Posted on 4/16/2021

Piracy in the Low Country

Pirates left a lasting impression on the culture and economy of the Carolinas.

When thinking of pirates, most inevitably have visions ofswashbuckling, flamboyantly dressed, buccaneers who bear resemblance to Jack,sorry - Captain Jack Sparrow or maybe Henry Morgan, from the Captain MorgansRum bottle. Its no shock, as that has been the portrayal of pirates bymarketing and Hollywood since the days of Errol Flynn. The truth is a littlecloser to Black Sails than ol Jack Sparrow. Pirates were not as romantic aswe have been shown our whole lives. They were usually folks who wanted a quickpayday and would sacrifice things like pride, hygiene, and their moral compass(see what I did there?) to quickly attain status, money, and vice. Think ofpirates as desperate gamblers walking into a casino, looking to hit it big onthe slots. Very few gained riches and fame, but yearned to pull the lever, insearch of instant gratification. The South Carolina low country is full of richpirate history and heres some great information and tips for you pirate loversout there on your next beach vacation!

Chicora - The area surrounding the mouth of the Santee River

South CarolinaOrigins

Back in 1521 (99 years before Plymouth Rock!), Spanish slavers Pedro de Quexo and Francisco Gordilloembarked on an expedition from the Caribbean to the little-explored mainland ofwhat is now South Carolina. They landed at the mouth of the Santee River, whichis just south of Pawleys Island, Georgetown, and Winyah Bay. For 22 days theyexplored the area and talked to the local people who said the land was calledChicora (a word you see today on several local businesses). De Quexo andGordillo coaxed 60 of the locals onto their ship and without warning, set sailfor Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti). Amongst those captives, was aman they named Francisco de Chicora. He quickly picked up Spanish andeducated the slavers about the area. De Quexo and Gordillo saw a greatopportunity to gain power and fame, so they told a little fib about the richesof The Land Called Chicora. They petitioned the Spanish Real Audiencia (Spanish Appellate Court, Royal Audience) for the rightto settle Chicora, claiming a bounty that rivals Cortezs Aztec gold or even ElDorado! Long story short, they were never able to colonize the area. Why do youneed to know this? Because tales of these (false) riches began to spreadthroughout Europe and the Caribbean, bringing plunder-hungry pirates looking topatrol the Carolina waters in search of ships full of New World Gold!

There is no pirate more famous than Edward Teach - "Blackbeard"!

Here there be Pirates!

As settlements grew throughout the New World over thecenturies, major cities with great resources and accessible harbors(Charleston, Savannah) became greatly successful in shipping goods throughoutthe Caribbean and back to Europe. This, of course was like ringing the dinnerbell to eager pirates. Not only were pirates able to find success in ambushingtrade ships, they were treated as welcomed saviors in many settlements andcities. This is because when they came to port, they would provide discounteditems with no East India TC taxes and help put much needed currency into theireconomy. Charleston, particularly became a hot bed for pirates and couldprovide goods, services (of all types), and potential prizes. One of the mostfamous pirate stories comes from Charleston Harbor. In 1718, Edward Teach, alsoknown as Blackbeard blockaded the entire harbor, demanding that he receiveboxes of Syphilis medication. Blackbeard threatened to sink any ship enteringor leaving the harbor for 3 days until his demands were met. Also, TheGentleman Pirate, Stede Bonnet was hanged in Charleston that very year. AnneBonney, the most famous lady pirate hails from Charleston and grew up on anearby plantation. Charleston is under a 2-hour drive from NMB and is a greatway to fill a day during a weekly stay....yay!

Myrtle Beach offers several pirate themed cruises that are family friendly fun.

If you are looking to walk (or sail) in the footsteps ofpirates closer to North Myrtle Beach, then look no further than Little River!Little River was the perfect hiding place for pirates looking to evade piratehunters or the royal navy. It is thought that Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet usedLittle River as a sanctuary and possibly did some trading. When you visit theLittle River waterfront, stop by ThePirates Treasure House. This unique gift shop has amazing wood carvings,jewelry, and art. Youll also find a plethora of nautical and pirate items.

You can also choose from two pirate-themed cruises in MyrtleBeach. They feature fun for all ages including pirate history, sword fights,water cannon battles, dress-up, free treasure and map, and more. Check them outhere:

Pirates Voyage is one of the top Myrtle Beach attractions!

If you google Myrtle Beach and Pirates, youll certainlyfind Pirates Voyage, one of the best and most famous attractions here at thebeach. Pirates Voyage was founded by Dolly Parton and is formerly The DixieStampede and is the top dinner theater in the state. It features a familyfriendly pirate story, crowd interaction, animal acts, and AMAZING acrobatics.Seriously - you have to see how great these are on your next trip! If youvenever been, be sure to get tickets from our front desk and youll save alittle!

Pirates certainly left their mark on South Carolina and itis extremely interesting to research and to imagine what our area would havelooked like during the golden age of piracy. The next time you visit The GrandStrand, be sure to take in some of our rich history and Yarrrgh going to have agreat time!


Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. Being able to indulge in the many great pancake houses here in NMB, makes him a lucky guy! An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.

Previous This Summer Southwest Airlines Takes Flight to Myrtle Beach International Airport Experience the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel on your Summer Vacation! Next