PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC
Pawleys Island is special. A barrier island off the coast of South Carolina known for its beautiful marsh, quiet way of life and lack of commercialism. You're not visiting there for wild weekends and non-stop parties. You go to restore your spirit, refresh your soul, and reconnect with those who make the journey with you.
This old summer resort was originally a seaside escape for planters and their families. For generations, this venerable summer getaway has welcomed many of America’s finest families (and that still happens with some regularity). There’s something magical about taking an evening walk on the beach, greeting the dawn with a small child eager to build the perfect sandcastle, and playing a fierce game of dominoes with your loved ones.
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Pawleys Island can be found between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. South Carolina’s third-oldest town, the colonial village of Georgetown, is very near. For most, a visit to Pawleys is a way to disconnect from the hustle of life and reconnect with the people most important to you.
Although the island doesn’t have a store or gas station, there are two historic inns.
SeaView Inn has been an island fixture since 1937. Its 20 rooms are positioned between the ocean and a pristine salt marsh. It offers three meals a day, and cell phones are discouraged.
Pelican Inn is an eight-room bed and breakfast which sleeps 30, when fully booked. Built in 1840 as the summer home for a Lowcountry planter, it’s positioned behind the highest dunes in the island. Direct beach access and a private dock over the salt marsh offer daily paths to adventure. Breakfast and a mid-day dinner are provided, with many ingredients picked up fresh from local farmers’ markets just hours earlier.
Family Homes to Rent. There are a number of realty companies working in Pawleys Island who can provide a family home for you to rent. Large or cozy, these homes have been part of the landscape for generations of families who treasure them and their memories. For some, the same beachfront home has been rented at the same time, year after year. (These beauties are available year-round, so when the crowds go home, and there’s a tiny chill in the air, savvy families, groups of friends, or business associates will rent one of these homes for gatherings.)
Part of the charm of visiting the coast is the bountiful seafood you can catch or buy in the area. The bonus at Pawleys is the magnificent Lowcountry cuisine. Soft shell crabs, shrimp and grits and local caught flounder round out delicious evening meals.
Feel like catching your own dinner? You can go crabbing or shrimping or fishing – and you should, especially if little ones are around. Catching your supper is a thrill every child should enjoy. There are restaurants nearby however, and just off the island, you can have it all.
Austin’s Ocean One offers an eclectic contemporary American menu featuring local seafood and hand cut steaks. Executive chef Bill Austin’s menu changes accordingly to availability of locally sourced products. Poolside and ocean-side dining available.
bisQit is casual and a local favorite. One foodie called the food “inventive and soul-warmingly delicious...while having a trendy but welcoming environment.” Burgers, sandwiches, onion rings, lobster rolls, salads and a full bar. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
Bistro 217 features Chef Adam Kirby, recently named a Chef Ambassador for South Carolina. His food is rave-worthy, including a fabulous tomato, crab and jalapeño soup, or lobster, shrimp and scallops with sun-dried tomatoes and scallions in béchamel over fettucine. It’s all wildly inventive and incredibly delicious.
Caffé Piccolo offers simple, casual Italian cuisine featuring locally caught seafood and delicious dishes. Their arugula and fried gorgonzola salad with red onion is divine. Chicken and veal dishes, plus pasta creations are favorites, as are all of their seafood dishes.
Chive Blossom Café features dishes influenced by Southern, French, Mediterranean and Asian Cuisine. The result is a fusion of tastes that makes this cafe a favorite of locals. Start with charred octopus with preserved lemon skordalia, fried capers and harissa oil. Try their okra pancakes, or their roll-your-own lamb tacos. In cooler months, their seafood pot pie tastes just right.
DeRoma’s Pizza gives you a casual (but very tasty) option for lunch or dinner. Consider “The Dude” pizza, a ranch-based pie with buffalo chicken, bacon and three-cheese blend. They’ve got all the bases covered, from white pizzas, to veggie pies, meat lovers and more. Other options for the occasional person who wants something different. Dine in or free delivery.
Frank’s and Frank’s Outback has been featured in Bon Appetit and Southern Living, among others, Frank’s and Frank’s Outback, next to one another, provide relaxing options for dinner. Their small plates are legend – and deliciously creative. Or, go for the whole dining experience, courtesy of executive chef Pierce Culliton. Your options include Scottish salmon, wild-caught mahi-mahi, lamb, jumbo lump crabcakes and so much more.
