Find Your Place with Garden & Gun Land
From the mountains to the coast, come home to these breathtaking Southern properties
In Partnership with
photo: Charles Johnson
Garden & Gun Land believes in an authentic sense of place and an inherent responsibility to the natural world. We believe that the best way to preserve the land is to place it in the hands of those who understand its importance, investing in the experiences, stories, and legacies it cultivates. In this first special section, we introduce you to two partners with exceptional first-hand experience in upholding the architectural heritage, sporting culture, and sensibilities of Garden & Gun’s South.
Blue Ridge Magic
In Cashiers, North Carolina, the idyllic mountain lifestyle becomes a reality
As the golden hue of early evening sets in, Cashiers, North Carolina’s Village Green is filled with music. Scattered across the field, attendees spread out blankets, unpacking small bites and bottles of fine wine from their picnic baskets. A cool breeze whispers overhead, mingling with the chatter of neighbors and friends. On the outskirts, folks order cuisine and brews from local vendors while a bluegrass band warms up onstage. The occasion? Cashiers’ outdoor concert series, Groovin’ on the Green, which takes place in the heart of town every Friday night of the summer. The sky above the valley is putting on its own show, turning from pink and gold to silky blue and revealing a dizzying sheet of stars. A weekly tradition is in full swing.
Tucked amid the southern end of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the village of Cashiers, an enchanting oasis perched 3,484 feet above sea level that has lured families, couples, and adventurers for some two hundred years. Bordered by the Nantahala National Forest and dotted with lakes, the eclectic small town boasts an easy yet elegant charm, surrounded at every turn by wildflower meadows, dramatic peaks, pastoral valleys, and lush green spaces. When newcomers fall under its spell, McKee Properties is there to greet them.
“Many areas in the southeastern United States can offer a retreat from the pace of everyday life, but Cashiers is unique in that it offers a relaxing escape and easy elegance every season of the year,” Ann McKee Austin says. A community leader and co-owner of McKee Properties, Austin spent her summers living and working in Cashiers Valley. To the McKee family, the area is much more than a collection of stunning homes. The family’s roots in the valley date back to the early 1900s, granting them a unique understanding of the land and its people, not to mention a particular reverence for the magic of this place. “When you consider the unmatched beauty of our mountain plateau, the history of our village, and the fine choices for dining, shopping, and outdoor activities, you realize how truly special Cashiers is,” explains Liz Harris, co-owner/broker of McKee Properties.
Austin’s brother, the late A. William McKee, saw Cashiers’ potential decades ago, and in 1977 founded his real estate business to share the wealth with others seeking an escape. Knowing the quiet mountaintop town would hold a contagious sense of wonder, McKee built the group’s reputation not only by representing the region’s premier properties, but by fostering a genuine sense of belonging for those who visited or moved to the village. The firm has held fast to those values, watching them permeate the community as it bloomed.
A champion of responsible development, William McKee was intentional from the start about preserving what made Cashiers special: its sprawling natural beauty. In time, his work in this space made the McKee name synonymous with innovation and excellence. Golf Digest lists the Wade Hampton Golf Club, a McKee-developed community with a Tom-Fazio–designed course, in its top twenty best golf courses in the country. The residential community’s exceptional golf amenities led Golfweek to name the course number one on its list of residential links. With eleven distinguished courses within a few miles of each other, Cashiers delivers world class golf with a side of fresh mountain air.
“William’s understanding of the land, coupled with his deep desire to nurture Cashiers as a welcoming community, helped this pocket of Western North Carolina grow into a beloved locale,” says Beth Townsend, co-owner/broker of McKee Properties. His robust vision saw Cashiers as a four-season destination with outdoor splendor to be enjoyed year-round. Today, mountain biking enthusiasts are enamored with the rugged trails of Panthertown Valley and beyond, and during spring and summer months, visitors and locals alike take to the waterfall trails. Breathtaking landmarks such as Rainbow Falls, Silver Run Falls, and Cullasaja Falls present majestic cascades, while Lake Glenville’s glassy waters make for a pristine centerpiece.
No matter the season, visitors enter Cashiers via winding, scenic highways, taking in rich foliage, shocks of autumn color, or shimmering banks of snow. Colder months offer ample opportunity to take up winter sports at locales such as the 5,700-acre Sapphire Valley Ski Resort, where slopes await skiers of all skill levels. During warmer months, the Cashiers Farmer’s Market peddles local delicacies and gourmet goods from its home in a quaint log cabin, while neighboring restaurants like Slab Town Pizza and the Ugly Dog Pub offer a warm welcome year-round. All the while, the community’s burgeoning art and music scene is centered on the Village Green, a thirteen-acre park hosting more than eighty outdoor visual arts and music events throughout the year.
With its vast natural beauty and peaceful small-town charm, Cashiers unfurls as a one-of-a-kind retreat bathed in Blue Ridge serenity. At the heart of it all lies the thoughtful guidance of McKee Properties, pairing families with their ideal homes for nearly four decades. Dedicated to living well and celebrating the land, McKee Properties serves as a reminder that a blissful mountain lifestyle isn’t out of reach.
