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Sandy Island — Sandy Island, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Georgetown County  |  Sandy Island

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Sandy Island

Sandy Island in Georgetown County got its name from the 9,000 acres of prehistoric sand dunes that comprise this refuge. The island and its unincorporated community exist between the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers and can be accessed only by boat. Thanks to a joint effort by the island’s residents, the Coastal Conservation League, and SCDOT, the land now belongs to the people of South Carolina and The Nature Conservancy. It is the largest undeveloped freshwater island on the east coast.

Sandy Island South Carolina

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Sandy Island community was founded by a freed slave who had worked on local rice plantations. Many of the current residents are his descendants. Because the residents live isolated from the influence of the Grand Strand’s modern culture, the Gullah way of life here is preserved.

Sandy Island Ferry

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 1996 a controversial bridge was proposed by private developers for hauling timber on and off the island, but the purchase of the land by the state and The Nature Conservancy guaranteed it would remain untouched by development, including the bridge. As a result, residents must have boat access in order to leave the island. Sandy Island children take the state’s only school boat to and from their schools on the mainland.

Sandy Island School Boat

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The boat was christened the Prince Washington and is named for the community founder’s great-grandson. After ferrying children to the mainland each school day since 1964, the Prince Washington was finally replaced just in time for the new school year in 2015. The new boat was named the New Prince Washington.

Sandy Island School Boat

David Coker of Lake City, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sandy Island may be close to the bright lights of Myrtle Beach, but the island did not have electricity until 1965. Just a quick boat trip transports people to a simple world where the locals retire in peaceful solitude after a long workday on the mainland.


V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Yet the waterway is not without its perils. A stormy night in February of 2009 claimed the lives of three islanders on their way home from the mainland. Since then, residents have been pushing for a ferry to make travel to and from the island safer. The tragedy shook this close-knit community of about 120 people and brought to light the realities of island living. In March of 2013 the South Carolina Legislature approved a resolution to provide a ferry for the island. The resolution awaits approval in the Senate, though any resolution is nonbinding and only suggests that the Department of Transportation provide the ferry.

Sandy Island Pyatt's General Store

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

There is commerce on the island. Pyatt’s General Store is a sunshine-yellow oasis of sodas, snacks, Gullah folk art, and Sandy Island souvenirs. Though people must do their heavy shopping off the island, one can wander into Pyatt’s and quench a quick thirst or satisfy a craving for the “Best Ice Cream in Town.”

Sandy Island Cultural Center

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The existence of endangered plants and animals such as long leaf pine (Pinus palustris) and the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) help ensure that Sandy Island will remain a protected area in which they can thrive. The Nature Conservancy uses prescribed burning regularly to manage the island’s longleaf pines, many of which are are over 100 years old and dominate the island’s canopy, with live oaks (Quercus virginiana) filling out the understory.

Sandy Island Schoolhouse

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The island’s old schoolhouse was built in 1932 by Archer Huntington, noted philanthropist, builder of Atalya, and husband of Murrells Inlet sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Though it is no longer used as a school, it serves as a conference center for town meetings on the island.

Sandy Island Bed And Breakfast

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Pictured above is a simple bed-and-breakfast known as Wilma’s Cottage, and those who have stayed in the bunglaow-style home rave about the home cooking served to guests. Visitors can venture onto Sandy Island via one of four boat landings on the Waccamaw and Pee Dee Rivers. New to the island is a two-mile hiking loop through the nature preserve at Sandy Island. Established by The Nature Conservancy, the walk provides interpretive signage about the local natural community. The trail begins at Thoroughfare Creek Landing. For more, see the website below. People may explore the island, but because wildlife is protected, feeding animals and picking plants and flowers are prohibited. It is also important to remember that the residents appreciate their quiet lives on Sandy Island.

Sandy Island SC

Vennie Deas Moore of McClellanville, 2000 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The above photo, titled Sandy Island, was contributed by photographer and author Vennie Deas Moore. The image also appears in her book Home, which “explores the joys and hardships of the people who continue to reside in this portion of the Lowcountry.”

Sandy Island Info

Address: Sandy Island Road, Pawleys Island, SC 29585
GPS Coordinates: 33.567669,-79.150321
Website: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/southcarolina/placesweprotect/sandy-island-preserve.xml

Sandy Island Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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23 Comments about Sandy Island

Angelo Collins says:
January 18th, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Born and raised there until the age of five. Reside now in Virginia. My dreams is to build a house there.

Jim McCullough says:
May 20th, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Really enjoyed this post.

