On the Waterfront – Ideal Lowcountry living is on or near a shore

There’s no better place to live if you love the water than Charleston.

Beaches, rivers, marshes, creeks – it’s all here. Whether you’re a boater, sailor, fisherman (or fisher woman), adventure-seeker or simply like to settle along a shore to take in a view, Charleston is the place.

Our coastline stretches out over 90 miles. The city of Charleston, a peninsula that sits between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, flows into the harbor. Spectacular sunsets along water views are our thing in this region of waterways.

Numerous studies have shown a link to good-for-the-soul health of living near water. Marine biologist, an expert of ocean and aquatic ecosystems and author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, said that water induces a “flood of neurochemicals that increase blood flow to the brain and heart,” which in turn promotes “wellness and relaxation.” His reference to a “Blue Mind,” meaning a meditative state that brings on feelings of “calm, peacefulness, unity and general happiness,” is the opposite of a “Red Mind.” The “Red Mind” being one of an “anxious, over-connected and over-stimulated state that defines the new normal of modern life.”

According to a survey from Wakefield Research and Discover Boating, “four in five Americans report that being on the water relaxes them. . .” When we’re near the water, we settle down and hopefully put away devices and re-connect with the larger picture of life.

Water surrounds us. Whether one lives directly on a shore or not, if you live here, you can get to some kind of shore quickly. Lowcountry waterways are as welcoming as its people.

Typically, living along Lowcountry waterways, especially our beaches, can be pricey. According to three area brokers, the desire among buyers to find a property along the waterways is as strong and sure as the tides.

Tidal creeks and rivers vs beach side

“It’s hard to say which is more popular – beachfront or riverfront,” said Georgia Bell of William Means Real Estate. “There are more properties on tidal creeks and riverfront available than beachfront and if beachfront is priced competitively, they sell quickly.”

Waterfront single family homes range from $490,000 in West Ashley to $7.35 million on Sullivans Island, Bell said.

“Waterfront remains popular,” she said. “From Mount Pleasant North to West Ashley. Hollywood and Meggett areas have seen an increase in sales and waterfront properties in West Ashley are becoming more and more popular, especially in those areas that lead to your own dock to the Stono River.”

Bell said Capri Isle in West Ashley has seen a significant increase in pricing within the last year. The established neighborhood has traditional homes built in the early 60s and 70s, borders a tidal creek and has views of the Stono River and Intracoastal Waterway.

North Mount Pleasant has become increasingly popular as new construction has exploded in the area within the last five years. Dunes West is a mixture of single-family, condos, townhomes and cottages, with prices ranging from the $100,000s to over $3 million. The large master-planned community is gated with amenities such as pools, a fitness center, tennis, a clubhouse, green spaces and an 18-hole championship golf course. Water activities are plentiful here with docks and boat storage for residents.

Bell lists a half-acre lot in Dunes West for $399,000 on 2372 Darts Cove Way. Sitting on Wagner Creek, it has water views. “It is on deep water and is permitted for a dock with four feet of water at dead low tide,” she said. 

Kiawah Island

“The biggest draw for buyers on Kiawah Island is the lifestyle fostered by the island’s 10 miles of beach, peaceful open spaces and well-preserved natural beauty,” said Dan Whalen, President at Kiawah Island Real Estate (KIRE). “Coupled with a wide range of outdoor activities and luxury amenities gives buyers a chance to get back to what really matters – connecting to family, self and nature.” 

Whalen said that Kiawah buyers tend to be out-of-state buyers, predominately from “drive markets” such as Charlotte, Atlanta, the Tri-State area and D.C. “There are also Charlestonians looking for second or weekend homes,” he said. 

Kiawah is world-renown as a luxury destination and its club members enjoy golf, sporting events, culinary series, kayaking and fishing tournaments.

“Rock the River, which typically takes place the day after Thanksgiving is a members-only, intimate concert experience headlined the past few years by Darius Rucker,” Whalen said. “Members gather at the River Course and local food and drink vendors line the green to provide the ultimate fall experience.”

