ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. -- Wild Dunes Resort sprawls over 1,600 acres, claiming the northern tip of Isle of Palms, an island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway just north of Charleston, S.C.
The resort is populated with homes, villas, hotel rooms and condominiums in an array of configurations. Interspersed are dozens of pools, two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses and a renown 17-court tennis center.
But it's the resort's "core" that offers the amenities that set Wild Dunes Resort apart. The AAA four-diamond accommodations are top-notch, with the 120 units in the Village at Wild Dunes ranging from studio to three-bedroom units, to the freshly redone 93 rooms at the Boardwalk Inn.
The Village at Wild Dunes, which opened in 2008, consists of two six-story buildings facing each other. In between is a plaza lined with the fitness center, Sand and Sea Salon and Spa, Hudson's Market, the Lettered Olive restaurant and bar and Wild Excursion services.
Each unit in the Village at Wild Dunes, from studios to three-bedroom, is beautifully done with a stainless steel kitchen with marble-like countertops and enough flatware and dishes to feed a small army. The airy living/dining area has plenty of windows and separates the bed/bath suites.
In the two-bedroom suite, it's difficult to decide which is supposed to be the master bedroom because the two are comparably equipped. But it’s probably the room with the soaker tub and separate shower.
Each unit has a small balcony overlooking the resort along with daily maid service and turn down service.
"We want guests to feel a sophisticated but relaxed atmosphere. We're not a stuffy, pretentious place," said Ivie Parker, marketing communications manager for Wild Dunes Resort.
But swanky still applies, given the upscale wine and cheese selections at Hudson's Market, the gourmet fare at the Sea Island Grill and the smoked salmon that's part of a continental breakfast at The Lettered Olive.
Near the Village at Wild Dunes is the Boardwalk Inn. Check out the huge pool in back, complete with a flyover. Lattice work offers a little privacy for sun-bathers. The boardwalk to the Atlantic Ocean recreates a European street lined with townhouses, and the promenade deck features twin pools overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
But beyond classy accommodations, the resort also takes itself seriously when it comes to tennis, golf and entertainment. "You can do as much or little as you want," Parker said.
"One mother had a color-coded spreadsheet, even with nap time blocked in," Parker said. "You can go from that mommy commando spreadsheet to someone who rents a house on the beach."
The resort began as a tennis club and grew from there. If you want to learn golf or tennis, there are clinics, classes and one-on-one training for every skill level. it also has daily drills, each concentrating on one aspect of the game, from forehand and backhand to approach shots and volley, lob and overhead, serve and return and doubles strategies. It also has beach tennis, which pairs tennis racquets and pressureless tennis balls on a beach volleyball court.
The tennis program at the resort is consistently listed in the top 10 by TENNIS magazine and Tennis Resorts Online.
If the children are with you, there are enough activities that they could be going from dawn to past dark. There's blacklight dart tag, beach seining, spin art frisbees and water gun wars. Want to get out on the water? Just pick your poison, from kayaks to sailboats and cruisers.
If you want to explore Charleston, there are all sorts of tours and excursions offered, from offshore boat tours to walking ghost tours.
About 10 to 15 percent of the residents live at the resort full-time, many of them people who had second rooms there, and then moved in full time upon retirement.
Once you visit, you'll want to stay. Who needs to wait until retirement?
September 2, 2010