My family and I moved to Isle of Palms, South Carolina nearly twenty years ago for my husband’s job. We had been vacationing on the island for years, so what a thrill it was–especially for my three young children–to live at the beach.
Fate brought us here. After my move, my way of storytelling transformed. No longer was I creating novels from archetypal themes, but instead this coastal Lowcountry landscape became my inspiration. Since our move here all those years ago, I feel called to be a steward of the wild…through storytelling.
It’s the kind of community many of us yearn for…a place away from the busyness of traffic congestion, the noise of shopping centers, a place where neighbors know each other and help each other. Residents and guests are surrounded by miles of pristine forestland that beckons you to explore, where wildlife and people live together in harmony. And the creeks and ocean invite you to catch your meal for the night.
I’m so enchanted with this island that I had to share it with you in my new novel BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT.
I am lucky enough to call Judy Fairchild my friend. She’s a longtime resident of Dewees Island, a realtor, a state certified naturalist, and a great photographer, too. I invited her to be my guest blogger today to give you a more intimate look at the magic of Dewees.
Welcome to Dewees Island! A slightly weathered sign hangs from the ferry dock when you arrive, and it is my regular joy to introduce visitors to Dewees Island. A private barrier island accessible by boat from the Isle of Palms, Dewees has only 150 homesites and over three miles of pristine beach. To our north, Capers Island, Bull Island, and the lush waters of Cape Romain National wildlife refuge combine to form the largest undeveloped (and protected) stretch of coastline on the Eastern Seaboard. The entire island of Dewees is in a conservation easement, and it’s kind of like living in a National Park. We can only disturb 7500 square feet of footprint per home, and only native plants are planted: lawn care is NOT how we spend our time. At full build-out, over 94% of the island will remain natural and pristine. We do have a clubhouse and pool and tennis, but instead of a golf course, we have a nature center and pristine forests, wetlands, and dunes. Mary Alice Monroe’s readers are introduced to Dewees Island in Beach House for Rent. Here’s a short passage:
Fifteen minutes later she spied the white beaches of Dewees Island and, closer, the island’s dock. The captain reduced speed and neatly maneuvered the ferry into the dock…
…they bumped along crushed shell roads under the lofty shade of trees. Heather was enchanted by the wild green landscape. Everywhere she looked there was something else to see. On one side of the road creeks meandered through lush cordgrass where egrets and a great blue heron were wading. Beyond was a glimmering lagoon where a large alligator sat sunning on a floating dock. Butterflies fluttered in the shrubs and songbirds darted from tree to tree. She felt she was in some sort of sanctuary. A safe haven not only for the wildlife, but for humans too. Dewees made Isle of Palms look about as coastal as Charlotte. [Excerpt from BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT, available June 20]
As a realtor on the island, and as a naturalist, I get to experience the island through the eyes of people seeing it forthe first time. It’s hard to take it all in: the relaxed pace, the beautiful vistas, the totally natural seashore, the sounds of birdsong. With no paved roads or strip malls, the island is a place to get to know your neighbors, to slow down and savor the otter playing in the road ahead, the birds bringing fish to youngsters, the screech owls peeking out of the box in the freshwater wetland.
I love the way different people are captivated by different parts of the experience: community kayaking or creek floats, solitary beach walks, nesting birds, sandcastle contests, happy hours. Dewees gives you a chance to unplug and connect differently.
As a full time resident who raised kids here (yes, they take a boat to school), I love the way they know the secrets of the tides, how to catch dinner with a net and some line, where the eagles raise their chicks, and what an alligator bellow sounds like.
Because our beaches are relatively less traveled, we have a healthy shorebird population that rests and nests here. Volunteers protect nesting least terns and Wilson’s plovers on Dewees Island through the state’s Audubon Shorebird Stewards Program.
We are restoring a wetland on the island to provide foraging habitat for local and migratory shorebirds. When you show residents and visitors a photo of a tiny plover chick, scrambling across the sand, they will understand why to leash dogs on the beach and why to watch their step. That kind of education and conservation is a part of everyday life on Dewees.
But it’s the wonder that I can’t get enough of. Everyday brings something incredible to experience. Tonight at the dock, a young family arrived back on Dewees by ferry after eating dinner on the Isle of Palms. The stars were sparkling above: with no streetlights to our north, the dark skies can be incredible. And in the water, early bioluminescence is making its first summer appearance. Awe and wonder and laughter floated past on the breeze as they trailed their fingertips in the water at the dock, creating sparkles in the water. Just a bit of everyday Dewees magic.
It is that magic of Dewees Island–and the shorebirds against the Lowcountry outdoors–that Mary Alice captures in her new novel. BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT will open readers up to the wonder of the wild, something I see and enjoy everyday through my job and my daily life here on Dewees Island. Come rent for a few nights to experience the island for yourself. We’re recruiting neighbors! ~Judy Fairchild
You have a chance to WIN a two-night getaway to Dewees Island, South Carolina on June 24th, during my BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT book release party at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, SC. All guests are automatically entered into the raffle, and additional raffle tickets can be purchased during the book event. Proceeds benefit Audubon South Carolina Shorebird Stewards Program. CLICK HERE for details. I hope to see you at the party, or at a book tour event near you this summer!
*All photos provided by Judy Fairchild