a lowcountry retreat: discover south carolina’s hammock coast
by sara kendall
images courtesy sara kendall and georgetown county tourism management commission
Imagine majestic oak trees draped in Spanish moss, lovely historic plantations, and soul-soothing seascapes. This beautiful vision can become your reality on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast. Home to the famous Pawleys Island Hammock Company, these hand-woven hammocks are a signature way to relax along this stretch of coastline. Travelers from all over come here to unwind and recharge. Pack your bags and hit the road to this Southern coast known for peaceful ambiance and a slower pace.
Explore Huntington Beach State Park, where visitors play and relax on three miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean beach along with the surrounding inland wetlands. Located within the park, the picturesque Atalaya Castle was the winter retreat of world-renowned American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer. Built in the 1930s, it’s a stunning example of Spanish Mediterranean architecture, which is showcased on this grand seaside castle. Today, it sits without furnishings and stands as an open-air structure for guests to explore and learn about the castle’s heydays. Be sure to get an audio tour to gain interesting historical facts about Atalaya and its former owners.
Be a nature tourist on an easy kayak paddle over calm waters for an up-close look at the low country’s environment. Shaded by cypress trees, you can paddle with a group of fellow nature enthusiasts led by Black River Outdoors. The friendly guides will point out nesting ospreys, numerous turtles, a snake hugging a tree, and one sneaky alligator who pops up his head to check everyone out. Kayaking is a great way to check out the unique natural surroundings of the Lowcountry.
Step back in time on a tour of Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000-acre natural research preserve with tons of history. Board a bus for a trip down rustic dirt roads to learn about the ecosystem of the Lowcountry. Stop at the 1930s Hobcaw House, where Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt were entertained. Drive through Friendfield Village, a 19th century slave village with many of the original buildings preserved.
Built in 1740, Hopsewee Plantation was one of the South’s major rice plantations and birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Today, visitors can take a tour and learn about the plantation, from its origins up to the current ownership.
If you like walking around a charming, historical town, then Georgetown is calling your name. Georgetown is one of the oldest cities in South Carolina, and you’ll feel its lure immediately. Live oak trees line city blocks where big box stores don’t exist, but locally- owned shops do. Along Front Street, visitors can shop for anything from unique housewares to clothing boutiques.
While in Georgetown, make you way over to the waterfront to stroll along Harborwalk, a wide promenade along the river. You can observe the sights and sounds of the scenic harbor, watch boats sail by, and check out homes and outdoor riverside restaurants. The lively outdoor restaurants are ideal to take in the view while dining on a seafood dinner. After the sky has faded to darkness, those brave enough can go on a guided tour to learn about maritime ghosts and other lost souls still thought to be roaming among the living.
Go shopping at Hammock Shops Village on Pawleys Island—it’s the perfect place to swipe the credit card a few times. Under towering oak and pine trees, shoppers stroll along brick paths to over 20 clapboard-style cottages filled with one-of-a kind shops; there are no chain stores here! The Village has been around since 1938, so you can see and feel the history around this pedestrian-friendly shopping destination.
Located on the quiet side of Georgetown, the lovely Mansfield Plantation is one of the most well preserved antebellum rice plantations in America. For couples, book a stay at this bed and breakfast to experience its romantic mystique. Surrounded by close to 1,000 private
acres, you can explore the banks of the Black River, take leisurely walks, and relax in the sheer beauty of the plantation. After a visit here, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time, returning to the present feeling refreshed from the peace and solitude of this beautifully- preserved place.
Centrally located on Pawleys Island, Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort is the perfect oceanfront lodging for active families. A variety of condominiums are spread throughout the sprawling beachfront property, and guests can enjoy four award-winning golf courses, numerous tennis courts, and winding bike trails. Of course, the beach is right at your doorstep, along with outdoor pools and a lazy river—ideal ways to cool off from the summer heat.
Known as the seafood capital of South Carolina, Murrell’s Inlet has an abundance of seafood restaurants. It’s not surprising to find an enchanting Marsh Walk in the center of this historic fishing village. The wooden boardwalk meanders alongside a natural saltwater estuary, where the bevy of seafood spots are located. Here, you can savor freshly-caught local seafood in Lowcountry dishes.
After a bit of shopping at the Hammock Shops Village on Pawleys Island and you find that hunger has set in, go over to BisQuit, located within the Village. Here, they whip up unique flavor combinations on biscuits or atop burgers. Be sure to save room for their signature milkshakes—they’re worth every calorie!
For a more upscale dining option on Pawleys Island, Bistro 217 is a popular restaurant offering seafood, steak, and pasta dishes along with a full bar and courtyard. A local institution, Frank’s Outback attracts both locals and visitors who, for many years, have loved the informal setting and relaxed atmosphere dining.
In lovely Georgetown, there’s a wide variety of dining choices. For different flavors like sushi and hibachi-style steak and seafood meals, stop by Rollin Local on the famed Front Street. A popular lunch spot is River Room, where diners can enjoy amazing waterfront views and delicious fare. Steamed buckets of oysters, fresh whole flounder, and mouthwatering po’boys can be devoured at Big Tuna Raw Bar, located in a rustic building between Front Street and the river.
You can come and just swing in a hammock. Or, you can fill your days and nights exploring, seeing, and tasting the Hammock Coast. It’s entirely up to you how you want to spend your time in this laid-back Southern destination.