McKenzie Beach – Pawleys Island, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Georgetown County Photos  |  McKenzie Beach

This dilapidated motel is all that remains of one of the most popular black beach resorts of its time. Located between Pawleys Island and Litchfield Beach, McKenzie Beach stretches 23 acres from the ocean to Highway 17.

McKenzie Beach Motel

Lisa Kay Campbell of Murrells Inlet, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Originally called the Magnolia Beach Club, it later was named after Frank McKenzie, one of the resort’s founders. He and fellow Pawleys Island native Lillian Pyatt acquired the land in 1934 and began development shortly thereafter. McKenzie and Pyatt envisioned a place where blacks, without fear of racial discrimination, could visit the beach and enjoy great food, strong drinks, and live music; the Magnolia Beach Club fulfilled this vision.

McKenzie Beach

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 1936 construction began on the narrow causeway that would run across Midway Creek and connect the mainland to the south end of Litchfield Beach. Over the course of the next few years they would complete the causeway, while adding a pavilion and 15 small cabins. Word of the new resort spread quickly and by the late 1930s popular musicians such as Count Basie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Duke Ellington were playing there on a regular basis.

McKenzie Beach Causeway

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The resort continued to grow until 1954, when Hurricane Hazel hit the coast and destroyed the causeway, pavilion, and most of the cabins. After dissolving his partnership with Lillian Pyatt, McKenzie rebuilt a small motel and bait and tackle shop on the mainland in 1956. It was from this point that the area became known as McKenzie Beach.

While the resort regained its popularity, things were never quite the same for Frank McKenzie, who had to sell the property in the late 1960s due to financial hardships. The new owners closed access to the beach and let the motel fall into disrepair.

Reflections on McKenzie Beach

Contributor Lisa Kay Campbell shares: “I always wanted to stop and take pictures of this hidden gem of a spot.. such dreams to be had!”

Add your own reflections here.

McKenzie Beach Info

Address: US Highway 17, Pawleys Island, SC 29585

McKenzie Beach Map

McKenzie Beach – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of McKenzie Beach, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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13 Comments about McKenzie Beach

bob harginNo Gravatar says:
February 6th, 2014 at 9:55 am

This was great to hear, and yes, it should be saved and some black entertainers should re-erect it and turn into a black heritage site.

M SkinnerNo Gravatar says:
January 20th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Having grown up in Pawleys Island, seeing this place just became somewhat normal. As a kid I remember it being referred to as “that abandoned motel.” As a professional photographer, I have spent many days photographing the remains of McKenzie Beach, but never did much research because the place just seemed so familiar to me. My interest in McKenzie Beach was renewed when I brought my fiance (who is also a professional photographer) to the remains, while we were visiting my parents. He was instantly fascinated with it, and we’ve been doing our best to gather as much information as we can, in the hopes of writing a book. There are still a lot of missing pieces. Anyone who has photos of this place while it was in operation, please contact me at It would be a huge help in our effort to keep the memory of McKenzie Beach alive for future generations. Thank you.

CheptuNo Gravatar says:
January 16th, 2014 at 4:58 am

I lived there for a short while during the mid 60s. The restaurant/nightclub was still being run (small scale) by the McKenzies. My brother worked at the restaurant and would bring home little treats – usually stale candy and cookies for his younger sibs. At the time, 3-4 of the homes were occupied. The Manigualts did own a rather stately home; however, it was not occupied at the time. We used to walk down to the beach, which was pretty much destroyed due to the hurricane, but we harvested clams, oysters and crab from the creeks for food. My grandmother fished there also. During the summers we’d hear live calypso music playing at McKenzie’s during the night. All faded away. Really sad now that I’m older and understand the history.

J. LuckNo Gravatar says:
October 15th, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I cannot put my hands on an article that was in one of the local papers until we go home, so in the meantime memory will serve me. I read that it was the ONLY motel where black musicians could find lodging from New York City and Miami, where they may be playing. The site intrigued me every time we passed by!

Bunny Woods JonesNo Gravatar says:
September 12th, 2013 at 8:29 am

My parents owned a vacation home on McKenzie beach for many years. I remember our vists there when I was a young girl very fondly. Mr & Mrs McKenzie were like godparents to me … lovely people! Mrs. McKenzie’s cooking was renowned among locals. I believe that the Manigault and Teal families of Georgetown may have also owned homes on McKenzie. It was a thriving community! However, Hurricane Hazel pretty much destroyed our access to the actual beach. My folks sold their home around 1964 to help with my college tuition. Sure do hope that this wonderful, historical place can be memorialized some how!

Iris DownNo Gravatar says:
August 29th, 2013 at 7:22 am

A couple of years or so ago I saw men demolishing the old restaurant block which was alongside the current buildings that can be seen from the road. I called every authority I could think of in the hope I could stop demolition of the other buildings, but nobody had heard of the hotel. So it is certainly not protected in any way. For some reason work stopped and the old rooms still stand. I am British and just cannot understand why buildings like these with such fantastic history are not protected and are at the mercy of developers.

Donna RainboltNo Gravatar says:
August 29th, 2013 at 6:57 am

Is it true that when Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald came to perform in the Myrtle Beach area, they were told to stay at this motel? Even in Washington, DC, during segregation they were forced to stay at a “black” hotel. I do hope that it becomes a historic landmark. Thanks for your help.

KarenCRNo Gravatar says:
June 18th, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I have been interested in the history of McKenzie beach since moving here in 2001 and exploring down Beach Road (beside the old motel). There is very little information to be found about the community and the history of it. Thank you for writing about it here. I have a feeling there is a lot more history surrounding McKenzie Beach that may be lost forever unless someone with memories comes forward to tell the stories. I hope someone writes a book about it. When we first moved here to Litchfield Beach (in 2001) there was also a club on Hwy 17 (Club 17) which had been there many years, but burned down years ago. Also, I remember little cottages hidden in the woods called Port Afrique (I believe). I don’t know if these were connected or extensions of the McKenzie Beach community, but I would love to find out!

Janet HolmesNo Gravatar says:
March 31st, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I am a winter newcomer to this area and have become fascinated with the history of this property. I am wondering if anyone has ever proposed that it remain untouched as an historic landmark. If not, why not? It would be a shame to lose this piece of the history of Pawleys Island!

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 25th, 2012 at 9:23 am

Hi M Wilcox! Thank you for reading and submitting the correction — we just finished updating the page. It’s important to preserve this piece of Pawleys Island history. Please comment if you have any additional information about the beach or the motel. Thanks again!

M WilcoxNo Gravatar says:
January 25th, 2012 at 5:20 am

First, thank you for keeping the history of the McKenzie Motel and Beach alive — Frank McKenzie was my Grand Uncle. The motel closed in the late 60s, definitely not 1963.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
August 31st, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Hi M Brandel! Little is known about the current owners of the property, but we do know that former South Carolina politician Alex Sanders sold his half-interest in the property in 2004 to a company named McKenzie Beach LLC.

M BrandelNo Gravatar says:
August 31st, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I was at this site this weekend (during Irene) and wondered about the story behind it! Who owns the property now?


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