Small towns in the south can be positively bursting with unique character waiting for you to find. Georgetown, South Carolina, fits that bill perfectly. This riverside town near the coast offers a rich cultural history and natural environments you won’t find outside the Lowcountry. Let’s take a closer look at everything this area has to offer.
About Georgetown, South Carolina
Georgetown’s history dates back almost as far as South Carolina itself. It’s the Palmetto State’s third-oldest city and was once one of the largest commercial centers in the region. The area was a major producer of indigo and rice for decades until the Civil War. Economic changes led to Georgetown becoming a lumber town, and eventually, a tourist destination. These days, Georgetown is home to fewer than 9,000 residents but offers a wide variety of things to do for people of all ages and tastes.
How Far is Georgetown, South Carolina, from the Beach?
Georgetown may be located on the water, but unfortunately, there are no beaches along the riverfront area. The closest beaches to Georgetown include Debordieu Beach, the town of Pawleys Island Beach, and Litchfield Beach. You can reach them in about 20 to 30 minutes by car. For larger, more well-known beach areas, Myrtle Beach is approximately an hour’s drive to the north.
What Is Georgetown, South Carolina, Known For?
Georgetown is best known for its natural beauty and historic sites. Located in South Carolina’s low country and just miles from the ocean, the area provides a unique ecosystem for those looking to explore nature or observe its wild inhabitants.
Several preserved plantation sites and other historic buildings offer a glimpse into the area’s past. Georgetown and the surrounding area are also home to several museums providing more in-depth looks at the region.
9 Unique Experiences in Georgetown, South Carolina
A trip to Georgetown, South Carolina, provides access to some amazing experiences, sights, and attractions you can’t find anywhere else in the Palmetto State. Here are our top picks.
1. Visit the Hopsewee Plantation
Established in about 1740, this historic plantation is decades older than the United States itself. The Hopsewee Plantation was one of the south’s top rice-growing plantations in the pre-Civil War era. Tours showcase the original plantation home, grounds, and two original slave cabins. You’ll learn about the crucial role rice played in the region’s antebellum economy. You can also take a “Gullah” tour focusing on the experience of enslaved Africans at Hopsewee. Visitors can grab refreshments at the River Oak Cottage Tea Room, which serves English tea and a full lunch menu.
2. Stroll the Georgetown Harborwalk
Take in gorgeous river views on this four-block stretch along the Sampit River. Recently repaired and upgraded in 2019, the Georgetown Harborwalk is one of the best ways to take a stroll near the popular Front Street area.
The Harborwalk provides scenic views of the harbor and some of the best sunsets in the area. In addition, you can check out the wide variety of boats that call the port home and have direct access to tons of shops, restaurants, and other local businesses.
3. Take a Tour at Hobcaw Barony
Hobcaw Barony is a 16,000-acre research preserve designed to protect some of coastal South Carolina’s most unique ecosystems. It also safeguards the historical and cultural heritage of the former plantation site. What was once a bustling rice plantation, complete with extensive slave “villages,” now offers tours focusing on the house and grounds.
There are also specialty tours focusing on astronomy, photography, or ghost-hunting. Take classes on local basket-making techniques or ride a horse through the property. Tickets vary from $10 to $125 or more, though most experiences cost toward the lower end of that range. Those interested in science can also explore the research aspects of this unique facility.
4. Spend Some Time Outdoors at Huntington Beach State Park
The Palmetto State is home to some excellent state parks, and Huntington Beach State Park is one of the best. With three miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean beach for swimming, a national historic landmark on-site, and extensive RV and tent camping options, it’s a great day trip.
Birdwatchers should also keep their eyes peeled for some of the more than 300 species of birds observed in the park. Huntington Beach State Park is also a popular fishing and boating destination. Two hiking trails allow you to explore the park on foot. History lovers can check out Atalaya, an early 20th-century vacation home now protected as a historic landmark. At just $8 per adult and $4 for most kids, it’s a state park unlike many others.
5. Visit the Rice Museum
When it comes to unique museums, try the Rice Museum in Georgetown, South Carolina. The industry shaped Georgetown, as evidenced by the numerous preserved plantations and other buildings in the area.
Two of these buildings make up the Rice Museum complex, the Old Market Building, and the Kaminski Hardware Building. At the Old Market building, you can browse the exhibits, maps, paintings, and other artifacts telling the story of Georgetown’s rice history.
The nearby Kaminski Hardware Building holds the museum’s gift shop and additional galleries. You may not think rice is the most interesting topic for a museum, but you’ll reconsider when you see the ways it shaped South Carolina.
6. Take a Georgetown Ghost Tour with Ghosts of Georgetown
With any town as old as Georgetown, South Carolina, you’re bound to have a few residents over the centuries who love it so much they don’t want to leave — ever.
Georgetown is reputedly home to the ghosts of pirates, lost lovers, and phantom ships. You can learn all about them on a Ghosts of Georgetown tour.
These lantern-lit 90-minute tours travel a 1.5-mile path through the city, led by a local ghost researcher with family roots in Georgetown. They depart at dusk, which makes for a great nighttime activity.
7. Explore Brookgreen Gardens
Head up the coast a bit to check out this unique facility that includes a sculpture garden, botanic garden, and zoo all in one. Brookgreen Gardens is home to more than 2,000 sculptures from more than 400 artists. It calls this the “largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the country.”
The botanic garden includes 250-year-old oak trees. The Lowcountry Zoo offers tours of the habitat for native animals that can no longer survive in the wild. The more than 9,000-acre site is also an excellent place to learn about the history of Lowcountry.
8. Learn Gullah Geechee History at the Georgetown Gullah Museum
The history of the Gullah Geechee may not be well known outside of South Carolina, but the group played a crucial role in shaping the state’s history and culture. Gullah Geechee refers to the language and culture developed by enslaved Africans brought to South Carolina.
This humble, one-room museum won’t take up a ton of time but will open your eyes to history and people who often go forgotten. You’ll learn about Gullah language, crop and animal raising practices, food, arts, and crafts, music, and more. If you’re after a unique, only-in-South Carolina museum, this is a great stop.
9. Learn Maritime History at the South Carolina Maritime Museum
As South Carolina’s second-largest port, Georgetown has played a major role in the state’s seafaring heritage. Take a deep dive into this history at the South Carolina Maritime Museum.
Its exhibits include a Fresnel lens from the old North Island lighthouse. It also contains artifacts, photos, and models of the ships that once docked in Georgetown. There’s also a gift shop for those looking to take home a seafaring souvenir.
Georgetown, South Carolina, may not be the best-known tourist destination in the region or even the state. But it offers some incredibly unique, fun, and fascinating experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. Take a trip and get to know the area’s special culture and history, and you may discover one of your new favorite small towns. What would you be most excited to do here?