Wild Dunes Resort: 33 Tips For An Excellent Family Vacation

Just 30 minutes east of Charleston is the Isle of Palms, South Carolina – home to Wild Dunes Resort. This little slice of heaven has been a memory-maker for generations of families. Guest rooms, villas and condos sit on the beach, boasting ocean views, excellent restaurants and tons of island adventure.

If your looking for the ideal family beach escape for an upcoming weekend getaway, then the award-winning Wild Dunes needs to be at the top of your list. Below you’ll find 33+ tips and insider details about our recent stay so that you can enjoy it to the max.

Accommodations Explained at Wild Dunes

Room Types Are Key

Wild Dunes Resort is unique in that it offers a host of booking options for families. In fact, I’ll admit to being a little overwhelmed by all they offer…so I’ve tried to break it down for you here.

The Boardwalk Inn provide traditional (though not common place) hotel rooms, as well as junior and presidential suites. When we visited recently, this is where the grandparents stayed. They liked the comfy bed, spacious room with a sofa…and the Keurig.

The rooms are located within the main check-in building. Guests of all types will adore it here, but in my opinion, this is the place for couples. Coastal Provisions restaurant is in this building (your elegant dining location) as well as the adults-only pool and easy access to the spa services.

Most rooms will not offer a kitchen, so managing snacks will be trickier. Looking for a date night weekend escape? Plan your stay at the Boardwalk Inn.

The Village is another accommodation option that works well for families. This 3-building complex boasts beautiful colors reminiscent of Rainbow Row in nearby Charleston.

The 150 offerings here include traditional guestrooms and studios (for as low as $89 per night) … up to 1, 2 or 3 bedroom suites ranging from $129-$780 per night. Want to splurge on a great view? There are penthouses, as well.

Being in The Village means you are only steps from the restaurants, groceries and other amenities offered by the resort. The beach is not just out your backdoor, but you are still pretty close. I’d recommend bringing a little wagon to easily haul your beach essentials.

Vacation Rentals are your third option — it’s what we did and it’s what I highly recommend this for the ultimate family-friendly set up. Vacation homes and condos range from 1-7 bedrooms. Prices run from $200-$2000 per night, depending on the size and type of accommodation you are after. You can request a Deluxe, Moderate or Standard condo/villa. The big quality differences will be in the decor, kitchens and bath, and electronics.

Your Condo Considerations

We stayed in a 1-bedroom villa in Seagrove…think of it like a neighborhood within the Resort.  While you may not get the exact villa during your stay, I want to tell you a few things that were great about our space that might help you out…and why I feel this is the ideal option.

Full Kitchen You’ll see below that there are plenty of places to eat at Wild Dunes, but traveling families know that any meal that can be prepared in your room will save you a few bucks. the kitchen also helps with storing and making snacks (like late night popcorn – yum!)

You can grab groceries as you head into the resort at Harris Teeter, or pick up a few items at Hudson’s Market or the store at the Marina. At the very least, you can pick up some coffee grounds and a gallon of milk…maybe a few bottles of vino.

Washer/Dryer I wouldn’t have known how important this was until we used it about three times in three days. Our unit was so close to the beach that we were constantly in the water, even when it wasn’t planned…so throwing a few loads in the wash made a world of difference. I also did a final load the night before we left, which minimized the about of sand we (accidentally) brought home with us.

Bunk Beds Not every villa can boast bunk beds, but ours did! Even though we were in a one-bedroom, we enjoyed a queen bed while the boys perched on the bunks. Don’t put off a one-bedroom just because you have kids…it can be a fun way to save a little money.

Private Pool You are welcome to play at the two pools near the beach at The Village…we played there regularly. They are convenient because they offer food options and drinks, and it is where the “towel guy” is (as my boys called him.)  But it can get crowded here.

Each group on villas/condos offer a private pool, in addition to the common area pools. This was where we found ourselves most evenings after walks on the beach. We only saw one other family here for a few moments; we were mostly left on our own to enjoy each other, a bottle of wine, and the sound of the waves hitting the beach.

Pathway To The Village If you want to jump in the car and head to The Village, no worries. There is ample parking and it’s a heart-beat a way. BUT, not necessary from our condo. There is a short path from the condo to The Village making it even easier to access the amenities there!

Private Beach Access Everyone staying at the resort has access to the beach (And oh what a beach! More below!) But you’ll find the amenities and the people gathered just outside the beach in front of The Village. It’s not horribly crowded, honestly, but you are still sharing the shore line.

From the condos, families can take a private boardwalk to the beach. That means a) you don’t have to walk to The Village to enjoy the ocean, and b) the gorgeous beach in front of the condo is yours for the taking. It’s almost deserted!

Spectacular Porch ViewThe view we woke to each morning had to be my favorite perk! Our condo sat right on the beach…the sand and surf were only footsteps away.

Lounge chairs and a cafe table offered seating outside, which was perfect for soaking in the sounds of the ocean. Seriously, I could sit there watching the tide roll in and out all. day. long.

Because of the way the resort sits on the island, you don’t see sunrise or sunset from your balcony, but you are able to feast on the stunning sky colors that dance in the sky during both events. Gorgeous. Peaceful. Perfect.

The Bounty Of The Beach 

Let’s talk about the actual beach here at Wild Dunes Resort. We’ve been to our fair share of beaches along the eastern coast, but this has to be one of the best I’ve seen for families!

The water is shallow for a loooong way out, regardless of  tide. It means that there is plenty of “play space” for kids of all ages.

Also, this is an ocean-front beach…but the waves were not too big and not too rough. Maybe we lucked out and hit the resort at the exact right time…but I have to believe that there is something to be said about the land structure here too.

Further out in the ocean we watched surfers…even a man hydro-foil kite surfing! It’s absolutely the true ocean…but near the beach it is the perfect calm.

Chairs and Umbrellas

Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent from the resort for $20 per day, but here’s your tip. Rent them online with 24-hour advance notice and you’ll save $5. Of course, you can always bring your own too.

Beach games and surfboards are also available to rent for reasonable fees.

Two Types Of Watering Holes

Beachside Burger’s and Bar is available if you want to get an adult beverage for the beach in a plastic cup. They also have mocktails for the kids, which my boys loved.

Really young kids? Consider a second type of “watering hole.” Head out of the Beachside Burger’s gate toward the beach, then veer left. Keep walking a bit until you pass all the Wild Dunes chairs….

This area of the beach includes several deep impressions, and during low tide they create “swimming pools” on the beach. These “pools” are a safe distance from the ocean…shallow enough that most people without kids will overlook them…but perfect for offering your toddler their own secret oasis. We saw several families taking advantage of this, and I thought it was brilliant!

Resort Amenities 

Week In The Wild. Guests checking into the resort will see the Week In The Wild activity schedules at the front desk and tucked around the resort. Pick this up!

There are several educational and FUN activities going on, particularly during the week. It includes the numbers and hours for the restaurants, the live entertainment, a few coupons…but don’t miss the resort activities list!

You’ll find classes on basket weaving with the local sweetgrass, a blacksmithing class for adults or kids 10+, the outdoor and dive-in movie schedule, and more.

Just For Kids We were not there during the week to experience it, but were particularly intrigued by three kiddo programs offered for mid-week guests:

  • The Dune Bug Club, which offers 2 hours of morning fun for kids while parents escape to the spa or the golf course.
  • Kids Night Out is kid-only, 3-hour evening filled with swimming, s’mores and lots of fun.
  • Pirate Treasure Hunt works for kids 3- 12yo! A real pirate escorts the kiddos around the resort, looking for hidden clues to unlock buried treasure!

Bike Rentals Head to the Tennis Center to rent bikes for the family. You can ride them along miles of sidewalks at the resort, or even on the beach. They have kiddo bikes, trailers and tandems available.

Where To Eat At The Resort

We were impressed with all the eateries at the resort. Here are notes on our favorites!

Billy G’s Smokehouse Did we eat at every restaurant here? No. But I still feel very comfortable telling you Billy G’s is my favorite place to eat at the resort. It’s the BBQ restaurant’s first season open, and they are hitting it out of the park.

Here’s how to do it right….go with the “Smokey and the Bandit.” You’ll get a sampling of all the meats, plus two sides for each person. PLUS the (huge) salad bar. This is a TON of food…and it’s the best and most affordable way to try everything!

In fact, I’ll be honest. With four adults at our table, we got two Smokeys. We could have fed all four of us with just one…So go here for dinner your first night, and then save it in your room for tomorrow’s lunch.

For sides, I went with the recommended mac n cheese and collards. OMG. Perfect. Plus, the salad bar provides slaw, broccoli salad (so good!) potato salad and plenty more.

Sauces…the chef makes the Sassy Sow and the Bourbon sauce here and they are DARN GOOD. The Bourbon was my favorite…my only complaint is that I couldn’t bottle some up to bring home with me.

OK – kids. My kids will not eat BBQ (I know, I know) but they did enjoy the kids’ buffet with salad, chicken fingers, jello and more. You will not want to skip on treating them to a root beer. Billy G’s serves Atlanta’s own Red Hare Root Beer … as a soda or in an ice cream float. (Pro Tip: You can get an adult Root Beer Float also!)

Don’t miss dessert…you’re going to have those leftovers for lunch tomorrow anyway. We went with our waiter’s favorite…the warm chocolate chip cookie with a heap of vanilla ice cream. Perfect with 4 spoons!

