Summer time along the coast is undoubtedly a ‘slice of heaven, But how about an Autumn escape to the shores? In this vignette, I want to share a few quaint, enchanting, historic and unforgettable inlet coves and majestic beaches that will not only captivate you with their tranquil charm and beauty, but will touch a pace deep inside your soul, that will reside within your heart forever. The welcomed autumn season brings new savory aromas, breathtaking and inspiring sights as well as a deep awareness that nature truly is the ‘handiwork of God.” I grew up in southern California and everyday was a beach or Dana Point harbor day, as the temperatures were superb and the weather, gorgeous, all year round. (OK, yes, it does rain in California…so minus a few days here and there! ) 🙂 Winter, spring, summer and fall in Laguna beach was always exciting and fun, but I can barely remember a day , their shores were not crowded with people. It wasn’t until I discovered the beaches on the east coast that I realized, the serenity, stillness and euphoric beauty a deserted , autumn shoreline could embody. The beaches, marshlands and rustic creeks on the Atlantic ocean are my very favorite places to frequent in the brisk fall months. There is nothing quite like their calming solitude, natural wonder as well a their bestowal of a much needed respite for the soul. Taking long walks upon the deserted white sands, with only the company of the silvery moon, its bright hues of hushed white reflecting on the water, perhaps a sea turtle making its way across the dunes, the sound of the seabirds cooing and the subtle roar of the waves, leisurely strolling into shore, is about as peaceful as it gets. I want to share with you two special inlet coves, surprisingly hidden during this splendid season and definitely worth planning an autumn escape around!
“Winter is an etching, spring a water color, Summer, an oil painting and AUTUMN, a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz
“I read, I travel, I become.” ~Derick Walcott
“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
“We travel for romance, we travel for architecture and we travel to be lost.” ~ Ray Bradbury
” A few days ago, I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of the leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different , and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.” ~ Eric Sloane
Our first destination: Mystic Connecticut.
It was the autumn of 2003…on a whim, while living in Alexandria Virginia, my husband Kit and I decided to load up our jeep, (Grantham in the back on his quilted, soft tapestry bed,) with ample ‘road trip’ snacks, our favorite CD’s, camera, Map Quest directions and plenty of warm clothes and journey to Connecticut. We were like little kids at Christmas time as we were off to see the fall foliage display amongst a new land. (I had always heard New England is the place to go, to experience the height of visual beauty in the fall.) “They” were 100% correct! 🙂 The entire state of Connecticut was one ‘gorgeous’ site after another. We were oohing and awing over New Haven’s prestigious architecture and bustling city, with it’s ancient trees, festooned in vibrant reds, electric yellows and poignant amber and rust colored leaves. Harvard University was galvanic, august and had a touch of England within it’s prestigious presentation. We had lunch in the adorable and quaint city of Mitford, overlooking the water and after a delightful cuisine of ‘comfort foods,’ we walked Graham on the secluded, tranquil beach in beautiful Bridgeport. The bridges in Groton were not only scenic and tranquil, but at the same time like an E-ticket ride at Disneyland. Every city was fresh and new to us, capturing our attention with it’s resplendent charm. Graham was especially thrilled as every time we stopped off at a Starbucks during our visit, he was surprisingly treated by the staff to a tasty dog-cookie as we ordered our hot lattes . 🙂 As soon as we thought we had seen all the beauty our eyes (as well as souls,) could behold, we entered the charming, historic and fairytale like village of Mystic. Though our stay was short, Mystic and its surrounding towns of Stonington and Noank, and all the extraordinary memories we made there, are embedded within our hearts and minds for a lifetime.
