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If you’re a nature lover looking for a relaxing place to get close and personal with various ecosystems, plant life, and animals in their natural habitat, you’re in luck. Just 21 miles south of historic Charleston, South Carolina lies Kiawah Island, a place where recreation and nature beckons. Technically a part of John’s Island, this lowland resort area offers birdwatching, nature trails, biking, boating, fishing, wildlife, and over 10 miles of pristine beaches.

Kiawah Island is named after the subtribe of Cusabo Native Americans who inhabited the island long before the arrival of Europeans to the New World. The Cusabos subsided on hunting and fishing due to the plethora of fish and wildlife in the area. Today, the island is a prime vacation destination in proximity to some of South Carolina’s finest natural attractions.

Book your reservation at the Sanctuary Hotel at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, rated the #1 family resort in the U.S. and Canada by Travel & Leisure Family. Don’t let the name fool you; there’s much more to this resort than a swing on the green.

First, head over to the Heron Park Nature Center in Night Heron Park where you can learn about Kiawah Island’s varied wildlife and ecosystems. Talk to a resort naturalist and find out about the island’s best nature hotspots. Take a nature tour amidst southern oaks and palms. If you need any nature wear or gear, stop by the Kiawah Nature Shop where you can purchase binoculars, footwear, books, clothing, and discount tickets to local area nature attractions.

Grab your binoculars and observe the many species of colorful birds. Spot a bobcat or two, but don’t fret; these small cats are harmless. Turtles, terrapins, deer, alligators, and foxes are also common on the island. Take the Wildlife in the Wetlands 7-mile bike tour to discover the abundant wildlife that makes Kiawah Island’s diverse ecosystems their home. Learn about the island’s sand dunes, salt marshes, beaches, forests, and ponds.

The resort offers various nature walks and guided tours within the resort area and beyond (fee required). For kids, the Junior Naturalist Animal Care and Herpetology tours provide a behind the scenes look at animal caretaking and a backwoods hunt for amphibians and reptiles (respectively). Take a hayride tour of Rosebank Farms, search for alligators on the Gator Walk, or observe the habits of nocturnal seaside creatures on the Night Beach Walk.

Boating is also big on Kiawah Island. Take a paddling tour of rivers, tidal creeks, marshes, and hammock islands via canoe or kayak. For a higher-powered adventure, hop aboard a 24-foot motorboat in a search for Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. Or, choose the Sandy Point Get-A-Way and walk on the island’s most secluded beach amidst preserved native plants and wildlife.

Kiawah Island offers the perfect vacation destination for the uncompromising nature enthusiast. For more information, visit kiawahresort.com and kiawahisland.org.