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Southern Living names Pawleys Island in list of ‘Old-School Vacation Destinations’

Pawleys Island is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and vintage appeal, and most visitors who come back year after year say it never seems to change. It just stays as it was, and they like it that way.

Nostalgia does, indeed, play a part in where we vacation. To that end, Southern Living Magazine included Pawleys Island on a list of “10 Old-School Vacation Destinations We Want to Bring Back.” It’s an impressive list that includes popular destinations as large and iconic as Walt Disney World, as well as other popular family destinations such as the Florida Keys and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Pawleys came in at No. 10 on the list.

The Clarkson family is one of many families that come to Pawleys Island year after year. They come on the week of July 4th. (Photo by Clayton Stairs/Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

Pawleys Island Mayor Brian Henry was excited to find out that Pawleys made this list. He said that the island is considered the oldest resort on the East Coast and the vibe reflects that.

“Pawleys is laid back and rustic,” he said. “We have a town government that prides itself on keeping the island just as it is: non-commercial, beautiful, historic, welcoming, and uncomplicated.”

In the Southern Living article, Tara Massouleh McCay writes that Southerners have a deep fascination with bringing the past into the present.

“Traveling can be about exploring somewhere new, but it can also be about traveling back—to a favorite memory, to a simpler time, or to a world of nostalgia,” she said. “Often, we’ll go as far as to rent the same house or reserve the same beachfront condo unit we’ve always stayed in. We eat at the same restaurants and recreate family photos to track how everyone’s changed.”

McCay continues, saying, “But travel nostalgia can also mean visiting old-school locales that may or may not be new to us. These are the places that Southerners have trusted with their time off for generations. They don’t rebrand or reinvent every other year; instead, they commit to consistency and remaining true to the characteristics that drew people to them in the first place.”

She wrote that Pawleys Island is, “Populated largely by beach houses, where your entire clan can relax for a week. An ordinance signed in 1968 prevents this waterfront haven from becoming overrun with commercial properties.”

McCay stated that the few that exist are as enchanting as can be.

“For example, the Sea View Inn, established in 1937,” she wrote, “features a rocker-lined porch overlooking the waves and offers guests of its 20 rooms two homecooked meals a day.”

Mayor Henry, who owns the Sea View Inn with this wife, Sassy, is committed to providing visitors with nostalgia.

“I have a bumper sticker on the back of my truck that says, ‘Pawleys Island, Love it and leave it alone’ and I keep a stash in my driver side pocket to give to others,” he said. “While we stay organized and efficient behind the scenes, we want the island to remain unchanged for as long as it can.”

The Sea View Inn offers a porch facing the ocean with a line of rocking chairs. (Photo provided by Sea View Inn)

Sassy Henry agreed, saying that Pawleys Island has stood the test of time.

“Remaining the same since I was a little girl, I think that Pawleys holds such a special place in my heart because I can almost time travel to being a child or young adult and remember nothing but love,” she said. “I feel the same love for the Island and my loved ones today.”

Here’s a look at all the destinations on the Southern Living list: (1) Disney World in Orlando, Florida; (2) Gatlinburg, Tennessee; (3) Rock City, located atop Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Georgia; (4) St. Augustine, Florida; (5) Blue Ridge Parkway, the nearly 500-mile road that runs through Virginia and North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park; (6) Weeki Wachee Springs in Spring Hill, Florida; (7) The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tennessee; (8) The Florida Keys; (9) Ocean City, Maryland; and (10) Pawleys Island.

By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce