Last summer, my husband, Ryan, and I took the 3-hour drive from our home in Columbia, SC, for a long weekend excursion to our favorite place, Litchfield Beach in what’s come to be known as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast. We hadn’t been in years and for the first time in a long time, I spent my vacation truly relaxing. Divine seafood meals, friendly locals and a week of laid-back exploration of the Hammock Coast’s connecting communities. And the beach… oh, the beautiful beach! We decided our next visit needed to include our kids, Beth and Emerson. We had kept this gem to ourselves for too long.
It was almost evening by the time we got settled into our room at the Oceanfront Litchfield Inn. Beautifully decorated and featuring picture-perfect views of the gleaming Atlantic Ocean, I knew we’d made the right choice for lodging. I’ve always wanted to stay here, right on the beach — and with Tripadvisor naming Litchfield to the top 10 of America’s best beaches, it was a must! Judging from the overjoyed looks on the kids’ faces, they agreed!
We were famished after settling into the room, so we made the easy 10-minute drive to Murrells Inlet for some fresh seafood goodness at the always popular Drunken Jack’s. Seated at our table, we quickly dug into the complimentary basket of deep-fried hushpuppies and honey butter. After gobbling down the last of the basket, Ryan motioned to the server to bring another! For my main course, I indulged in freshly blackened local grouper, while Ryan ordered grilled yellowfin tuna and the kids each got the fried shrimp platter. We rounded out dinner with one of the restaurant’s specialties: a hushpuppy sundae (yes, more hushpuppies!) with vanilla ice cream, plenty of strawberry topping and whipped cream. Yum!
After our delicious meal, we decided to burn off some calories on the MarshWalk and check out Goat Island. Our Drunken Jack’s waitress had explained that every spring the owners of the restaurant put goats on the nearby island to help keep the underbrush down. “Eat and sunbathe all summer long? Those goats have a pretty good life,” I thought, giggling to myself. “Mom, Dad! There they are!” Emerson yelled, excitedly. “And look there’s peacocks, too!” It’s such an interesting duet of animals, but it seemed to work. And it stood to be quite an attraction for the kids and other visitors alike.
We were all up and at ’em early the next day, eager to start our adventures. First up was breakfast at Eggs Up Grill, a classic favorite of mine ever since the original opened in 1997. They have the best breakfast potatoes ever, and we indulged in my favorite item — the bacon, egg and cheese waffle sandwich. It was as delicious as I had remembered. The kids also ordered a cup of hot cocoa which towered high with whipped cream. The ring of chocolate evidence around their lips confirmed it tasted as good as it looked.
With full bellies, we were set for the day’s adventures to begin! Ryan and Emerson were so excited to go on their chartered fishing trip with Kingfisher Guide Service; Emerson recently decided he loves fishing, and this company was a local one, based in Georgetown, with reasonable rates for a half-day trip. Meanwhile, Beth and I were going to make the most of some “girl time” and meet up with the boys later for dinner. Off to shopping, we went to Murrells Inlet.
Beth and I found a lot of fabulous stuff. We spent a couple hours scouting Inlet Queens, a shopping haven of 50 vendors, with everything from antique furniture to handcrafted accessories. We both left with cute crossbody handbags (handmade by the artist!) and locally made body lotions that we agreed smelled like the sea.
Next, we hit the Lazy Gator, another treasure trove of fun gifts and accessories, many of them made locally. We decided to leave with some delicious homemade fudge (in lieu of lunch), along with a few other trinkets, including a T-shirt for Emerson and a bottle of local barbecue sauce for my grill-master husband.
Now for the best part of the day — a mother/daughter pedicure at Spa Sera in Pawleys Island. Normally, I don’t indulge my daughter in such nice spa services, but the boys are having their fun on the boat, so we will pamper ourselves, too. Plus, I’m a sucker for the spa’s aromatherapy foot mask.
Ryan and Emerson made it off the boat full of fishing stories and empty on food, so we met for an early dinner at Moe’s Original BBQ in Pawleys Island. Let’s be honest: the best reason to get barbecue is to order a bunch of Southern sides, and Ryan and I both love their mac ‘n cheese, cornbread and banana pudding — especially paired with the smoked half chicken. It was the perfect accompaniment to the boisterous tales Emerson told of their day of fishing. We were all beyond full and agreed to head back for an evening beach walk.
Later, I pulled my beach chair up to the surf and caught up on my summer novel. Ahh, there is nothing like experiencing the seashore during twilight hours of the day, at least in my opinion. Litchfield is delightfully uncrowded, even in front of the hotel, which is one of the reasons why Ryan and I love it so much.
I don’t know if it was all the gloriously salty air, but we woke up hungry! Ryan decided on Beach, Burgers & BBQ for brunch, a spot that stays true to its name — they have a little of everything, eggs and waffles included. The kids each got a “build-your-own” breakfast bowl, while I ordered a vegetarian omelet with cheese grits, and Ryan went with his tried-and-true bacon cheeseburger, complete with the biggest mound of homemade fries I’d ever seen – especially at the breakfast hour!
We decided to tour Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park. Like most 12-year-old girls, Beth took a thousand photos to post on Instagram — and I’ll admit to checking her page and liking quite a few of them. Emerson, meanwhile, got lost in the history of the castle and imagining life in this once-grand building. Atalaya has always been one of our favorite places: so serene and with an intriguing story, too. I always joke with Ryan about how Archer Huntington had Atalaya designed for himself and his wife, Anna, respecting her desire for artistic space — so, is it time to add onto our house yet?!
No one wanted real lunch (we were all still full), but we were craving a good scoop or two of ice cream, so off to Gilbert’s Ice Cream we went. I could not resist a double-scoop of Coffee and Southern Bourbon Butter Pecan — it was vacation, after all — while Ryan ordered the Butterscotch Custard. The kids, slightly less adventurous, went for the Cotton Candy and Triple Chocolate. We used a whole ream of napkins, I’m pretty sure, but it was worth it!
We decided to spend the sunny afternoon kayaking. Pawleys Island and Litchfield are perfect for it, and Pawleys Kayaks had everything we were looking for at great rates. We rented a double kayak for Beth and Emerson, then single kayaks for Ryan and me. The waters were calm, thank goodness, and we spent a few hours paddling around, enjoying the gorgeous scenery. I had a proud mama moment when I saw the kids posing for a selfie together while a small flock of herons flew overhead.
After some down time and hot showers, we left for dinner. We had reservations at Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet — a “hook-to-plate” restaurant serving homemade dishes from fresh, local seafood. I opted to have the filet Oscar and Ryan got stuffed flounder. Emerson, polished off a fried shrimp po’boy, and Beth, a lobster roll. In true form, we finished our meal with two orders of Holy Cannoli, a trio of cannoli that would make my Italian grandmother very, very happy.
Sadly, it was time to head home, but Ryan and I passionately promised Beth and Emerson we’d come back very soon — maybe even before the end of summer. They both loved Litchfield Beach as much as we do, and they both said how much better they like it than some of the more crowded beaches we’ve visited. We regretfully hit the road — right after a final wave to the sparkling Atlantic.
See you soon, Litchfield.