Island #2: Pawleys Island, South Carolina


Hidden south of Myrtle Beach and just east of U.S. 17 (also known as Ocean Highway, the road that hugs most of the Carolina coast and beyond) is a little island gem called Pawleys Island. Pawleys Island is a barrier island, so it’s a narrow island less than four miles long with abundant water views. Two causeways (elevated roads) lead to the island. If you read any literature about the island, you will undoubtedly stumble across the description “arrogantly shabby,” which has something to do with the many older and even historic homes on the island. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, and rumor has it that, like many of the Carolina islands, Pawleys Island has been built up a little over the past few years. But, the island is still almost entirely composed of residential units, primarily homes and smaller multi-home units. And, just to give you some size perspective, while the population swells during the summer months, there are less than 200 year-round residents on Pawleys. It definitely has the small-town, laid-back feel to it commonly found on many of the smaller Carolina islands.

One thing to note is that some of the areas off-island, along the causeway to the beach and including sections along U.S. 17, will also have a Pawleys Island address, despite the fact that they are not on the island. Pawleys is not the only Carolina island that does this, incidentally. When I first moved down here, in the beginning I kept expecting businesses to literally be on the island (or the beach, in some cases) based on their address, but quickly learned that the words “island” or “beach”  in the addresses do not, in fact, necessarily mean they are on one. In the case of Pawleys Island, most of the stores and restaurants are actually located near or along U.S. 17. In my mind, the advantage of this is that you can go out, shop, dine, and golf, and then return to your relatively calm, uncluttered island, “away from it all.”

Beyond all the cottages and homes you can rent through places like Dunes Beach Home Rentals, Pawleys Island Realty, or VRBO, the island also has a couple of small inns, The Pelican Inn and The Sea View Inn, with ocean and sound views. Or, if you prefer, there are several hotels, some of them chains, like the Pawleys Island Hampton Inn, for instance, along U.S. 17. And, if you stay in one of the off-island hotels without beach access, there’s a public beach on the south end of the island.

If golf is your thing, there are numerous courses nearby. In fact, in 2006, Golf Digest rated nearby Myrtle Beach as America’s #1 Golf Home Town. If you don’t mind staying off the island, you can secure accommodations and tee times at Pawleys Plantation. There’s also Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort, located directly north of Pawleys Island on Litchfield Beach, where you can stay and play at the resort, and choose a room by the ocean if you’d like, especially if you prefer the idea of staying in an ocean resort.

Interestingly, local legend has it that a “Gray Man” from the early 1800s somehow guards inhabitants and even homes from hurricanes by appearing as a “warning” prior to a hurricane. Several people swear to have seen him, and Unsolved Mysteries once did a special on the Gray Man from Pawleys. So if mysteries and/or ghosts are your thing, keep your eyes open and maybe even probe the locals a little.

If you visit Pawleys Island, another island tradition not to be missed is The Original Hammock Shop, dating back to 1889. The original hammocks were designed by a riverboat captain looking for cooler sleeping arrangements for those Lowcountry hot summer nights. Located in Hammock Shops Village, a collection of shops off of U.S. 17, the Hammock Weavers Pavilion also gives demonstrations of hammock weaving, and of course, hammocks are available for purchase.

Another huge perk of Pawleys is that if you desire the get-away-from-it-all feel, but do want a little taste of touristy venues, you are right down the road from Myrtle Beach. And in Myrtle Beach, of course, you can find shopping, shows, amusement parks, themed restaurants, golf and mini-golf, and the list continues ad nauseam. In fact, Pawleys Island might be a happy compromise for large groups with divided vacation interests and pursuits.

So if you’ve got a mixed party of beach lovers and golf lovers, and you are looking for a place that’s near but not right in the thick of it all, Pawleys Island might be calling you on over.

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