The Hammock Coast is South Carolina's most beautiful secret. The spectacular stretch of beaches between Myrtle Beach and Charleston is full of history, fascinating ecology and folklore. Here are 10 facts about our favorite secret.
1. The name "Hammock Coast" is a fairly new nickname for the area on the South Carolina coast between the Grand Strand and Charleston. One visit to the five relaxed and welcoming towns of the Hammock Coast-Georgetown, Murrells Inlet, Garden City Beach, Pawleys Island, and Litchfield Beach-and you'll see why the hammock is the perfect symbol for the area.
2. South Carolinians did not invent the hammock-that honor goes to people living in Central America 1,000 years ago-but they have certainly embraced it. And, some argue that a South Carolinian perfected the form. In 1889, a riverboat captain named Joshua John Ward, frustrated with how hot and sticky traditional naval hammocks were on the humid South Carolina coast, set out to make a more comfortable design for hammocks. His creation, the Pawleys Island Hammock, is still made and sold on Pawleys Island today. When you picture a hammock, woven in cream-colored cotton rope in a wide-open lattice pattern with wooden stretcher bars at top and bottom, you're imagining one of Ward's creations.
3. The Hammock Coast is also home to dozens of hummocks. Hummocks are little, uninhabited, muddy islands that bump up from the tidal flats and marshes of the coast. Hummocks are not nearly as comfortable as hammocks.
4. The largest and oldest public sculpture garden in the U.S. is located in sleepy Murrells Inlet. Brookgreen Gardens, the creation and donation of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, is one of the most spectacular sculpture installations you'll ever see. Showcasing Mrs. Huntington's famous animal sculptures as well as the work of other artists, it's not be missed.
5. Atalaya Castle, the Huntingtons' sprawling and haunting oceanfront home, had 30 rooms, including bear pens and outdoor and indoor studios, but no formal living room or any guest rooms. The castle is located across U.S. 17 from Brookgreen Gardens in Huntington Beach State Park, on land also donated by the Huntingtons.
6. What's the connection between Fenway Park and the Hammock Coast? Tom Yawkey, longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox, made one of the largest land donations in South Carolina's history to the state. He donated more than 20,000 acres along the Hammock Coast to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center is one of the hidden gems of this already spectacular area.
7. The town of Pawleys Island has a year-round population of only 107 people.
8. Georgetown claims to be one of the most haunted towns in the U.S., but the most famous ghosts in the area "live" on Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet. The Gray Man always appears on Pawleys right before a hurricane is set to strike the island, warning beachgoers about the impending storm, and Alice Flagg haunts the marsh and rooms of the Hermitage, her home, after dying of what many say was a broken heart.
9. The first European settlement in the United States was not in Florida at St. Augustine, or in Virginia at Jamestown, as many people think. It was actually right on the Hammock Coast. The Spanish settlement of San Miguel de Guadalupe was located just north of present-day Georgetown. The settlement, founded in 1526, lasted only about three months.
10. San Miguel de Guadalupe was also the site of the very first slave revolt in the continental U.S. The African slaves brought by the Spanish revolted and joined the Native American tribes in the area. Their escapes led in part to the failure of the attempted settlement.