What Is The Nicest Beach On The East Coast

The home at 480 Myrtle Avenue on Pawleys Island has the largest ocean frontage lot on the island and was built in 1938. It has over 2,000 square feet and was listed in the New York Times real estate section. List price: $4.7 million. Photo/Walter McElveen, Pawleys Island Real Estate. 

This week we are journeying outside of Charleston to Pawleys Island. A barrier island, it is 70 miles north of Charleston in Georgetown County, and 10 miles east of the town of Georgetown.

Located on the southern end of the Grand Strand, it is far less populated and busy than its not-so-close neighbor, Myrtle Beach, which is 25 miles away.

Pawleys Island’s earliest inhabitants were the Waccamaw and Winyah Indians. Percival Pawley, a European settler, was the first person to develop plantations in the 1700s. Legend has it that the island was named for his sons, George, Anthony and Percival Jr. There are 12 remaining residences in the historic district that date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s and they were designated by the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Parts of the island are much like they were in the 1700s and many homes are owned by third, fourth and fifth generations of the same families. In 2012, Liberty Lodge, an oceanfront home located on Myrtle Avenue, had the distinction of being a home owned by the same family for 100 years. It is one of the island’s oldest homes and can be rented during the summer.

Legend and lore surround the island as well, including “The Gray Man,” which is purportedly the ghost of a man who was traveling from a visit with his fiancée in Charleston. He got lost in the pluff-mudded bog marshes of Pawleys Island and still wanders the shores, warning residents of hurricanes and storms. The legend received national attention and was featured on The Weather Channel and “Unsolved Mysteries.” Reports of The Gray Man issuing warnings in 1893, 1954 (Hurricane Hazel) and in 1989 (Hurricane Hugo) are documented and written about in books.

Mayor Brian Henry

Mayor Brian Henry

“It is the oldest resort on the East Coast, yet it holds onto its traditions and has maintained its charm,” said Mayor Brian Henry. “There are newer houses being built on Pawleys Island and there is additional pressure from mainlanders to ‘get to the beach.’”

Mayor Henry and family

Mayor Brian Henry with his wife, Sassy and daughters Camille and May May. Photo/Christy Lynch Designs.

That beach is connected to the mainland by two bridges, the North Causeway and South Causeway. Inland areas have seen development over the past decade, but island residents love and fiercely guard their idyllic life the way it is – low key.

“We are seeing more golf carts on the island which weren’t allowed just over five years ago,” Henry said. “There are about 120 residents – it is laid back here and referred to as ‘arrogantly shabby,’ and we take pride in that label.”

The island itself, off a narrow peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Waccamaw River, is a small portion of the town. Pawleys Island is only three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, and there are places on it where it’s only the width of a house. Fifteen-foot dunes protect its northern end.

“The island has no stores, RV parks, hotels or restaurants,” Henry stated.

Though there are two historic inns, The Sea View Inn and the Pelican Inn, built in 1937 and in 1858, respectively, on the island proper. Ordinances established in 1986 have kept the island, much like its slogan – “Keep Pawleys as it is,” exactly that.

Sea View Inn

The Sea View Inn on Pawleys Island was built in the 1930s. Provided.

Henry was elected mayor in November of 2019. He and his family moved from Atlanta to Pawleys Island in 2002. They are the owners and innkeepers of The Sea View Inn. If you’ve ever bought Palmetto Cheese in your grocery, you can thank the Henrys for that. His wife created the recipe, they began selling to local markets in Pawleys Island and locals and visitors grabbed them up. It’s now the Number 1 cheese spread in the U.S.

Named by Readers Digest in 2016 as “The nicest place in South Carolina,” and “One of the South’s best-kept secrets” by Atlanta Magazine in 2018, residents, visitors and annual vacationers couldn’t agree more.

I reached out to several industry professionals, who know better than anyone, what the fuss is all about.

A different vibe

Debbie Hammonds


“It’s hard for me to adequately tell someone how special the ‘Blessed Isle’ of Pawleys is,” said Debbie Hammonds, Broker Associate of The Litchfield Company. “I moved here permanently in 1987. My grandfather built a house on the island in 1938 and he built the current home my family still owns on the south end. I spent every summer there growing up and learned to crab, fish, dig for clams, work a seine net and body surf – I taught my son to as well.”

Hammonds, originally from Spartanburg, has spent most of her real estate career with The Litchfield Company and made her place on the island as a multimillion-dollar agent – selling everything from lots to condos to large beach homes.

