Three Generations, One Destination

Pawleys Island, South Carolina,
brings the family together

Some families are notorious for always being late. Mine is infamous for being impatient. We’re the ones who eat pasta al dente, fidget during a movie’s previews and open presents on Christmas Eve. So, when we couldn’t wait any longer for summer, we decided to join my parents on a spring escape to Pawleys Island.

Beach Retreat

“Is it naptime yet?” my husband, Scott, asked, eyeing the hammock on the porch of our rental house. The kids were in one of the bedrooms—surely flipping a coin for the top bunk—and my husband and I were relaxing with my parents on the front porch. They’d done well picking from the dozens of listings—everything from modern beachfront homes with all the bells and whistles to rustic and historic dwellings dating back to the late 1700s. The one thing almost all the properties had in common was being oceanfront. Pawleys Island is only three streets at its widest, so even off-ocean houses were only steps away from the beach.

From our widow’s walk, we had a bird’s-eye view of the island. Even though Pawleys Island was dotted with residences—some once the summer retreats of wealthy plantation owners—it wasn’t nearly as built up as other beach resort areas we had visited on past vacations. The natural beaches seemed untouched, and the salt marshes looked like they were home to a flourishing ecosystem. Our plans were to spend the afternoon getting acquainted with the area up close.

We rented kayaks—one for Claire, my 6-year-old, and me to share, and one for my parents—and paddleboards for Scott and Nick, our 8-year-old.

“Look!” Nick said while pointing his paddle at a turtle swimming a few feet away from him. Claire and I paddled over to see its mottled brown and black shell. Our family continued on our marsh sojourn and marveled at the wildlife that could be seen low and (relatively) silent in our kayaks.

Memorable Meal on the Mainland

The next morning, something strange happened. We all slept in. Normally, we’d be up before the sun. I’d looked forward to catching a Pawleys Island sunrise because I’d read they were absolutely breathtaking. This day, however, I had succumbed to “island time.”

We spent what was left of the morning birdwatching and beachcombing. I watched my dad explain to his grandkids the difference between the various shells on the shore, just as he had with my brothers and me ages ago.

“My souvenir money is burning a hole in my pocket,” my mom said, indicating it was time to venture onto the mainland. We were soon sipping iced tea on the front patio of Rustic Table. Through the windows we could see the restaurant’s well-stocked bar and high-top tables.

The theme of our lunch was fried, albeit with a sophisticated flair. I ordered a cornmeal-fried oyster Caesar salad and the kids got fried chicken sandwiches. Scott tackled the fried flounder perched on a pile of sweet-tea collard greens, and my parents split crispy fried chicken livers accompanied by spicy ketchup. “We want to have room for our Bloody Marys,” my mother quipped. Rustic Table’s signature cocktail—adorned with skewers of deviled egg, grilled pineapple, pickled okra, shrimp and sausage—was pretty much a meal in a glass.

When Adam Kirby, the chef and co-owner, stopped by to see how we were enjoying our meal, I immediately recognized him from an article I read about his designation as one of South Carolina’s official chef ambassadors.

Locally Designed, Universally Known

After lunch, we browsed through Driftwood Mercantile, a lovely gift shop owned by Rustic Table and its sister restaurant Bistro 217. Just behind Rustic Table was a series of other businesses in a charming area known as the Island Shops at Downtown Pawleys, where we even found room for some ice cream.

But we weren’t done with shopping yet! We crossed Ocean Highway to visit The Hammock Shops Village, a landmark for Pawleys. Like the Island Shops, this is no strip mall; rather, it’s more of a forested park of oaks and pines with boutiques scattered throughout.

Since we were there to shop, and Pawleys Island is the birthplace of the rope hammock, we eventually made our way to meet “The Hammock Man.” The local celebrity’s real name is Marvin Grant, and he started weaving hammocks more than 30 years ago. He still demonstrates how the hammocks are made to visitors. He graciously took the time to explain the art of hammock weaving and its history on the island. Scott and I went next door to The Original Hammock Shop and ordered a family-sized hammock and my parents did the same. We may be impatient, but we were willing to learn the art of lazy.

Worth the Wait

Yes, even for my impatient family, we did find ways to relax on Pawleys Island. It’s so laidback and unique that you’re almost forced to let your cares float away to the ocean’s shore.

We will be back. We want to experience Pawleys in the summertime, too. It may be peak season, but something tells me Pawleys never feels crowded. It’s just perfect. Just the way it is.

Slow down on Pawleys Island