There’s a little slice of paradise on the south end of the Grand Strand for a few lucky locals and an increasing number of visitors who are discovering this well-kept secret. The tiny, historic town of Pawleys Island is separated from the mainland by tidal creeks and salt marshes and connected only by a pair of causeways. The historic district has rows of beautiful antebellum beach home, some dating back to the late 1700s, when wealthy plantation owners escaped the summer heat for the cool ocean breeze. Locals and visitors at a handful of inns and guests houses get to enjoy the unique environment, but the absence of any commercial development preserves this special stretch of land surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Pawleys Island Creek.
The mainland holds the same Southern charm with more affordable housing options. Ocean Highway, as Highway 17 is known to residents, is lined with fine-dining establishments, hotels and hammocks shops. Pawleys Island was once the No. 1 exporter of hand-made hammocks, a fitting symbol for the laid-back lifestyle of the locals. Strict zoning restrictions prohibit the sort of neon signage allowed elsewhere on the Strand. The peace and tranquility of Pawleys Island is making it an increasingly popular place to live and vacation.
The growth around Pawleys Island includes Litchfield Beach to the north and a gated community known as DeBordieu to the south. Both are exclusive communities with high-end housing. Litchfield Beach is the more developed of the two, with golf courses, resorts and waterfront homes along the immediate coast. The inland areas consist primarily of swamplands and marshes, preventing westward growth beyond the existing single-family home neighborhoods.
Pawleys Islanders have a phrase for their unique way of Lowcountry living – “arrogantly shabby.” The term reflects the rustic, coastal lifestyle as a matter of choice, not necessity, and it’s true that most of its residence have the financial means to live anywhere on the Grand Strand. But they prefer Pawleys Island and its carefree attitude.
Pawleys Island is literally surrounded by water, so it’s no surprise that fishing, boating and other watersports are a way of life. Virtually all the island homes have docks on the creek for fishing and crabbing. Some of the top golf courses on the Grand Strand are located in and around Pawleys Island, many of them built on former rice and indigo plantations. Serious efforts have been made to preserve Pawleys Island and its historic landmarks. The same “no worries” philosophy applies to every facet of life in Pawleys Island.
The Waccamaw Golf Trail, featuring 11 championship Lowcountry layouts along the Waccamaw River Neck, reaches its peak in Pawleys Island, where the majority of the courses reside. At the top of virtually everyone’s list is Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, the jewel of the plantation courses on the Grand Strand. Caledonia and sister course True Blue, were recently ranked the No. 1 and No. 3 best public courses on the Grand Strand by Golf Magazine.
Other top-rated links in Pawleys Island include The Heritage Club, The River Club, Pawleys Plantation and Willbrook Plantation, each with their own unique blend of Lowcountry wetland and old-growth woodlands. The Litchfield Golf & Beach Club, featuring a large resort with its own 18-hole course, is one of the most popular places to stay and play for visitors who want to explore Pawleys Island.
Fresh local seafood is on full display at Pawleys Island’s finer restaurants. Featuring a combination of South Carolina Lowcountry cuisine and classic seafood dishes, award-winning restaurants like Bistro 217, Frank’s Outback, Nosh, and the Island Bar & Grill give patrons a true taste of Pawleys Island with such popular dishes as crab cakes, shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew, featuring shrimp, crab, corn on the cob, red potatoes and smoked sausage steamed and served by pouring the contents of the kettle onto a covered picnic table.
Local oysters are also a local delicacy, and in season they can be found at virtually every local eatery. Pawleys Island Tavern, hidden behind a strip mall of hammocks shops, offers outdoor dining under the shade of live oaks and a live music venue, as well as an excellent family-casual atmosphere. On the south side of town, Hog Heaven BBQ offers real South Carolina-style barbecue and all the fixings. Bottom line: Pawleys Island is a great place to put some South in your mouth.