Find Your Place with Garden & Gun Land
Begin your next chapter at one of these Southern havens
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When it comes to creating a vibrant home base (or even a seasonal retreat), the perfect location plays no small role. Be it an idyllic mountaintop village or a quiet Lowcountry oasis, our most treasured places set the scene for a life lived fully. Here lies the heart of Garden & Gun Land: to connect adventurers, epicures, and sportsmen with homes that spark joy and cultivate peace. Here we showcase three destinations where this spirit truly shines, meeting a few inspired residents along the way. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the South Carolina coast, these one-of-a-kind properties abound with natural beauty, distinctive architecture, and intimate ties to Garden & Gun’s South.
Photo above: Brays Island’s tidal rivers and saltwater ponds create an angler’s paradise.
A South Carolina Sporting Gem
Nestled in the lush Lowcountry landscape, Brays Island is as much a luxurious home as it is a sportsman’s paradise
A leisurely horseback ride beneath a canopy of Spanish moss; a sunrise quail hunt with friends; a sunset cruise and a fresh-caught supper under the stars. For homeowners at Brays Island, these are just a handful of highlights from a typical day spent savoring this stunning stretch of South Carolina Lowcountry.
Neighboring Beaufort, South Carolina, and less than an hour from both Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, Brays Island is more than a quick escape from the city. For those who call this private community home, Brays Island offers a lifestyle that blends exclusivity with the call of the outdoors. To come to Brays Island is to find the incomparable beauty of the region in its purest form. When Sumner Pingree founded the development in the 1980s, he did so with the future of its wildlife in mind. A passionate conservationist, he worked with renowned landscape architect Robert Marvin to ensure that the property’s 5,500 acres of pristine woodlands, waterways, and fields would thrive as the haven continued to grow.
This thoughtful planning is apparent in every inch of the property, extending to the elegant feel of the community’s homes as well. With more than 90 percent of the land dedicated to conservation and shared amenities, homeowners can revel in the privacy of a quiet retreat along with spectacular views of the island from the comfort of their own front porch. Today, numerous homesites are available to those searching for the perfect place to build a Lowcountry escape of their own, and while all are complemented by the island’s greenery, the architectural style and unique amenities set each property apart. From reclaimed-brick walls and airy chef-quality kitchens to floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the glorious surroundings, Brays Island encompasses a variety of home options where effortless luxury lies in the details.
Regarded as one of America’s premier sporting communities, Brays Island was designed with residents’ greatest passions in mind, making the ideal backdrop for a life lived outdoors. In addition to private stables and direct access to the island’s sixty miles of immaculate riding trails, equestrians will delight in the world-class riding facilities, which provide a home for residents’ own horses as well as a group of Brays Island horses available to ride. Beyond the trails, Brays Island is an angler’s paradise as well, whether fly or spin fishing in fresh or salt water. The property boasts a full-service boating department, providing rental boats and private boat storage with meticulous care.
Throughout the year, homeowners and their guests can enjoy a round of golf on Brays Island’s impeccable course with no reserved tee times required, or even partake in a neighborly competition during one of the many friendly tournaments. And those who want to perfect their swing can visit the fourteen-acre practice facility, complete with a driving range and putting greens.
Sporting pursuits, however, are the community’s bread and butter. Enthusiasts are welcome to hone their shot at the pistol and rifle ranges, perfect for experts and novices alike. Shooting sports include a fifteen-station sporting clays course, originally designed by renowned British gunmaker Holland & Holland, as well as opportunities for skeet, trap, five-stand, and fitasc. Off the beaten path, Brays Island is an oasis for those on the hunt: With fourteen quail fields and more than sixty deer stands nestled within a 3,500-acre hunting preserve, there’s ample opportunity to track deer, quail, turkeys, and pheasant. Both guided and self-guided experiences are available to all sportsmen and -women, and while all canine companions are welcome, the hunting team also includes more than thirty resident pointing and flushing dogs. The gun shop at Brays Island has everything a sport shooter might need for a day in the field, from private instruction sessions to gun storage, cleaning, and repair.
Outdoor adventure ensures plenty of excitement on Brays Island, but outlets for rest, relaxation, and an excellent meal or two truly complete the experience. The Inn at Brays Island is both a timeless marvel and a beloved meeting place. Built in the 1930s, the Inn has retained its charm and Southern hospitality, housing thirteen guest rooms available to homeowners and their visitors. The Inn also serves as a social hub around its cozy bar, while elevated farm-to-table fare awaits at the on-site Plantation Grill, where chef Ron Andrews works his magic on a bounty of produce harvested from the island’s farm, along with fish and game caught on the property.
