Risking it All on this Little Island
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Smith. This isn’t the movie, but it might as well be for the love story that is this family of four. They found love at first sight with absolutely every aspect of living life on Callawassie Island.
“We knew pretty early on in our marriage that we weren’t going to stay in Southern California,” recalls Mrs. Smith – that’s Valerie, who spent nine years in SoCal with her husband Shane. “We wanted a different pace, and we wanted water.” They couldn’t have imagined finding an oasis surrounded by it.
“We were moving by choice, wanting something different to raise our kids – my husband was able to work from anywhere, so we weren’t confined by geography or starting a job – we had the leisure of looking for what we wanted. We started vacationing in the area, knowing we wanted the slower pace of the Southeast. We began with Charleston and eased our way down the coast, and happened upon Bluffton.” Famous (first!) words.
A pin in the map, they started to weigh the waterways, finding Lady’s Island a little too remote, May River dock-access neighborhoods a little too tight, the ocean too big, Palmetto Bluff not enough direct access – and then there was Callawassie Island.
Different from Anything We’d Known
“We weren’t even looking for houses, we were just trying to hang out and have a good time to get to know the areas that had potential. Staying in Callawassie Island, though, immediately was such a different place than anything we had known.
“We thought it was still a little remote at the time (2016) but had so much to offer in and of itself, so we decided to wing it.” There was a lot to wing back then for this young family coming to Callawassie – there weren’t many kids as permanent residents, it wasn’t as close to schools as other areas, and the home they decided on was a bit of a fixer-upper.
Like the Swiss Family (Robinson), the Smith Family took an immediate liking to life on an island and building up their elaborate treehouse – a beautiful property with a deep-water dock, and with several projects that needed fixing. It didn’t matter – they had already fallen for the whole package and there was no going back.
“We saw that Callawassie was beautiful, remote, unique, there was something about the vibe, the feel, the smells, the animals – and there’s this commonality among the people who are drawn here from all over, because we were all drawn by these same things.
We fell in love with the idea of this island, and all that came with it – the River Club, the manicured golf course mixed with the edges being 100% natural, and of course, the water. It was 100% worth the change to uproot our family and risk it all on this little island.”
Driven by a Dream
So risk it, they did. They put their whole stack of chips on the land of the red-winged black bird, remodeled and renovated from a distance, and made the trek “back east,” excited about the transformation. “It wasn’t easy of course, there are the typical frustrations of trying to accomplish this from a distance, but we were driven by a dream, and we just kept imagining the prize – the fishing, the view, getting out on the water.” These were the prizes they could keep their eye on, but they’d soon start unpacking bonuses along with their boxes.
“After Covid, we noticed an increase in younger people and younger families moving in and everything started to blossom. Now, we have 30 to 40 kids on the island from newborn to college and it’s making a huge difference.” Addressing the much-to-be-expected growing pains, there are always question marks with any amount of change. What used to be considered a “retirement area” became a diversity of ages and other demographics. Now the community has grown from welcomed to celebrating – retirement age residents not only get to build relationships with a variety of ages, but also have kids for their grandkids to play with when they visit.
A Family of Families
“There are so many different relationships with such a diverse range of ages for our kids to get to know. Brand new parents who are friends here can turn to us and our boys for life hacks, been there done that type of advice. We have parents of older kids as friends to look up to and learn from. Our kids, like all their kids, older or younger (there are 3 boys next door), and our neighbors across the street are like grandparents to the kids,” Valerie says of their young sons Truitt and Owen. That’s the amazing thing about living here – we’re a family within a family – or a family of families – as there’s an added layer of connection when you all live on an island together.”
Speaking of families, the Valerie and Shane generation were followed in hot pursuit by several members of their families from both sides who saw the magic that is Callawassie Island after just a single visit. “My parents moved here from Monterey, CA after they came out for Thanksgiving one year, went home, and called a week later saying they’d put their home on the market.” They’d heard the song of the south.
Shane’s mom would also move out from SoCal to be near them on the island, and Valerie’s sister who resides in Maryland also bought a vacation come on Callawassie Island that just might be the primary residence at some point.
Because the Smiths are in good company with others moving multi-generationally to Callawassie Island, that started to change the face of available clubs, activities, and amenities, not only adding kids versions, classes, workshops and more to existing rosters, and offering different times for certain activities to accommodate working families, but they added the exclamation point that is “the Family Club” at Callawassie Island that’s offered everything from events for spending quality time with your kids, to learning opportunities for kids to workshop Callawassie Island favorites like golf, photography, kayaking, and more.
A Disneyland Lowcountry
“This really is one of those places that offers a rich, diverse living situation and has aspects that attract every one of those generational diversities,” Valerie says listing “families, people in the middle of their lives looking to settle roots, or those who are retired. For one and for all, it’s safe and secluded, and still full of the warmth of connection.” It balances the peaceful pace the Smiths seek with the opportunities and access that revolve around Callawassie as a center point. “As the whole region continues to grow and Bluffton and Beaufort expand their reach, Callawassie Island doesn’t seem overly remote like it did to us as buyers in 2016. Now, we’re in the middle of everything, but still tucked away on this peaceful island where everyone who came here, did so in part searching for exactly that.”
“It’s different here, but not just different for different sake – it’s a condensed and concentrated version of all the best things the Lowcountry has to offer – the water, trees, nature, weather, people, food. If Disneyland had to do “the south,” this would be it. If they had to work their magic and create a special, perfect rendition of the characteristics that make up the Lowcountry, what they’d create would be Callawassie Island.”