Southern Narratives

Sea Breeze and Pimento Cheese

The Sea View Inn serves up peace and quiet with a little bit of delicious on the side.

On the southern end of South Carolina’s Grand Strand lies a spit of land called Pawleys Island, and it is just wide enough to accommodate a two lane road and one house. A spot that harkens the eternal summers of youth, it is a place where many generations have made their annual pilgrimage to breathe in the rarefied air that blows from the sea.

The Sea View Inn has held court here since 1937, looking out to the ocean before her, with the salt marsh of a tidal creek over her shoulder. Less than four miles long and one of the East Coast’s oldest summer resorts, Pawley’s remains blissfully out of touch with the outside world. And that is exactly what keeps the faithful returning year after year—to the island in general, and the Sea View Inn in particular.

Those looking for miniature golf and water parks need not linger; they will not find what they seek here. This is the kind of place their grandparents and parents might have vacationed back in the day, and with no filling stations or stores on the island, it seems almost like a portal to an earlier time. Long before televisions, tablets, and phones imposed themselves on family vacations, there were mornings spent here on the porch watching dolphins frolic in the early light, and golden afternoons spent napping in hammocks; marathon Monopoly games under slowly turning ceiling fans, and long walks on the beach at dusk. Happily, the Sea View Inn’s policy of electronics-free spaces has allowed for these memories and more to remain everyday occurrences.
Though there is an area where guests can check emails and touch base with the outside world, owners Brian and Sassy Henry want the emphasis here to be on tranquil, quality time for those who come, whether for a week or a weekend. In addition to giving guests the opportunity to channel their inner beach bum, the inn’s peaceful atmosphere has fostered the imaginations of artists and authors. Watercolor portraits of the staff adorn the dining room walls, products of a yearly artist’s workshop, and it is not unusual for a book to arrive in the mail with an acknowledgement that it was written from the Sea View Inn’s comfortable and cozy porch.

Barefoot feet have worn a velvet-smooth path up wooden steps that lead to bedrooms, charming in their simplicity, and sunlight from ocean or marsh views wash the walls with the soft colors of the shoreline. Louvered doors allow the sea breeze to flow throughout, and guests are lulled to sleep by the sound of the surf a short distance away. Half-bathrooms are en-suite, with showers a short walk down the hall, though many guests choose to wash the sand from their suits in one of the private outdoor showers downstairs as they come from the beach. For those who need a bit more creature comfort, rooms in the adjoining cottage offer both heat and air conditioning.

And then there’s the food. Serving up a combination of Sunday-lunch-at-your-grandmother’s and upscale haute cuisine, the multigenerational kitchen staff rings the bell three times a day to provide fare that is good for your soul – if not for your waistline. Reservations for those not staying at the inn must be made twenty-four hours in advance.

It is in this kitchen that Sassy’s longtime pimento cheese recipe took the Lowcountry by storm.  Prepared as an appetizer for guests by family friend and Sea View Inn cook, Vertrella Brown, the delicious spread Sassy branded “Palmetto Cheese,” was quickly in high demand. Soon, visitors began purchasing multiple tubs of the specialty cheese bearing Brown’s image. Now available in over 5,000 stores across the country, Palmetto Cheese is the Lowcountry’s equivalent to the finest caviar, and it is enjoyed best when spread amongst friends.

Although Palmetto Cheese is available year-round, the Sea View Inn is a warm weather getaway destination—open the weekend before Easter and closed after Thanksgiving. Holiday meals are served for both occasions, and often require reservations up to a year in advance. There are also weekend packages available for girls’ getaways, nature retreats, and spa weekends.

Time may have forgotten Pawleys Island and the Sea View Inn, but it is a place that will be long-remembered by those who visit—with memories of sandy feet and sun-drenched days, of long walks and belly laughs, and of sea breezes and pimento cheese.

By Susan Frampton