• May 2012

Need a Family-Friendly Beach To Keep From Sweating the Small Stuff?

It’s always a challenge for us to find an affordable, family-friendly vacation spot for Spring Break, or any other break from school. Flying gets expensive when you need to buy four tickets, and driving to a far-away destination can require too much car time to keep the kids from kvetching, or take too big a bite out of the vacation time.

So we were thrilled to find Wild Dunes in the Isle of Palms of South Carolina. About nine hours from DC by car, and just 20 minutes from Charleston, it is a resort by the sea with all the amenities we fantasize about: pools, tennis, golf, yoga, affordable food options—and best of all, easy access to the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean. Here’s a recap.

A Room With a Review: Wild Dunes Island Resort, Isle of Palms, South Carolina

1. The overview: Clean, easy to navigate, and quiet, this beach hotel, condo, and vacation rental resort is located in the heart of the expansive Wild Dunes Resort. With three pools in the main area, one heated and the others right on the beach, there is plenty of room to roam when the weather is good. There are also two golf courses, and tons of tennis courts, fitness centers, and yoga classes to choose from.

2. The rooms: Vacation homes and condos are located throughout the Resort, including beachfront locations. Homes range from three to seven bedrooms, while condos range from one to three. Three accommodation levels allow you to find the rental size and style that best suits you:

Deluxe: These homes and condos feature upscale kitchens and baths, beautiful furnishings, and upgraded electronics, from cooks’ kitchens to plasma-screen TVs. A select number of Deluxe oceanfront homes are part of The Collection and feature enhanced amenities and concierge services.

Moderate: A quality vacation rental offering updated kitchens and baths, furnishings, bedding, and electronics; all at a slightly more affordable rate.

Standard: Includes attractive décor with the essential furnishings for comfort in a vacation rental. These accommodations are the most affordable rental throughout Wild Dunes Resort.

Tucked into the heart of Wild Dunes Resort, and just 150 yards from the beach, is The Boardwalk Inn. Ninety-three rooms and suites, including five ADA-accessible rooms, offer a relaxed, private feel that keeps guests coming back year after year. The Boardwalk Inn has earned popularity among guests and critics alike, receiving the AAA Four Diamond award every year since it opened.

3. The restaurants: The Inn also offers The Sea Island Grill & Lounge, an upscale coastal restaurant in a casual atmosphere; a pool; and easy access to the popular The Grand Pavilion and Boardwalk. Also nearby is The Village Plaza, which includes The Lettered Olive Restaurant & Lounge (open seasonally), a salon with spa services, a fitness center, and a grocery market.

Area restaurants are also nearby—but packed, especially after 7. We tried a handful and can recommend:

The Boathouse Restaurant: Great views of the sunset (but only if you are having at drink at the bar upstairs, or if you ask to sit downstairs—and the tables are often reserved). Most tourists come for the seafood and South Carolina specialties. Be prepared, this place isn’t cheap (budget about $30/person). And definitely make a reservation in the morning for the night you want to eat here.

Hucks Low Country Table: Quaint, tasty, and also expensive. Make a reservation early in the day! The first night we tried to get a table, the wait was an hour and the place was packed.

Luke and Ollies Since our kids weren’t willing to wait for that table at Hucks, we opted for take-out pizza and salads at Luke and Ollies. What you get, in addition to some amazingly creative pizza-inspired options (ever had a Caesar salad in a pizza bowl?) is service from some of the nicest locals you’d want to meet. There was a wait here, too; so call ahead and consider the take-out option and consider a picnic on the beach, which is just a block away.

Piggly Wiggly Of course, eating in at your rental property is a good option. To stock up, try the Piggly Wiggly, located just five miles from Wild Dunes. Also in the shopping center are a handful of restaurants and shops, a nail salon, and for those eager to sweat out the small stuff, try the Bikram Yoga Studio. For about $20, plus the rental of a mat, it’s a sure fire way to get your heart going.

4. The service: Southern hospitality is alive and well at Wild Dunes, where the cheerful staff—including many recent college grads—is willing and able to make you feel at home. Towels, cocktails, suggestions on where to go when you head out for an adventure … you name it, they are happy to assist.

5. The extras: Golf, tennis, fitness rooms, and more make your stay a relaxing, healthy treat. Granted, there is a pretty big price tag that comes with each of these offerings, but if you have money to play with—this is a good place to pull out all the stops.

During high-traffic vacation times—Spring Break, Easter, and Memorial Day, in particular—there are plenty of activities for kids ages 5-12. Options include the Wild Adventures Club: Sports Day, $40/child; Barrier Island Marine Bio Day, $60/child; and craft classes, $10/item for Tie Dye, Spin Art Discs, Shell and Shark Tooth Necklaces, etc.

There are also Easter Basket deliveries, $30/basket; the Tortoise and Hare Beach 5K Run/Walk, $25/person entry fee; and a breakfast buffet with the Easter Bunny, $10/kids and $15/adults.

Golf specials include a three-day golf pass, $200/person; Round Robin tennis clinics (all levels), $15/session; the daily drill for $29/session; and the future stars clinic (ages 12-16) for $50/session, among other classes.

Two golf courses on the grounds also make this ideal place to play 36 holes. Rates range from $95-$120/game on the Links Course, and $55-$85/game on the Harbor Course.

There is also a spa on the premises for manicures/pedicures, facials, and haircuts; several large fitness rooms, open to all guests; and an assortment of wellness programs that range from yoga ($20/person) to personal training ($60/session and $110 for two or more people).

6. The price: 1 bedroom oceanfront condos start at $159 per night, 2 bedrooms go for $189, and 3 bedrooms are $229 per night. For fully furnished houses that accommodate up to 10, budget for closer to $3,000 for a weeklong stay. But specials abound, especially if you are booking in advance and/or off-season. Recommended packages include options for families, romantic getaways, golfers, tennis players, meeting planners, and weddings.

Inkandescent rating = 4 seagulls out of four. Definitely worth the trip!