The Charleston region has an abundance of wide open spaces and intimate community-culture places where one can get away from it all or mingle with the locals. The beaches, marshes, wetlands and sunny shores weave throughout the Lowcountry, and some of the world’s most beautiful properties line our coastlines and dot our waterways. Others are nestled within lush landscapes, melding with their surrounding environment.

They are as stunning as the views that surround them.

The market for those who buy into this luxury subset of real estate – vacation homes, resort homes and second homes – continues to thrive. Charlestonians, out-of-state buyers and some international buyers choose the Lowcountry as their “get away from it all” haven.

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a sea island, about 25 miles south of Charleston. It is world-renowned for its natural beauty, preserved forests, dunes and marshes, as well as its world-class golf courses and resorts. It has 20 miles of beach – the East Beach and the West Beach and some residents have private beach areas. The Beachwater County Park has both river and ocean views. Incorporated in the late 80s, its full-time population is about 1,700. The population swells to 8,000 to 10,000 per day during the summer, with visitors and those who own second homes or vacation homes.

“The biggest draw for buyers on Kiawah Island is the incredible lifestyle fostered by the wide range of outdoor pursuits and luxury amenities available, making Kiawah a uniquely relaxing escape from the world,” said Chris Drury, Broker in Charge of Kiawah Island Real Estate (KIRE). “Kiawah’s award-winning master plan, in place for over 40 years, reflects a deep devotion to the Island’s natural beauty and unspoiled wildlife, offering a pristine refuge for homeowners.”

Pristine is most certainly an apt description. The private gated community has seen its share of professional golfers, celebrities, dignitaries and politicians. The Kiawah Island Club is only available to property owners. Its oceanfront beach club was designed by the New York architect firm of Robert A.M. Stern who is legendary for designing luxury commercial and residential spaces globally. The club also boats award-winning golf courses, a restaurant, spa, state-of-the-art Sports Pavilion and an award-wining Marsh House and Sporting Club.

Most of the properties are located behind Kiawah’s main gate or in the private community of Cassique, Drury said.

“Kiawah Island buyers tend to be mostly out-of-state buyers, predominately from ‘drive markets’ like Charlotte and Atlanta, the Northeast Tri-state area and DC, as well as some Charlestonians looking for a second or weekend home,” Drury said.

Villas with 600 square feet start at about $300,000 and estate homes can go as high as $20 million. Home sites can range from $150,000 inland to large lots with water views priced up to over $2 million.

KIRE’s Ellen Walkley lists a home within the private Preserve community on Chinaberry Lane for $3.65 million. The 5,000 plus square foot home is on a tidal marsh where the Kiawah and Stono Rivers meet and faces marsh views to the south and water and maritime views to the north. It has seven bedrooms and a 25-foot living room, two-islanded kitchen, and bedroom suites, including a massive master. The property also has a guest house, in-deck pool and abundant outdoor living spaces. The epitome of Kiawah Island luxury living, buyers can purchase the home fully furnished. A Kiawah Island Club membership is available.

“Kiawah buyers are typically searching for a vacation home or retirement retreat where their family can disconnect and reconnect, enjoy a breadth of curated activities, miles of beach, and easily access the cultural hub of the South, Charleston,” Drury explained.

This pristine paradise has a conservancy that ensures the natural habitat is protected and the residents who live here, both full and part-time, reap the benefits of the island’s stunning surroundings, while enjoying both natural and creature comforts.

“Kiawah has 10 miles of pristine beaches, over 30 miles of paved bike trails and 10,000-acres which includes nearly 45 miles of waterfront highlands that overlook shimmering ponds, serene tidal marshes, deepwater creeks, ribboning rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean,” Drury said. “Kiawah’s tidal creeks, salt marshes, the Kiawah River and miles of coastline also offer myriad opportunities for boating, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Numerous water access points also offer opportunities for Kiawah Island fishing as well as deep sea fishing excursions.”

Edisto Island

Those desiring an easy-going, small-town feel that is “gently developed,” gravitate toward Edisto Island. In Colleton County, it’s a 45-minute drive to downtown Charleston. Development of Edisto Beach began in the 1920s and in the 1970s it was developed as a year-round community. Generations of families and visitors have lived and vacationed in this unspoiled area.

