Closer to Comfort

A Hammock Coast Travel Diary

By Denise K. James

Day One: Fresh seafood & craft cocktails

My husband Daniel and I arrive at Litchfield Beach after an easy drive and are delighted to find thoughtful touches throughout our vacation rental—brochures with information about the area, chocolate truffles, and a friendly note from the owners welcoming us. After unpacking, I walk out to the porch and take in our beachfront view of the Atlantic. It stirs nostalgia deep inside me, since my family vacationed in Litchfield when I was growing up. My mother even kept a travel diary, so we could look back on our memories together. Lost in reverie, I hardly notice when Daniel puts his hand on my shoulder and suggests a walk on the beach. I see families walking along the shore and sunbathing, but it’s far from crowded. In fact, it’s exactly as I remember it. 

After settling in, we made the short 10-minute drive to the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk. With an abundance of dining options to choose from, we decide to explore the half-mile boardwalk in both directions before making our choice. Naturally, the MarshWalk is perfect for people-watching. I see couples holding hands and smiling children, and I know they’re enjoying themselves just as much as we are.

We decide on The Claw House for dinner. I love oysters, and Daniel loves craft beer, so with a full raw bar and more than 90 craft brews on tap, it seems the perfect place for us. 

Presented with so many mouth-watering options, I can’t decide between the tuna ceviche, a dozen oysters on the half shell or the lobster cocktail. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so spoiled when Daniel says, “We’re on vacation; order all of it.” He’s enjoying a craft brew called Island Active, an obvious good choice. I smile at him, and order away.

After a divine lunch of some of the freshest seafood around, we venture back to Litchfield to Bi-Lo for groceries and snacks for the rest of our stay. We love eating out, but for this trip we planned to do more home-cooking and laid-back exploring. Before making it through the parking lot, Daniel spots Bagel Cafe  across the way and suggests we pick up some bagels for breakfast. I had to agree that tomorrow morning will be best with a toasted sesame bagel and cream cheese! 

After shopping, Daniel and I are primed for cocktail hour, and we’re trying a recipe that comes from a restaurant in Georgetown called ROOT. The drink, called Good Thymes, is appropriate to kick off our first night here. I adore grapefruit-flavored cocktails. This one is a blend of Ketel One Grapefruit and Rose vodka, grapefruit juice and soda, garnished with a sprig of thyme. We take our drinks outside to watch the tide roll in.

We decide its supper time and my mind is on my mother’s shrimp and grits recipe . Luckily, we had thought ahead and stopped by Murrells Inlet Seafood for some fresh-off-the-boat shrimp! The recipe only takes 30 minutes, but you’d never know because it’s so wonderfully rich, with plenty of bacon, butter and cheese. It’s an indulgence and southern comfort in a bowl. 

Day Two: Sun, sand & serenity

Today is our beach day. I’m up early enough to hit the beach at sunrise and get some yoga time in! A pink sphere of sunshine rises over the water, while fresh air fills my lungs. It’s amazing how thankful I am for mornings like this.

Following breakfast, we hit the sand and pick our spot on the open beach. Seaside Chairs and Umbrellas set everything up for us—two chairs, a table and an umbrella wide enough to keep us cool and protected. I bring a copy of the latest book by my favorite South Carolina author—a perfect beach read for what feels like the perfect beach day. We lounge, stroll, talk, and laugh, until we are sun-quenched and hungry.

We have dinner at Pawleys Island Tavern, locally known as The PIT. The fun and casual atmosphere is a perfect finish to our day on the beach. Famous for their pizza, we opt to dive into their House Special—an all-in-one combination of their Meat Lovers’ and The Veggie pizza. It was delicious, and we’re stuffed, but somehow, we manage to share an order of onion rings. Amazing. 

Day Three: Surrounded by art & nature

After sleeping in—who could resist, with that pillow-top mattress and those sheets?—Daniel and I take our time waking up and enjoy the cool morning breeze on the porch. It’s such a treat, we barely speak while we nibble our toasted bagels, sip coffee and take-in the postcard-worthy view. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

After breakfast we head to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet! It’s incredible to have a place like this in South Carolina. It’s one of the best in the country to see sculptures—there are more than 2,000—not to mention the gorgeous gardens. I love walking through Live Oak Allée—rows of 250-year-old oak trees that line a historic garden path. We decide to enjoy our packed light lunch in the Garden’s picnic area before continuing to the Brenda W. Rosen Carolina Terrace Garden. Bursting with roses, the scent alone, reminds me of my childhood visits.

Next, we head to Huntington Beach State Park, which is just north and across Ocean Highway from Brookgreen. Daniel remembers walking along the causeway when he was a kid and always seeing lots of wildlife—this trip was no different. A popular birding spot, we gawked at the variety around us. The beach here is unbelievably serene. We stroll along the beach to the jetty, just about a half mile, watching boats drift by in the inlet. I’m in heaven. 

After reminiscing about another classic southern dish, Chicken Bog, we decide it’s a must for our dinner on the deck. It’s an easy and delicious casserole of chicken, smoked sausage and rice that notoriously hits the spot every time.

After dinner, we sit on the side deck for another beautiful showing of the South Carolina sunset.  The sky is streaked with gorgeous pink and purple hues as the sun sinks low on the horizon. 

Day Four: A taste of history

I wake up famished, and I know exactly what I want for brunch: BisQit! The restaurant’s online menu lists all-day breakfast and biscuit sandwiches with a twist. Fortunately, it’s only a 5-minute drive, because my mouth is already watering by the time we pull up. As usual, I’m torn between the Waccamaw—with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar and gravy—or banana and granola pancakes. After ordering the biscuit, I respect my choice! 

Bellies full, we wandered in and out of the myriad businesses in the Hammock Shops Village. I remember how much my mother simply loved this cluster of unique boutiques, and it’s easy to see why: there are so many great finds. I pick out some decor from Sweet Home Carolina, wine from Coastal Wine Boutique and a blouse from Alter Ego—all gifts for upcoming birthdays.

We venture 15 minutes south to historic Hobcaw Barony for an afternoon of history and fun. The story of Belle Baruch and her family — and their ties to FDR and Winston Churchill — have always fascinated me. Hobcaw Barony’s 16,000 acres encompass a rich diversity of every common ecosystem found on the South Carolina coast, and it includes more than 70 cultural sites, all providing a time capsule for educators, both professional and, like us, amateurs!

It was a beautiful day and to top it off, Daniel is insisting it’s his turn to “cook”—so in true form, we polish off the left overs for a late dinner. Both meals are just as good reheated.

Day 5: Parting is such sweet sorrow

I’m feeling melancholy as we check out of our vacation rental, but I’m grateful for the time we had. Daniel and I both needed this break from our daily routine. Even as a grown up, Litchfield Beach continues to be my favorite beach. I’m looking forward to coming back with Claire and Steven for our family trip. I can’t wait to show them the beach that I fell in love with when I was their age. 

Thank you, Litchfield. You haven’t changed one bit. 

Plan your getaway to The Hammock Coast.