Kiawah Island Beach Gate

Kiawah Island History

Travelers who head to scenic Kiawah Island will find themselves enjoying time on a captivating and relaxing barrier island. Boasting 10 miles of shoreline and rich maritime forest too, Kiawah Island is a place that thrives on tourism, but is also rich in history. Those who are interested in pursuing the area’s past won’t have to look far to find the stories that define the destination.

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A Rich Area History

The history of Kiawah Island is evident in its very name. The island’s name pays homage to the Kiawah Indians who inhabited the area long before the arrival of English settlers in South Carolina in the 1670s. By 1717, Kiawah Island was being developed as plantation land in large part at the hands of John Stanyarne who at that time, owned approximately half of the island formerly owned by Captain Raynor and Captain Davis. Kiawah Island became a place where crops and cattle were raised in abundance and when Stanyarne passed away in 1772, he left the western half of the island to his granddaughter Mary and the eastern portion to his granddaughter Elizabeth. 1775 saw the arrival of the Revolutionary War and in 1802, British Consul James Shoolbred gained title to the island’s western half. By 1812, temporary naval bases were built along the northeast end of Kiawah Island, and with the arrival of the Civil War in 1861, many families gave up their land ownership in the area in pursuit of safer shorelines. Kiawah Island would be purchased by Elizabeth Vanderhost and her family after the war at which time the Vanderhost Mansion, which still stands today, would be constructed.

In 1950, Kiawah Island was sold to Charles Clance Royal of Aiken who was a lumberman and real estate developer. He set out to build the first summer home on the island with his wife which sat on Eugenia Avenue. After the construction of the first summer home, many others followed, and Kiawah Island began its path to becoming a tourist retreat. A robust residential community on the island emerged starting in the early 1970s as developments popped up and resorts took shape. Since that time, Kiawah Island has continued to call to travelers looking for a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy a getaway at their very own pace.

Historic Landmarks to Explore

While the history of Kiawah Island is sure to fascinate, there’s nothing quite like getting to experience nearby historic landmarks for yourself during a visit. The next time you travel this way, be sure to take time to explore Fort Sumter National Monument located in nearby Charleston, which played a critical role in two Civil War battles and can be accessed by narrated boat. A tour through nearby Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a gorgeous way to spend an insightful afternoon. Don’t overlook the intrigue of a stroll through Magnolia Cemetery where Gothic mausoleums, graves, and crypts can be admired. From the oak trees dripping in Spanish moss to the colorful florals that abound, it’s a place that will have you lingering longer than you planned.


Elevate your Kiawah Island journey in luxury and style when you book your accommodations at Andell Inn. Reach out today to learn more!