Ah, the beach. Nothing says vacation like a wide expanse of soft sand and the sound of waves crashing on the shore. But with kiddos in tow, sometimes it’s better to have a back-up for those days when doing nothing just won’t do. With miles of marshes and barrier islands to explore in addition to the beach, history around every corner, bike trails, ecotours and more, there’s no better place than Wild Dunes Resort on the coast of South Carolina for your next beach trip base camp. Pssst—It’s less than a 5 hour drive from Atlanta! Keep reading for everything you need to know about this magnificent seaside spot for making memories.

photo: S. Massey

Where to Stay

Wild Dunes Resort rolls over 1,600 acres on the northern end of Isle of Palms, a barrier island with both flat, sandy beaches and easily-accessible marshland to explore. For a shorter stay with full-service concierge hotel accommodations, the Boardwalk Inn at Wild Dunes Resort is a stylish yet comfortable spot with spacious rooms and suites. For apartment-style accommodations with guest rooms and suites (choose from one-, two- and three-bedroom suites and penthouses, all of which are fully furnished and tastefully decorated) designed with family travel in mind, the Village at Wild Dunes Resort is an easy hop, skip, and jump from the Grand Pavilion, pools, and beach access. And if you prefer a beach house, Wild Dunes Resort has plenty. Stay tuned for exciting events surrounding the Grand Opening in early 2021 of a brand new hotel that will have bonus experiential stays (think author weekends and regionally-inspired activities).

Why we love it: Vacation gets a little less shiny when mom has to hit the grocery store, then plan, cook, and clean-up after meals. Wild Dunes Resort offers guests the option to use Red Apron Dinner Delivery—order 48 hours in advance to have ingredients and recipe cards delivered to your doorstep. Ditch the trip to the grocery store altogether and whip up your own restaurant-quality dinners in the comfort of your own home.

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photo: Wild Dunes Resort

The Beach

While there are many beach access points throughout Wild Dunes Resort, you’ll find two beach-front pools, the Beachside Burgers & Bar, and chair and umbrella service at the Grand Pavillion. And, as long-time citizens on the island, Wild Dunes Resort is committed to sustainable practices that benefit the natural beauty and unique character of the region. You’ll find that straws are paper (and on-demand), turtle season means an integrated guest education effort (and an exciting partnership with the South Carolina Aquarium), and Hudson's Market—located in the Village at Wild Dunes Resort—is full of seasonally inspired local products.

Good to know: A day at the beach can be carefree at Wild Dunes Resort, with The Surf Shop only steps from the Grand Pavillion (no running across the island to pick up the sunscreen you forgot to throw in your beach bag), plus Duney’s ice cream store that makes convincing the kiddos to leave the beach or pools just a little bit easier.

photo: S. Massey

The Bay

Part of what makes Isle of Palms so unique is that half of it fronts a tidal plain, made up of marshes and a navigable Intracoastal Waterway. If you’d like to spend time on the water and you'd like to explore the unique landscape of the low country, head to the Isle of Palms Marina (about 4 minutes from Wild Dunes Resort, and accessible via the resort shuttle). You’ll find plenty of chartered boat options, but our favorite experience was with a naturalist-led adventure with Barrier Island Eco Tours. You'll experience the barrier islands surrounding Isle of Palms from a different perspective by boat, and you'll pick up tons of information about the unique ecosystem of the marshes, along the way.

Don’t miss: A trip with Captain Stingray of Barrier Island Ecotours includes pulling up crab cages from the marsh to see what might be inside (before releasing them back into the wild), dolphin and loggerhead turtle watching at a spot known as the Shark Hole, and just under two hours of independent exploration on Capers Island, an entirely undeveloped island just teeming with crabs, where you can look for shards of Native American pottery among the shells at Boneyard Beach. Other excursions that can be booked include private family charters, beachside cookouts on a barrier island, and blue crabbing excursions.

 

photo: S. Massey

Where to Eat

Whether you’re staying at the Boardwalk Inn, the Village, or in a private beach home, you can easily hop on your bikes to arrive at one of the resort’s many dining options. From Billy G’s island Smokehouse that serves up a dose of Goat Island history with its ribs and sandwiches, to Coastal Provisions—the resort’s fine dining experience inside the Boardwalk Inn—you’ll find locally sourced meals, regionally inspired dishes, and a relaxed vibe.

Don’t leave unless you try: At Hudson's Market in the Village at Wild Dunes Resort, the brave at heart (and stomach) have to take a go at the Wild Thing Challenge—a 16 scoop concoction of delicious ice cream that earns its conqueror a t-shirt proclaiming his or her feat.

photo: S. Massey

Nearby Spots to Explore

One of the best reasons to plan your next beach trip to Wild Dunes Resort is its proximity to other areas worth exploring. To truly understand the unique ecosystem of the South Carolina barrier islands, take a trip on the water—kayak tours as well as boat excursions are available—with Barrier Island Eco Tours. You can head to Boneyard Beach on Capers Island to check out the unique formations of sun-bleached (but dead) live oaks dotting the coast. Or, head across the indescribably beautiful Cooper River Bridge to check out Charleston’s incredible history, remarkable homes, and exciting dining options, just about 25 minutes away.

Live like a local: For an unique low country experience, head to Awendaw Green for weekly original music showcases under grand oaks on the grounds of the Sewee Outpost. The Barn Jams happen every Wednesday night of the year and feature a diverse assembly of music from around the globe. Try a wood fired pizza, the grill, or fresh local oysters in season and drink your own libations responsibly for a $5 donation at the door. All ages are welcome, BYOB, keep your pets on a leash, and enjoy the lowcountry vibe at this family-friendly occasion.

photo: S. Massey

When to Go

It’s always a good time to visit Wild Dunes Resort. Families can take advantage of the assortment of activities on property, including family evening Bingo, outdoor movies, educational clinics and more, throughout the year. From approximately June 1st to August 5th, the Dune Bug Club organizes age-specific activities and projects for kids to do—think fort building, astronaut camp, and junior detective whodunnits—while mom and dad play a round of golf, hit the tennis courts, or maybe just take a nap.

Keep in mind: You can count on temperate weather from Easter to Thanksgiving, which makes visiting during a holiday even more appealing. The 4th of July is epic, with live music, a cookout on Village Plaza, games by the pool, craft tents, and other exciting events. At Thanksgiving, be on the lookout for the annual golf cart parade, and enjoy dinner delivered to your residence or head to one of the full-service traditional spreads at the resort. Christmas and Easter are also both punctuated by traditional activities interpreted for your stay at the beach.

Hot dates: Wild Dunes Resort’s “Hot Dates” in May and June for $149 a night can't be beat, and are perfect for a last minute beach trip. Just throw your bathing suits in a bag and head to Isle of Palms; Wild Dunes Resort will take care of the rest. For more details, take a peek here.

A special thanks to Wild Dunes Resort for hosting the trip. All opinions here are the author’s own.

—Shelley Massey

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