Exploring Kiawah Island’s natural beauty on two wheels
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Framed by the Atlantic Ocean and the island’s namesake Kiawah River, Kiawah Island is known for its stunning scenery. The island possesses a diverse mix of lush maritime forests, brackish ponds, expansive salt marshes, picturesque dunes and an abundance of wildlife. All of this and more makes biking on Kiawah Island well worth the trip.
Although we had been to Kiawah Island numerous times we had yet to experience the island on two wheels. That all changed one sunny mid-September day when we loaded up our bikes for a two-night stay at the lovely Andell Inn, nestled in the heart of Freshfields Village. Located off the roundabout between Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island the “village”, as locals call it, serves as the vibrant town square for both islands.
Having arrived at the village midday and knowing that the longer of our two rides would be to Kiawah Island the following day we chose Seabrook Island for our afternoon ride. Although Seabrook Island is a private gated community bicyclists are free to enjoy the approximately 28 miles of roads. With strict enforcement of the 25 mile per hour speed limit it makes the island is a very safe place to bike, jog or skate.
One of the first things that we noticed while on our way to Seabrook Island were dozens of horses relaxing in the wide open pastures that are part of the Seabrook Island Equestrian Center. It’s a beautiful sight to see and one that quickly transports you to a more bucolic place.
Being that we were not familiar with the island we headed out with no specific agenda or destination. Our serendipity paid off in spades as we biked through miles of tree lined neighborhoods filled with stately homes.
Crossing over wooden bridges we were captivated by the expansive views of the two championship golf courses that wind through marshes and forests. With meandering rivers, sparkling blue ponds and lakes, fields of dancing spartina grass and centuries old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss it’s no wonder that golfers from around the world come to play these challenging courses.
After two hours of peddling we were suddenly greeted with darkening skies and the ominous rumbles of a gathering storm. Not keen to get caught in a downpour from 10 miles out we quickly returned back to the hotel for a hot shower and a well deserved meal at Fuji Sushi.
The following morning we woke to patchwork skies (perfect for biking) and a warm breeze which inspired us to get up, have a quick breakfast and jump in the saddle. By 9am we were on the Freshfields Bike Path which starts in the village and parallels Kiawah Island Parkway making it easy to know that you’re headed in the right direction. The slightly less than two mile stretch from the village to the entrance of the island can be a bit noisy as it is the main road on-and-off the island but once you’ve passed the front gate the path veers into the forest and things become considerably quieter.
A short distance from the village we crossed the first bridge which offers sweeping views up-and-down the Kiawah River. From the bridge it’s easy to spot great blue herons and pelicans along with long-legged great egrets proudly showing off their all-white plumage and brightly colored bills. Set against the green grasses of the river they make for a dazzling sight. It was a fitting introduction to the day’s ride.
With the noisiest miles behind us we passed the entrance to the island and the sensory overload of cars and trucks was replaced with a symphony of birdsong. For the next two hours we rode along paths covered in a lush canopy of live oaks, palmetto palms, various species of pine trees and red cedars to name just a few. What this wide variety of trees offer, other than their natural beauty, is an abundance of welcome shade.
There are numerous trails that make up the 30 mile Kiawah Island bike network along with several boardwalks which lead to the pristine 10 mile stretch of beach allowing bikers views of the ocean as well as many of the mansions that nestle behind the grass covered dunes. For those who prefer to ride on the beach the customer driven Alligator Bike Shop is the go to place to rent a comfortable fat tire cruiser for a day of riding on the sand.
With breakfast a distant memory and our stomachs making more noise than the local population of birds we turned around at Ocean Park and headed back to Freshfields Village for a well earned, mid-afternoon lunch and a quick siesta before embarking on our late afternoon ride to the exclusive and pristine natural enclave known as Cassique.
Biking on Kiawah Island is a treat for anyone who enjoys miles of uninterrupted trails with stunning scenery combined with the safety of non-motorized paths (even e-bikes and e-scooters are prohibited). An added bonus for the first time rider to Kiawah Island is that there is no need to worry about getting lost as trail and route signs are scattered throughout the island making it easy, and enjoyable, to let yourself wander.
The next time you’re up for a safe and beautiful ride, either long or short, on the paths or the beach, be sure to put Kiawah Island at the top of your list.