To learn more about lifestyle opportunities in Cashiers, visit McKeeProperties.com or call 828-743-3411
At Home on the Coast
Amid Charleston’s sea islands, Kiawah River offers residents access to the beauty of the Lowcountry, every day of the year
Nestled between the Stono and Kiawah Rivers just thirty minutes from downtown Charleston, South Carolina, a new, self-sustaining community with a strong connection to nature is coming to life. Kiawah River, a 2,000-acre residential property on Johns Island, was designed as a place where residents can live immersed in the rich environment. Seamlessly planned around a 100-acre farm, the community offers access to unblemished landscapes, locally grown food, and homes built to luxurious yet green-conscious standards. The community, in step with the landscape at every turn, lends itself to peaceful, simplified living—a value that shines from the working farm to the calm, quiet waters skirting each edge of the property.
Intentionally crafted with thoughtful, innovative designs, Kiawah River is steeped in the heritage of the Sea Islands. With meandering trails connecting neighborhoods and sprawling parks in between, the property’s layout is meant to cultivate a tight-knit sense of community; over half of Kiawah River’s acreage is intended for open green space, and all of the paths have been carefully planned to wind through groves of trees and hug the waterways, connecting each space in a fluid marriage to the land.
The residential portion of the property, which began to take shape in 2017, is the masterwork of some of the Southeast’s top designers and architects, who come together to create custom and semicustom homes with outdoor living in mind. For the villas, cottages, and waterfront homes, inspiration is drawn from the iconic Craftsman style the area is known for. Architect Julia Starr Sanford, the visionary behind Kiawah River’s Butterfly Garden Cottages, describes Kiawah River as a place “where elegant rusticity meets unpretentious luxury.” Each of her offerings is an oasis where beauty and simplicity complement one another, and her homes, with their generous verandas and sprawling landscapes, are meant to enhance time spent outdoors, be it a peaceful morning or a boisterous Lowcountry boil.
With more than 230 days of sunshine each year, the region offers abundant time to enjoy the community’s outdoor pursuits. Tidal creeks, salt marshes, and the Kiawah River itself provide opportunity for canoeing and kayaking excursions led by local outfitter Coastal Expeditions, as well as launch points for leisurely or deep-sea fishing. Shrimp, blue crab, and oysters all call these waters home, alongside the occasional dolphin or sea turtle in the calm waves. At Kiawah River, wildlife is the crown jewel, meant to be appreciated by all.
The area that now holds Kiawah River was first settled in the 1670s, and by the 1700s, indigo was the island’s main crop, prized for its rich blue dye. Today, Johns Island is known throughout the Southeast for its pristine farmland and abundant produce; the fields along its main road are often dotted with pops of ruby from tomato plants burdened by fruit awaiting harvest.
The farm at Kiawah River is actively managed by fourth-generation farmers of Freeman Farms and Rosebank Farms. Belted Galloway cows, a traditional breed of Scottish beef cattle known for their white middle markings, roam a section of pasture, while dairy goats can be heard in the distance. The melons, squashes, beans, tomatoes, and peppers that grow on the property will soon be sold at the Kiawah River farmers’ market near the front entrance, and fresh produce will be featured in dishes at the community’s soon-to-come restaurants. Kiawah River’s commitment to local, organic produce presents a new approach to the farm-to-table lifestyle—residents are never farther than a few acres from the food on their plates.
Not surprising given the area’s pristine ecosystems, Kiawah River is also a birder’s paradise, replete with everything from roseate spoonbills, egrets, and herons to bald eagles, ospreys, and hawks. The property is home to diverse wildlife and abundant flora and fauna, and there is plenty to see while exploring the community’s extensive nature trails, winding through a maritime forest and twenty miles of shoreline. Just beyond property limits are some of the area’s most splendid beaches and amenities, from Beachwalker Park to the world-class golf links of Kiawah Island.
Designed by Beau Clowney, the forthcoming Kiawah River Swim Club will feature two state-of-the-art pool facilities—one Junior Olympic–sized area that will cater to families and another meant only for adults. Also on-site, Longevity Fitness, a boutique Charleston-based fitness studio, heads up the programming of the community’s gym, aiming to foster a supportive and motivating environment and ample reason to get moving.
While the tranquility of Kiawah River’s distinctive setting may seem worlds away from civilization, the property lies just a stone’s throw from historic Charleston, a haven for world-class dining, top-tier shopping, and revered old-world charm. An enchanting escape from the hustle and bustle, Kiawah River offers resplendent opportunities for relaxation, sport, or play, bookended by breathtaking views as the sun rises and sets over the marsh. From the Spanish moss draping the live oaks to the sun glimmering in the marsh grass, the sights of this wild oasis are enough to endear you to life in the Lowcountry—perhaps enough to call this place home.
Visit KiawahRiver.com for more information, or contact broker-in-charge Andy Hines at 843.973.8600 or [email protected] to schedule a tour.
Arts & Culture
Behind the Stories of our April/May 2020 Issue
G&G editors share some of what went into producing the “Saving the South” issue
The Disappearing South
Take a photographic journey through the regions at-risk places
Land & Conservation
The Grassroots Impact of Captains For Clean Water
Meet the winners of the 2020 Rare Life Award: two fishing guides uniting communities in a fight for Florida’s ecology
30 Southern Heroes
From conservationists to cultural champions to preservationists to storytellers, these groundbreakers are making the South a better place
Food & Drink
The Ultimate Guide to Grits
Kernels of wisdom about one of the South’s fundamental foods
Food & Drink
Forgotten Southern Recipes
From pear salad and tomato pudding to vinegar pie and bacon crackers, we’re more than ready for these old-school classics to make a comeback