A Tale of Two Carolinas

From the pristine miles of ocean to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, South Carolina offers vacationers the best of both worlds. Andy and I knew it would be perfect for our recent honeymoon.

By Karin Fabry

The wedding was perfect and the honeymoon already planned. Of course, plans don’t always go as, well, planned. Six hours late getting started, we finally got on the road to our first destination in South Carolina. After navigating the winding roads leading into Kiawah Island, the stunning Sanctuary came into view. It was everything I expected and more.

From a first impression, the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island exudes elegance and class. The resort, with its southern plantation design, looks much like a sophisticated residence that’s been established on the property for centuries.

Our fifth-floor room was stunning. Splashed with muted shades of gold and green, the décor was timeless and sophisticated.

The centerpiece of our suite, the four-poster bed, was high and piled with layer upon layer of luxuriously soft fabrics. A comfy, gold wingback chair and ottoman were situated near the sliding doors that led to our personal balcony. A heavy armoire hid the television set and DVD player, and a large chest held even more pillows and blankets.

I’ve always been a bathroom person, so of course I had to check it out. The walk-in shower was extra large and featured both a rain shower and an adjustable showerhead. The vanity was perfectly decorated with elegant plants and pictures and a deep, cloth laundry basket under the vanity added a sense of home. To further enhance the comfort of their guests, all of the lights (including those in the shower and bar area) are on easy-to-use dimmer switches.

A Delightful Dinner

After exploring every-inch of our hotel suite, Andy and I dressed for dinner and headed downstairs to the restaurant. A few minutes early for our 9:15 reservation, we took a quick moonlit stroll along the Atlantic.

When we were finally seated, a look around the restaurant revealed a cozy, darkened setting. Even though the floor plan was open, intimacy and romance with your dining partner isn’t an issue. Walls of Charleston brick offer huge windows with an uninterrupted view of the ocean just yards away. Patrons can dine in or enjoy the fresh ocean air on the restaurant’s outdoor dining terrace. Fresh, native ingredients and traditional low country favorites add to the casual dining experience.

After perusing the menu, Andy opted for a sampler platter, a combination of beef tenderloin, ribs, and pulled pork. Not being able to decide on a dipping sauce, our server generously brought all three available. Andy commented the cuts of meat were tender and moist and the buttermilk mashed potatoes were to die for.

I ordered the Frenched Ashley Farms breast of chicken served on a bed of rice. I also chose the buttermilk potatoes and agreed with Andy that they were delicious. Throughout my meal, I sipped on one of the Sanctuary’s signature drinks, an Ocean Breeze. This electric blue concoction was as sweet as it was blue. The meal portions were so substantial that neither of us had room for dessert, but after examining the decadent dessert case, we couldn’t resist. We ordered an extra large slice of chocolate cheesecake to take back to our room and share later. It was worth it!

Exploring Charleston

For history buffs, Charleston has an abundance of centuries-old buildings and churches and Civil War stories and history. There is also plenty for the cultural and arts minded to do. Our first visit was to the South Carolina Aquarium, situated on beautiful Charleston Harbor. We first came across the mountain forest gallery. A heavy set of doors leads to this region and opening the doors reveals a cold, wet mist and a strong gust of wind. A friendly, older gentleman, who was entering the exhibit before us, was very patient and understanding with his wife, who expressed concerns about the cool, wet air. After a short conversation, the woman put on her coat, covered her head with her hood, and braved the elements. Inside, she smiled and laughed as they navigated the hilly terrain.

Other systems represented include a beach and a coastal plain. We enjoyed the aquarium so much that we lost track of time and missed the last ferry that would take us to Fort Sumter just across the harbor. For those interested, the trip to Fort Sumter is a history-rich expedition that takes visitors to the site where the first shots were fired during the Civil War.

Instead, Andy and I chose to visit the American Military Museum on Pickney Street. A small but fascinating place, it’s dedicated to preserving the uniforms and artifacts US soldiers used in and out of combat, dating back to the Revolutionary War. We spent a few hours marveling at the huge collection of memorabilia and how the troop’s supplies and uniforms have changed through the decades.

