, it is a great time to check out Freshfields Village at the traffic circle that connects our three islands.
The Village offers great dining and shopping experiences and will likely serve as the hub of your sea island visit. You’ll want to stock the fridge at our Harris Teeter grocery store but here is a tip: It is usually packed on Saturday afternoons with newly arriving vacationers doing just that. So, if crowds aren’t your thing, you might want to adjust your schedule accordingly.
There are weekly events on the Village green, such as a farmer’s market, outdoor movies, and free concerts that allow you to bring a lawn chair and refreshments. Check out all the event dates here!
There’s a wide variety of restaurant options in the Village. Fuji offers Japanese cuisine including sushi, and Cantina 76 offers a Mexican-inspired menu. A hidden gem is Ladles offering homemade soup, sandwiches and salads. There are several other great restaurants and you can check them all out here.
I’m admittedly biased (our little family owns it after all) but we encourage you to visit us here at Palmetto Scent Studio where you can “explore the art of fragrance” with the help of our staff. You get to create custom home and body fragrances using our selection of more than 120 individual scents. Once you create a perfect individual fragrance, you’ll make a label for your product and incorporate it into candles, linen/room sprays, body mists, roll-on perfume, foaming soap, body creams and other products.
While we don’t offer food or beverages, we do invite you to bring your own! Anyone can walk in, but we regularly host parties for guest’s celebrations and group outings. If you have a group of more than five, you might want to call ahead. Of course, we also offer a wide variety of products for sale off-the-shelf. It is fun to explore here even if you are just waiting for a table at a nearby restaurant. My wife and I are usually there and always eager to meet new people. Ok, the commercial is over.
If you want to relax tense muscles after traveling or exploring the islands, you can always schedule a yoga class at Studio 33. It’s right next door and were both located between Fuji and Cantina 76 in the newest section of the village.
SEABROOK ISLAND AND BOHICKET MARINA
Between the traffic circle and Seabrook Island is Bohicket Marina. This is the best place to charter boat excursions/rentals and paddle board tours. If you happen to be visiting us by boat this is also where you will want to rent a transient slip and purchase fuel. Just contact the marina office.
The marina offers several restaurants and the sunsets here are amazing. Another little secret is tucked into the corner of the marina between the ship store and fuel docks called The Ice Cream Boat. Of course, they offer a selection of hand scooped ice cream, but my personal favorite is the best-cheapest breakfast in the area. It is impressive what this small staff can cook up on a couple of hotplates. One of our favorite morning activities is to grab breakfast at the shop sip coffee and read the paper as we watch the boats come and go from the scenic marina. You can visit their Facebook page for information.
Security at the Seabrook gate limits access for most visitors. But there are still a few activities you may want to know about. If riding horses on the beach is on your bucket list, the Equestrian Center at Seabrook can cross it off for you! It’s open to the public, you just have to make a reservation for the amazing adventure! They also offer two beautiful golf courses.
JOHNS ISLAND AND BEYOND
Johns Island is mostly rural was once home to so many tomato farms it provided more of the crimson fruit to eastern U.S. than any other source. After access to the island was improved, much of those tomato fields have been converted to housing. Shopping, dining and other activities are becoming more plentiful on the island.
As you depart the traffic circle headed toward Chalreston you’ll see Rosebank Farms, a produce stand located adjacent to a dirt parking lot which also features an easy to miss Mexican food truck that offers authentic favorites from south of the border.
Johns Island is also home to the Angel Oak tree. Signs are easy to spot from Bohicket Road just south of Maybank Highway (this is probably a good place to tell you that Main Road, Bohicket Road and Betsy Kerrison Parkway are all essentially the same road with different names that begin and end at our few stoplights). It’s an amazingly huge, beautiful old tree and offers a nice picnic spot. It is free and a great place to relax in the shade. You may even want to take a few snapshots. No need to allocate a lot of time here, while they have a small gift shop, it is just a big tree after all.
If you continue up Bohicket Road about 100 yards before the stoplight at Maybank Highway you’ll find Blackbird Market. This is one of our family’s favorite places to buy fresh fish and produce.
If you turn left at the intersection onto Maybank Highway you’ll approach two of our favorite spots to take visitors. One is the Charleston Tea Plantion the last commercial tea plantation in operation in the U.S. You can see them harvesting the tea and even take a trolley ride through the plantation. About a mile away from the tea plantation is the Firefly Distillery & Deep Water Vineyards. The distillery/vineyard share a property geared toward 21 and over visitors. They offer tasting rooms and a gift shop with chickens, ducks, rabbits and even a water buffalo wandering the property. They also host a variety of weekend festivals.
If you go straight through the intersection onto Main Road, you can visit the Jeremiah Goat Farm. This is especially fun for the younger people in your group. You can tour the farm, learn hands-on about goat milk (even milk a goat yourself), and make your own goat cheese!
If you turn right at the Bohicket/Main Road, Maybank Highway intersection, toward Charleston, you’ll find some fantastic dining options. If you want to take in some blue-grass music on a Saturday with your four legged friend, the Tattooed Moose is the place to go. They offer outside seating and cornhole in the yard. After being featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Guy Fieri gushing over Mike’s Duck Club, the popularity of this place has exploded.
That does it for my list of favorite places on Kiawah, Seabrook and Johns Island for families. Are there other places? Sure. Are there better places, probably. Heck, the resorts offer amazing golf and dining options, but they offer varying degrees of accessibility and simply don’t need my help getting noticed. I hope you enjoy exploring our Lowcountry Sea Islands as much as my family and I do!