“Well, would you look at that — three crabs!” Captain Robert Hopkins says as he pulls up a trap from the marshy waters surrounding Isle of Palms, South Carolina. He
“Well, would you look at that — three crabs!” Captain Robert Hopkins says as he pulls up a trap from the marshy waters surrounding Isle of Palms, South Carolina. He shakes the colorful crustaceans out into a plastic tub, re-baits the trap, then drops it back into the marsh as the boat edges out of the tall grass and into Copahee Sound. One by one, he holds up each crab for the small group of folks on the boat to see, explaining what makes each one unique. It’s enough to capture the attention and inspire wonder in the kids and adults alike — until they spot the bottlenose dolphins … and the bald eagle. And the boat stops at nearby Capers Island for a mini adventure.
This is a Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise, and for two and a half hours, Captain Rob shares a lifetime of knowledge and interesting facts about the ecosystem surrounding this barrier island outside of Charleston with a small group of tourists who are staying at Wild Dunes Resort — and his dog, Ella Belle, keeps the crowd company.
At the pit-stop on remote Capers Island, the group strolls from where the boat pulls up on the shell-littered shore over to Boneyard Beach — named for the dozens of incredible sun-bleached stumps and branches of palmetto and oak trees marooned by the island moving one grain of sand at a time. It’s an other-worldly sight. “There aren’t many places like this,” Captain Rob says later, as the boat noses back toward Isle of Palms, and the sunset casts a pink glow on the horizon.
Captain Rob is right, but this eco-tour features just one of many incredible moments that are made possible at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms. From incredible seafood to beach lounging to poolside cocktails to biking and golfing, we’ll tell you how make the most of your coastal escape.
Sweetgrass Inn is Charleston’s newest destination. Discover — or rediscover — everything to love about Wild Dunes Resort, with an array of accommodations, dining, family activities, golf, destination spa, and more.
There are three hotels to choose from at Wild Dunes Resort — plus rental homes for bigger groups — but kick off your vacation by checking into an ocean-view room at the newest resort addition, the Sweetgrass Inn. Think cozy, modern coastal charm with floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful views of the ocean just beyond the pool. Settle into a seat on your balcony and watch the sun dip below the horizon.
For dinner, head over to the elegant Coastal Provisions, tucked inside the Boardwalk Inn just a three-minute walk through the resort from the Sweetgrass Inn’s lobby. There, at a table on the terrace overlooking the pool, order a Beach Bramble cocktail made with gin, Crème de Mure, lemon, and blackberries; a cup of she-crab soup — a coastal South Carolina classic — served with homemade brioche crouton (yes, please!); and, for your main course, the lump crab cakes of your dreams. And yes, there’s steak.
The best way to see Isle of Palms? On two wheels. Rent a bike for the day (or your whole vacation) and get pedaling. Sidewalks — and long, flat roads! — run throughout the entire resort and across the island, meaning you can get just about anywhere without having to hop in the car. Take a ride in the morning, before the sun comes out in full force, for a quiet, cool, beautiful way to start the day. Hint: Cycling is also one of our favorite ways to get an admiring look at some of the most jaw-dropping vacation homes in the area.
After working up an appetite, head to the eastern tip of Wild Dunes for a tasty breakfast overlooking the golf course at Huey’s Southern Eats. The sun-filled room features perfect views of the greens no matter where you sip your coffee. Try “The Brawley” Breakfast Sandwich, made with scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, bacon, a slice of tomato — and Duke’s Mayonnaise, of course. The pecan-smoked bacon is also a favorite.
After watching the golfers putting during breakfast, you might just have an itch to get out there yourself. Luckily, you’ve got 36 holes to play. Choose from two courses designed by Tom Fazio: the Links Course — which features a finishing hole overlooking the ocean — and Harbor Course — known for its challenging design. But don’t worry; if your skills aren’t up to par, you can still practice at the driving range or book a lesson with an instructor.
After all that activity, you deserve to lay back and relax. Snag a chair on Sweetgrass Inn’s expansive pool deck and soak up the sun. The splash pad and the pool will keep kids entertained, and adults will love the hot tub, but if you don’t care about being right next to the water, find a spot beneath an umbrella in the grassy area for more peace and quiet. When you’re ready for lunch and poolside cocktails, head over to Laughing Gull Restaurant & Bar for ultra-casual, Carribean-infused cuisine. Try the frozen peach old-fashioned or frosé — or a classic daquiri for that tropical paradise feel — to cool down. Then, order the conch fritters and terrace tacos. Just save room for dessert: There’s a margarita popsicle with salted key lime sauce you definitely don’t want to miss.
If the Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise isn’t enough to satisfy your sense of adventure, don’t fret; there are all kinds of other outdoor activities and naturalist-led eco-tours to soak in this barrier island’s beauty. Try stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking in the marsh, go on a blue crabbing excursion, charter a boat for the day, or cast a line while catch-and-release shark fishing. No matter how you explore the outdoors, you’re sure to see local wildlife and beautiful coastal views from a new perspective.
After a sun- and fun-filled day, go to the lounge-like Oystercatcher Restaurant & Bar in the lobby of the Sweetgrass Inn for happy hour. If you’re an oyster lover, order the Oyster Catcher cocktail, a fresh oyster shot (seriously!) paired with vodka and house bloody Mary mix. For something less adventurous but just as satisfying, try the spicy strawberry-basil margarita. There are a variety of tasty small plates to snack on, but … when in Rome: Order half-shell, grilled, and baked oysters by the dozen, plus little neck clams. Then sit back in a comfy chair overlooking the pool on the patio and relax in the warm breeze. If things cool off as the sun sets, head over to the enormous outdoor firepit.
In the morning, grab an iced coffee at Hudson’s Market, then head across the way to The Spa at Sweetgrass for a treatment. You can’t go wrong with a massage or a facial, but if you’ve acquired a sunburn in your time at Wild Dunes, might we suggest the Sun Salutation — a full-body refresh for sun-kissed skin with products like aloe vera and green tea extracts to sooth and cool. Make sure to leave time before or after your treatment to enjoy the facilities; pour yourself a glass of cold cucumber-lemon water and relax in a swing in the private spa garden.
No trip to Wild Dunes would be complete without actually heading over the dunes and having a beach day. And forget crowds: After a short stroll from the Sweetgrass Inn’s pool area, you’ll find a wide, sandy beach with plenty of room to spread out, breathe in the salty air, and read a book. For less stress and hassle, rent beach chairs and an umbrella in advance. That way, all you have to do is show up — and bring your sunscreen and your shades, of course.