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.

Frank McKenzie Motel

Terry Shoemaker 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 Beach Pawleys Island

Graham Ladd of Pawleys Island, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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 Motel

Lisa Kay Campbell of Murrells Inlet, 2014 © 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.

McKenzie Motel

Lisa Schneider of Pawleys Island, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Magnolia Beach Motel

Terry Shoemaker of Murrells Inlet, 2009 © 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.

mcKenzie Beach Motel Spring

Terry Shoemaker of Murrells Inlet, 2009 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

McKenzie Motel Pawleys

Graham Ladd of Pawleys Island, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The new owners allowed McKenzie to operate his business until he finally moved on from the motel business. He worked at nearby Huntington Beach State Park and died in 1978, the same year his former partner Lillian Pyatt also died.

McKenzie Beach

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The owners of the land closed access to the beach, and the motel has since fallen into disrepair.

McKenzie Beach Causeway

SCIWAY © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on McKenzie Beach


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

Another Murrells Inlet contributor, Terry Shoemaker, tells us about his one of his photos: “A friend got permission from the owners for us to go on the property to take some pictures. This picture is of a falling down building in back of the old motel. I do a lot of photography around this area so it was a treat to be able to go on this property.”

Contributor Lisa Schneider tells us, “When I first took this photo I had no idea of the story behind it. McKenzie Beach was for African-Americans to enjoy the beach, good food, music and fellowship.”

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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66 Comments about McKenzie Beach

beatrice catalanoNo Gravatar says:
February 17th, 2015 at 5:59 pm

I love Mckenzie Beach. Ten years ago I went to see the owner to list and sell the property who at that time owned a funeral home in Georgetown , SC. They did not want to sell.. I heard the current owners live in Charleston, SC. I sold the Brown property close by.

Michael Burgess says:
February 5th, 2015 at 2:02 am

Thank you, for this story. It was a true pleasure to read. I have often wondered about the history of this hotel. It sparks the imagination as much as any ancient ruin might.

Tricia CollinsNo Gravatar says:
January 18th, 2015 at 10:39 am

If anyone knows how I could get more info, or talk to people that know a lot about this ! I sent this to a local girl who is now working in California in the film industry! She wants to explore making a movie about this, and I am local so trying to make contacts for her. I think it would be an awesome story to tell.

Pat Rogers says:
January 16th, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Are there any pictures of this property when it was open for business. Would love to see what it looked like back then.

Robin Bogler says:
January 16th, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Good to know, I always wondered.

Carol Rheaume says:
January 16th, 2015 at 3:45 am

Amazing story. Never knew any of this story.

Vicki Lane Marsh says:
January 16th, 2015 at 3:16 am

More likely.

Vicki Lane Marsh says:
January 16th, 2015 at 3:15 am

Thank you for call. Friend me

Kimberly Parker Hayes says:
January 16th, 2015 at 1:11 am

Gorgeous property! I had always wondered about its history. Thank you for sharing!

Kristi Eldridge Garbrecht says:
January 15th, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I've always wondered about this place. Very interesting.

Priscilla Gaskins says:
January 15th, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Never knew this existed- interesting

Beth Gaddy says:
January 15th, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Thank you so much for this article and the beautiful pictures. Have often wondered the history.

Susan Wakeman Goree says:
January 13th, 2015 at 7:25 pm

I checked the public land records in Georgetown, owner listed as McKenzie Beach LLC with a mailing address of a woman in D.C.

Rachel Sims Brooks says:
January 13th, 2015 at 3:48 am

Thanks so much… I have wondered many times about the history of this place.

Darian Hairston says:
January 10th, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Julia, can I get married here!!?

Shawn WoodellNo Gravatar says:
January 10th, 2015 at 6:46 pm

I have always been fascinated by this building as I rode to the beach and back home. I always wondered the history behind it, and if someone would ever repair or rebuild it.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 10th, 2015 at 7:21 am

Sandra, we have heard nothing regarding development of that land at this point. The motel has stood there in that state for years.

Sandra K. Moyle says:
January 10th, 2015 at 3:07 am

If the owner (s) are monitoring these comments I'm pleading with you to not let it become another condo complex blocking the view of the marsh. It is so historic and an important part of PI history that I wish there were a way to have it declared an historical site. Anybody heard of such an effort?

Charles Edwards says:
January 9th, 2015 at 5:21 pm

This is so interesting. We have been by that spot probably a 100 times in the last 30 years and have always wondered just what the story was. As the late Paul Harvey used to say, "and now you know the rest of the story."

Darryl Hammond II says:
January 9th, 2015 at 4:22 pm

They could not rebuild bridge or cabins after hurricane. With no bridge, they could not cross. I guess they did not have the money or could not get permits. d

Kevin Hennessy says:
January 9th, 2015 at 3:41 pm

I'm sure the land owner records are in Georgetown Town Hall be interested to know.

Kristye Mcdonald says:
January 9th, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Check your history. The "shag" was brought to the Ocean Drive section by white jitterbuggers who learned it from time spent in the old black clubs further south. It was originally (and is still used by the few original beach folks) called fas' dancin'. McKenzie Beach could have been one of the clubs that are part of our dance history. Will have to find out more about it.

Wayne Preston says:
January 9th, 2015 at 11:10 am

Excellent article! The more we know the more we grow! I shared this article on my FB page and the feedback was amazing. People want to rediscover this and so much more.

James Robert Forshaw says:
January 9th, 2015 at 8:53 am

The Shag was wildly popular at Ocean Drive yet is rumored to have originated at Magnolia Beach and then spread to the North Strand area.

