From surf and sand to sightseeing and beyond, Myrtle Beach is always a good idea. But, when it’s time for a break from the buzz of the Grand Strand, head less than an hour south to Georgetown, one of six towns that make up the Hammock Coast. Here, you'll have easy access to a multitude of activities, museums, and dining options. Read on for our affordable guide to the highlights of South Carolina’s third oldest city.
Where to Stay
Celebrating 290 years since its founding, Georgetown has a rich history that’s well preserved through historic homes and plantations, some of which are open to welcome overnight guests. One such property is the newly opened 620 Prince, situated a short walk from the city’s downtown waterfront district. This super-stylish bed and breakfast was restored in 2017 by owner Rob Henry and offers a pool, evening wine and hors d’oeuvres, wifi, daily housekeeping, and, of course, Southern charm and hospitality. Accommodations range from two separate rooms in a guest cottage that share a living room to two second-floor rooms in the main house. If you're looking for some extra space, check into the Heyward suite, which touts a separate living room, two fireplaces, a king bed, a clawfoot soaking tub, and a walk-in shower that just might be big enough for your morning yoga. Rates are from $200 per night.
Where to Eat
When on the coast, a seafood dinner is a must – and why not follow the locals, who often head to the super-casual Big Tuna, one of several waterfront restaurants on Front Street. When the weather calls for it, opt for a table facing the Sampit River, or, enjoy a low-key meal in the back room. During our visit, the group enjoyed tuna tartar ($14) and a generous portion of fried shrimp with black beans, rice, and coleslaw ($19).
Just down the street from the Big Tuna is River Room, where favorites include shrimp and grits and shrimp creole; the Asian-glazed salmon and vegetables are also tasty – and, be sure to leave room for the biscuits. Most lunch items run between $7.95 and $11.95, while dinner entrees cost $17.95 to $28.95 with a side, salad, and bread. Before you go, note that the restaurant is closed on Sundays and doesn’t accept reservations.
A short drive from Georgetown – and well worth it – is BisQit at the Hammock Shops Village on Pawleys Island. Fare includes burgers, tacos, and salads, but we recommend one of the specialty sandwiches served on a massive biscuit, like the Hagley ($9.50) with fried chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing. When you’re done, take a spin around the many boutiques selling handmade jewelry and sweets that dot the Hammock Shops.
What to See and Do
Before the Civil War, Georgetown was the epicenter of South Carolina’s rice industry, thanks to its ideal location through which five river systems flow into the ocean, which, in turn, produces a highly effective cultivation method. Visitors can learn more about the city’s agricultural heritage at the Rice Museum ($7), spanning Front Street’s Old Market Building, Town Clock, and Kaminski Hardware Building. The latter is also home to an art gallery and maritime museum gallery that displays a nearly 300-year-old freighter vessel.
Make a stop at the South Carolina Maritime Museum (free admission), which tells the story of the state’s seafaring history through photographs, artifacts, documents, and interactive exhibits. In the summer, the museum hosts a youth sailing camp for kids ages 8-17, teaching skills like knot-tying, race tactics, directions, and rigging.
Art and nature lovers will appreciate Brookgreen Gardens, an outdoor sculpture garden in Murrells Inlet that can be explored independently or while on a tour. With more than 1,000 sculptures on display, the gardens are worthy of a multi-day visit – ideal since the $18 ticket is good for seven days of admission. During the holiday season, the gardens illuminate with more than 4,500 candles and lights, along with the sounds of seasonal music and carolers, between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.; tickets are $25.
More historical and outdoor pursuits can be found at the Hobcaw Barony Discovery Center, a 16,000-acre facility dedicated to conservation, research, and education. For $20, guests can take a bus tour to the winter home of millionaire Bernard M. Baruch (who hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill), a former slave village, and the home and stables of Baruch’s daughter Belle. Admission to the discovery center museum is free.