ROAD TRIP: Georgetown—All in a Day’s Drive

Downtown boardwalk, GeorgetownBryan Maleckar

Looking for a daytrip to wash away the winter blues and keep guests entertained? Georgetown is just an hour south on U.S. 17 and offers, history, great restaurants, fun shopping ( art galleries, crafts and locally-owned stores of many kinds) and even an opportunity to hop on a boat to see lighthouse and/or picnic on an island in the Sampit River.

History of the town

The area around Georgetown was first settled by Native Americans, including the Waccamaw and Wynah tribes. Several of the museums include displays on the way in which these cultures and those that came after them used the natural resources of the area for agriculture, hunting, fishing and trade.

In the sixteenth century, Europeans discovered this fertile land and the excellent trade possibilities afforded by the local waterways. First came the Spanish, then the French, and finally the British, who established the town of Georgetown in 1729.

Early in its history, Georgetown became port for the Low Country’s rich enterprises in rice and indigo. The wealth of these trades attracted pirates like Blackbeard, Anne Bonney and Captain Jack Rackham among others. A history of the slave population, brought here by the Europeans, and the African labor that made all of this wealth possible is most fully detailed in the Gullah museum.

Once Indigo began to be more cheaply produced elsewhere, other products, including tobacco began to take their place in the area’s land, warehouses, and ships. The role of water in the area’s history is best shown at the SC Maritime Museum. Today, seafood, fishing, and boats still play a large role in the Georgetown economy. Many of the more than twenty restaurants nestled in the small town specialize in seafood and you can take boat tours for fishing , shelling, or to see the local lighthouse, when weather permits.

Georgetown’s main thoroughfare (Front Street) still echoes the charm and beauty of its colonial heritage while also providing such timeless amenities as lovely river-side scenery, shops with unique craft and art products, art galleries, an outstanding candy shop, Sweeties Original Low Country Pralines and Chocolates (home made pralines!)and great eateries with varied menus.

Just a block or two back from Front Street, one of the oldest remaining buildings in town, a 1735 warehouse building hosting the D. Newks Southern Artisan Cooperative, aka the “The Red Store Warehouse.” In addition to local art, you can also find custom-made furniture here.

This eclectic mix of activities, along with the park, the many live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, lining side streets, the “walkability” of the area. and the hospitality of all of the shop owners are significant factors of Georgetown’s charm. You can park your car on Front Street or on one of the side streets and then spend the rest of the day on foot, exploring shops and visiting museums. If you want a guide, Trolley tours are available in the summer months and year round, the tourist offices offer guided walking tours at specific times. Check the websites of the City and county sites (below) for information on tour operators, times, and prices. My usual strategy is to walk up and down Front Street, sit in the park and watch the boats on the Sampit—just enjoy the view of the water—visit one museum perhaps, stop at the Sweets shop on Front street, browse the book store and an art Gallery or two, shop, eat lunch, and go home.

Fishing shows its strength in the number of locally fished items on menus of many of the more than twenty restaurants. It’s hard to pick a favorite. On our last trip to Georgetown in early December, we stopped in for lunch at the River Room at 801 Front Street. We enjoyed a river view and had a wonderful lunch or fresh-caught fish. Locals also highly recommend Big Tuna at 807 Front for fresh, just-caught seafood entrees. We marked that down for our next visit.

If you like theatre, one of the area’s best community theatres puts on its productions in Georgetown in the Strand on Front Street. Check the Swamp Fox Player website, www.swampfoxplayers.com , to see if your timing coincides with one of their play runs. If, in order to do that, you want to extend to overnight, check the city or county website for recommendations of nearby hotels and motels.

The five wonderful museums, (see notes below), each one specializing in a particular facet of the area’s history are small and mostly free, but rather than try to catch all five in one day trip, I advocate selecting one or two (and see them well) according to your own interests. Save the others for future trips. Trust me, once you visit Georgetown, you will want to return.

Important Information

City of Georgetown:https://www.historicgeorgetownsc.com for shopping, museum. restaurant, tours and history information and http://cityofgeorgetownsc.com

Main Street Georgetown Business Association Facebook page and webpage seaportgeorgetown.com

Georgetown County Tourism. www.hammockcoastsc.com Pick up a city map and tourism information at Georgetown County Tourism Management Commission at 531 Front Street Georgetown, SC 29440, 843-546-8436.

There are many boat and walking tours available. These are an example:

Rover Boat Tours, 735 Front St, Georgetown, SC, 843-546- 8822

Debby Summey’s, “Strollin on the Sampit” walking tours, see Historic Georgetown, SC above.

Swamp Fox Tours, information on trolley tours here,

814 Front St, Georgetown, South Carolina, 843-527- 1112

Museums—Call for hours, opening days, and suggested donation information

Rice Museum

http://www.ricemuseum.org/633 Front St, Georgetown, SC, 843-546- 7423

It’s in the Old Market Building, built in1842 to replace a wooden structure that had been severely damaged in an 1841 fire. The Town Clock was added in 1857, and it became the first building in Georgetown to be named to the National Register of Historic Places.

SC Maritime Museum (SCMM)

https://scmaritimemuseum.org, 729 Front St, Georgetown, SC, 843- 520-0111

The South Carolina Maritime Museum https://scmaritimemuseum.org/

Opened in December 2011. It is the only museum in the state with the sole mission of interpreting South Carolina Maritime history. SCMM is located on the first floor of an old McCrory five and dime store building, on the waterfront in the middle of Georgetown’s historic business district. It has Interactive Exhibits, Rare Artifacts from the Marine Industry, Model Ships and Artwork, Educated Volunteers and Staff, Special Programs for Young and Old.

Kaminski House Museum

http://www.kaminskimuseum.org/visit

1003 Front Street, 843-546-7706

Admission to Kaminski House by tour only. Built on a bluff overlooking the Sampit River, the Kaminski House is typical of the Low country “single house” style of the mid-18th century. Over the years it was owned by many prominent Georgetown citizens.

Georgetown County Museum

http://www.georgetowncountymuseum.com/

120 Broad Street, the History Center, 843-545-7020

It opened to the public in early 2014. Its featured collections include artifacts from Industry, Native American, Entertainment, Sport Fishing, Slavery, Military and more

Gullah Museum

https://www.facebook.com/TheGullahMuseumSC

123 King St Unit 7, Georgetown, SC 843-527-1851

Originally, this museum, originally on Pawleys Island, is now in Georgetown. It’s small, but has been given great reviews for how it tells the story of the role of African Americans in the area’s history. Less than one block off the main road through the downtown Historic District.

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