From the moment one sets foot on Brays Island, it’s clear that this is not only one of the country’s most sought-after sporting communities, but a destination that delivers the very best of the South—and a worthy home for those who appreciate its natural glory.
To learn more about this unique Lowcountry treasure, visit ExploreBrays.com.
Kiawah River’s Lowcountry Allure
Amid South Carolina’s idyllic Sea Islands, a new community treasures the natural world above all
Imagine a place where the pace of life is slow, a place where nature is abundant and neighbors feel like family. On the coast of the South Carolina Lowcountry, such a place exists, beckoning with the promise of a life lived simply. A new sea island community a mere twenty miles from Charleston, Kiawah River is built around the South’s most treasured values—hospitality, tradition, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. In its two-thousand-plus waterfront acres, the budding residential property encompasses Craftsman-style homes, communal gathering spaces, retail and recreation outlets, marshlands, and greenery as far as the eye can see. In each detail, the bliss of a coastal getaway meets the simple pleasures of home, all against a backdrop that’s nothing short of magic.
Within the Kiawah River property lies something truly special: the Charleston area’s first working agrihood. Including a one-hundred-acre farm, pastures for thirty-one Belted Galloway cows, and an artisan goat dairy, Kiawah River Farm takes the community’s link to the land one step further. Honoring the region’s agricultural history, the project works in partnership with local Johns Island farmers who tend the produce and flower fields and oversee the farm’s goats, beef cattle, chickens, and bees. While each harvest helps supply the surrounding area, community residents also benefit from the farm’s CSA program. Each week, a bounty of fresh produce and dairy goods is delivered straight to participants’ doors, making farm-to-table living an effortless reality.
When designing Kiawah River’s signature homes, the community’s team of architects kept outdoor living in mind. While residents can choose between custom and semicustom builds, all of the homes are laced with classic island style, their porches, decks, and verandas perfect for catching a salty sea breeze. With open floor plans, ample entertaining space, and plenty of cozy nooks, the properties are stunning yet inviting, evoking a feel that architect Julia Starr Sanford calls “elegant rusticity meets unpretentious luxury.” The lead designer behind Alys Beach, Florida, and the creator of Kiawah River’s Butterfly Garden Cottages, Sanford is just one of the celebrated visionaries who lent their talents to the community’s distinctive look.
No matter the style of home, awe-inspiring sights await beyond every front porch. While Kiawah River’s amenities continue to develop, its natural beauty is easily accessible all year round. Spanning marsh flats, maritime forests, and quiet shores, the community’s pristine nature preserves provide ample opportunity for exploration—especially via twenty miles of carefully laid trails, winding through the property’s distinct ecosystems and connecting its neighborhoods. Welcoming walkers, bikers, and bird-watchers, the paths weave easily through lush groves of trees and skirt quiet waterways, and on any given day, a number of rare sightings are possible. From the eagles that nest in the canopies above to the elegant roseate spoonbills that emerge after their winter nesting season, the trails are rife with wild wonders.
The water, of course, is central to Kiawah River’s allure. Centered on the beauty of its namesake river, the property is a haven for boating, fishing, kayaking, and other tideland adventures. With each rise and fall of the tide, the shallow marsh flats are flooded with South Carolina redfish, while pluff mud banks are thick with beds of yet-to-be-harvested oysters. Those looking to pick up a few tricks can visit the on-site outfitter, where gear and casting lessons prepare fishermen of any skill level for open-water excursions or catch-and-release fishing at Great Salt Pond. Saltwater activities extend into the surrounding area, too; at the nearby Beachwalker Park, residents also have access to one of the nation’s finest beaches. On the west end of Kiawah Island, the peaceful beach offers rare ocean and marsh views at once, the perfect place to pitch an umbrella or catch some rays.
This year, many of Kiawah River’s long-awaited developments are set to be unveiled. Chief among them is the riverfront Spring House, a swim and fitness center opening this summer. Here, a Junior Olympic–size pool and an additional adults-only pool are available for a refreshing dip, while cabanas, a shaded bar, and poolside dining create the perfect setting for a day in the sun. Within the building is a state-of-the-art fitness facility, overseen by Longevity Fitness Charleston. With a dedicated weight room, cardio and group training studios, and an airy porch for boutique fitness classes, the space promises a personalized experience far from that of the average gym. Designed by celebrated Charleston architect Beau Clowney, Spring House acts as a central gathering place for neighbors, providing chances to connect over outdoor living and wellness-inspired programs.
Connected to the land in every sense, Kiawah River offers a new way of living, one where peace, reverence, and simplicity are at the forefront of every day. The product of years of stewardship (with more beautiful additions still to come), the community and its breathtaking landscape are ready at last to be discovered.
