Site of a short-lived Spanish settlement in 1526, the first European outpost in North America, Georgetown later became the rice-growing center of colonial America. Bounded by the Sampit and Pee Dee Rivers and the narrow inlet of Winyah Bay, Georgetown is one of the state’s few deepwater harbors and home to huge steel and paper mills along US-17. Its downtown district along Front Street is compact and comfortable, with dozens of day-to-day businesses and a few cafés and art galleries filling the many old buildings.
Three blocks south of US-17, at the east end of Front Street, there’s a pleasant waterfront promenade, where the clock-towered old town market now houses the Rice Museum (closed Sun., $7 adults). Dioramas trace South Carolina’s little-known history as the world’s main rice and indigo producer, a past often overshadowed by the state’s later tobacco and cotton trade. The rest of town holds many well-preserved colonial and antebellum houses, churches, and commercial buildings.
A couple of good places to eat in Georgetown include seafood specialties at the River Room (801 Front St., 843/527-4110) and the locals’ favorite Thomas Café (703 Front St., 843/546-7776), next to the Rice Museum. For more information, or to pick up a self-guided-tour map of town, contact the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce (531 Front St., 843/546-8436 or 800/777-7705), on the waterfront.