Friday, September 1, 2017

Driving the Coastal Highway of the Carolinas

U.S. Highway 17, also known as the Coastal Highway, runs for some 1200 miles from Florida to Virginia with some areas of the road following the Atlantic Coast. Before the arrival of the US Highway system, U.S. 17 was the most traveled road in the region. Most folks now choose to take I-95 for speed and ease,  but I had occasion recently to drive the Coastal Highway from just south of Wilmington, North Carolina to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina seeing some quaint, southern sites along the way.

Southport, North Carolina
This small coastal village is full of charm and is a popular spot for seafood eating, sunset watching, history tours and movie buffs. Located on the Cape Fear River, this town was an important spot during the Civil War as the location of Fort Johnston. Blockade Runners planted themselves here to earn gold. And many movies - A Walk to Remember, Safe Haven and Nights in Rodanthe - have been filmed here. Plus, it's location along the Cape Fear and Intercoastal Waterway make it a fisherman's and seafood eaters delight.





Holden Beach, North Carolina
Holden Beach is one of the Brunswick Islands located along the Atlantic Coast. Barrier islands with walkable beaches and beach house rentals, they are popular family vacation spots that people return to year after year. The Provision restaurant chain is popular here - most notably the Yacht Provision in Southport - so Holden Beach warranted an afternoon stop along the Intercoastal. You order at the counter, grab your drink from the cooler and find your spot on the back screened porch overlooking the water. Then your seafood or rum runner is brought out for you to enjoy as you watch the boats go by.










Little River, South Carolina
Crossing over into South Carolina, you come to Little River - the town and the river which dumps into the Atlantic Ocean on the border of the two states. Located about 20 minutes north of Myrtle Beach and home to the state's only two casino boats, Little River hosts an annual Blue Crab Festival in May. Since I wasn't there for that, I decided to have dinner on the Little River at Key West Crazy. Went for some apps and watched the boats going in and out of the inlet - dolphin watchers, fishermen, families and sunset watchers. 











Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Have you heard of Murrells Inlet before? You might have. Known as the "seafood capital of South Carolina", Murrells Inlet is home to the Marshwalk - a half mile wooden boardwalk along a saltwater estuary - with waterfront dining, water sports - jet skiing and kayaking - and boat tours. Any given night, you can hear live music and watch the sunset at any of the many restaurants along the Marshwalk. I sat at Drunken Jack's outdoor bar and watched families, extended families, couples and one lost kid (don't worry - someone helped him find his family) I love the Marshwalk! Outdoor dining, happy families on vacation, sunsets and water views - you just can't beat it. Just be prepared that it is almost always crowded - even off season - and even though there are large parking lots, parking can be hard to come by. So be prepared for a wait for a spot - and a table.























Driving along the Coastal Highway south of Murrells Inlet you will pass by the beach towns of Litchfield Beach and Pawleys Island. You will come to the historical town of Georgetown with it's Harborwalk.( Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina and famous as the birthplace of Michelle Obama's grandfather and is worth a visit on it's own. )Then you'll pass by the rural towns of Awendaw and McClellanville along with the Sewanee and Hampton Plantations which give tours on a daily basis. Highway 17 becomes known as the Sweetgrass Basket Highway along the "Seven Mile" stretch just outside of Mt. Pleasant where descendants of slaves have set up stands for tourists to purchase their hand made baskets.

Mt.Pleasant, South Carolina
My next stop was Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina where I was staying for the night. I had heard great things about the southern cooking at Page's Okra Grill. Located off of Highway 17 on Route 1, Page's is a very popular brunch spot - I've heard of incredibly long waits on Saturday and Sunday - and thought it might be less crowded for dinner. It wasn't. Luckily for me, there was one seat available at the counter. So I ordered the vegetable plate - fried okra, pimiento cheese stone-ground grits, macaroni and cheese ( yes, that's a vegetable in the South!) and hush puppies. Followed up with a piece of carrot cake. Two things to know about Page's - the food is delicious and the servings are humongous. My meal could've fed a family. So I ate what I could and boxed up the rest for my host - including almost all of the cake - and headed a mile down the road to try to catch the sunset.







