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Kiawah Island, South Carolina facts for kids

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Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah sunrise
Kiawah sunrise
Location of Kiawah Island in South Carolina
Location of Kiawah Island in South Carolina
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Charleston
Incorporated as a town 1938
Incorporated as a city 1957
 • Total 15.14 sq mi (39.21 km2)
 • Land 11.17 sq mi (28.93 km2)
 • Water 3.97 sq mi (10.28 km2)
13 ft (4 m)
 • Total 1,626
 • Estimate 
 • Density 158.36/sq mi (61.14/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code 843, 854
FIPS code 45-38162
GNIS feature ID 1253569

Kiawah is a sea island, or barrier island, on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Located 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Charleston in Charleston County, South Carolina, it is primarily a private beach and golf resort. It is home to the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, with spacious villas, beaches, large and acclaimed golf courses, and other attractions. As of the 2010 census, Kiawah Island's population was 1,626, up from 1,163 at the 2000 census. The island is part of the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville metropolitan area. Alternative spellings and variants of the name itself include "Kiawa", "Kittiwar" (in DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy), and "Kittiwah" (in George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess). The proper pronunciation is sometimes considered difficult: the following reference provides an example pronunciation of Kiawah Island. Census Tract 21.04, located on the island, has a per capita income of $168,369, the highest in South Carolina. [1]


The Bass Pond Site and Arnoldus Vander Horst House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kiawah was named for the Kiawah Indians who were led by their head chieftain or cassique. In the year 1670, the cassique of the Kiawah led English colonists to settle at Charlestowne Landing.


Long held by the Vanderhorst family, Kiawah Island was purchased by C.C. Royal in 1950 for logging and timber; he went on to develop the first summer home neighborhood in 1954 along the beach and named the street Eugenia, after his wife.

In 1974 Royal’s heirs sold the Island to Kuwait Investment Corporation; soonafter, a thorough environmental survey is conducted, and a master plan for Kiawah’s development is produced. Two years later, in 1976, real estate sales commence and the Cougar Point (formerly Marsh Point) golf course was opened.

The 1980’s saw the opening of two of the seven golf courses associated with Kiawah-Turtle Point in 1981 and Osprey Point in 1988. 1988 also saw all resort assets and amenities, along with Kiawah’s undeveloped lands purchased by the development group, Kiawah Resort Associates (KRA), owned by Charles P. Darby III and Patrick W. McKinney, et al. The Town of Kiawah was also established in the same year.

Following the impact of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, KRA sold resort assets to Landmark Land Co., who would then sell the assets to William H. Goodwin in 1993. The 90’s saw the establishment of the Kiawah Island Club in 1993 and the addition of three more courses: the Ocean Course in 1991, the River Course in 1995, and Oak Point in 1997. The final of Kiawah’s associated golf courses, Cassique, was opened in 2000. Freshfields Village, a town-center type mix of shopping, dining, and services saw ground broken in 2004. That same year, The Sanctuary hotel opened on the island.

In 2013, Darby and associates sold Kiawah Partners to the South Street Partners for an estimated $350 million. This transaction included Kiawah Island Club, Kiawah Island Real Estate, Freshfields Village, Kiawah Island Utility, and other domestic and international holdings.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 13.4 square miles (34.8 km2), of which 11.0 square miles (28.4 km2) is land and 2.5 square miles (6.4 km2), or 18.36%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 91
1990 718
2000 1,163 62.0%
2010 1,626 39.8%
2019 (est.) 1,769 8.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Kiawah Island racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 1,915 95.13%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 20 0.99%
Asian 22 1.09%
Other/Mixed 25 1.24%
Hispanic or Latino 31 1.54%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 2,013 people, 869 households, and 675 families residing in the town.

Parks and recreation


Kiawah Island is widely hailed as one of the premier golf destinations on the East Coast. The island features seven award-winning golf courses designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, and Pete Dye. The courses snake along the narrow island, moving from the dense wooded interior of the island to the breezy oceanfront. Five of the courses are owned and maintained by Kiawah Island Golf Resort. These are the Ocean Course, Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Oak Point, and Cougar Point. Two courses are owned and maintained by Kiawah Island Club. These are the River Course and Cassique.

The Ocean Course

Pete Dye designed the Ocean Course in 1991 and the course has since proved to be one of the toughest on the East Coast. The Ocean Course was the home of the 1991 Ryder Cup, the 1997 World Cup of Golf, the 2007 Senior PGA Championship, and the 2012 PGA Championship, becoming only the fourth golf course in history to host each of the PGA of America's men's major championships. The Ocean Course was featured in the 2000 movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron.

County parks

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) operates a park on the island, Beachwalker County Park, located on the west end of the island. In 2013, Forbes ranked the park's beach as the 10th best in the United States.

Walking and biking

Thirty miles of paved trails and 10 miles of beach provide a natural setting for biking and walking.

Boating and fishing

Tidal creeks, salt marshes, and the Kiawah River itself allows for various canoeing and kayaking opportunities. There are numerous water access points, including a community kayak rental dock at Mingo Point and boat storage near the 15th green of the Cassique golf course, as well as a full marina just outside Kiawah’s gate, for more expansive Kiawah Island fishing and deep sea fishing excursions. Also, Kiawah Island Club Members enjoy private access to a kayak dock in Cassique, and the Kiawah Community Association maintains a launch and storage at Cinder Creek and Rhett’s Bluff.

Notable people

The following people own homes on Kiawah Island:

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