To book a tour of the sea island oasis, contact broker-in-charge Chris Drury, or visit KiawahRiver.com to learn more.
Finding Bliss in the Blue Ridge Mountains
With the help of McKee Properties, two families discovered the second homes of their dreams in western North Carolina
When Melanie and Peter Birch were considering a second home, they dreamed up what the perfect Blue Ridge retreat might look like. Huge windows that showcased the surroundings, ample space for strolling with their three dogs, access to world-class golf, and a much cooler climate than their humid home of Charleston, South Carolina, all came to mind. When they set their sights on Cashiers, North Carolina, they called on McKee Properties to guide them on their search. After more than forty years, McKee Properties has earned its reputation as the area’s go-to for luxury real estate, its co-owners consistently ranked among Cashiers’ top agents. And as more and more folks flock to the South’s quieter havens, its expertise is invaluable among those seeking a change of pace.
For the next two years, the Birches toured numerous houses with the help of McKee Properties’ co-owner and broker Beth Townsend, who immediately connected with the couple. “We spoke the same language: We’re all ‘dog people,’” she says. “We started looking at homes on larger lots, but what they really needed was acreage, and a bunch of it. Since Peter would be spending a lot of time on the golf course, Melanie needed enough land to offer variety for her daily walks with the dogs.”
When Townsend discovered a 121-acre farm with an old farmhouse in the nearby community of Glenville, she immediately saw the potential in its sprawling grounds. With a degree in landscape architecture and a deep familiarity with the region’s topography, she knew this would be a perfect place for the Birches to break ground—even if at first the couple couldn’t see the forest for the (literal) trees.
“It was a beautiful piece of land, and we knew Beth had been a landscape architect, so she had the insight to tell us what the property could be,” Melanie says. “It was her knowledge that helped us to see the vision. We’re creative people, but we wouldn’t have known how to clear out the land to accentuate the views, or how to utilize the space to the extent that we wanted to.” After bringing their dogs to the farm for a trial walk (and their official approval, of course), the Birches set out to build the mountain home they’d long envisioned. Before long, they were watching the seasons change through their large picture windows and savoring sunsets over Lake Glenville from their very own overlook pavilion.
Families may come to Cashiers at different points in their lives, but they all have one thing in common: They quickly fall in love with the mountains’ singular beauty and the friendly, small-town feel of the Blue Ridge village. Though its year-round population is a modest two thousand, as many as twenty-five thousand people flock to Cashiers between May and October to hike to its countless waterfalls, golf on its award-winning greens, zip through the glassy waters of Lake Glenville, or meet up with friends at one of the buzzing restaurants in town. These were all appealing details to the Birches, who enjoy the vibrant social life at the nearby Wade Hampton and High Hampton golf clubs, where they are members. They also appreciate the peace of solitude, found in abundance on the hiking trails they’ve cut through the woods of their own property.
Kris and Lisa Mikkelsen were also looking to carve out their place in Cashiers’ great outdoors, which will soon be accessible from their own front door. A young family hailing from Atlanta, the Mikkelsens had rented in the area before, which inspired their decision to build a second home in Cashiers’ Silver Run Reserve, a private community exclusively marketed by McKee Properties that boasts incredible vistas and secluded homesteads. Knowing the recreational possibilities were huge selling points for the active family, McKee Properties’ co-owner and broker Liz Harris went above and beyond to plan an unforgettable visit for the Mikkelsens before they settled in.
“They stayed at the Silver Run Reserve Lodge, dined at local restaurants, and participated in the various activities the Cashiers/Highlands area has to offer,” Harris says. “Silver Run Reserve became a favorite as they hiked, fished, and discovered animals in the meadow. They even spotted baby deer in the tall grasses. The kids created arts and crafts, made new friends, and just ran free.”
For Kris, encouraging that freedom was a motivating force behind building the house. The father of two was eager to embrace the slower pace of mountain life and couldn’t wait for his children to grow up doing the same. When he imagines spending unencumbered time with his son and daughter in the wilderness just beyond his own backyard, he can only imagine the memories to be made in the family’s own little corner of Cashiers.
“The world moves at such a quick pace, and we spend so much time in front of screens,” Kris says. “So there’s a certain recharging element that we feel in the mountains, and in Cashiers particularly. We’re constantly getting outdoors to hike, fish, play golf, ride bikes, or go to the farmers’ market, bringing home fresh produce that we know was grown just down the road. It’s created this incredible, healthy lifestyle.”
To find a perfect mountain retreat of your own, visit McKeeProperties.com.
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