If you’re visiting Georgetown for the first time, or just exploring all that the area has to offer, there is plenty to do and see along U.S. Highway 17, also known as Ocean Highway.
To that end, the Tidelands Magazine staff developed this list of 17 must-do stops along Highway 17. So take a drive along Highway 17 – and a few detours along the way – and experience everything Georgetown County and the South Strand has to offer. We begin in the most northern portion of the county and take you throughout our most Southern border. Some stops are along Highway 17, while others are short distances just off the highway but all are easily accessible.
1) Garden City Pier
Good old-fashioned beach fun awaits visitors at the Garden City Pier, located at 110 S. Waccamaw Drive in Murrells Inlet. Hand-scooped ice cream, skeeball, live bands and karaoke entices kids of all ages to Garden City’s go-to place for fun. The pier’s nearly 700-foot length tempts many to rent a rod and reel and give pier fishing a try; many young anglers catch their first shark from the rolling breakers below.
2) Belin Memorial United Methodist Church
Nestled in one of the most picturesque spots in Georgetown County, Belin Memorial United Methodist Church sits beneath majestic oaks on the waterfront in Murrells Inlet. Named for the Rev. James L. Belin, Methodist minister and benefactor to the entire Waccamaw Neck, Belin United Methodist Church was originally constructed in 1925 with materials salvaged from the dismantling of the Oatland Methodist Church near Pawleys Island. The current structure, located at 4182 Highway 17 Business, was re-built in 1991 to resemble the original church that sat on the exact same charismatic site.
3) Murrells Inlet & the MarshWalk
It’s known as the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina,” and it’s clear why from the dozens of famous restaurants along the equally famous MarshWalk. For more, turn to Page 16 for a feature story sure to whet your appetite.
4) Huntington Beach State Park
With more than 2,500 acres, there is so much to do and see at Huntington Beach State Park, which has its entrance right off Highway 17. The park features three miles of undeveloped beachfront. Nature trails and boardwalks wind through the park, leading guests through maritime forest and into a salt marsh. Known for its natural beauty, Huntington Beach State Park was the former winter home of sculptress Anna Hyatt and her husband, philanthropist Archer Huntington, who left the park, including one of South Carolina’s landmarks – Atalaya, the picturesque, Moorish-style winter home of the Huntington’s, and adjacent Brookgreen Gardens as their legacy. Revel in sea-breezes while camping, experience the finest surf fishing South Carolina has to offer and enjoy some of the top bird-watching on the East Coast while visiting Huntington Beach State Park.
5) Brookgreen Gardens
Brookgreen Gardens’ combination of art, history and zoo touches the heart and teaches the mind with new exhibits, programs and tours. Boat rides turn into history lessons, and a visit to the butterfly house becomes a lesson in conservation. Entrance is directly off Highway 17. For more, see our feature story on Page 8.
6) Litchfield Beach
Litchfield Beach is one of the longest most pristine stretches of beach along the Pawleys Island corridor of U.S. Highway 17. It is a favorite of dog lovers, being the only beach where dogs are allowed to run free, off their leashes every morning until 9 o’clock. The beach also attracts bikers who can peddle for miles past Huntington Beach State Park to a jetty, and even ride their bikes out to the tip of the jetty with the ocean on one side and the entance to Murrells Inlet on the other; a favorite dolphing watching spot for many. The beach is also a favorite location for fisherman, who cart their gear down to remote places along the beach to cast into the surf in hopes of bringing in flounder, red fish and other fish native to the coast. There are several routes from Highway 17 to the public beaches. Just look for the signs.
7) All Saints Church
All Saints Episcopal Church, 3560 Kings River Road in Pawleys Island, was one of the most significant Episcopal churches in the South Carolina Lowcountry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its first congregation was formed in 1739, and the church has been located at the same site since its beginning. The church cemetery, established in the 1820s, is significant for the individuals buried there, many of whom were the leading public figures of antebellum Georgetown County. Containing noteworthy gravestone art from circa 1820 to circa 1900, the cemetery sits under a canopy of live oaks and is surrounded by a pierced brick fence with wrought iron gates. The majority of the monuments in the cemetery are simple slab steles sculpted in either marble or granite. But the graveyard also includes table-top tombs and sculptural monuments. Pawleys is full of ghost stories and All Saints Church is home to one of the most famous. The grave of Alice Flagg, a young daughter of a plantation owner with a forbidden love, rests in All Saint’s cemetery. Many rings have been placed there in honor of her. Legends and lore abound in this moss-draped live oak burial ground.
8) Historic Pawleys Island
Laced along three miles of oceanfront, the Pawleys Island Historic District is comprised of cottages dating back to the late 1700s through the mid-1800s. Many, built of Cyprus, have deep porches that were built to catch the breeze. Survivors of wind and time, these homes impart the island with its signature nickname, “arrogantly shabby.” Originally, the cottages were the summer haven of colonial rice plantation owners who brought their families to Pawleys Island to avoid malaria and fevers so prevalent in the interior of the state, Pawleys Island is one of the country’s oldest beach resorts. Again, easily accessible from Highway 17 via the north and south causeways – just look for the signs.
