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Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Red circle shows the location within Georgetown County and the state of South Carolina.
Red circle shows the location within Georgetown County and the state of South Carolina.
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Georgetown
Incorporated (town) 1938
Incorporated (city) 1957
 • Total 1.0 sq mi (2.6 km2)
 • Land 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
 • Water 0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
Elevation 3 ft (1 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 103
 • Density 148/sq mi (57.2/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 29585
Area code(s) 843
FIPS code 45-55015
GNIS feature ID 1231638
Shabby 2398
A surviving home, pre-Hurricane Hugo (1989)

Pawleys Island is a town in Georgetown County, South Carolina, United States, and the Atlantic coast barrier island on which the town is located.

Pawleys Island population was 103 at the 2010 census, down from 138 at the 2000 census. The post office address also includes an unincorporated area on the mainland adjacent to the island, which includes a commercial district along the Ocean Highway (US Route 17) and a residential area between the highway and the Waccamaw River. The island is on the southern end of The Grand Strand and is one of the oldest resort areas of the US East Coast. The town of Pawleys Island, though, is only on the island. The island lies off the Waccamaw Neck, a long, narrow peninsula between the ocean and the river, and is connected to the mainland by two bridges, the North Causeway and the South Causeway.


The earliest known inhabitants of the Pawleys Island area were Waccamaw and Winyah Native Americans. They called the area "Chicora", meaning "the land".

The Waccamaw tribe got its name from the nearby Waccamaw river. The river is referred to the natives as "coming and going" which influenced their name. These tribes lived off of the land and the sea. They embellished many amenities that it came with, including Oysters. The ocean winds and the abundant source of wildlife made it ideal for these tribes. Even today there is some evidence left such as "middens", these are huge plies of oyster shells that were harvested by these tribes. There are still a few Waccamaw natives left unlike their neighboring tribe, the Winyahs who are completely extinct. The Winyahs inherit their name from the Winyah Bay, an area known for its surplus of wildlife much like Pawleys Island. In the early 1700s the colonists from Europe began to set up markets and shops to barter and sell items with these tribes. This was short lived, soon fights began to breakout and many problems arose causing complete destruction of these tribes.

The island became a refuge from summer mosquitoes because of common windy conditions. The town's namesake George Pawley owned the island during the colonial era, and sold portions of it to other planters seeking to escape malaria.

In 1791, two years after he was elected president, George Washington toured the Grand Strand, travelling The King's Highway in the unincorporated portion off Pawleys Island to visit the Alstons, wealthy planters who owned several plantations in the area. Rice fields occupied the Waccamaw River side of the neck.

With Hurricane Hugo in 1989, some island cottages were swept away and have since been replaced. The island bans commercial or industrial buildings on the island with the exception of a '70s condominium complex and a few grandfathered inns, including the SeaView Inn and the PCJ Weston House, which is now the Pelican Inn.

Pawleys town hall 2450
Pawleys Island, South Carolina Town Hall

The town government was incorporated in 1985. The water temperature is comfortable from May to October, and there is abundant fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and birdwatching most months of the year.

All Saints' Episcopal Church, Waccamaw, Cedar Grove Plantation Chapel, and Pawleys Island Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Town of Pawleys Island is located just off U.S. Route 17, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Georgetown. The island itself, located at 33°25′47″N 79°07′18″W / 33.42972°N 79.12167°W / 33.42972; -79.12167, is a little over three miles (5 km) long and about a quarter of a mile wide. To the east-southeast lies the Atlantic Ocean. The island is a sandy barrier, with some dunes on the northern end up to about 15 feet (5 m) high. The southern end is very low. Behind the island is a tidal creek/marsh.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.0 square miles (2.6 km²), of which, 0.7 square miles (1.8 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²) of it (29.29%) is water.


Pawley's Island is well known for the tourism on the island. Due to the variety of activities offered on the island, it has become a well known vacation spot. Because of the combination of historical and current attractions there is something for everyone on Pawley's Island.


Fishing may be one of the biggest attractions on Pawley's Island. There are many businesses on the island that can offer a fishing experience to people of all experience levels. There are Inshore Fishing Charters for fisherman of all skill levels. On the other hand, Tide Drifter Charters offers inshore fishing, surf fishing, and fishing on the Georgetown jetties as well as family friendly experiences on the four hour sightseeing trips.


