Georgetown South Carolina was founded in 1729, but European explorers were in the area as early as the 1500s. It is the third oldest city in the state following Charleston and Beaufort, and it became an official port of entry in 1732.
Located on Winyah Bay, at the confluence of the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Black, and Sampit Rivers, this charming waterfront town, rich in history, culture, and legends, is about an hour’s drive south of Myrtle Beach, and well worth the trip.
Some of the first Europeans in the region were fur traders who set up trading posts along the rivers to bargain for pelts with the local Indian tribes. Winyah Bay offered a safe harbor for ships transporting these and other goods. Soon plantations were established, and by the mid-18th Century, Georgetown was a thriving port and the center of America’s colonial rice empire. Area planters shipped their rice and indigo all over the world from Georgetown’s docks.
Over the centuries, Georgetown has survived redcoats and rebels, pirates and patriots, fires and economic downturns. The city sent two delegates to the Continental Congress, one of whom signed the Declaration of Independence. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox of the Revolution, often raided the British stronghold here from his camp deep in the local forests and swamps, and three U. S. presidents, George Washington, Grover Cleveland, and Franklin Roosevelt, have visited the area.
Today, the waterfront is enjoying a revival with the construction of a boardwalk that runs along the Sampit River behind the old warehouses on Front Street. The warehouses have taken on new life as boutiques, restaurants, and gift shops that anchor the 32-block Georgetown Historic District. Many buildings downtown are over 200 years old and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
On your trip to Georgetown, plan to park the car and walk. It’s the best way to see some of the beautiful old homes and historic buildings, several of which are said to be haunted. Local author and ghost tour operator Elizabeth Huntsinger Wolf has written several books on area ghosts.
Don’t miss the Kaminski House (c. 1770), 1003 Front Street, 843-546-7706, a quintessential colonial home filled with antiques and sporting an observation deck, or “widow’s walk” on its roof. This beautiful home is also a favorite wedding venue and was the site of a full-eclipse wedding in 2017 that made the national news.
The Rainey House (c. 1760) at 909 Prince Street, was the home of Joseph H. Rainey, the first African American elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, serving from 1870 to 1879. Rainey also served two years in the South Carolina Senate, and two years as Internal Revenue agent for the state.
The Charles Fyffe House (c. 1765) at 15 Cannon Street is another wonderful example of a colonial home. Dr. Charles Fyffe, a Scottish physician, built the house, but after the American Revolution, the property was seized by the new government and sold, due to Fyffe’s continued loyalty to the Crown.
Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church at the corner of Broad Street and Highmarket Street was established in 1721 and was held by British troops during the Revolution who used it as a stable for their horses. It has been beautifully restored and remains in use today.
There are several museums worth visiting. The Rice Museum at 633 Front Street, 843-546-7423, features the history of the rice plantations which thrived through the early 19th Century. Their owners were some of some of the richest people in the world and included several South Carolina governors and statesmen.
The Gullah Museum, 123 King Street, unit 7, 843-527-1851, honors the culture and art of the African American communities unique to the South Carolina Low Country.
The Georgetown County Museum, 120 Broad Street, 843-545-7020, features the history of the area, and the South Carolina Maritime Museum at 729 Front Street, 843-520-0111, celebrates those who made the Low Country waterways their home.
The riverfront in Georgetown is a treat and boasts unique shops and several great restaurants. Check out Buzz’s Roost for rooftop dining overlooking the river, Big Tuna Restaurant and Raw Bar, and The River Room, all on Front Street. Be sure to stroll along the river on the Harborwalk and watch the boats go by.
There’s so much to see and do here, you might want to stay overnight. If so, check out one of the historic bed and breakfast inns. The Shaw House Bed and Breakfast at 613 Cypress St, 843-546-6961, is a colonial-era home overlooking the marsh. Mansfield Plantation, considered one of the best preserved antebellum rice plantations in the country, is located on the Black River north of town at 1776 Mansfield Rd, 843-546-6961.
To get to Georgetown South Carolina from Myrtle Beach, drive south on U. S. Highway 17 until you cross the Waccamaw River. Take any street to the left and you’ll end up on Front Street. For more online information, visit South Carolina's Hammock Coast.
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