“Buyers flock to the island because it’s a nature preserve. Everything you can’t find in most everyday lives – the overcrowded, hustle and bustle that most of us live in — is here on Edisto,” said Matt Kizer, Broker in Charge and Owner of Edisto Realty. “It’s not your typical ‘beach resort.’ Visitors and residents spend their hours fishing, crabbing, oystering and exploring the ancient oaks and palmettos through 400,000 acres of the ACE Basin, and most of the time never seeing another boater. It is a laid-back family beach where you can go to get away.”

The ACE (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto) Basin, one of the largest preserved estuaries – that protects over 200,000 acres of the state’s coastal plain is one of the biggest draws to Edisto. The dedication to nature preservation, the miles of creeks to explore, the 4,000 acre Botany Bay Preserve and the price range of properties catering to most any buyer attracts a variety of them—vacationers, second-home buyers and retirees.

“Our golf course condos range from the low 100s to $250K,” Kizer explained. “Beach walk houses start below $300,000 and beachfront and deepwater properties offer the best value on the South Carolina coast.”

Beach front homes are available from the $750,000 range and deepwater properties start at $500,000. Kizer lists a 3,400 square foot, five-bedroom beachfront home for $1.495 at 702 Palmetto Boulevard that has dual living areas and miles-long beach views from its two stories. A custom-built 2,000 square foot home at 1301 Jungle Road has marsh views and lists for $593,000.

Edisto Island’s only golf course, Plantation Course, underwent an extensive renovation in the mid-2000s, and is a “jewel carved out in the middle of Edisto Beach with no tee time needed,” Kizer said.

According to Kizer, locals who have been priced out of the market or are tired of fighting traffic to and from work are looking to buy at Edisto. “Lots of buyers are from South Carolina and our neighboring states are buying to rent their investments until they retire.”

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Edisto has several gated communities, but it’s not your “typical” private club, Kizer reiterated. “This is a kick-off your shoes and enjoy the sea island kind of place. There’s a lot of exploring and one of the best things to do on Edisto is to relax and take a deep breath of fresh air,” he said.

Isle of Palms (IOP) and Sullivan’s Island

These two barrier islands are connected by bridges from the mainland and to one another. Though they’ve weathered plenty of storms, they are rich in history and the people who inhabit them on a full-time and part-time basis are accustomed to rebuilding and renewal. Once development began during the 1970s, everyone – locals and vacationers from all over the globe – discovered why it’s one of the most desirable beach and resort communities in the country. Though the population is steady throughout the year, during peak season, the part-timers, second home owners and visitors raise it to over 50,000.

“Most people who are looking for a second home are looking for another home to escape the cold months of the winter from the location of their primary residence. Many of these fall into the category of “empty nesters,” said Deborah Fisher of Handsome Properties. “Other buyers are searching for a place to retire and enjoy their relaxing years in Charleston. We also have buyers that currently live in the region within a relatively close area to Charleston who desire a weekend or summer retreat.”

These types of properties range in price and size, but properties are pricey in this area – close to beaches, Mount Pleasant shopping and downtown, the community offers the best of all worlds. Sullivan’s Island and IOP remain quaint island towns; though development has changed the landscape dramatically over the last two decades. What was once small beach cottages and older lived in large beachfront homes are now multi-million dollar properties. Beachfront homes and Intracoastal Waterway, deep water properties command higher prices and many of them are second-homes.

“In the IOP and Sullivan’s Island market, the prices range from a one-bedroom condo on IOP as low as $275,000 to $7 million for a vacation home on Sullivan’s Island,” Fisher said.

Handsome Properties’ agent LeGrand Elebash recently sold an IOP home listed for $2.515 on Sand Dune Lane. This four-bedroom 2,200 square foot home was beach front and completely renovated.

“Second home buyers are mostly from out of town,” Fisher said. “The biggest draw for buyers who move to IOP and Sullivan’s Island is, of course, the beach. Downtown buyers are looking for more of an experience which may include community involvement, enjoying the many restaurants and participating in festivals such as Spoleto.”

Fisher commented that downtown is a little harder to “nail down” in terms of second-home buyers though one of her clients purchased a property downtown for $15 million as a second home.

“IOP and Sullivan’s Island fits into both categories (full-time and second/vacation buyers) as there are several primary residences as well as vacation homes there,” she said.

There is a reason Charleston has been touted as one of the best cities in the nation and those who’ve been here and come here take full advantage of the plentiful choices of vacation and resort-style living that the region offers.

Contact Brigitte Surette at