by Family Vacation Critic
Wild Dunes Resort is located on the furthermost tip of Isle of Palms, a beautiful barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, about a half-hour’s drive from downtown Charleston. With the Atlantic Ocean bordering one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, this 1,600-acre, year-round beach resort offers lots of family-friendly activities, including water sports, games and crafts, tennis, golf, biking and eco-oriented adventures that allow you to explore the area’s intriguing ecosystem.
The list of summer programs (including all sorts of kids’ camps and sports clinics) is about a mile long, each option sounding more inviting than the next. And if you’re visiting on a holiday—whether it’s July 4 or the Christmas season—special programs and offerings themed to that holiday abound.
This sprawling resort encompasses several types of accommodations, including a 93-room hotel called the Boardwalk Inn, more than 350 one- to four-bedroom villas, three- to 11-bedroom homes, and 120 guestrooms and suites in the Village at Wild Dunes, the latter of which is a great option for families.
Resort amenities include access to the beach, a variety of restaurants and snack bars (from fine dining to deli takeout), several swimming pools, a fitness center, two golf courses, 17 tennis courts, a spa, miles of walking and jogging paths, and valet parking.
As of 2019, Wild Dunes Resort is expanding once more—this time with a new 153-room hotel with rooftop terrace (ideal for weddings and other events) overlooking the ocean, plus pools, a splash pad and poolside restaurant and bar. There will also be a new spa and fitness center. The new hotel, which doesn’t yet have a name, is expected to open in 2021.
Wild Dunes Resort is a Family Vacation Critic Hotel, and has also been named one of the 16 Best Beach Resorts on the East Coast—for all the reasons above, but also because of its impeccable service. Everyone from the front desk staff to the restaurant servers are some of the friendliest and most helpful we’ve encountered in our travels. And good service says a lot about a resort, doesn’t it?
Our Editor Loves
- Classic beach resort
- Kids' and family programs
- Wide variety of accommodations
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
There are plenty of accommodation options at Wild Dunes, ranging in size, comfort level, and price.
Daily housekeeping service also takes care of the dishes if you happen to leave them, although dishwashers are included even in the kitchenettes. All accommodations have flat-screen cable televisions, Wi-Fi access, private balconies, guestrobes, hair dryers and daily newspaper delivery. All of the rooms are non-smoking.
The Boardwalk Inn combines historic charm with seaside-themed aesthetics and modern conveniences. Stay in one of the 93 rooms for an experience that's more low-key, but still beautiful and comfortable. These rooms have mini-fridges, microwaves and coffeemakers. The Boardwalk Inn is best for families of up to four, as adjoining guestrooms are not available here.
Village at Wild Dunes
Guest accommodations at the Village include 400-square-foot guestrooms as well as 449-square-foot studios with kitchenettes and one-, two- and three-bedroom condominium suites that vary from 715 to 1,603 square feet of space, each including a full kitchen. (Studios and suites both offer washer/dryers, as well.)
Condos and Vacation Homes
Families with a higher budget to work with can spring for a one- to four-bedroom condo/cottage, or massive vacation homes with up to seven bedrooms. Specific details for these vary based on the property.
by Tina H
What a great spot, no matter where you rent! There is so much to do. Bring your family here to fix what ails you. I want to move here. It is safe enough to let the kids go on thier own. The beach is wonderful. The pavillion is always a buzz with something. The golf is spectacular! Deer everywhere. Things are crowded and slim pickings in the area, restaraunts, grocery, etc, but it is fun to go the way of the locals for the most part. It feels like a throwback to my childhood, when fun was pure and family was every thing.
by A A
my family and i had a great time - even though it was off season we still enjoyed the restaurants, market, bikes, driving range, pool and beach - our room was spacious and clean - we were able to get early check in - all employees were helpful and hospitable esp the valet guys -
Wild Dunes Resort offers so many diverse activities—including a full menu of family-oriented options—that it's impossible to do it all (or even a fraction of what's available) during your vacation.