I love the quote by J.R.R. Tolkien; “Not all those who wander, are lost.” Let me tell you…we wandered and didn’t care if we were lost. With abandon, we put away all of our maps and “places to go” guidebook, and just drove until we got so hungry we had to stop. 🙂 If ever you can fall in love with a place, we had taken the plunge. As you enter this glorious village, the first site you see, (unquestionably worth a stop and at least a dozen photos,) is one of Mystic’s landmarks, the subtle yet grandeur village graveyard. With it’s cobblestone fences, antiquated trees and stellar architecture, it exudes history and charm. As we continued our drive, we saw a myriad of ‘instant dream homes’ on every corner…all of them romantic, enchanting and irrefutably heart-stopping with the beauty they possessed… Slowly meandering in our jeep down Gravel street, we were taken aback by the Colonial Cape Cods and Greek revival homes . Nestled close to the water, they were once owned by renowned sea captains, or ship builders. (Their names and titles proudly displayed upon the shiny silver plaques upon the nostalgic, seafaring houses entry ways. ) We ended up on Starr ST. which is right on the mystic river. I don’t think my eyes blinked for five minutes with its stellar beauty and grandiose welcome. (The homes around this famous river were beyond what Webster calls exquisite, grand and lovely.) I wanted to set up camp in our jeep and never leave. Downtown Mystic was just as charming with it’s legendary, historic drawbridge, unique boutiques with their windows dressed for fall, old historic churches that looked like they didn’t belong in the 21st century with their Victorian, Colonial architecture and uninhibited, august design. If you were to buy a scenic coffee table book with 100 pages of autumn splendor, it would not compare to the volume of Mystics exuberant fall display. We were charmed by the scarecrows, pumpkins, and the old cider mill in the bucolic countryside, as well as the massive Tall ships in the harbor, ( looking as if they had just returned from a long trip out at sea.) Their grandiose appearance likened to a step back in time, when pirates roamed the ocean waters, embellishing their many tales of dauntless adventures with exotic mermaids, ample, shiny gold and of course, their buried treasures. The cuisine in Mystic and Stonington was undeniably ‘five- star.’ We stopped for lunch at The Skippers Dock…It was like a dream come true on a chilly autumn day. There were two cozy and mesmerizing fires burning within their gallant, resplendent hearths. Our table was right on the water and we were treated like royalty from start to finish. I had never tasted a new England, Harbor-view Bouillabaisse entree, and let me tell you, it alone was worth the 8 hour drive form Virginia. The lobster sandwich, (A new England tradition) was to die for. We must have stayed for hours basking in the engaging, warm and delightsome ambiance, comforted by the medley of savory aromas. We stayed at a familiar place a few nights, ( The Holiday Inn) and then at an eccentric and ‘real taste of Mystic’ Bed and Breakfast, The Harbor Inn and Cottage. I am not kidding when I tell you that when the innkeeper greeted us, he looked identical to Earnest Hemingway’s portrait of ‘The Old man in the sea.’ (He was just missing the pipe.) 🙂 Our little cottage came with a hot tub and Graham was so excited to be in Mystic with Kit and I, that he decided to jump into the steaming jacuzzi with us… (forgetting that the two things he hates most in doggy life are water and heat.) 🙂 We had dinner at a lovely eatery across from the river called The River walk, in downtown Mystic. The ambiance was cozy, romantic and friendly. They served the best freshly grilled salmon Caesar salads accompanied with fresh homemade bread, still hot from the oven. My husband ordered a superb, seafood pasta dish that was out of this world. We were in heaven!
Truly, everyday was like a day in paradise…so much so, that we traversed back several times… The fall trip was our favorite… The air was brisk and the entire area was dressed in an array of buoyant, blithesome colors, announcing autumns arrival. The quaint eateries and historic sites were not crowded at all…we felt like we had this magical place, all to ourselves.
If you decide to visit Mystic for your ‘autumn escape,’ some other special places to experience are the delightful and spectacular sea aquarium with dolphins, seals and Beluga whales, the Ship Museum and the renowned eatery, Mystic Pizza. ( I hear Julia Roberts comes in every now and then, (incognito) to get the “house” pizza.) (Just joshing!) 🙂 (But she might.) The Colonial Olde Mystick Village with its abundance of charming and wondrous shops is a great place to spend a day… (especially the enchanting Christmas boutique, in which I could spend hours alone, hunting for my treasures.) There are endless, rousing inlet coves in Noank, (right on Mystics border, ) historic lighthouses in Stonington, (another town on the skirt of Mystic,) and be sure to go to the Cider mill for a piping, hot mug of fresh apple cider. I almost forgot, if you have time, be sure to see Fox-woods luxurious hotel and casino , bestowed with an abundance of fantastic eateries, unique and endearing boutique shops, and of course plenty of celebrity entertainment and a great place for those of you who are nighttime , (stay up late) people.
