South Carolina’s Lowcountry is among the most beautiful regions in the world. From Murrells Inlet – a fishing village blessed with pirate lore, brave seamen and fresh seafood – to Georgetown, one of this country’s oldest ports – our Lowcountry is a cache of sights, sounds and stories that is unique in the entire world.
If you look at a map, you will notice a slender finger of land pointing north from Winyah Bay toward Myrtle Beach. The finger points to Murrells Inlet, a community that boasts world-class restaurants, an admirable collection of antique shops and a must-love marshside boardwalk. The Marshwalk has won awards near and far. On one side, a string of restaurants, cozy pubs and outdoor entertainment beckons. On the other, marsh stretches toward the Atlantic. Fishermen cast their lines off a portion of the Marshwalk called Veteran’s Pier. There are even places for boats to dock so their owners can dine. Larger vessels bob and wait patiently for the pursuit of tomorrow’s catch. Garden City lights wink in the distance.
Headed south, Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park flank Highway 17. Both the Gardens – the world’s largest outdoor sculpture garden – and the Park were established by Archer & Anna Hyatt Huntington. Mr. Huntington was an academic and philanthropist. Mrs. Huntington was a renowned sculptress. Together, they changed the future of the Lowcountry.
The Gardens are situated on a 300-acre parcel in the heart of a 9,100-acre preserve that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Waccamaw River (the Intracoastal Waterway). More than 550 works of American figurative sculpture are displayed in breathtaking natural settings.
Huntington Beach State Park
Huntington Beach State Park showcases one of the East Coast’s best preserved and best loved beaches, a salt marsh teeming with wildlife, an age-old maritime forest and Atalaya (at-a-lie-ya) – an oddly beautiful Spanish-styled castle that once served as the Huntingtons’ winter home.
Litchfield Beach, next stop on Highway 17 South, takes its name from Litchfield Plantation, once-upon-a-time an enormously successful rice plantation on the Waccamaw River. A glimpse of the plantation’s manor house, surrounded by majestic oaks and manicured lawns, feels like stepping into the impossibly perfect beauty of a postcard.
Pawleys Island, a barrier island sliver of paradise, is one of the oldest resorts in the U.S. More than two hundred years ago, the Island’s double dip of shore and marsh became a summer haven for wealthy plantation owners seeking respite from the mosquitoes and misery of inland summers. Despite storms and other ravages of time, many of the old homes remain – albeit in a weather-worn and rustic state. That’s why the term “arrogantly shabby” is frequently used to describe this fiercely loved little island. From river to ocean, Pawleys sports a masterful mix of restaurants and retail, art galleries and golf courses, and vistas of creek and marsh, river and ricefield, and the Atlantic Ocean.
And then there is Georgetown. Situated less than an hour north of Charleston and an hour south of Myrtle Beach, the Palmetto state’s third oldest port city is thriving. The Harborwalk – a waterfront boardwalk and business district – is alive with activity. Edged by a 220-acre Historic District featuring dozens of points of interest, residents and visitors take pleasure in a potpourri of shops and restaurants; boat, tram and walking tours; museums; art galleries; magnificent churches; shade-dappled cemeteries and more.
Other not-to-be-missed attractions include: Hobcaw Barony, once the winter retreat of Wall Street millionaire and presidential advisor Bernard Baruch; the circa 1750 Prince George Episcopal Church, built with brick from the ballasts of British ships and one of the oldest churches in the U.S.; Battery Whitem a Civil War Battlement on Winyah Bay near Georgetown, SC and the Beth Elohim Jewish Cemetery dating from 1772.