Sandy Island – Sandy Island, South Carolina

South Carolina  |  SC Picture Project  |  Georgetown County Photos  |  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. The boat was christened the Prince Washington and is named for the community founder’s great-grandson.

Sandy Island School Boat

V.P. Lempert of Pawleys Island, 2012 © 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 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. 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 Info

Address: Sandy Island Road, Pawleys Island, SC 29585

Sandy Island Map

Sandy Island – 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 Sandy Island, 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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7 Comments about Sandy Island

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
March 9th, 2015 at 8:20 am

Hi, Marlon! Check with this tour company for more information on Sandy Island tours:

marlon hagertyNo Gravatar 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.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 29th, 2014 at 9:33 am

Hi, Everette. Here is a website to a tour company for Sandy Island: 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 DeGaradyNo Gravatar 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 BiddyNo Gravatar 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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