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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.
Coordinates: 33°25′33″N 79°07′30″W / 33.42583°N 79.12500°W / 33.42583; -79.12500Coordinates: 33°25′33″N 79°07′30″W / 33.42583°N 79.12500°W / 33.42583; -79.12500
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Georgetown
Incorporated (town) 1938
Incorporated (city) 1957
 • Total 0.99 sq mi (2.57 km2)
 • Land 0.70 sq mi (1.82 km2)
 • Water 0.29 sq mi (0.75 km2)
3 ft (0.9 m)
 • Total 103
 • Estimate 
 • Density 154.07/sq mi (59.46/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 843, 854
FIPS code 45-55015
GNIS feature ID 1231638
Still Standing (pre-Hurricane Hugo home, Pawleys Island, South Carolina - 18 July 2006)
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's population was 103 at the 2010 census, down from 138 in 2000. 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 "Chiquola" or "Chicora", meaning "the land".

The Waccamaw tribe got its name from the nearby Waccamaw river. The river is referred to by 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 piles of shells from the oysters 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 break out 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.

Town Hall - Pawleys Island, South Carolina (18 July 2006)
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, approximately 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 one-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 mile (1.8 km2) is land and 0.3 square mile (0.8 km2) (29.29%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1990 176
2000 138 −21.6%
2010 103 −25.4%
2019 (est.) 108 4.9%
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.

The Gray Man ghost

The Gray Man is a famous purported ghost local to Pawleys Island and is said to have walked the coastline for nearly 200 years. His presence is said to warn of hurricanes and other dangers.

The most common origin story of the Gray Man is that in 1822 a young woman was staying on the island with her family when she received word that her fiancé was going to join her there. Delighted with the news, she prepared all of his favorite dishes in anticipation of his arrival. However as her fiancé was traveling to the house he challenged his servants to a race on their horses. As they raced he saw a shortcut through a marsh and decided to take it. The horse stumbled in the marsh, throwing him off the horse, and despite his servants' efforts to free him he sank into the mud.

The news of her fiancé's death nearly drove the girl mad, and she had distressing waking and night-dream visions of him. Her family took her to Charleston to see a doctor; within hours of their leaving a hurricane hit the coast and almost all of the Pawleys Island inhabitants died, but the family's house was untouched.


Pawleys Island has a public library, a branch of the Georgetown County Library.

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