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Johns Island: A quiet refuge close to Charleston, waterways and unspoiled nature

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Johns Island is the largest island in South Carolina and the fourth largest island on the east coast. Those who opt to live here or move here are people who desire a slower pace, but want the benefit of being close to Charleston and its beaches. It’s a little over 80 square miles with a population of about 20,000 residents. Like many areas in Charleston County, its growth has been extraordinary – a 50 percent rise in five years – from 2000 to 2010.

It is about 20 minutes via Maybank Highway on the James Island connector bridge to Broad Street in downtown Charleston and 20 minutes on Bohicket Road to Seabrook and Kiawah Islands. Residents are surrounded by the astonishingly beautiful Lowcountry nature, yet close to many world-class dining, shopping and resort-type options.

Johns Island has always been and still is an agricultural community. The broad and expansive beauty of the island, its farms and the historical significance of it are why so many gravitate toward its serene, oak tree-lined streets and waterways. Local farms are abundant here. The Johns Island Farmer’s market is open every Saturday year-round and farmers, artisans and other vendors participate. Local restaurants benefit from their seasonal fare.

Bohicket Road is the main road through Johns Island and you’ll find homes that have been here “forever” to brand new estate homes with hidden driveways off this road. It’s an equestrian’s dream here and there’s plenty off the beaten path trails and large green spaces to ride freely.

Named after the Saint John parish in Barbados, the island has the world-renowned Angel Oak tree, estimated to be between 400-1,500 years old.

“You’re getting a closer relationship to the traditional lifestyle of what Charleston once was,” said Cade Brummett of WEICHERT, REALTORS® - Palmetto Coast. “Johns Island is the true Lowcountry lifestyle.”

Johns Island is close to both Kiawah and Seabrook, and like its neighbors, it has multi-million dollar, deepwater estates. Since it is surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, Stono River, Kiawah River and Bohicket Creek, construction for these types of dwellings are desirable to affluent buyers. Secluded with picture-perfect sunsets over marshes and creeks are the optimal setting for those who want their luxury among wide-open spaces.

Living on Johns Island – the neighborhoods and the homes

Condos can range anywhere from $165,000 at Indigo Hall near the Kiawah Island Beachwalker County Park to brand new ones at The Landing at St. John’s Yacht Harbor for upwards of $900,000, overlooking the Stono River.

Waterloo Estates is a new gated community with single-family homes priced from the high $300-$400,000 and The Villages at St. John’s Woods is a planned community with amenities families love, as well as jogging and walking rails and a six-acre park.

Kiawah River Estates is a gated community located at the southern tip of Johns Island and adjacent to Kiawah Island. The neighborhood has the Oak Point Golf Course located within. Residents also have access to abundant amenities such as a pool, tennis courts and a dockside park. Set amongst lush oak trees, its location seems secluded, yet it’s close to downtown Charleston.

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“The sun rises and sets over the southern tip of Johns Island,” said Maraide Sullivan of Keller Williams Realty. “The beautiful natural surroundings, close proximity to the beach, shopping, dining and only 20 minutes to downtown – the best of Charleston County is here.”

Sullivan stated that though each island has its own unique personality, the area has a special informal Tri-Sea Island community.

“It’s inspiring to live here,” Sullivan said. “The volunteer spirit is alive and thriving in this area of the Charleston Sea Islands. Residents are sensitive to the needs of people in neighboring communities. The Barrier Island Free Medical Clinic was founded by two doctors from this area and there are spontaneous efforts that organically come together with the unspoken motto: ‘If you see a need, fill it!’”

Sullivan added that the few pre-owned homes within Kiawah River Estates range in price from $525,000 to $1.3 million. There are currently 27 lots available to build a custom home and the price range is $69,000 - $339,000.

“Although people move to Johns Island from all over, quite a few move here from Kiawah and Seabrook. They enjoy living in a smaller community that’s a shorter drive to Charleston. Kiawah River Estates is close to Fresh Fields Village and Bohicket Marina that has restaurants, shops and the best sunsets in the world,” Sullivan said.

Brummett added that the mix of pre-owned and new construction on Johns Island is all within competitive price points. It’s a great area for entry-level buyers as well

“The laid-back lifestyle of Johns Island focuses on community – buying local, staying local and being part of the local community. This is the perfect part of greater Charleston where a buyer, seasoned or first-timer, has the true luxury of picking out what they want in a home; new construction or something with a background,” he said.

The future

A four-phase Maybank Highway Improvement Project is underway to improve traffic flow, safety and bike and pedestrian mobility. Grand Oaks Village is a brand new multi-tenant retail development and St. Johns Woods Parkway is slated for completion this summer. Live Oak Square will be a mixed-use “lifestyle community” with luxury apartments and plans for restaurants, retail, medical and office tenants. Johns Island Commerce Park is planned for medical and flexible office/light warehouse space.

Johns Island has a slew of restaurants – from casual to upscale fare – and the list keeps growing as the demand does. Johns Island County Park is 738 acres of unspoiled nature trails for equestrians, walkers and runners. There’s an archery range, and the park is the site of several competitive horse shows, and is the perfect, Charleston setting for weddings. It, like the island itself, is family friendly with just the right dose of southern charm and timeless tradition.

“Residents from all the islands benefit from relationships due to shared interests, be it sports, church, clubs and especially volunteer activities,” said Sullivan. “They jump in to help with gusto.”

Brummett summed up his sentiments about the community. “Johns Island is always evolving and changing for the better for the residents. There is a great demand for people to move out to Johns Island, but that demand is met with pride and acceptance. Old shopping centers are getting modernized, there are new construction commercial spaces popping up. All of which has the same goal in mind: bettering the community.”

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