There are great variety of shows available on the island. The Alabama Theatre opened in 1993 and was nationally covered by the media. Today, the Alabama Theatre is one of the biggest entertainment venues on the East Coast, winning awards for the famous events and country music stars that perform at the theatre. The House of Blues is one of the most renowned concert and event venues in the country. The Crossroads Restaurant allows for a family experience or a night out with friends.


Barefoot Landing is large outdoor shopping and entertainment center. Barefoot Landing offers shows, concerts, festivals, restaurants, but is mainly known for shopping. It offers many unique shops including Dixie outfitters, Ron Jon Surf Shop, and Earthbound trading company. Barefoot Landing is also home to the Alabama Theatre and House of Blues.


There are many tours available, especially those related to the aquatic life. The Blue Waves Adventure Dolphin Tour have trained professionals who have a 85 percent success rate at spotting the dolphins. The Hocobaw Barony is a 16,000 acre historic home that offers bus tours and exhibits on endangered species and wildlife in addition to the beautiful scenery.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1990 176
2000 138 −21.6%
2010 103 −25.4%
Est. 2015 107 3.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 138 people, 81 households, and 43 families residing in the town. The population density was 196.9 people per square mile (76.1/km²). There were 521 housing units at an average density of 743.3 per square mile (287.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 92.03% White, 7.25% African American, and 0.72% from two or more races.

There were 81 households out of which 9.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.6% were married couples living together, 1.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.9% were non-families. 45.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.70 and the average family size was 2.30.

In the town, the population was spread out with 8.0% under the age of 18, 15.9% from 25 to 44, 50.7% from 45 to 64, and 25.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 55 years. For every 100 females there were 76.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $51,964, and the median income for a family was $97,125. Males had a median income of $28,750 versus $27,500 for females. The per capita income for the town was $48,183. There were none of the families and 1.5% of the population living below the poverty line, including no under eighteens and none of those over 64.

Local Ghost

Pawleys Island has multiple ghost that are said to roam the island and surrounding area. The two most notable ghosts are The Gray Man and Alice Flagg.

The Gray Man

The Gray Man is said to have walked the coastline for nearly 200 years. His presence means almost certain danger for the island and the people who reside there.

There are several different stories of origin but the most commonly know is that in 1822 a young woman was staying on the island with her family when she received word that her fiancee was going to join her on the island to after seeing his family. Delighted with the news she prepared all his favorite dishes in anticipation of his arrival. When time came for him to arrive no one showed she waited hours only to be visited by her fiancees servants with the tragic news. As they were traveling to the house her fiancee challenged the servants to a race on their horses. As they raced down the stand he saw a shortcut through a marsh he decided to take it. When the horse first stepped foot into the marsh it cause him to stumble throwing her fiancee off the horse into quicksand. Despite his servants efforts to free him he sank into the sand.

The news of her fiancees death drove the girl mad, and she spent hours walking along the Pawleys Island strand. One afternoon she saw a man looking out over the water as she got closer she felt her stomach tighten. When she got closer she was sure it was her love but suddenly a wave burst from the sea enveloping him and he was gone.

That night she had a dream of a small boat being tossed by waves leaving wreckage all around her. When she woke she told her family who thought she was mad and took her to Charleston to see a doctor, within hours of leaving a hurricane hit the coast and almost all of the inhabitants had died.

Alice Flagg

Alice Flagg, whose brother Dr. Flagg owned Wachesaw Plantation, was raised in wealth and grandeur along the Atlantic Ocean. She fell in love with a poor, young man and they maintained a secret affair, and later an engagement.

Once Dr. Flagg found out about the lovebirds, he quickly shipped Alice away to a boarding school in Charleston.

While there, Alice grew ill with fever and a broken heart. She returned home and, while being prepared for bed, Dr. Flagg found her engagement ring on a chain around her neck. Consumed with bitter rage, Dr. Flagg tore the ring from Alice’s neck, marched out onto the marsh and threw the ring into the muck.

With each day Alice grew sicker, but she never forgot her precious ring. She died, begging with her last breath for her ring. She is believed to be buried in the Waccamaw Cemetery, underneath a plain, white stone marked “Alice.”

To this day, many people claim to see Alice wandering around her grave, searching for someone or something. Some have reported a slight tug or spin on rings worn around fingers and on chains. Legend has it that walking backward around Alice’s grave on a certain night of every year causes the ghostly white figure to appear, searching for her lost love.

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