For lunch, we stopped at Sticky Fingers, a well-known barbecue and rib joint in that region. I ordered an overstuffed baked potato with cheddar cheese and grilled chicken while Andy opted for a plate of baby back ribs. The food was filling and delicious and the various barbecue sauces were so tasty that we left with a sampler pack that included all of Sticky Fingers’ best sellers. Sinc

e Sticky Fingers is located right near King Street, Charleston’s well known shopping district, we decided to explore the shops and boutiques before setting out on our next adventure. If you like shopping, then King Street is an amazing strip that, in my opinion, rivals those in New York and Miami. With a great combination of higher-end shops like Saks Fifth Avenue and Ann Taylor — along with popular stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and Bebe — there is certainly something for everyone.

Charleston also features many locally owned craft and specialty shops some of which, where buyers can bargain for their desired price. The Old City Market houses more than 100 shops and vendors that sell everything from local foods to souvenirs. The most celebrated crafters are the ladies who weave and sell sweet grass baskets. The craft of basket weaving, passed down from West African slaves, is considered one of Charleston’s most loved traditions and it’s not unusual to see these ladies weaving and selling their wares on street corners throughout the city.

After purchasing several items for family members and dropping them off at the car, Andy and I headed for our last destination in Charleston — the USS Yorktown. The size of this carrier was overwhelming as we approached. The Yorktown is known as “The Fighting Lady” and has become one of the best-known warships in American history. The staircases leading to the lower levels of the ship were narrow and steep; it was hard to picture soldiers rushing in and out in times of war.

Our trip back to the Sanctuary was easier than our trip out, and we met up with Director of Public Relations Matt Owens, who generously agreed to give us the grand tour.

Creating a Sanctuary

“We went through a great deal to keep the Sanctuary looking old and residential,” Matt explains. “The resort was in the planning stages for 8 years and was designed to look like a plantation house that had two separate wings added to it.”

Walking through the grand entrance is like stepping into a centuries-old home designed with comfort and elegance in mind. Beautifully decorated in pale, warm shades, the lobby areas were laid out to resemble individual rooms in a home. No detail went overlooked when accessorizing the space. Several 19th century Irish crystal chandeliers bought at auction hang prominently in the main concourse. The floor looks worn and weathered with irregular planks of walnut wood. An uneven texture simulates years of wear and tear. The winding staircases at each end of the hallway give a distinctive creak as you make your way to the higher floors.

We thanked Matt for our informative tour and for his advice on what activities might suit us best for the rest of our stay. Andy and I had a tough decision to make.

A Day of Pampering

The next morning we received an early wake-up call to remind us of our scheduled spa treatments. Hey, we had to treat ourselves, right? After all, it was our honeymoon!

Walking into the spa area was like walking into our own private rainforest. Dim lighting, an abundance of natural stone, wood, and lush greenery, and the ever-present sound of trickling water stimulated all of our senses at once.

The men and women’s dressing rooms each feature an aqua retreat — complete with a spacious mineral pool, steam room, and sauna. The changing room was so relaxing and peaceful that I could have spent the whole afternoon there! But I knew better things were to come. Andy and I were led to our personal massage suite and had 45 minutes to enjoy the whirlpool bath, relax in the chaise lounges, and munch on the fresh fruit that was left for us. This was heaven!

When our masseurs came in, we took our place on the tables and prepared to be pampered. During my massage, my masseuse placed warm grain and herb filled body wraps on key tension areas to induce relaxation. It felt wonderful. Taking a quick peek at Andy, I think he had a similar experience.

After our early morning massages we were ready for a nap, but our busy day was just beginning. We were scheduled for a guided canoe trip that we set up through the concierge desk. The weather was a warm 70 degrees when we met our guides and the three other couples with whom we would be exploring the saltwater marshes.

The canoe run we paddled through had quite a current and gave our arms a workout. I quickly came to realize that we should have scheduled the spa treatment after the canoe trip!