Susan and Graham at The Holiday Inn in new Haven. Another great place to stay in Mystic is ‘The Inn At Mystic.’ (They are pet friendly and we all know how important that is!) 🙂
The gorgeous and elaborate Fox-woods.This was another stay in Mystic, (Christmas time,) and all I can say is we had the best time of our lives! Definitely worth visiting. No we did not win any money! 🙂 The food was delicious!
The front yard of our favorite home in Mystic…It is nestled upon the serene river with a gorgeous view of the historic graveyard, Mystic’s seaport museum, Tall ships and the replicated, galvanic lighthouse.
Whether in the glorious autumn season, or during the festive and magical time of Christmas, amid spring’s show-stopping majesty with it’s layered tones of the seasons bursting foliage and flowers or the inspiring and thrilling summer season, you will not only be abundantly blessed by this historical village, but will find you can’t wait to go back.
It was the year of 2003 that Mystic Connecticut stole my heart, but Murrell’s inlet captured it when I was just a little girl. I feel as if I grew up myself amongst this fetching and luring marshland with it’s mesmerizing, spell-bounding salt creeks, ample fishing, crabbing, shrimping , antiquated oak trees and the nostalgic fragrance of the inlets briny water, with each story my mom told us about her childhood amongst the shore.
My six siblings and I “always” knew when one of her ‘tales,’ was about to begin. We would all gather around her, anticipating excitedly, as we awaited her every word. Her big brown eyes, southern drawl, and warming smile caught our attention as she spoke…she was lost in her bliss of the inlets charm, talking about her yesteryear’s as if it were her ‘yesterdays,’ (her memories were as clear and vivid, as if they had just recently occurred.)
We laughed until our sides ached, when she told us about the time she and all of her ‘kissing-cousins’, dauntlessly crowded themselves into a tiny fishing boat on the Inlet waters,(hoping and praying they wouldn’t sink.) Bright-eyed and full of mischief, they excitedly explored the creek’s haunting coves , enjoying the Brobdingnagian, ancient oak trees and miry swamps as they’d re-tell their favorite lore’s of the Islands legendary ghosts, (talking with their mouths full, as children always do) joyously eating their sun-warmed pimento cheese sandwiches. (After hours “out at sea,”) :), sun burnt and a bit tired, they reluctantly headed back to shore, (their ears and eyes carefully watching any movement in the water,) just encase an alligator and it’s baby “just happened” to pick the same day as them to frequent the creek.) 🙂
Before they headed back to the beach house, they decided to go crabbing… (It didn’t matter if they caught any delicious sea delicacies…they just had the time of their lives trying.) As they walked through the tall marsh grass, they could smell the heavenly aroma of a home cooked southern dinner awaiting them. Their slow meandering pace, became a fast jaunt as they began to smell the cornbread biscuits baking in the oven…as they sat down at the rustic wooden dining table , they were so hungry they almost forgot to say grace, as the fried chicken, butter beans, sweet potato souffle, okra, collard greens, (gosh that is a lot of carbs,) was set before them. After second helpings , you’d think that they would say “no, absolutely cant eat another bite,” to dessert. Not a chance! The homemade ‘pee-can’ pie, (as my adorable, big blue eyed , soon to be a movie star cousin, Jonathon pronounces it,) was the treasure they had looked forward to all day!
