If ever there was a resort born with an old soul, it's the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island. Billed as the most luxurious new hotel to grace the East Coast in the last twenty years, it is inarguably a majestic leap in lodging for South Carolina's Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The resort's Inn and Villa lodgings have always been adequate—and only adequate—but with the opening of the Sanctuary this summer, Kiawah's accommodations finally match the splendor of its five sterling golf courses.
A sweeping $125 million landmark, the Sanctuary is reminiscent of the posh resorts of yore but with a distinct blend of Old South refinement and island breeziness. Plantation shutters are featured throughout—including in the bathrooms, where golf fans can fold them open from the tub to watch Sunday's back nine on the bedroom television. The padded walls of woven cotton in the suites and the building's irregular Charleston brick are evocative of an older, simpler era. The blown-glass wall sconces in the hallways have a bubbled and flawed quality at once timeless and familiar. And the nearly nine thousand square feet of hand-distressed walnut flooring in the lobby was built upon a network of sleepers that allows it to give and creak underfoot, like the floor of an antebellum plantation home.
The Sanctuary exudes an enduring rhythm that no expense was spared to achieve: 250,000 tons of earth were trucked in to raise the site twenty feet above sea level—affording the lobby, two restaurants and 85 percent of the hotel's 255 rooms and suites magnificent, unobstructed ocean views. The four hundred palms and live oaks that were cleared from the site using the world's largest spade were replanted, giving the grounds a naturally aged look that typically takes new construction years if not decades to achieve. If Kiawah's Ocean course is the jewel of the coast, the Sanctuary is now its crown.
Rooms: $275-$625. Suites: $1,000-$4,500. Reservations: 877-683-1234 or visit the sanctuary.com.