Shem Creek Park is located in - yep, you guessed it - the Shem Creek area. Known for kayaking, bars and restaurants like Red's Ice House and fishing boats, Shem Creek is an uber popular area of Mt. Pleasant. This night I was only there to walk the boardwalk and watch the sunset- I actually missed it by a few minutes and it was a bit cloudy already -but it was still a nice walk. 














Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is located on a barrier island connected to Highway 17 by the Isle of Palms connector. It's a small community with a few restaurants and the popular Wild Dunes resort. I roused myself early enough to catch an Atlantic Ocean sunrise - it doesn't happen very often! 













 I stayed to enjoy some beach time before I had to go home. It was hard to pack up and leave but it sure was an enjoyable and scenic drive. If you have a chance to get off the beaten path and drive the Coastal Highway, I'd give it a try. You might eat some fresh seafood - or tour a pre-Revolutionary War plantation - or catch a sunrise. You just never know!












This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!








If you haven't given to help those suffering from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and are interested in doing so here's a few organizations that would gladly take donations. The area I live in was hit hard by flooding two years ago and some are still devastated by it, so I'm guessing that the need in Texas and Louisiana will be ongoing for many years. So you may care to donate now and check in in the future to see what is still needed.

Samaritan's Purse
GoFundMe
HoustonFood Bank
Galveston Food Bank
Corpus Christi Food Bank
The Texas Diaper Bank
SPCA

This is just a small list of places you can give. Please consider a financial donation as some places are running out of space for physical donations.

14 comments:

  1. This looks like such a relaxing and charming drive. That meal at Paige's Okra Grill sounds delicious. Although, I am the only okra fan in the family, so I may get vetoed because of the name. And thank you about the remarks about Houston. I am headed there in a few hours to help out my family.

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    1. My prayers go out to you and your family in Houston. I have donated and will continue to do so. It's not going to be an easy road for the next few years for all those involved.

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  2. For me, the slow road is the way to go, More when that road is along the coast. I take the slow road all the time in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Like you, I am able to find tons of lovely coastal communities. Really like the towns you have shown in here. Mt. Pleasant is my favorite form the group. #TPThursday

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    1. The slow roads are the best - and I agree with you - especially if they are coastal roads. I need to seek out more of these coastal roads in the future! Thanks for visiting, Ruth!

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  3. Wonderful way to see the world - a relaxing drive along a charming coast with great food.

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    1. That's a great way to put it - a wonderful way to see the world - I like it! Thanks for visiting, Carol!

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  4. Fantastic post. Your pictures are stunning. We've never been further south than the Outer Banks, but I could definitely see us doing this trip someday #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. Thank you! And the Outer Banks is another beautiful coastal road! Hope you make it further south someday - thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road.

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  5. I think this rings true for many places. We live in Queensland Australia and the other day we found ourselves on the old highway which was beside the new one. It was so pleasant and pretty on the older one.

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    1. The older I get the more I enjoy the slow and pleasant old roads over the progress and speed of the new ones! Thanks for visiting, Jan!

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  6. I just love vegetables in the south! I never knew I was eating so healthy when I had macaroni and cheese. Thanks for linking in to #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. When we first moved to the South years ago and I saw macaroni n cheese on the vegetable list, I was so proud of myself for eating healthy all those years - I didn't even know it! Thanks for visiting, Jim!

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  7. This is a great round-up. So many of the big beach area down that way are lovely but crowded and expensive, so it's nice to know about these lesser known but very scenic towns. we went to Red's Ice house on Shem Creak and had a fun lunch. very kid friendly. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. Red's is fun - I love the whole Shem Creek area and would love to kayak it someday. Thanks for visiting, eileen!

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