Every summer, their Inlet adventures continued as they would reunite…”The same place- the same time,” each year. I was in absolute awe that they still met up as young women at the childhood spot they all adored. This gathering was a little different…instead of a fishing boat, and crabbing, they would put on their new , fashionable bathing suites, take a picnic lunch, and sunbathe on the white sands, hoping to get a wink or two from a handsome military man home on leave. (And you can bet they did not rush home to a southern cooked meal…) They were more interested in their tiny waits lines than their palates. 🙂
As a little girl, my favorite tales that my mom shared about the Inlet, were those of the legendary Grey man and Alice Flagg’s frequent , “ghostly” visits to the Hermitage. (She also threw in a few of her own canny tales from the huge Southern Victorian home she grew up in.) Were her stories true or Embellished myths? It didn’t matter, we just wanted to hear them again and again. (But to this day…residents and visitors alike on the Inlet and Pawleys island say they still see these the two ghosts wandering the land.) Before a hurricane hits the shore, the Grey man is seen…his presence is to warn visitors and the residents to leave the island before it is to late. Sure enough, his appearance has saved many a lives. Alice and the Hermitage? A tragic story of an refined young woman, who though forbidden by her brother and legal guardian, accepted the marriage proposal of a handsome, young lumber jack in town. She was sent away to a prestigious boarding school in Charleston, where she died suddenly of malaria…when her brother found the engagement ring,(secretly worn as a necklace on her body,) he threw the ring into the marsh. “People say” they see Alice, (even 150 years later) at the Hermitage and amongst the family graveyard, looking for her lost ring. The Hermitage draws in many tourists and Alice still receives flowers and sentiments upon her grave site. Perhaps the legends and folklore of the Inlet are some of the very things that make up its romantic charm and charisma, attracting so many fans to its magical and alluring coastal village. As I became a young woman, I too visited Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island. My moms memories and stories were embedded deep within my heart and my expectations exceedingly high…I was not disappointed one bit! It truly was just as she had described. To this day, it is one of my favorite places in all the world. Yes, the years have definitely changed this magical tale bearing land, but its antebellum charm has never left. I know if my mom were alive today, she’d find that cherished inlet cove , that she and her cousins “frolicked and played,” and with a big grin and her smiling brown eyes, reminisce about her childhood days upon the saltwater creeks and marshes of the Inlets.
If you love chilly, moonlit nights on the strands, (deserted) white dunes, the sounds of the birds and nightlife upon the inlet creeks, the mellifluous “hoo, hoo, hoo’s” of the great horned owls, chirping crickets, dapper pelicans, playful dolphins, a tiptoeing alligator or two,(or three…) 🙂 , fireflies, the smell of briny water, shrimping, crabbing, pier fishing, reading a beloved novel, relaxing upon a legendary Pawleys Island Hammock, nestled under a canopy of antiquated oak trees, ice cold glasses of sweet tea, (with sprigs of fresh mint,) down home southern cooking, hot ‘pee-can’ pie, a la mode, history, cottages and plantations of yesteryear, you will love Murrell’s Inlet in the autumn.
There are so many spectacular places to see on the shore… (I myself would be exploring the inlet by day, take a late afternoon hammock snooze, walk the moonlit beach, and rent a beach house on the water that had a big, cozy fireplace.) 🙂 The scenic and breathtaking flowers alone are worth a trip to the lovely Brook green gardens. Huntington State beach with its inviting camp grounds, alluring wildlife, enchanting Atalaya castle, ( a heart stopping Moorish estate,) the Wachesaw Plantation and an equestrian center, are all a treat for the eyes as well as the soul. Great places to stay if you decide not to rent a beach cottage are the Hampton inn Murrell’s Inlet and Ellington’s at Wachesaw plantation, (truly a visit back in time with its charming and galvanic ambiance.)The Hot Fish club has superb seafood and one of my favorite eateries in the entire country is only a short drive up the shore , nestled on the water, a wondrous restaurant called The Sea Captains House. I have more heartwarming memories of that little cottage eatery than I can count….their cuisine is out of this world and it truly is one of the cities landmarks. Lastly, I must add that Murrells inlet is known as the host to the FINEST golf courses in the country. 🙂
If we were given two lives on earth at the same time, I would be on the Inlet waters all the time…Not just because I miss my mom and her winsome story telling, and the magic and charm she shared with us, tale after tale, or that this captivating land makes me feel her presence, but because Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island truly are showstopping lands, filled with beauty and a romantic history that stands alone. It is unlike any other place we have traveled…(and I still want to see one of those gators.) (In a large cruise ship of course.) 🙂 I can guarantee you, you will fall in love with this inlet waterway in your autumn escape to Murrells Inlet or Pawleys island…Two of South Carolinas choice and beloved places to see.