It is a “soulful” place, she said. “Once you’ve experienced Pawleys, it’s hard to go anywhere else.”

Hammonds has seen changes over the past few decades – from “shabby” beach homes with no air conditioning to large estate-like homes that sit among the ones that survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Though the storm changed the landscape somewhat, what hasn’t changed is the 26,000 acres on either side of Pawleys Island that can’t be developed.

Hammonds said that sales are strong and headed in the direction of a sellers’ market. The Litchfield Company had over $49 million in sales in June alone. “We are seeing low inventory and the island itself has homes from $500,000 to over $3 plus million. Inland, prices start at $175,000, but those are hard to find.”

155 Sportsman Drive

There are spectacular view from the front and back of this home at 155 Sportsman Drive. Close to the beach, it lists for $939,000. Photo/Debbie Hammonds, The Litchfield Company.

155 Sportsman Drive view

Marsh sunset views are daily occurrences at the home of 155 Sportsman Drive. Photo/Debbie Hammond, The Litchfield Company.

155 Sportsman Drive

The home at 155 Sportsman Drive has hardwoods throughout the first floor. Imagine cool nights in front of the fireplace in the living room. Photo/The Litchfield Company.

Her listing at 155 Sportsman Drive is steps from the beach and has marsh views from both the back and front. It lists for $939,000, has six bedrooms and 3,880 square feet. If condo living on the beach sounds perfect, her listing in the gated community of Inlet Point at 11 Inlet Point is on the top floor with views of the Atlantic. The villa is newly furnished, and the community has its own private beach, two pools, a community dock on the creek and a recreation center – all for $495,000.

11 Inlet Point

This three-bedroom condo at 11 Inlet point is on Litchfield Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Grand Strand. In a gated community of Inlet Point, it is situated between the Atlantic and tidal salt marsh creeks. List price: $495,000. Photo/Debbie Hammonds, Litchfield Realty.

11 Inlet Point beach

Walk to the beach from your condo at 11 Inlet Point. Photo/Debbie Hammonds, Litchfield Realty.

“It (Pawleys Island) is a hidden treasure,” Hammonds said. “It’s not for everyone – it is small, quaint and I’ve had some clients tell me our small area has better restaurants than most big cities.”

Nancy Siau


Nancy Siau of The Lachicotte Company, The Litchfield Company said, “We are on the Charleston radar for sure and many buyers are considering a purchase on Pawleys Island because of affordability and less density. The island has a brand new Town Center and beach renourishment that was completed this spring.”

360 Myrtle Avenue

A five-bedroom home on 360 Myrtle Avenue was featured in the New York Times real estate section. "Oceanna II," as it's referred to is located in one of the most treasured sections of Pawleys Island. List price: $3.3 million. Photo/Nancy Siau, Litchfield Realty.

She lists a five-bedroom home on 360 Myrtle Avenue that was featured in the New York Times real estate section for $3.3 million.

If you talk to long-time resident and Broker-in-charge (BIC) of Pawley’s Island Real Estate, Walter McElveen, you can add “magical” to that mix.

Walter McElveen


“This has always been a place to get away to,” he said. “Living is easy and relaxed, and living at the beach where you can – here – the waves are magical. Homes here were originally built as second homes only and with hurricane threats always in play, construction was based more on being able to rebuild than fortify. Our motto, “arrogantly shabby” was born out of that – homes may not have looked like much years ago but we were and are extremely proud of them.”

McElveen has been a permanent resident for over 18 years and has owned a home on Pawleys Island for over 20 years. He’s been a realtor since 1997 and came on board as BIC at Pawleys Island Realty in 2013. Add a “Citizen of the Year” award bestowed upon him by the town. He said that buyers are looking to areas such as Pawleys Island to get away from less crowded urban spots.

His listing at 480 Myrtle Avenue has appeared in the New York Times real estate section because of its historic significance. It is the largest ocean frontage lot on the island and was built in 1938. It lists for $4.7 million.

480 Myrtle Avenue

The view from the front porch of 480 Myrtle Avenue. Photo/Pawleys Island Real Estate.

“The Island has a little over 500 houses and 58 condos,” McElveen said. “Completely separated from the mainland, it’s an incorporated town. Though it shares a postal address with mainland areas, it shares a little more. It became its own town to control its future.”

480 Myrtle Avenue

An aerial view of the home at 480 Myrtle Avenue. Photo/Pawleys Island Real Estate. 