Joyce Belton says:
February 1st, 2019 at 9:48 am

While reading the current issue of SC Living magazine I came across an article titled “Touring Sandy Island.” As a person who loves touring and sightseeing off the beaten track, the article captivated my interest. When the weather warms up I look forward to taking the tour along with my younger grandchildren. So glad to know it still exists.

SC Picture Project says:
January 22nd, 2019 at 11:04 pm

We absolutely love your commentary, thank you so much for sharing it. Would you mind if we added this as a reflection, directly quoting you, on the page itself so more people would see it?

Jeremy B Tucker says:
January 22nd, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Sandy Island, SC is a wonderful place. Having spent most of my summers there growing up, it is a place where the children can run free and the folks on the Island look out for each other. My grand parents house still remains there and I try and visit as much as I can. Growing up in Colorado, I always love going back to Sandy Island to visit and see all my family. We make an effort to go back every couple of years and have a family reunion. My great grand parents lived there, my grand parents lived there and my father grew up on the Island. My father still living (age 82) goes back and visits every couple of months. I can’t wait to be there again this weekend to see family and lay my aunt to rest. If you have never been there, the history alone will excite you.

michael casey says:
August 15th, 2017 at 9:32 am

Hi, I’m looking for information on boat access coming off of the river down from the 544 bridge. I am looking for the access adjacent to the hiking/birding trails. Which river marker is closest to the inlet leading to the access? Thanks for any help.

gary pyatt says:
September 9th, 2016 at 11:59 am

Hi, my name is Gary Pyatt, and my family is from SC. My sister and I are trying to find our family there. We do know that we have family there and our family comes from there and other parts of SC . Could any one help us? I don’t do Facebook, but I do have a email. Thank you. It very hard as a young black man not to know where he came from and not know his people.

Jackie DiZio says:
April 1st, 2016 at 6:45 pm

What days and times can we tour the Island. 4/1/2016. I have company coming I know would love to see the island.

Timothy Snow says:
July 31st, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Nice Photos

SCIWAY says:
July 20th, 2015 at 9:35 am

Thank you so much, Colette!

Colette says:
July 20th, 2015 at 7:41 am

You can view information about the nature preserve at the website below. You can download a preserve guide showing boat landings and a trail map.

SCIWAY says:
July 20th, 2015 at 7:17 am

Thank you, Kevin!

Kevin says:
July 17th, 2015 at 5:22 pm

We took a boating tour with H2O Adventure Tours to Sandy Island. They brought paddleboards and we got to paddle around the actual Sandy Island dunes. This is a tour I recommend!! Affordable and fun! This is their number 843-833-1538

Mike Covington says:
May 29th, 2015 at 10:48 pm

I have a photo tour of Sandy Island here: http://www.lowcountryphotos.com/Tours/Photo-Tour-of-Sandy-Island

Beverly Ford says:
May 12th, 2015 at 11:48 pm

I want to go there.

Frankie Laurent says:
April 8th, 2015 at 10:28 pm

You can see Sandy Island on a Kayak EcoTour with Black River Outdoors Center (www.blackriveroutdoors.com). We go to the wildlife refuge side of the island, not the Gullah community.

SCIWAY says:
March 9th, 2015 at 8:20 am

Hi, Marlon! Check with this tour company for more information on Sandy Island tours: http://www.toursdesandyisland.com/

marlon hagerty says:
March 8th, 2015 at 7:30 pm

would like to bring 15 to 18 senoir citizens there for a tour- what is cost for trip on boat and do you have a tour guide and a resturant?

Gullah Geechee Nation says:
December 30th, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Bike riding will be rough since most of the island will be like riding on a sand dune. There is a walking trail though. Not too sure if you do not need to check first before bringing your own boat in to the small dock. As soon as you arrive, the Pyatt's General Store is there and they can let you know what is allowable at the dock though. The best thing to do is to support them by taking Tours de Sandy Island over.

SCIWAY says:
December 29th, 2014 at 9:33 am

Hi, Everette. Here is a website to a tour company for Sandy Island: http://www.toursdesandyisland.com/ Hopefully, someone there can answer your questions. Best of luck!

Everette D. Turbeville Jr. says:
December 28th, 2014 at 7:24 pm

New to the site. Can I bring my own boat? My wife and I like bike riding; can we ride on the island?? Is the landing safe on both ends? Is it safe too ride on the island? We both love nature.

Colette DeGarady says:
August 13th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Due to the threat of wildfires, campfires and grills are not permitted on Sandy Island Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy. Thanks for checking! Glad you enjoy visiting Sandy Island.

Dawn Biddy says:
May 27th, 2014 at 12:53 pm

We come to Sandy Island a lot in our boat and let the kids play in the sand. I was wondering if you can grill out on the island, or do you have to keep it on the boat?


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