I recently took my daughter for a mother-daughter weekend to celebrate her 13th birthday. Our destination: Wild Dunes Resort, A Destination Hotel on South Carolina’s Isle of Palms. Just 15 miles up the coast from historic Charleston, it’s an ideal family resort in the heart of the Lowcountry. We loved it for its easy accessibility, abundance of accommodation options and variety of activities — there’s sure to be something to please everyone.
Family-Friendly Review of Wild Dunes Resort
There are two different hotel properties at the resort. The first is The Village at Wild Dunes, which offers traditional king or two-queen guest rooms in addition to studios and one-, two and three-bedroom suites with full kitchens. Note that standard rooms without balconies do not have windows that open.
The second property at the resort is the Boardwalk Inn, our home base. We stayed in a deluxe room with two queen beds and a private balcony overlooking the grounds — nice for enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning, or for parents to have a glass of wine after the kids go to bed. The 93-room inn is 150 yards from the beach; some rooms have distant water views.
Wild Dunes also offers private condos and beach house rentals. Families can choose from poolside, beachside, courtside or courseside accommodations.
TIP: Be sure to request a room that has been recently renovated, as quality can vary. Also know that the resort is quite large; a car is a must.
Dining and Amenities
Sea Island Grill & Lounge in the Boardwalk Inn offers casual fine dining with an emphasis on Southern coastal fare. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the warmer months, guests can sit on the terrace overlooking the adult pool. Families can relax or play a game of chess in the lounge before or after dinner.
The Grand Pavilion Bar & Grill at the pool overlooking the beach serves salads and sandwiches. After a day on the water, enjoy tapas outside the Lettered Olive. If you want to venture off-property, Charleston is a foodie mecca, and nearby Sullivan’s Island has some great family-friendly restaurant options too.
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I highly recommend downloading the resort app to get the most up-to-date schedule of events and activities, from outdoor movies to scuba lessons at the swim center. Guests can also book tee times and make dinner reservations through the app. The Destination Family Golf program offers complimentary golf for kids after 4p. Basketball, bike rentals, table tennis and cornhole (a popular game in the South, similar to a beanbag toss) are also available. Wild Dunes is one of the top-ranked tennis resorts in the United States and offers 17 courts, a full menu of lessons and more.
The onsite Hudson’s Market sells coffee and breakfast sandwiches, locally made crafts and everything in between. My daughter’s favorite thing about the market was the s’mores kits we picked up to enjoy at the fire pit in the Village Plaza. The zero-entry Palm Cove pool is family-oriented, with a bar and grill open during peak season. Families will also love the two oceanfront pools at the Grand Pavilion. Mom and Dad can enjoy some quiet time in one of the cabanas at the adults-only pool at the Boardwalk Inn while the kids participate in a supervised activity such as making starfish ornaments or leather bracelets.
TIP: Reserve beach chairs/umbrellas online for discounts.
Excursions and Local Activities
The Sunset Dolphin Cruise with Barrier Island Eco Tours was a highlight of our trip. It is a naturalist-guided cruise of the intracoastal waterway and surrounding bays, with a stop on the uninhabited Caper’s Island for a bit of exploring. The cruise departs from the Isle of Palms marina, just a five-minute ride from the inn. The marina also offers chartered boats for fishing and crabbing in addition to kayaks and paddle boards.
A visit to historic downtown Charleston is a must. Horse-drawn carriage rides are a great way to get an overview of the city and learn about its history. During high season, purchase tickets online at Palmetto Carriage Tours in advance, as they do sell out.
We did a walking tour with Linda of Absolutely Charleston to explore the wonderful neighborhoods and admire the city’s antebellum architecture. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do a plantation tour, another of this area’s highlights. That just gives us a reason to come back!
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Editor’s Note: Sandy was hosted by Destination Hotels in order to review the property for Ciao Bambino. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Sandy Pappas except where noted.