The South Carolina coastal region around Pawleys Island features a beautiful and diverse ecosystem that is truly unique. Even without venturing into less developed or populated areas, you’re likely to see majestic cranes expertly spearing fish in area ponds or even alligators patrolling marshes and inlets.
But by exploring further out, you will be rewarded by witnessing the unspoiled beauty of this intricate ecosystem. On your next vacation to Pawleys Island, slow things down and learn about the nature behind this special area with a trip to Georgetown to the Hobcaw Barony Discovery Center.
Centered around a large plantation, Hobcaw Barony was one of 10 coastal baronies (estates ran by barons of the British empire) established by King George I in 1718. The name Hobcaw was bestowed on the area by local Waccamaw tribes, meaning “between the waters” as the 16,000 acres of the estate is nestled between the Winyah Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The rich soil and abundance of wetlands made the area ideal for rice and indigo cultivation, and by the mid-19th century the estate was one of the most productive plantations in the region. Following the Civil War rice production continued and many emancipated slaves remained on the plantations in the area. Large-scale production was replaced by subsistence farming, with some of the slave villages of Hobcaw remaining populated by estate workers until World War II.
In 1905, Bernard Mannes Baruch, a thriving Wall Street stockbroker, purchased the estate and during his ownership the grounds were frequented by high-powered friends like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Bernard’s eldest daughter, Belle, was an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoyed hunting, horseback riding and hiking throughout the estate grounds. She loved the area so much that beginning in 1936 she began purchasing the land from her father, becoming the sole owner in 1956.
Following Belle’s death in 1964, her will instructed for the grounds to be left as an outdoor laboratory for the coastal plains to be researched and studied in an undisturbed environment.
Today, the estate grounds serve as vital research grounds for the higher learning institutions of South Carolina. The lush landscape of the Waccamaw peninsula that Hobcaw Barony sits on offers the perfect situation for learning and researching lowcountry wildlife and ecosystems. Both Clemson University and the University of South Carolina have permanent research centers established that aim to better understand the management of coastal and wetland resources.
If you’re a lover of nature, you are sure to be delighted by a tour of the grounds of Hobcaw Barony. The estate is open Monday to Saturday for tours beginning at 10 AM. Advance reservations are highly recommended for the tours. Guests will enjoy transport by bus throughout the sprawling property, with stops at the grounds of Northfield Plantation, the North Inlet salt marsh, Friendfield Village and the main floor of the Hobcaw house.
Tours are recommended for those 8 years of age and up and the cost is $20 per person. In addition to the standard tour, Hobcaw Barony hosts Behind the Scenes tours that go more in-depth to additional areas of the estate, hikes to the area beaches, excursions exploring the cemeteries of the estate and much more!
Hobcaw Barony provides a truly unique look at South Carolina’s colonial past and the present of an unspoiled lowcountry ecosystem. On your next Pawleys Island vacation, a short drive to Georgetown is all it takes to explore this natural paradise. Be sure to check out our amazing deals on Pawleys Island vacation rentals at resorts like True Blue Resort, Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort or Pawleys Plantation Resort and make plans for your beach vacation today!