Chris Simard says:
January 9th, 2015 at 2:03 am

I can see that. They could have ridden down from N Myrtle to Pawleys & back to N Myrtle the same nighte…& the Shag was born…!

Tripp Moore says:
January 9th, 2015 at 1:48 am

Who owns the property now? It's worth a look into a grant for restoration or at least proper roadside acknowledgement of its historical significance.

D.j. Nance says:
January 9th, 2015 at 1:10 am

This place is awesome! Wish I knew who owned it! Would be an awesome spot for a wedding!!!

Dan Hitchcock says:
January 8th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

I found refuge here last summer when I was paddleboarding in Midway Inlet and a lightning storm popped up. Had a chance to look around waiting for a ride (and sorry folks – I didn't plan the trespass, thankful for the safe haven!). Beautiful property. Thank you for sharing this fascinating history!

Patsy Bateman says:
January 8th, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Interesting information Who owns the property now????

Kair L. Purvis says:
January 8th, 2015 at 3:37 pm

The Shag is from North Myrtle Beach.

Jessica Sienkiewicz says:
January 8th, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I was told that the people who purchased this property used it for a wedding reception and then kept the land private. My grandaaddy told me about how he and his father use to go down there and trade flounder they had caught for shrimp and other seafood with the people fishing there. We had pictures done there last year with a photographer who had written permission.

Kym Newland Beckham says:
January 8th, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Does anyone know who owns the property now? They seem to care about it.

Julia Zimmerman Corontzes says:
January 8th, 2015 at 1:27 pm

I enjoy local history. Thanks

DayleNo Gravatar says:
January 8th, 2015 at 12:52 pm

They obviously don’t care much about it anymore because it’s just left to decay and fall apart. Wish someone would do something with it.

Joseph SmallsNo Gravatar says:
January 8th, 2015 at 11:17 am

Someday I would like to buy this landmark and reopen it to the public. Maybe turn the motel into a Bar/grill leave the name the same and put a lot about the history of this place on display. I also grew up in Pawleys Island and think that things like this should never be forgotten. (Part of the Smalls clan)

James Robert Forshaw says:
January 8th, 2015 at 10:40 am

I have heard that it is where the dance "The Shag" was born. Any comments on that?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 8th, 2015 at 7:27 am

Thank you everyone for your questions and comments! South Carolina has fascinating history in every corner… you just never know what mysteries an old building holds!

Brenda SchmidNo Gravatar says:
January 8th, 2015 at 6:43 am

I would love to read more about the Mckenzie Beach property. We have driven by it when we have been in Myrtle Beach.

Eddie Sturgeon says:
January 8th, 2015 at 3:03 am

I hate spellcheck I meant drive :-)

Eddie Sturgeon says:
January 8th, 2015 at 3:03 am

I'll drop by there a few times a month never would've thought.

Hollyday Israel Simpson-Collins says:
January 8th, 2015 at 2:55 am

I always wondered about this place. I even took a photo shoot there about 10 years ago. Thanks for the story!

Joyce Helms says:
January 8th, 2015 at 2:26 am

I also would like to know. I used to trap bait in those creeks with my Dad. Lots of memories back there.

Gwendolyn Cabanaw Campbell says:
January 8th, 2015 at 2:20 am

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know why the cut off access to the beach and let the building fall apart? It seemed like such an awesome spot.

Jonnell Atkins says:
January 8th, 2015 at 2:03 am

This place always captures my imagination on my way to the beach! The true story behind its decaying façade in NOT a disappointment. What a special place, wish those walls could talk! :)

Donna Smoak Watts says:
January 8th, 2015 at 1:04 am

Glad to finally know…

Dana Orchoff Gencarelli says:
January 8th, 2015 at 12:50 am

I've passed by that place almost every summer of my life and never knew its history!

Linda Grimes says:
January 7th, 2015 at 11:47 pm

I am so happy to know the history of McKenzie Beach! I have stopped on my way to a Pawleys vacation and photographed the motel, love the look of it now! This would make an interesting movie!

Martha Bullard says:
January 7th, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Thanks for sharing.

Dru Chavis says:
January 7th, 2015 at 10:17 pm

This is such an awesome story. I really would like to stop and check it out.

Johnny BryantNo Gravatar says:
January 7th, 2015 at 7:20 pm

I just had to write something relating to Frank Mckenzie’s Beach. My peers and I, experience growing up on Frank’s beach, and the Pavilion that had the stealth foundation to escape the high tide. This was our Sundays’ best to escape the agony of growing up in the south. This was it on Sunday afternoons after church. In my opinion this is one of the most historical sites on Pawleys Island.

Martha Hoare Ranieri says:
January 7th, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Often wondered why a movie was not made of the history.

JefriLynn ChandlerNo Gravatar says:
January 7th, 2015 at 4:11 pm

We have always called it Magnolia Beach. The name the locals still refer to. We would hop the oyster beds to put out minnow traps. A few years back the new owner cover the oyster beds with a sand road and blocked it to the public. I still sneak out to check the tree for storms damage….she lost a lower branch last year. This should be a national land mark and reopened to the public. It has too much history and is too beautiful not to protect.

bob cothranNo Gravatar says:
January 5th, 2015 at 8:38 pm

I remember McKenzie Beach from the late 1940s to after Hurricane Hazel in 1955. For a modest fee he would allow you to cross the bridge and surf fish off his pristine beach. I remember a cabana-type structure and some small cabins, which I figured were for weekend use. After the hurricane, Mr. McKenzie’s bridge ended up under my dad’s house on Pawleys Island. He came and loaded up the bridge, but I do not remember his reopening the 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 camerasequallove@gmail.com. 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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