9) Hobcaw Barony
Walk the grounds once visited by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, visit the only, fully intact, slave village along the Grand Strand and enjoy unique ecology programs through hikes at the beach, marsh and forests on the grounds of Hobcaw Barony. A 17,500-acre research reserve, Hobcaw Barony is one of the few undeveloped tracts on the Waccamaw Neck. The property includes more than 37 historic buildings and structures representative of the eras of both 18th- and 19th-century rice cultivation and 20th-century winter retreats. Hobcaw Barony, located at 22 Barony Road in Georgetown, was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Public access is limited to guided tours and programs.
10) Historic Front Street in Georgetown
Historic Front Street, located in downtown Georgetown, is a must-see destination for waterfront shopping, dining, boating, fishing, historic tours and ghost tours. Easily assessable by land or sea, a potpourri of family-owned shops and restaurants await those that venture down this tree-lined, riverfront thoroughfare. The Harborwalk, a charming boardwalk overlooking the Sampit River, is lined with cafés, galleries, antique shops and specialty stores. Follow the signs from Highway 17 after crossing into Georgetown. Several side streets lead directly to Front Street.
11) Rice Museum
This museum, with its iconic Clock Tower, located at 633 Front St. in Georgetown, is a prominent symbol of Georgetown County. Through dioramas, maps, artifacts and other exhibits, visitors to the Rice Museum are enlightened to the history of a society dependent on the rice crop. The Maritime Museum Gallery, located next door in the Kaminski Hardware building, displays the Browns Ferry Vessel, built in the early 1700s and sunk approximately 1730. Also located in the Kaminski Hardware building is the Prevost Gallery and the Museum Gift Shop. For information, call 843-546-7423 or visit www.ricemuseum.org.
12) Georgetown County Museum
Located at The History Center at 120 Broad St. in Georgetown, near the intersection with Front Street, this museum offers visitors a look at artifacts that represent 300 years of local history. Artifacts include a model of the Revolutionary War Brig “Fair American,” the first ship in the U.S. Navy, and a cypress dugout canoe found near Caledonia Plantation on the Waccamaw River. Also on display is the original letter from Gen. Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox) to Gen. Nathaneal Greene, dated July 30, 1782, confirming that he would return to Georgetown. For information, call 843-545-7020 or visit www.georgetowncountymuseum.com.
13) S.C. Maritime Museum
This museum at 729 Front St. in downtown Georgetown offers a glimpse into the rich maritime history of South Carolina and Georgetown with large photos, ship models and the actual Fresnel lens that was in the Georgetown Lighthouse at the mouth of Winyah Bay for more than a century. The Harbor Historical Association opened the museum in 2011. One of the most recent additions is a model of The Planter steamship, built by Dennis Cannady of Beaufort County. For information, call 843-520-0111 or visit scmaritimemuseum.org.
14) Kaminski House Museum
Located at 1003 Front St., the former home of Gov. Harold Kaminski was willed to the city by his wife, Julia Pyatt Kaminski, upon her death in 1972. The Kaminski House and the adjacent Stewart-Parker House are perched on a bluff overlooking the Sampit River and Georgetown Harbor. The Kaminski House lawn and gardens, as well as the Stewart-Parker House, can be rented for special events. For information, call 843-546-7706 or visit www.kaminskimuseum.org.
15) Gullah Museum
Tucked away at 123-6 King St., this museum celebrates the Gullah/Geechee culture of West African slaves who were skilled farmers. It offers guests a glimpse into the unique culture and history of the Gullah/Geechee people, who were taken from their homes in West Africa. Skilled farmers and laborers, Gullah slaves made planters rich by farming rice, indigo and cattle. Exhibits include traditional Gullah art such as story quilts, sweetgrass baskets and carved wooden walking sticks. It also has books about the Gullah language, historical photographs and documents. For information, call 843-527-1851 or visit www.gullahmuseumsc.com.
16) Hopsewee Plantation
Built circa 1740, some 40 years before the American Revolutionary War, Hopsewee Plantation was one of the South’s major rice plantations and the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Now a private residence, this National Historic Landmark—near Georgetown, located at 494 Hopsewee Road in Georgetown, is a must-see.
17) Hampton Plantation
Tucked away among live oaks and magnolias, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, located at 1950 Rutledge Road in McClellanville, just outside Georgetown, is home to the remote, final remnants of a colonial-era rice plantation.
The plantation’s Georgian-style mansion and well-kept grounds serve as an interpretive site for the system of slavery that helped build such plantations in South Carolina into the greatest generators of wealth in early American history.