Much-needed developments are on the rise on the island as well. Last year, South Street Partners, a real estate development investment and operations firm donated a six-acre tract that will enable MUSC to build a facility. Whalen said that MUSC and South Street Partners is moving forward with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on the proposed facility that will sit across from Freshfields Village. The total project cost is an estimated $15.3 million. 

“Providing excellent health care to the residents of Kiawah, Seabrook and the Sea Islands has been a priority of ours since day one,” Chris Randolph, partner with South Street Partners said. “For more than four years, we have worked hand in hand with MUSC to develop a concept for a world-class medical facility, and it is extremely gratifying to see it move closer to becoming a reality.” 

Plans are also underway to break ground on a senior living facility next to Freshfield Villages that comprises 200 units of independent living, assisted living and memory care with resort-style amenities.

The cost of living along Kiawah’s shores ranges from $1 million to $19.999 million according to Whalen. Trish Flanagan of KIRE lists a property at 49 Surfsong Road for $4.6 million. 

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“The home is in the heart of the Vanderhorst Beach neighborhood and is steps way from the ocean via a private boardwalk,” Flanagan said. “There are floor-to-ceiling windows and it has panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean."

Limitless options

“There are so many different options for waterfront living,” said Champ Smith of Beach Residential. “From condos, beachfront or waterfront – living on any waterway makes for a picturesque Lowcountry view.”

Smith, an avid fisherman, specializes in waterfront properties and knows the waters around the area well, having lived here all his life.

“Prices range from several hundred thousand dollars to multimillion-dollar homes and buyers are a range as well,” Smith said. “Some have lived here for many years and they’re looking for peace and quiet from ever-growing areas. I believe the buyers purchasing these properties are 50/50 – some are looking for vacation and investment properties and many locals move from the beach to the quieter back side of the islands that offer marsh vistas and deep water docks.”

Smith said since the economy and interest rates have been so good he’s seeing more vacation home buyers.

“Our buyers’ season has grown to nearly year-round instead of just spring and summer,” Smith said “Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day were once the highlights of the summer season, but it seems that for the last decade we’re seeing vacation season expanding. It’s not uncommon now to see days in the mid-70s anytime from November to February and people take advantage of our beaches and waterways when we have this kind of weather.”

Crowds flock to the beach during “high-season,” and developers on Isle of Palms are paying attention.

“Wild Dunes is building a new hotel that will have lots of opportunities for many investors and vacationers,” Smith added.

Wild Dunes Resort has broken ground on a 153-room hotel that is slatted for completion in 2021. It sits on four acres and will include luxury-style amenities such as a rooftop ballroom with a 6,000 square-foot terrace. Add a 2,750 square foot fitness facility and destination spa and expect even more visitors to our beaches.

Smith sold two properties in 2019, one on the Intracoastal Waterway on the Isle of Palms and the other, an intracoastal property in Awendaw. They sold for $2.9 million and $1.275 million, respectively.

Smith has two listings on Sullivan’s Island – one, beach front at 1651 Atlantic Avenue for $3.1 million and the other on 1420 Middle Street for $1.7 million. For a more rural setting, a lot is available on Wadmalaw on 21 Jose Ridge Road overlooking Wadmalaw Sound for $699,000.

According to where one wants to be, it’s still somewhat affordable to live on or near our region’s waterways. Or, at the very least, pack a few things, go sit by a shore and enjoy all that splendor from sunrise to sunset, most any day of the year.


Fast Facts – Charleston Waterways & Waterfronts

• There are 16 river and 10 lakes in South Carolina.

• There are eight islands – Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, Folly Beach, Johns Island, Wadmalaw, Seabrook, Edisto and Kiawah.

• Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties have a total of 47 public boat ramps.

• Thirty percent of South Carolina is water.

• Charleston County has 36,000 registered boats; Berkeley, 18,000 and Dorchester, just under 10,000.

• South Carolina has more salt marshes than any other state on the east coast – about 400,000 acres, and Charleston County has the most salt marshes of any other county in South Carolina.

• Tidal creeks represent about 17 percent of the state’s estuarine waters by surface area.

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