Late last month, I took my 27th summer vacation to Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Traditions are no joke in my family (attempting to throw a new dish into the mix for our Christmas Day dinner is like trying to amend the Constitution--i.e. the last time it happened was way before I was born) and our annual gathering in the Lowcountry is of the utmost sanctity.
Pawleys has changed a lot over the course of my twenty seven summer pilgrimages there. Since my initial trip at 3 months old, Pawleys has grown from a tiny stretch of ocean-front cottages and two un-airconditioned inns to an island whose old-school charm stands in stark contrast to the surrounding beach supply chain stores, shopping centers, and new residential developments that continue to pop up on the mainland.
But, to my delight, Pawleys Island proper has managed to retain most of its pre-internet-era magic. Once you cross over the little creek that separates Pawleys from the mainland, there are no stores, no bars, no restaurants--just a four mile stretch of uncrowded beach and modest oceanfront houses, many of which have survived dozens of violent hurricane seasons.
And while some things have changed--vacation rentals now come equipped with wifi, of course, so you can order a new pair of running shoes that FedEx will deliver to your back door within 24 hours--the island's spirit remains untarnished. Pawleys is a back-to-basics kind of place where traditions are almost effortlessly preserved and both visitors and locals alike seem content to pass the day relaxing by the sea and the evening eating and drinking with friends. Only to wake up the next day and do it all again.
If you're planning a trip to Pawleys Island, rent a house if you have a big crew and if you don't, book a room at the Sea View or the Pelican Inn (the latter is air conditioned, keep that in mind if you're visiting in the hot summer months). If you're feeling slightly fancy, have dinner one night at Frank's, if you're feeling lazy and don't want to cook, go to Chive Blossom, Frank's Out Back, or Island Café. But otherwise, just do what feels right. Lie in the sun, swim in the ocean, surf if there are waves, rent paddle boards if there aren't, eat with friends, drink too much, play charades, laugh, make some memories! Give yourself a day or two away from the city and you'll get the hang of it. I promise.