3 Hammock Coast beaches named best in South Carolina

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Originally posted on HammockCoastSC.com.

It’s been the best unkept secret since the 1700s, but it’s official now. The best beach in South Carolina is – drum roll, please – Pawleys Island!

Pawleys, which lays claim to being the oldest seaside resort in America, bested 16 other Palmetto State contenders in a contest by USA Today/10 Best to name the “Best Beach in South Carolina.” It was part of a series of efforts to name the best beaches in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, California, New Jersey, and Michigan.

Pawleys’ win isn’t the only reason for Georgetown Countians to celebrate. In addition to Pawleys Island taking the top spot, two other Hammock Coast contenders powered into the Top 5, as well – Litchfield Beach at No. 4 and Huntington Beach State Park at No. 5.

USA Today/10 Best has named Pawleys Island the Best Beach in South Carolina following an online competition of 17 South Carolina beaches. (Photo by Chris Rogers/Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

Voting took place from April 22 through May 20. Results were announced at noon on May 29.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with this news,” said Mark A. Stevens, director of tourism development for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. “Pawleys Island topping the list for the Best Beach in South Carolina is only made sweeter in that Litchfield Beach and the spectacular Huntington Beach State Park also finished in the Top 5.

“We’re not as famous as our neighbors to the north and south, but clearly the Hammock Coast’s beaches are beloved by residents and vacationers. Our beaches are adored for their pristine shores and mild crowds, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Beth Stedman, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said the impact from yet another accolade is important

“We all value the beauty of our area, where history and nature go hand in hand,” Stedman said. “The majesty of our area, with tens of thousands of acres preserved and protected, sets it apart from many other coastal regions.

“Tourism is incredibly important to Georgetown County. There’s no other economic driver like it here. The state estimates that tourism has an annual impact of more than $300 million for Georgetown County. Being recognized by yet another national publication speaks volumes for our efforts to promote sustainable, family-friendly, nature-centric tourism here on the Hammock Coast.”

Pawleys Island dominated for much of the contest, only occasionally dropping below No.1 on the contest’s leaderboard before rising back up to the top spot, where it ended up in the final tally. At one point during the contest, all three Hammock Coast beaches were in the Top 3, but competition was fierce with vacationers weighing in enthusiastically for their favorites.

Pawleys Island Mayor Brian Henry and owner of the historic Sea View Inn on Pawleys said he couldn’t be happier – and not a bit surprised – to hear that the island has earned the title of “Best Beach in South Carolina.”

“The beaches on Pawleys Island have been welcoming families for many generations,” Henry said. “It is pristine, uncrowded, and a throwback to an earlier time. There’s nothing finer than a day spent on our beach!”

The USA Today/10 Best Readers’ Choice travel awards offer the public an opportunity to set trends for a variety of tourism- and business-related interests. For example, current contests include Most Walkable City to Visit, Best Fishing Lodge, Best White-Water Rafting Tour, among many others.

Georgetown County readers often find locations on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast included in USA Today/10 Best contests. Huntington Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens have been nominated in several categories over the years. Murrells Inlet placed sixth earlier this year in a contest to name the Top 10 Best Small Towns in the South.

In 2018, Georgetown topped the list for Best Coastal Small Town. Georgetown was nominated again in subsequent years and placed as high as No. 2 in some years.

“It’s really special that we have two top winners here on the Hammock Coast – Georgetown and now Pawleys Island,” Stedman said.

While the Hammock Coast took three spots in the Top 5, the other South Carolina beaches included were North Myrtle Beach at No. 2 and Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort County at No. 3.

The 17 South Carolina beaches in the competition were selected by a panel of judges that included travel writer Jamie Davis Smith; Greenville, SC, editor Maggie Tuten Tyner; travel writer Melanie Reffes; and Catherine Smith, a USA Today production manager.

Pawleys Island has welcomed vacationers to its shores since the 1700s. Originally, those visitors were families escaping the humidity and mosquitoes on inland plantations, but, today, those visitors come from around the world to enjoy Pawleys’ laidback beach vibes. In 2022, Garden & Gun Magazine put Pawleys Island at No. 2 in a contest to name the Best Beach Town in the South. And, in 2023, Condé Nast Traveler named Pawleys as one of America’s Best Beach Towns.

Likewise, Litchfield Beach, just north of Pawleys, welcomes visitors from far and wide to its pristine shores. TripAdviser once named it one of the 10 best beaches in America, based on consistent five-star reviews.

Huntington Beach is the pristine beach connected to Huntington Beach State Park, which Southern Living recently named the best state park in South Carolina.

— By Mark A. Stevens, director of tourism development for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce

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