Breakfast We enjoyed breakfast one morning at Dunes Deli, over by the Tennis Center. I wish I knew the name of the guy we spoke with who was running that grill…he was a miracle worker. That coffee and breakfast plate got my morning in full gear. Loved the hashbrowns and eggs. They also serve a great mimosa and bloody mary.

Another morning, the boys ate cereal in the villa. You can pick this up at the grocery..or down in the lobby like I did. Later that morning my MIL and I walked to Hudson’s Market for coffee and noticed another array of breakfast options here included homefries, scrambled eggs and biscuits.

Here is another fun tip about Hudson’s. Check out their delivery menu. You can order everything from wine and beer to pizzas, sandwiches…even chocolate cake. And all of this is only $3 for delivery.

Lunch If you’re not doing lunch in your room or “picnic style” on the beach, then I recommend Beachside Burgers. It’s right next to the pool and the beach, and it’s pretty quick.

The boys loved the hot dog and tater tots here…I actually liked those tater tots too! The grandparents gave two thumbs up on the burger; I loved the salad with grilled fish.

Excursions You Should NOT Miss

You can schedule a number of different adventures through the resort, but you know us…we heard there was an outdoor nature excursion, and well…that fit us to a tee!

During the Island Eco Tour we enjoyed a pontoon boat ride to Caper’s Island, where we lounged and explored for almost 2 hours. During the ride there and back, the guided naturalist onboard told us all about the surrounding area – and the animals and plants we were seeing — including turtles, dolphin and more!

Other options include private fishing trips, blue crabbing expeditions, a low-country beach boil or sunset dolphin cruise…but I have to say that the Caper’s Wildlife Exploration adventure was truly the highlight of our weekend. It was AMAZING and I cannot recommend it more!

Tips & Insider Info For The Island Eco Tour

Make Reservations Early The secret is out friends, and people know this is an amazing adventure. About 35 spots are available on each excursion, but they fill up fast. As soon as you know your vacation dates, head to the site to book your tour.

Use the Resort Shuttle The Resort offers a complimentary shuttle to and from the Marina, where you catch the boat. We opted out of this and decided to bring our own car … which we immediately regretted. There is not a lot of parking at the Marina for excursion-goers (it’s fine for boaters and short -term guests) so we ended up parking super far away and in the full (hot) sun. Use the shuttle!

Bathroom Breaks Beforehand There is a small bathroom on the boat, but it’s just a marine toilet. It’s good in a pinch, but you don’t want to depend on it…so be sure to go to the restroom before you hop on board. There is a clean one at the Marina.

Purchase Snacks At The Marina The tour is about 4-5 hours, so you’re going to get hungry…bring snacks. We picked up crackers, beef jerky, nuts and such at the Marina and just threw them in our bag. It was a last minute thought on my part, but I was so glad we did it…it would have been a much more challenging adventure with “hangry” kids.

Bring A Small Cooler You’re also welcome to bring a small cooler with you, which will keep your water and such cool. We didn’t have one, but I would have brought one from home had I known. Now you can, too!

Sit Up Front One of the coolest parts of the trip was learning so much from the guided naturalist. He pointed our birds, dolphin, huge turtles…and we stopped a few times to check out crabs in the crab traps. We learned about blue crab and stone crab…which was fascinating!

Because of bathroom time and buying snacks, we ended up with a seat in the back of the boat. We could hear the guide just fine, and he made special allowances to bring the crabs and such to the back for everyone on board to enjoy…but I can’t help wishing we were sitting up front. I think it would have been much better for the boys.

Alcohol Is Allowed We took an early morning tour, so when we learned that a can of beer was not a problem we still opted out. About 11:30 when we were lounging on the beach and watching the boys play in the surf…it was sounding like a good idea. If you have a cooler, don’t be shy about throwing in a few brews…just make sure it isn’t glass (and always pack out your trash.)

Walk To Bone-yard Beach The final destination of the tour is Caper’s Island. It’s an undeveloped barrier island owned by South Carolina, designated as a State Heritage Preserve.  You’ll land just south of the “front” of the island where weathering has created Bone-yard Beach. The weathered tree remains here are just gorgeous.

Take time to walk north through this section of the island, and bring your camera. The weathered trees go on for about 3 miles, but you don’t have to walk that far to really enjoy it.

Wear Your Bathing Suit There is no where to change, so just wear your swimsuit. If you think you will not want to go into the beach water, you’ll be wrong. Trust me. It’s hot…and the beach is gorgeous.

Bring Your Eno Have an Eno? Bring it! All I could think about was hanging a hammock between those trees on bone-yard beach and watching the boys hunt for shells.

Tip Your Guide Tips are not required, of course…but I’m sure you’ll love this tour as much as we did. Just be prepared with a bit of cash to show them how much you loved it.