Marka & Jamesha Manning
Pawleys Island-A Hidden Gem
Traveling!? During a Pandemic?
We all can agree that 2020 has been a rough year and affected so many plans for millions of individuals across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. One industry that Covid-19 hit hard was the travel industry. Our original 2020 plans were booked with a complete itinerary to go to New York City, however, due, to the pandemic, we had to improvise and make new travel plans as necessary. Unsure of how international travel would be we decided to stay here in the United States. Myrtle Beach crossed our radar and since neither one of us have been before we decided it would be the perfect place to take our three year old son, who has been begging us to go to the beach for quite some time now. We made a full itinerary and found a newly built resort right on the Grand Strand that would allow us to have easy access to the beach, boardwalk, and many other amenities. However, as the US continued to open up different cities in different level of phases, Myrtle Beach soon became a “Coronavirus Hot Spot”. We watched and waited for weeks to see if the curve would flatten in the Myrtle Beach area and once, we realized it was only going to become worse we soon considered looking at cities on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach. We came across 3 smaller cities that were on the outskirts which were Surfside, Murrells Intel, & Pawleys Island. After completing some research on all three cities, we suddenly realized that Pawleys Island was the perfect hidden gem that we had stumbled upon.
Pawleys Island is about 40 minutes from Myrtle Beach. The island is a small community of local individuals and shops.
Transportation to Pawleys Island
Due to the pandemic and traveling with a toddler on the trip we were not comfortable with flying just yet. We decided our best route would be to take a road trip and enjoy some of the southern scenery. We decided to rent a car from Alamo. We had packed up a variety of different items for our trip and needed the extra space to carry them in the rental, so we rented an Intermediate SUV.
The drive from Nashville to Pawleys Island is an 9-hour ride. Our trip was a little longer due to traveling with a toddler and allowing him to take small breaks every three to four hours. In addition, we also had brought the majority of our food with us and packed all our frozen goods in a cooler and had to re-ice the cooler every three hours. We decided to bring our food and cook at our Airbnb due to Covid-19 and not wanting to take our son in and out of different establishments.
Our Living Quarters
We found a cute and spacious Airbnb rental right in Pawleys Island. The Airbnb is a two-bedroom condo that is located right across the street from Litchfield beach. The link to the condo is listed here.
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What's in Pawleys Island to do?
While planning our vacation, we prefer to have our activities set for the duration of our trip. This saves us a great amount of time and confusion. Therefore, we scheduled our activities out for the days that we would be in the area. Our activities list was as follows:
Atalaya Castle visit and photo shoot
Litchfield Beach Day
During the first day of our stay, we had a family photo shoot planned at a castle. Prior to our stay, we researched for the perfect location to have the photo shoot. While researching, we stumbled upon Atalaya Castle. Atalaya Castle is in Huntington Beach State Park. In Huntington Beach State park, there are numerous amenities such as camping, picnics, walking trails, the beach, and visiting the Atalaya Castle. From our condo to Huntington Beach State Park was a 4 minute drive. The cost to enter the park is 8 dollars for an adult and 4 dollars for youth 6-12, ages 5 and under are free. In order to enter Atalaya castle there is an additional 2 dollars per person for ages 6 and older.
How did we find our Photographer?
We found our photographer on Instagram. We put in the location of Atalaya Castle and looked at different pictures that were taken at the castle. We found our photographer by someone else tagging him in a photo shoot that was done at the castle. We followed him on Instagram and reached out to him and set up the deposit, date, time, and location for the photo shoot. If you’re ever in the Myrtle Beach or Pawleys Island area, contact Kyle for a photo shoot. He was very professional and surprisingly, he once lived in Nashville, TN (our hometown).
Did we really have a photoshoot in a castle?
