Relax and Reconnect at Pawleys Island

Imagine an island drenched with sun-bleached charm, salt marsh creeks abundant with wildlife and quaintness, and a relaxed pace perfect for families to reconnect. Sounds like a faraway place but actually it is less than a four-hour drive from Charlotte to Pawleys Island, S.C., making it an easy family destination. It is also a place that I call home, having grown up in historic Georgetown only 10 miles south. I have fond memories of spending the weekends on the beach with my family and crabbing in the marsh with my brother and sister. Now I carry on the traditions with my family.

Pawleys Island is located on the coast of South Carolina between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, and is one of the oldest resorts in the South. It has been a popular hideaway for family vacationers for more than three centuries. Over the years, everyone from George Washington to Franklin Roosevelt to Winston Churchill has visited there. During the 18th century, rice planters made the island their summer home so that they could escape the heat and humidity of the Lowcountry and enjoy ocean breezes. Storms have battered the island, but many of the weather-beaten old properties remain, earning the self-appellation of “arrogantly shabby,” and providing the food for legends such as The Gray Man, a friendly ghost who warns of impending hurricanes.

Barefoot Paradise
The beaches here are among the best maintained and widest along coastal South Carolina and no matter what time of year you go, there is always something fun to do. Dolphin encounters, fishing, shrimping, kayaking and nature walks are all part of a truly endless list. My family goes to Pawleys several times a year and our first stop is always Pawleys Island Beach Service to stock up on all of our beach needs. They have everything from bike/kayak rentals, chairs and umbrellas to boogie boards.

Our mornings begin with a bike ride around the three-mile island to watch the marsh wake up and its abundant wildlife come to life and end on the beach to find the first shells of the day. Afternoons are filled with the beach and waves and my daughter’s personal favorites pastime of pulling her nets through the surf and tidal pools as she discovers all the little critters that swim with her. One of my personal favorite is crabbing in the marsh! All you need is a string, a net and some pieces of chicken and you will have plenty of delicious Blue Crabs for dinner or for She-Crab soup.

You can stop by Pawleys Island Outdoors for all of your fishing needs, which is almost a destination in itself. And what better way to end the day than to get ice cream cones at the Hammock Shop with its more than 20 specialty shops clustered among moss-draped oaks and azaleas.

Other Nearby Treasures
Brookgreen Gardens, a few miles north of Pawleys Island, is a place where history, art and nature merge seamlessly. Magnificent sculpture is showcased under a canopy of live oak trees and set among native fauna. Philanthropist Archer Huntington and his sculptor wife Anna Hyatt Huntington created the Gardens to showcase figurative sculpture by American artists. Brookgreen consists of two main components, the Huntington Sculpture Garden and the Lowcountry History and Wildlife Preserve. It is a special place that we always included on our trips. The whimsical nature of the sculpture gardens enchants children and adults alike with statues of capricious sprites, baby animals and children playing in secret gardens.

The Wildlife Preserve is a must-see, especially the Otter Exhibit. Launch your exploration at the Lowcountry Center educational facility with daily programs, and “Meet the Animals” hands-on demonstrations. Brookgreen naturally lends itself to great picnics by the ponds and river — but don’t be surprised to see a mud turtle or alligator peeking through the marsh wanting a taste of your spread!
Yes, “arrogantly shabby” has created many memories for multi-generations. Enjoy a gracious tradition of family Lowcountry living!

Pawleys Island
Pawleys Island Beach Service
10570 Ocean Hwy. 17 North
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pawleys Island Outdoors
9790 Ocean Hwy.
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Sunday

Brookgreen Gardens
1931 Brookgreen Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Debbie Dos Santos is a Charlotte freelance writer.