Visit the SC Maritime Museum for a Nautical but Nice Adventure

The SC Maritime Museum, located in Georgetown, South Carolina, features historical artifacts, photographs, paintings, and stories of ships and shipping in the state. Created in 1996 by the Harbor Historical Association, the facility opened its doors in 2011 and has since become a focal point of the Georgetown riverfront community.

As South Carolina’s second largest port, Georgetown has a nearly 300-year nautical history that includes both seafaring tales and stories of the inland waterways. The museum tells these stories from native American dugout canoes, to the last of the great four-masted schooners, and tells how the area has played a significant part in the state’s maritime history.

SC Maritime Museum exhibitMuseum exhibits include artifacts and historical photographs.

Historical Highlights

  • The earliest recorded European ship in Grand Strand waters was the 1526 Spanish ship Capitana, sailed by Lucas Vasquez de Allyon who dreamed of establishing a colony here. The ship was wrecked, possibly in Winyah Bay, and divers still look for it today.
  • In 1865, the Harvest Moon hit a homemade Confederate mine and was sunk in Winyah Bay. Its commander, Union Admiral John Dahlgren, escaped, but the vessel was the only Union flagship lost during the Civil War.
  • The Marquis de Lafayette landed here in 1777 on his first arrival in America, and the port of Georgetown saw some of the last three and four-masted schooners sail to New York in the early 20th Century carrying timber. 

These and other stories are depicted in the museum through photos, paintings, documents, and hundreds of artifacts. There’s a 1/64th scale model of the Henrietta, the largest wooden ship ever built in South Carolina, as well as a model of the Harvest Moon and other famous ships.

Model of the largest ship built in SCAt over 200 feet long, the Henrietta was the largest ship ever built in South Carolina.

SC Maritime Museum Exhibits

The museum features over 7000 square-feet of exhibits related to South Carolina’s unique maritime history. One of the main artifacts is the Fresnel lens from the old North Island lighthouse. Also known as the Georgetown Light, the lighthouse was built in 1811 and restored and heightened to 87 feet in 1867. Located east of Georgetown at the mouth of Winyah Bay, it is the oldest operating lighthouse in South Carolina and one of the oldest in the country. 

The lighthouse’s 5th order Fresnel lens was retired in 1999 after 132 years of service. In 2014, the SC Maritime Museum added the lens to its collection on a 10-year loan from the U. S. Coast Guard.

Circa 1865 Fresnel lensThe Fresnel lens from the old North Island Lighthouse is on display.

Other exhibits include local shipbuilding, diving, fishing, and events related to shipping and inland water navigation. The recently renovated second floor of the museum is devoted entirely to local shipwrecks. Wars, storms, and collisions over the centuries have resulted in hundreds of wrecks along the coast and in inland waters, and their stories are told in historical photos, models, and other artifacts. 

Programs and Events

In addition to exhibits, the SC Maritime Museum promotes the states’ maritime history though special programs and events, including the annual Georgetown Wood Boat Show in October. The two-day event draws nearly 30,000 visitors and features handmade wooden boats, craft vendors, a boat building contest, and a boat race.

Boat building contestBoat builders race the clock and each other in the boat building contest.

The museum also offers summer sailing camps for youngsters aged 8 to 14 and recently acquired four boat slips on the harbor. They also offer adjacent Maritime Park as an event venue for rent.

Georgetown Wooden Boat ShowChecking out the boats at the Georgetown Wood Boat Show.

Visitor Information

The SC Maritime Museum is located on the waterfront next to the Francis Marion Park at 729 Front Street in Georgetown, South Carolina 29440.

Opening hours are Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Admission is Free, but donations are happily accepted.

Phone:  843-520-0111

SC Maritime Museum from the harborSC Maritime Museum from the harbor, just prior to its 2017 renovation.

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