Referring to the 1986 ordinance about commercial operations, McElveen explained that the three or four operations that were in existence were grandfathered in.

“With few full year residents, the town sought to increase its property protection with a local town police force and added building land zoning restrictions to promote the historic feel of the island to keep density down,” he said.

The historic feel of it includes the area’s Brookgreen Gardens, established in 1931. It has the largest outdoor display of sculptures in the U.S. and one of the finest examples of gardens in American, according to McElveen.

“Brookgreen and Huntington Beach State Park here are both legacies of the Huntingtons,” he said. “We have over 12 golf courses within a ten-mile radius, but the beach is the real attraction.”

High season is the summer and Pawleys Island ticks many boxes for a premier family vacation destination.

“Since there are no restaurants or shops on the island, building sand castles and working on puzzles during the rain are popular activities,” he said. “Island population goes to over 3,000 during peak season and we’re seeing more visitors staying during spring, fall, Easter and Christmas – numbers are increasing each year.”

True beach living

Perry Peace


“Pawley’s Island is ‘beachy,’ different families enjoy a variety of activities,” said Perry Peace of Peace Sotheby’s International Realty. “There are tidal creeks on one side and a beautiful beach on the other. Generations of families have enjoyed making memories here. Some like fishing, some prefer just sitting on the beach and others, surf.”

Peace talks from experience, selling real estate since 1997 along the South Carolina Coast – from Garden City to McClellanville. Peace Sotheby’s International Realty was established in 2016 and is a combination of three real estate firms – DeBordieu Colony Real Estate, The Tidelands Company and Prince George Sotheby’s.

“I have wonderful childhood memories of playing on the beach at my grandparents’ beach home,” Peace said. He, his wife and their two sons are making their own memories as well.

“We love meeting other families at the beach and often we’ll take our boats out to a large sand bar to meet others,” he said. “Our kids swim, fish, crab and cast the net.”

568 Myrtle Avenue

"Saints Alive" at 568 Myrtle Avenue is located within the historic district of Pawleys Island and is a modern home, built in 1993. On a very private location on a dune ridge it has both creek and beach front views. List price: $2.25 million. Photo/Peace Sotheby's International Realty.

Peace’s listing at 568 Myrtle Avenue is in the historic district of Pawleys Island, but has all the modern amenities one could want. On a dune ridge, it’s beach front with over 3,200 square feet. Private with both front and back porches, it lists for $2.25 million.

568 Myrtle Avenue

Take in a sunset on your private dock at 568 Myrtle Avenue. Photo/Peace Sotheby's International Realty.

“This home has creek and sunset views on the west side with a dock,” Peace explained. “This part of the island is a little more secluded because public beach access is further down the beach.”

His colleague, Lauren Fournier said that Pawleys Island is a “home away from home” for her.

Lauren Fournier


“We live in a town feeling where people get to know one another and say hello, whether that’s in the grocery store, post office, church or beach,” she said. “This is a true gem along our coast – to me, it’s the ideal low-key, elegant and charming coastal town.”

Fournier and her family moved near Myrtle Beach and fell in love with the area. Though she “took a break” from South Carolina to play collegiate golf for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and traveled the world playing professional golf, she knew the South Carolina coast was where her home and heart was.

300 D Myrtle Avenue

An affordable quinessential beach house is just 330 feet away from the Atlantic Ocean on 300D Myrtle Ave. It has beautiful views of the ocean from the large screened porches and upstairs bedroom. List price: $699,000. Photo/Peace Sotheby's International Realty.

Her listing at 300 D Myrtle Avenue lists for $699,000 and is about 300 feet away from the ocean. The “classic, quaint beach house,” it’s an hour from Charleston and 30 miles from Myrtle Beach.

300 D Myrtle Avenue Porch

Dinner on the porch with ocean breezes -- common at 300 D Myrtle Avenue. Photo/Peace Sotheby's International Realty. 

Peace added that two hotspots residents and visitors like to venture to are a short ride away as well.

“Just north of the island is Murrells Inlet, known for its seafood,” he said. “Historic Georgetown – a little like Charleston – is a short ride south. Pawley’s island is true beach living. Real estate sales are higher than pre-pandemic.”

The best of both worlds

Anne Carter


“Pawleys Island has a very easy living vibe, plus upscale boutique shopping and local Lowcountry fine dining without the fuss of a big city,” said Anne Carter of Martin Phillips Properties, Re/Max Beach & Golf. “You can get an oceanfront condo for around $2 million which you can’t find in the Charleston area. Condos and townhomes range from the $200,000s to the millions. And, everything is within a five-mile radius so you don’t have to travel far for fine dining, shopping or golf.”

The shutdown initially caused a slowdown in homes sales in the area, but Carter said since the opening of the economy their company and their business has been “on fire.”

“We have seen buyers from all over and they want a piece of our little paradise here in Pawleys,” said Carter. “We are a hidden treasure that people are finally discovering. We don’t have much more property to develop and the airport is only 20 miles away. There’s also a very large retirement community and people are buying property, then renting it out until they’re able to retire.”

The pride of Pawleys is evident in her passion for the island. With buffers on all sides of the Pawley area, the Waccamaw River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Carter adds that they have the finest surf fishing in South Carolina, sea-breeze camping and some of the top bird-watching on the East Coast. To the south is Arcadia Plantation, a Vanderbilt property.

“This buffer zone protects us from the crowds and from being over-developed,” Carter said. “We really have the best of both worlds – river and ocean – so there are limitless activities, it’s a dream location for the outdoorsy type.”

7B Inlet Point

A four bedroom villa at 7B Inlet Point is within a gated community on the end of South Litchfield Beach. It has an open floor plan and three floors with ocean views. List price: $875,000. Photo/Martin Phillips, ReMax.

Her listing at 7B Inlet Point is within a gated community on the end of South Litchfield Beach. The four-bedroom, second row villa is spread over three floors, has ocean views from nearly every room and lists for $875,000. Her listing on the Litchfield mainland at 168 Windy Lane lists for $637,500 with views of the inlet, marsh and ocean.

168 Windy Lane

This new home on Pawleys Island's mainland at 168 Windy Lane has over 2,100 square feet and lists for $637,500. Photo/Martin Phillips/ReMax.

“We are becoming more of a year-round resort,” Carter said. “Most people are looking for vacation properties, but there is a mix. Litchfield by the Sea is a unique seaside community that offers amenities such as tennis courts, beach club, pools, bike paths and docks. They have the majority of high-rise type condos. North Litchfield is a family-friendly, golf-cart community with wide beaches that borders Huntington Beach. Take a beach walk next to the nature reserve or “bike the neck,” a bike path that takes you all the way to Murrells Inlet.”

Though there are no gated communities on the island itself, there are some on the mainland – including Debordieu Colony, The Reserve, Litchfield Plantation, Willbrook and Hillbrook.

Carter said she and her family chose to live on the island for the lifestyle – one that has everything anyone would want and then some. She spent her summers here growing up and her mother, grandparents and great-grandparents grew up on Pawleys Island. “It’s laid back but if you want to get fancy and go out to dinner, you got it without getting into the hustle and bustle of the city.”


Total year-to-date sales on Pawleys Island

524 Myrtle Avenue, $2.4 million

372 Myrtle Avenue, $1.918 million

123 Atlantic Avenue, $1.15 million

132 Atlantic Avenue, $1.01 million

Lot 5, 300 Myrtle Avenue, $830,000

344A Myrtle Avenue, $712,500

As of July 15, 2020, there were 20 homes for sale and 5 pending sales.

Source: Perry Peace, Peace Sotheby’s International Realty & Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors (CCAR) MLS


Fast facts about Pawleys Island

• Since 2017, Pawleys Island has had a 16.4 percent population increase.

• The median household income realized an 18.7 percent increase.

• The largest industries are real estate, manufacturing and educational services.

• Most common occupations are in management – 36.4 percent; sales – 18.2 percent; health – 15.2 percent and educational services – 12.1 percent.

• In 2017, the median property value in Pawleys Island was $818,200, up from $775,000 in 2016.

• The largest share of households has a property value in the $500 to 700,000 range.

• One of the first commercial businesses on Ocean Highway in the town was Pawleys Hammock Shop, built in 1935, and is still there.

• Inland is All Saints’ Waccamaw Episcopal Church, built in 1739 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The rectory built in 1822 is “an intact example of a Carolina House,” according to the register.

Sources: Data USA profile, Pawleys Island and “A walk back through the history of Pawleys Island," Sun News.


Contact Brigitte Surette at bsurette@postandcourier.com.

Source : https://www.postandcourier.com/business/welcome-to-pawleys-island-the-oldest-and-arrogantly-shabby-beach-resort-on-the-east-coast/article_337c5a94-c6b3-11ea-8d67-2bdc20c3aa25.html

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