Our guides were very patient and informative, pointing out native birds and vegetation as we traveled. The salty air was exhilarating and the sounds of the crashing waves could be heard from just beyond the sand dunes. But the highlight of the trip was canoeing alongside two playful dolphins. Initially, seeing the huge creatures so close made my heart skip a beat, but I quickly relaxed and enjoyed their comical antics.

Our time at the Sanctuary was quickly coming to an end and when we returned to our room, we decided on one more ocean stroll before packing our bags. Tomorrow we would be trading waves and sand for mountains and waterfalls. I couldn’t wait!

Westward Bound

It was a beautiful, four-hour drive to our second destination at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As we traveled, the sand on the side of the highway turned to rock, palm trees became colorful oaks and maples, and the distant mountains grew more impressive with each passing mile.

Pulling up the steep, winding drive to the Red Horse Inn revealed breathtaking views of the nearby mountains. Andy and I were greeted at the main house by innkeepers Mary and Roger Wolters. We had spoken on the phone several times while making arrangements and it felt like we were greeting old friends.

The Red Horse Inn consists of a main house and five private cottages spread out over nearly 200 acres. Our cottage, the Springhouse, was warm and charming. There was a welcome note taped to our door and the full-sized fridge was stocked with a weekend’s supply of muffins, granola bars, and juice. We also had several dishes of various types of eggs frozen in our freezer. I later learned that Mary does this for all of her guests, “just in case they want a hot breakfast.”

The cottage featured a whimsical bedroom embellished with shades of teal and green, and the four-poster bed was draped with off-white material. The main living quarters were larger than expected and featured three separate seating areas and a working fireplace. Ivy leaves are the recurring theme and a faux finish on the wall paints the leaves snaking over the cross beams and into the bedroom. It added a sense of whimsy and romance to the space.

One of my favorite parts of the cottage was the front and back porch, each complete with two rockers. The views were spectacular and we spent plenty of time on those porches sitting, relaxing, and talking.

Pretty as a Postcard

Our first morning in the mountains, we awoke to the sound of rain outside. But even the dreary mist couldn’t dampen the beauty of the mountains. We spent the afternoon in nearby Landrum, a haven for antique lovers. We shopped all afternoon and took home some one-of-a-kind mementos from our trip.

Back in the car, we explored the snaking roads and stopped to take a lot of pictures. We found our way to Pearson’s Falls, one of many waterfalls located within a quick drive of the inn.

The hike to the falls was a quarter of a mile, filled with rushing waters, huge boulders, and impressive trees. There was a slight incline, but nothing that couldn’t be handled with a little determination. Pearson’s Falls was an awe-inspiring sight and the massive waterfall dwarfed the trees and rocks that surrounded it. From the closest observation level I could feel the water’s mist. I loved every minute of being in the woods, surrounded by natural beauty. The air was crisp and clean and I felt invigorated. We spent two hours exploring the area around the falls and shooting a whole roll of film.

In time, we made our way back to the inn, where we enjoyed a quiet dinner in our cottage. We had plans to spend the next morning horseback riding.

I’ve never been horseback riding, so it was a little unnerving once I mounted my horse. I never realized just how tall a horse is. After a quick lesson on controlling the animals, we set out on the back trails of the Red Horse Inn. Our guides, Julia and Ben, were patient and kind and our horses friendly and hungry. They stopped at every other bush to pull off branches to munch on. For those not interested in riding horseback, carriage rides are also available.

Andy and I spent the remainder of our last day in South Carolina hiking the trails mapped out by Mary. “There’s so much to do in our area,” she says. “It’s just a wonderful place to explore and visit.”

That night, I couldn’t believe our vacation was coming to an end. While we were only able to spend six days exploring South Carolina, we probably could have used a month!

On the way home, I silently reminisced about the week that had just come to an end. From a fairytale wedding to the beauty of Kiawah Island, Charleston, and the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a trip I know I will cherish forever.

The Sanctuary, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
(877) 683-1234

The Red Horse Inn, Landrum, South Carolina
(864) 895-4968

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