We arrived about 40 minutes prior to our photo shoot to take a moment and experience the castle (Yes, it is a real castle). It is highly recommended to arrive earlier so that you can enjoy the site and possibly practice how you would like to pose in your photos. The castle sits around a grassy area in the park so I would strongly advise mosquito repellent. From our visit, we learned that Atalaya castle was built in the early 1930’s. The castle was built by Archer and Anna Huntington. The castle has about 20 plus rooms and multiple sides of the castle. In 1984, Atalaya Castle became a national landmark and it now remains a significant part of the State of South Carolina's history.
Huntington Beach ----Mmh, makes since how the beach retrieved its name?
Right next to Atalaya Castle is a small children’s park. The children’s park is currently open during the pandemic, however it is a sign up to let parents know that it is a high touch surface and your child can play at their own risk.
A few steps from the park is a small trail that leads into Huntington Beach. The beach was very spacious and allowed everyone access to social distance.
Litchfield Beach is right across the street from our Airbnb condo. You can see the beach from the condo and it’s a 2-minute walk to the beach, however, if you do not prefer to walk you can drive over and there is free public parking.
Upon approaching the pathway to the beach, there is a long pier that leads to Litchfield beach. The opening of the pier is wheelchair accessible or you have the option to take the stairs. The Pawleys Island community has a small Little Free Library so you can grab a book to read while on the beach.
Since we were traveling with our toddler, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to do much reading on the beach so we decided to mix it up and try something completely differently. We decided to have a picnic on the beach. This was a pre-planned event so we were already equipped with all the essential items we needed. Since we traveled by car we packed a beach tent, beach table, cooler, beach chairs, and sand toys to keep our son occupied while we set up for our beach picnic. The beach tent, table, and sand toys were all purchased from Amazon. Our son had never been to the beach before, so once he saw the water and was given his sand toys he was perfectly distracted while we set up the picnic. The beach tent and table are very easy to set up, take down, and carry back to your vehicle or home. In addition, we purchased ice for our cooler, fruit tray, plastic silverware, and a cheese tray from a nearby Walmart in Pawleys Island. Litchfield beach is a beautiful beach and surprisingly it is not crowded, which allows plenty of room to social distance. We used this beach day as a day of relaxation, mental health repair, and bonding with son.
Riverbank Zoo and Garden
Our son loves animals, so it only seemed right to let him explore one of South Carolina’s most famous zoos, Riverbank zoo. Riverbank is located in Columbia, SC. From Pawleys Islands it is an 2 hour and 45 minute ride. (Yikes, we know). However, we were told by our photographer that Riverbank is one of the best zoos in South Carolina so we figured it would be worth the drive to test out his statement. Due to Covid, a reservation had to be booked online here with a specific timeframe. Since we were a little further out, we booked an 11 am reservation, however we ended up waking up later than expected & was off to a late start of the day. While preparing to leave, we emailed the zoo's website and informed them of our late departure from Pawleys Island and they were very reasonable and professional. Luckily for us, the zoo was not at full capacity on the day we booked our reservation and we were told that we can come whenever during business hours.
The zoo has many different animals, mammals, and reptile exhibits to view. The only exhibit that was currently not available was the Giraffe exhibit. We could see the giraffes from afar, however the zoo has an exhibit where visitors are allowed to feed the giraffes. This exhibit is open from 9am-1pm daily and we arrived to the zoo after 1pm and missed the opportunity to feed the giraffes. Our three years old son was looking forward to feeding the giraffes & became pretty upset when we discovered we could not do the activity. However, the zoo had a huge gift shop with plenty of stuffed animal giraffes and he was pretty content once we purchased one of those.
Our last ride
Our last day in Pawleys Island we decided to go over to Litchfield beach, which is the beach directly across from our condo. We walked over & used this time to take some last minute photos and enjoy the ocean one last time on this trip .
Vacation is over already!?
Pawleys Island was just the small getaway that our family needed during this pandemic. We felt safe and also enjoyed ourselves in the process. As stated before, the media has shown that non-essential travel should be restricted, however, there is a way to keep your travel plans alive during this pandemic. We hope you enjoyed this read and continue to follow us for more travel experiences. In the meantime, continue to make magical, meaningful, memories.
❤️ The Mannings.