Pawleys Island: A First Timers Guide

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If you haven’t heard of Pawley’s Island, you aren’t alone. Like before every trip I take, I tell some of my friends and family were my next adventure will be. Not a SINGLE person had heard of Pawley’s Island! I was shocked, but I really shouldn’t be because before I moved to the east coast, I hadn’t heard of this perfect little beach town either.

My girls and I had the most amazing time enjoying the small historic town and the quiet beach. Even in the summer, there were only a few people scattered along the beach. After experiencing Pawleys Island for the first time, I’m filled with anticipation for our next trip to the gorgeous little east coast barrier island.

About Pawleys Island

Based on the 2010 census, there are only 103 people living on Pawleys Island. To say the beach is quiet and peaceful is an understatement. I have NEVER been to a more relaxing beach. The town is one of the oldest resort areas along the east coast. Things move slower there. In the 1700’s, thanks to the constant wind from the ocean, the town was used as an escape from the mosquitos that plagued the mainland in the summer. George Pawley, the towns namesake, would rent parts of the island to mainland planters who were seeking to escape malaria.

The town is fortunate to have a few remaining houses and inns after hurricane Hugo hit in 1989. Despite the remaining lodging from the past, there are no industrial and commercial buildings allowed on Pawleys Island. The three mile barrier island is rich in history and knows how to calm an anxious soul. With it being so small you may be wondering.. Is there anything to do? Do they even have restaurants? YES and YES!

Read more about the history of Pawleys Island, here.

Checking In

Sea View Inn
As the name suggests this inn is right on the sea boasting the most perfect beach view. The lovely beach cottage dates back to 1937. Get a true feel of what life was like in the time before in one of their wooden plank lined rooms. Open the windows and let the ocean breeze blow in and wash your worries away.

The Pelican Inn
A bed and breakfast with a long history. Built in the 1840’s overlooking the salt marshes, the building once belonged to the lieutenant governor of South Carolina. Things of course have changed since the 1800’s. The inn has their own private boardwalk, antique wooden poster beds, fantastic southern cooking, and delicious free breakfast. Lay out in a hammock on the porch and enjoy the salty sea air.


A Day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens


Savor the Flavors of Pawleys Island

For Seafood

Pawleys Raw Bar
They have it all! Seafood, sandwiches, breakfast, salads, shrimp & grits, mouth watering desserts and more. They also get an A+ for being kid friendly. A great kids menu and a playground outside of the restaurant are always a plus.

SoCo Seafood Shack and Southern Dining
A little blue restaurant over the water serving seafood, burgers, and southern comfort foods. Eat your dinner the way grandma use to make it at SoCo. They have a large array of desserts on their dessert bar. Grab a slice of cake for after your dinner and one to take home to enjoy later!

Contemporary Vibes

Chive Blossom Cafe
Southern comfort food meets upscale dining. White table cloth dining with all the comforts of home. The restaurant has a charming bar as well as outdoor seating. Try a seafood pasta or a juicy steak while you enjoy any one of their unique drinks from the bar.

Rustic Table
Another restaurant serving up that southern comfort food that we all love. They have a crazy loaded bloody Mary as well as mouth watering country fried chicken topped with country gravy and served with green beans.

For Live Music & a Chill Atmosphere

Pawley’s Island Tavern
A tiny relaxed restaurant with signed dollar bills hanging from the ceiling and walls. They have a fantastic bar and tons of outdoor seating. Enjoy one of their pizzas or poboys with an IPA beer outside in the perfect sea air while you listen to live blues music.

Island Bar & Grill
There are loads of outdoor seating at unique tropical drinks at the Island Bar & Grill. Sit out on their lively patio and listen to music while you enjoy your dinner. The restaurant is also a perfect rainy day option as well. When its raining you can head inside to enjoy a game of pool.

Enchanting Excursions

Of course the most obvious attraction on Pawleys Island is to visit the beach. Although Pawleys Island itself doesn’t have much to offer in the way of attractions due to its size and building restrictions, there are attractions close by that make Pawley’s Island an even more perfect location along the South Carolina coast.

Santee Coastal Reserve
A 40 minute drive from Pawleys Island and you will reach the gorgeous Santee Coastal Reserve. I know that a 40 minute drive can be a bummer.. However, the beauty of the reserve is totally worth it. A long sandy road lined with trees draped with Spanish moss leaded you to the parking lot of the reserve. The reserve boasts gorgeous swamp views and gives you the opportunity to see alligators, deer, bear, and other wildlife all in the same location. The board walk at the reserve will take you through the forest, over the wet land and will come to an end at an observation deck.

It’s important that you know what time of the year to visit the reserve as some parts of the year in a swamp are rather miserable. For instance, I would never advice someone to visit in July. The mosquitos are just too bad and there is a good chance the swamp will be dry. I recommend visiting in the fall for the best experience.

Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk
A short 15 minute drive from Pawleys Island, the marsh walk is a boardwalk traced by water on one side and a bevy of restaurants on the other side. Their are beautiful views of the water as well as the famous goat island. (an island of actual goats..) Bar hop your way down the boardwalk or simply enjoy a dinner with a view.

You can read about my solo trip to Murrells Inlet, here.

Huntington Beach State Park
Only a ten minute drive from Pawley’s Island, this park is a must visit when you are staying on Pawleys. There is a $5 entrance fee into the state park. Once you are in Huntington has a lot to offer. Of course you have beach access, but also in the park is Brookgreen Gardens and Atalaya Castle. The castle was owned by the Huntington Family and has a very interesting history. The lady of the house was a very talented sculptor and Brookgreen Gardens showcases her artwork.

The entrance fee to the gardens is $18, but the admission for Atalaya Castle will only coast you $2. After you explore the castle and the gardens, explore the nature walk and causeway that are great for wildlife viewing. I particularly love Atalaya because of the rich history of the Huntington family and the life they lived in their castle. You can read about my trip to Atalaya, here.



I hope this first timers guide can help you as you take your first trip to Pawleys Island! If you have any questions about the area, just drop them below. Happy Traveling!

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Visiting Santee Coastal Reserve with Toddlers


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