More exciting and beautiful wildlife upon the Inlet waters of South Carolina. Whether it is the captivating beauty of the Oyster catchers, laughing gulls, sanderlings or the ruddy turnstone, the lively creatures of the inlet waterway are undoubtedly a big part of the creeks charisma and romantic charm.
I can’t think of anything as pleasurable and enticing to the soul, than the natural beauty of the tall marsh grass, a weathered fishing pier and the lush green foliage of the islands saltwater creeks.
There is nothing like the site of a South Carolina , ancient oak tree… A perfect setting or backdrop for a thrilling mystery novel or nail biting suspense movie. These antiquated trees always look as if they have a story to tell! 🙂
The charm and loveliness of the Gardens and Plantations upon the Inlet waters, are not only breathtaking and mesmerizing but make an impression upon your soul that will be with you forever. Its part of the Carolinas, romantic charm.
A very special memory for me when I was in my twenties… My cousin Roy’s home upon the waterway in South Carolina… Not only was I treated like royalty, but the ‘southern home cooking’ changed my palate forever. 🙂
The Inlet and Pawleys Island are known for their “front porch story telling”…Just add a few glasses of sweet tea, some boiled peanuts, great conversation and camaraderie, and your day will be “right as rain.” 🙂
While experiencing Murrells Inlet, if you feel up to taking a short drive up the strand, one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to is The Sea Captains House. After a scrumptious dinner of homemade jambalaya or a late afternoon lunch of the House Specialty, shrimp salad, Broadway at the beach is right around the corner with delightful shops, delicious eateries and fabulous celebrity entertainment.
Another great place to eat at the Inlet is Captain Dave’s Dockside… You’ve never tasted seafood like fresh fish from the inlet waters. Wet your appetite with a scrumptious appetizer or two… Savory Oysters Rockefeller or Low country steamed muscles. For your grand finale entree, they offer a delightful fresh salmon Florentine or their renowned Carolina crab cakes.
Again, whether you choose to get away for a respite to Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island in the ardent ,brisk autumn, the romantic and festive Christmas season, the glorious season of spring, or amidst a summer time of bliss, these inlet coves are places that are authentic and genuine, overflowing with beauty and southern, historical charm. The cuisine is superb, there is always plenty to do, (even if it is reading your abandoned novel or two,) while relaxing under the oak trees on a Pawleys Island hammock, You will not be disappointed either… These enchanted village towns get a 10+ rating in my book! 🙂
This is a family recipe that is one of Kit’s and my favorites….(actually Grantham’s too 🙂 It is called “Savory Salmon Delight!” I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 🙂
YOU WILL NEED:
A large, (at least one pound) fresh salmon fillet, one package of fresh mushrooms, sliced, dill seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, 2-3 TBSP. butter, Tabasco sauce, (if you like it spicy like us,) about 1/2 cup of white wine and freshly steamed rice.
Rinse your fresh salmon off and place in buttered pan, casserole dish or 13×11 Pyrex dish. (I use a Terracotta fish cooker baking dish with a covered lid.) Season your salmon to taste…(we also use lots of dill…) In a sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of butter on low heat. Over low to medium heat , sauté your mushrooms until tender. Pour your mushrooms and melted butter over the salmon, add your white wine (the amount to your taste,) and cover with baking lid or tin foil. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees… Salmon should begin to flake when cut into, when it is done. Cook you rice while the salmon is baking or if have a rice cooker, time you’re cooking with the time that the salmon will be ready and serve the salmon and its juices over your warmed rice. This recipe is healthy, simple to make and delicious.It is greatly complimented with a Caesar salad and a loaf of French or sourdough bread, hot from the oven. Bon Appetit!
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