Get Carried Away Southern Takeout offers takeout dining that rivals restaurant fare. Open from 10:30 until 5 or 6, depending on the day, there’s also a deli case, plus daily specials (and special order desserts). For days or nights when you want to travel no farther than your porch, this is a great solution to dinner. Lowcountry Boil? Chicken Pot Pie? Pawleys Island crab dip? Yes, please.
Gio’s Italian Kitchen features Italian favorites that keep locals returning and visitors applauding on all the foodie sites. Word on the street is they have amazing eggplant parmesan as well as chicken saltimbocca and Neapolitan pizzas. Good wine and specialty martinis, too.
Habanero’s Mexican Cantina has been a favorite for Pawleys Island folks for years. Head for their tiki deck and enjoy a house-made margarita. Ask about their hot and spicy dishes, or consider a fish taco, enhanced by their “secret sauce.” Check out the website for live entertainment and note their daily lunch specials.
The Hammock Coast is known for its restaurants, and there are plenty to choose from, but these are close to home and range from award-winning, white tablecloth dining to eclectic Lowcountry, to casual takeout for your own porch. This diverse group of options has you covered.
What to do next.
Outdoor fun at Pawleys Island.
You won’t have any trouble finding energetic – or relaxing – ways to spend days here any season of the year. Here are some possibilities.
Huntington Beach State Park covers 2,500 acres of trails, beaches and forests, and includes Atalaya, the fascinating and somewhat mysterious ruins of the winter home of industrialist and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington and his wife, the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Visitors can wander through the home and there are occasional guided tours to help explain the property. Camping is allowed and there are showers and bathrooms near the large central parking area. Day visitors will enjoy the trails where wildlife such as many birds and the occasional alligators can be spotted. The beach is uncrowded and very peaceful.
Each September, the Atalaya Festival fills the park with works from more than 100 artists (and offers visitors samples of Lowcountry cuisine).
Surf the Earth offers surfing camps and lessons, eco-tours and shopping. For those who want to learn to surf, or simply enjoy the beauty of the area, there are full moon kayak tours, as well. To go it alone, they offer high quality paddle boards, kayaks, surfboards, bodyboards and skimboards, with free local delivery.
Rover Tours out of nearby Georgetown features several boat tours, including a shelling and lighthouse cruise on smooth inland waters to a remote barrier island. There, you’ll look for shells and birds beside the Georgetown Light, South Carolina’s oldest lighthouse. (You can also see the Civil War wreck of the Union Flagship, the USS Harvest Moon.) It’s the only way out to the lighthouse, and along the way, you may see dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife.
A new Historic Hobcaw Barony Boat Tour includes a home tour and boat trip along the Winyah Bay area where Bernard Baruch, industrialist and advisor to presidents and world leaders spent his carefree time.
Black River Outdoors features kayak tours through Cypress Swamp, near Huntington Beach State Park, and in Winyah Bay. There are pleasure tours, eco tours and fishing tours by kayak as well as rentals.
Swamp Fox Tours in downtown Georgetown features a blue and white tram that takes visitors through the history, mystery and romance that spans almost 300 years in Georgetown. You’ll see historic homes and churches, and certainly discover more about the ghosts in the area.
Cyclopedia rents bicycles for great touring around the island (head for the Historic District). They have maps for local area biking trails that cover all sorts of geography. Off season, you can take a light sweater and enjoy a great ride.
Brookgreen Gardens across the highway, is carved out of more of the original Huntington family holdings. An intriguing combination of sculpture gardens, historic rice plantation paths, gorgeous flower gardens, marshes (boat tours available) and a zoo make a trip memorable for all ages. For more than 85 years, it’s been a celebrated attraction that draws locals back all year for special events, workshops and exhibitions, and visitors who make it part of their yearly vacation.
Pawleys Island Hammock Shops features the Original Hammock Shop with its hand-woven, incredibly comfortable hammocks of all shapes and sizes. For many southern families, a Pawleys Island Hammock is the hammock of choice for families who want a lovely place to take an afternoon nap, or read a good book. There are other great shops here. Perfect for a memento to take home and open year round.
Walking on the beach. It’s the perfect way to get your exercise as you listen to the seagulls and waves, and perhaps spot a dolphin leaping out of the water, in perfect synchronization with his buddies.
Pawleys Island is laid back, even though many families have been vacationing here for generations. In the cooler seasons, the amenities and attractions are available, but the air has a crispness, and the beaches and biking paths are quieter.
Once you’ve visited – in any season – personal experience guarantees that you’ll be eager to return to the island for the peace, tranquility and restorative nature that comes from feeling the sea breeze and listening to the waves, while sitting on the porch with those you love.
Share this article: