Pawleys Island is a picturesque barrier island that lies just off of Hwy. 17 at the southernmost end of the Grand Strand. It is accessible from the mainland via two causeways to the north and south. It is less than 3 miles long and graced by high sweeping sand dunes and abundant natural beauty.
Pawleys Island is named after George Pawley, who owned it during the American Colonial era. When disease causing mosquitos began to plague the area populations, he sold portions of the island to wealthy farmers who built summer homes here, as the cool ocean breezes kept the insects away then, as now. George Washington visited this area two years after he was elected president. During this time, Pawleys gained a reputation as a resort area, which it has retained ever since; it is one of the oldest on the East Coast. The All Saints Episcopal Church, Waccamaw, Cedar Grove Plantation Chapel, and Pawleys Island Historic District are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and twelve residences dating from the 1700s to the 1800s remain completely intact and preserved. The island even comes with its own ghost—The Gray Man— who is said to have walked the coastline for nearly 200 years, his presence a portent of hurricanes and other dangers.
The earliest peoples in this area were the Waccamaw and Winyah Native American tribes. They called the area “Chiquola” or “Chicora,” meaning “the land.” The oyster was important for their sustenance, and today huge piles of shells, called “middens” remain from their harvesting.
There are very few commercial buildings on the island, due to bans that were put into effect in the past few decades. The dearth of commercialism lends itself to a slower pace and quieter lifestyle. Here the vibe is upscale but very laid-back, peacefully secluded, and simple— it reverberates with the class of a bygone era, today, comfortably shoeless in Lilly Pulitzer. The architecture and style is shabby chic— most houses retain the flavor and feel of old-time beach houses, each unique in execution and expression.
A beautiful salt marsh and tidal creek separates the island from the mainland— a haven for birds, crabs, shrimps, and other wildlife. It is the perfect locale for birdwatchers and nature lovers, hammock lovers, and restful repose. There are a variety of unique boutique shops, and some of the areas best restaurants. Black River Outdoors holds Eco kayak tours of the area.
Part of the greater Pawleys Island region of the Grand Strand, but further north along the coastline, lies Litchfield Beach. Like Pawleys Island, it is also known for its quiet beauty, upscale charm, sophistication, and ease of being. It was established in 1978, and named after a rice plantation which operated there in the 1700s. The area is very carefully zoned, allowing for a much more quiet and exclusive feeling than almost anywhere else along the Grand Strand. It is less remote than Pawleys Island due to its geography. And the profusion of tennis and world-class golf courses found here, as well as the restaurants and shops that cater to those patrons, lends it a slightly more urban as well as active and lively feel.
The beaches here are wide and beautiful and less populated then elsewhere along the Grand Strand. Walkers, bikers, and runners enjoy the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway that is part of the East Coast Greenway.