First comes love, then comes marriage and for us, without the time to take a honeymoon, then came a baby in a baby carriage. Then came another. And another. Three kids and 26 years later my husband, Nick, and I were officially empty nesters. We’ve taken great vacations with our kids, but now it was time to go on our long overdue honeymoon. And for us landlocked Midwesterners, it was go beach or go home.
Crossing the causeway and arriving on Pawleys Island was a refreshing awakening. For the first time in a long time, we were surrounding ourselves with something very different from the chaos we were accustomed to at home. It was quiet here. A wonderful, welcoming quiet. The kind of quiet where the only noise would come from the rhythmic swaying of a hammock being gently rocked by the salty ocean breeze.
Pawleys Island, the birthplace of the iconic rope hammock, is the heart of Georgetown County and a region perfectly referred to as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast. A far cry—yet, just 27 miles—from the crowds of Myrtle Beach, this barrier island wasn’t on our radar until our neighbors came back from their family reunion and raved about a place where kayaks seemed to outnumber residents and sunsets stopped time in its tracks. Finding out we could score great off-season rates in the fall when temperatures were cool and comfortable sealed the deal.
Liberty Lodge, the historic antebellum home we rented through Pawleys Island Realty for the weekend, welcomed us like old friends. The wraparound porch filled with rockers and two hammocks looked like where we would be spending a lot of time. We followed the boardwalk over the dunes where we could see the Atlantic’s waves lapping at the shoreline.
Although it sleeps 18, Liberty Lodge felt cozy; and with its storied past, romantic. It was moved to the island by a rice planter in 1858 and owned by the same family since 1912. We could feel the years of love and laughter. It was as if the house somehow knew we would one day come to claim our belated honeymoon in its embrace. And the amazing thing was, the entire island was filled with wonderful old (and some new!) beach cottages and a couple of bed and breakfasts. Not a hotel in sight!
We opted to spend our first night on the island trying something we couldn’t do at home. Months earlier I had reserved two spaces on the popular, full-moon-only nighttime kayak tour offered by Black River Outdoors. Active, nocturnal inlet animals provided quite the feast for the senses. The loud slap of a river otter’s tail on the glassy waters took us by surprise and Nick noted that the snapping shrimp sounded exactly like our guide, a Lowcountry native, was popping popcorn. The hair on the back of my neck stood up when I saw an eye staring back at me. Our guide pointed out it belonged to a harmless merganser diving duck. He told us that if we came back in the morning, we could spot egrets, or even a bald eagle, fishing for breakfast.
Much like the male eagle caring for his mate, Nick surprised me with breakfast in bed the next morning. I was so caught off guard that I thought it was a dream. But the intoxicating smell of bacon meant I didn’t need to pinch myself to remember I was on Pawleys Island. While I had slept in, dreaming I was paddling through a salt marsh alongside my new fishy friends, Nick had gone to a local market on the mainland (there are no stores on the island itself). It was relaxing to sit half under the comforter and sip my coffee. “This is the life,” Nick agreed as he unfolded the local newspaper called the Coastal Observer. The headlines informed us the place to be these next two weeks was the Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art, a multi-day musical extravaganza on the mainland that has brought dozens of musicians, some Grammy Award-winners, here for the past 30 years. Nick and I hadn’t been to a festival as a couple since the night we met at the county fair, so we decided to get tickets to at least one of the performances. It would be awfully hard to top the full moon tour of last night, but why not try?
The rest of our time on Pawleys Island passed quietly, perfectly and far too quickly. As our belated wedding gift to ourselves, we visited The Original Hammock Shop, just over the causeway from the island, and purchased a double hammock—a subtly romantic souvenir and a relaxing reminder of this extraordinary place.
By the end of our honeymoon, we’d decided to go back to old habits—that is, traveling with the kids. A few quick texts and enthusiastic responses confirmed that we’d be spending Christmas back at Pawleys Island, as a family. Knowing how much we had appreciated, both individually and as a couple, the balance of relation and adventure, made me wonder about the impact Pawleys Island would have on the kids. Perhaps they’d be so fond of it they’d want to shortlist it for their future honeymoons.Find more about Pawleys Island.