Note that most (but not all) of the organized activities require a separate fee and making reservations at least a day in advance is always recommended to guarantee your space in the high season, and to assure adequate participation to hold the event in the off-season. Here's a general idea of what you can expect to find:
Wild Dunes Resort is located right on a 150-yard-wide, family-friendly sandy beach that's great for swimming, building sandcastles, playing beach games, sunning and shelling (you can occasionally find whole sand dollars if you look hard enough at low tide). Surf lessons (both private and semi-private) are available at the resort, and if you didn't happen to bring your own, you can rent boogie boards, skim boards, surfboards and beach chairs with umbrellas.
All guests have access to the resort's five swimming pools, including the two swimming pools on the Grand Pavilion at the end of the boardwalk near the beach, as well as the more inland outdoor Swim Center pool, which features lap and recreational swimming. During the summer, an 18-foot-high inflatable waterslide is available at the Swim Center for an extra cost (daily or weekly passes available).
Wild Dunes features two 18-hole, 70-par golf courses (the Harbor Course, where you play from island to island in the intracoastal waterway, and the spectacular oceanfront Links Course) that were both designed by Tom Fazio and are consistently ranked among the best in the United States. Individual golf lessons and group golf clinics are offered for adults and children ages 8 to 16. The Fazio Junior program allows children ages 16 and under to play 18 holes of golf for a nine-hole rate after 11 a.m. if accompanied by a paying adult. The Family Evening Golf program allows one child age 16 and under to play free per paying adult after 5 p.m.
The resort also offers 17 Har-tru tennis courts (five of which are lit for night play and one of which offers stadium seating) and gives guests a complimentary hour of tennis per hotel room or condo unit, per day (based on availability) from noon through 6 p.m. Tennis lessons and clinics are available year round (including kids' programs for ages 4 and up), as well as an extensive summer tennis program. Wild Dunes is also the first resort on the east coast to offer beach tennis, a doubles game using pressureless tennis balls on a beach volleyball court.
Five miles of walking/jogging trails wind through the resort, which also offers a great bike rental program. You can rent junior and adult bikes, tandem bikes and trailers (as well as baby jogger bikes for runners) by the hour, half-day, full-day, multi-day or week. You'll find the bike rental facility near the tennis center. Note: The sand is hard packed enough near the water during low tide to ride your bikes on the beach.
Go Wild Crafts & Adventures
The Go Wild Crafts and Adventure program provides hour-long activities (like Bingo, tye-dying T-shirts, making family stepping stones, treasure hunts and more) for kids to do with their parents. The program is available year-round, although the number of options is greatest in summer.
The award-winning Island Adventures program includes seasonal day camps (with different themes, like sports, eco adventures or water adventures) for kids ages 3 to 12, family beach and sporting games, teen programs and Wild Excursions (nature exploration trips and nature-related programs). Wild Excursions cover more than a dozen options during the height of summer (and less during the rest of the year) and include things like exploring the ecosystem of the barrier islands by pontoon boat or kayak, taking a sunset cruise over the marshes with a naturalist to look for bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles, going creek fishing or crabbing with a lowcountry guide, or joining a sunset sail aboard either a catamaran or the resort's 50-foot yacht. Note: The resort provides transportation for most activities that meet off-site.
During the season, free resort offerings include a Monday night tennis exhibition, Village Idol karaoke contests, movies on the Village plaza (all G- or PG-rated) two nights a week, free shag (South Carolina's official dance) lessons, a DJ at the Grand Pavilion on Saturday nights, and black light dodgeball and black light volleyball for teens and 'tweens ages 10 and up.
Sand & Sea Salon and Spa
The spa offers massage, hair and nail treatments, and a full menu of body treatments, including the 50-minute warm lava shell massage (similar to a hot stone massage, but with smooth tiger-striped clam shells filled with a heated gel), a 25-minute Shirodharra treatment (where a steady stream of fragrant oil is poured slowly onto your forehead and hair), and a 50-minute CBD massage (the ultimate in relaxation).
Kids' Spa programs for ages 9 and under include the Bee a Princess facial (featuring Burt's Bees products), Little Miss Manicure, Princess Pedicure and the ultimate: This Little Piggy, a manicure and pedicure, plus a little piggy pillow. During summer Saturdays, the Little Girls Spa Camp (for ages 5 to 8) includes a manicure and pedicure, a facial mask complete with cucumbers and a craft activity (decorating your own pedicure slippers). Teen girls will drool over the 80-minute Chocolate Honey Cake, a body scrub using locally made honey followed by a mocha body mask.
While this upscale, nautical-themed restaurant is a favorite for adults and couples, it also welcomes families. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch (when most families dine here); for dinner, expect fresh seafood and fine cuts of steak, plus an impressive array of starters, sides, and desserts. The wine list is especially impressive, and the service just as outstanding as the meals. Reservations are recommended.
The Terrace at Coastal Provisions
Open seasonally, The Terrace serves craft beer, wine and cocktails, as well as light fare, from Coastal Provisions.
Woody's serves breakfast all day—no need to wake up early on your vacation—as well as hot and cold sandwiches. Located near the resort's golf course, Woody's also serves beer, wine, and cocktails.
This combination coffee shop and sandwich deli also sells beach toys, local gifts, wine and prepared meals you can heat up in your kitchenette. You can grab a table inside or out, or take your food to go. It's open daily; hours vary seasonally.
Huey's Southern Eats
Located at the Links Course Clubhouse, this diner-style restaurant serves Southern favorites.
This is a fabulous no-muss-no-fuss option for dining in. You get a multi-course meal for eight to 10 people—complete with disposable dinnerware and condiments—that's delivered right to your table in your condo. You can choose from smoked barbeque pork, southern fried chicken, or the local favorite, a lowcountry boil. Minimum 48 hours notice required.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
- Resort Fee
The resort charges a daily resort fee that includes Wi-Fi, valet parking, complimentary transportation around the resort, and other conveniences.
- Baby Gear
The resort partners with BabyQuip to offer in-room essentials for your little one; additional fees apply.
- Fitness Center
The fitness center offers cardiovascular and weight training equipment for adults and teens ages 15 to 18 who are accompanied by an adult. You can also sign up here for yoga and body sculpting classes, as well as physical fitness and sports training assessments or sessions with a personal trainer. Other options include the photographic running tours and beach boot camp. (Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
- Island Adventures VIP Club Pass
The summer-only, weeklong Island Adventures VIP Club Pass includes a color-your-own beach tote with markers, an Island Adventures T-shirt (for a tie dyeing activity), unlimited crafts and activities, including admission into all night activities (excludes Bingo and Teen Night).
- Go Wild Cards
Available at any resort outlet, the cards act like debit cards for goods and services available at the resort. They're great gifts from grandparents or even a good way to give older kids a vacation "allowance." There's no fee to buy the card or to load it, and you can reload it as often as you want.
The Best Time to Visit
Summer is, of course, the peak season at Wild Dunes Resort. The first week in August is Kids' Week at Wild Dunes, which means five days of even more special fun for kids. The week ends with a big KidsFest party on Friday, featuring games, an inflatable waterslide, food and prizes.
While many offerings are closed in the off-season, Wild Dunes is indeed open year-round and offers the best bargains from October through January. This is when the resort is the least crowded and you can enjoy crisp-weather walks on the beach and day trips to Charleston. Over the holidays, look for memorable special touches like elf tuck-ins, stockings delivered by Santa's helpers, and festive decor throughout
The Charleston International Airport is about a 30-minute drive from the resort. Although Wild Dunes Resort doesn't offer airport shuttle service, the resort can arrange transportation if you fly in and don't want to rent a car.
Walking or bicycling around the resort is easy to do.
- Sunset Sailings
Hire a sitter and book the Champagne Sunset Paddle for Couples Only, which the resort arranges through Nature Adventure Outfitters on Shem Creek. This excursion takes you on a guided two-hour kayak paddle through the saltwater marshes with a brief stop for a little bubbly. Or try the Serena Sunset Sail aboard a romantic 50-foot yacht.
- Salty Goat Bar
Enjoy a nightcap at the Salty Goat Bar, a favorite amongst visitors and locals.