For over 100 years, travelers have come to South Carolina’s Hammock Coast for a taste of the Lowcountry life, enjoying its beaches and historic landmarks. There is no shortage of things to see and do in this region that stretches between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, which includes Georgetown, one of the state’s oldest cities, along with Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet, Garden City, Litchfield Beach, Garden City, and Andrews.
Museums and Attractions
The Hammock Coast is home to multiple museums covering different aspects of the area’s history. In between afternoons at the beach, learn more about the coast with a visit to any one of these engaging attractions.
South Carolina Maritime Museum in Georgetown focuses on the rich maritime history of the historic town. Located in a former 1920s five-and-dime, the museum has exhibits on the notable ships built within the state and salvaged items from sunken ships found in the surrounding waters.
The Georgetown County Museum has over 300 years’ worth of artifacts from the state’s third oldest city. Among the pieces are Civil War weapons, uniforms from World War I, and items related to the area’s shipbuilding, paper making, and indigo and rice planting traditions.
The Kaminski House Museum, also in Georgetown, was built in 1769 as a Georgian mansion. Today it boasts a collection of American and English antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. The exhibits are arranged as the house would have been, including in the dining room, parlors, and the library.
Just down the street is the Rice Museum, set in the 1842 Old Market Building which is home to the city’s iconic clocktower. The museum houses items related to the rice cultivation in the county including maps, artifacts, and dioramas. The tidal flows and location near five rivers made this area ideal for growing the cash crop.
The Gullah Museum in Georgetown tells the important story of the people of the Sea Islands that descended from the enslaved workers on the rice plantations. It contains exhibits on traditional crafts like sweetgrass baskets and quilts.
The Hobcaw Barony Discovery Center, outside of Georgetown, is a historic home and nature preserve that was the winter home of philanthropist Bernard M. Baruch starting in 1905. The 13,500-square-foot mansion served as his family retreat, entertaining the likes of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is a small interpretive center that focuses on the barony’s wildlife. Expert guided tours around the massive property are available daily.
The Old Town Hall Museum in Andrews is located inside the original town hall building and is decorated in Victorian furnishings dating back to 1909. The collection features antique toys, clothing, furniture, and model trains.
Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet was built in the 1930s by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington on the grounds of four former rice plantations. The gardens themselves have over 500 sculptures, including works by Mrs. Huntington herself. There are also over 2,000 species of plants, native animals, and birds in the wildlife park which operates kayaking trips and the seasonal “Night of a Thousand Candles” event.
Beginning in April 2020 and running through September 2020, Brookgreen will host “Bruce Munro at Brookgreen: Southern Light.” This exhibit, which The New York Times says is a must-see, will consist of seven works of art in light and mixed media, including a huge “Field of Light.” It will feature thousands of LED and fiber-optic points of light that will be placed throughout Brookgreen’s sculpture gardens and the arboretum area.
Also located in Murrells Inlet is the popular Huntington Beach State Park. Inside the park, not only do visitors discover a pristine beach but also a castle. Atalaya Castle was the winter home of the Huntingtons, built in the Moorish style. The 2,500-acre property was donated to the state in 1960. It is open for tours daily.
The Great Outdoors
A trip to the Hammock Coast wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the local beaches. Garden City Beach spans over five square miles and offers some of the best surfing in the Grand Strand. Even if you don’t participate, you can admire surfers from the pier.
Huntington Beach State Park has some of the best surf fishing in the state—but the sand and surf aren’t the only ways to get outside. The state park also has a freshwater lake and nature trails where you can spot over 300 species of birds. In fact, the state park is considered to be the best birding site in all of South Carolina with enthusiasts recording more than 300 bird species annually.
For an immersive way to experience the outdoors, the Hammock Coast offers boat tours of local waterways by pontoon or kayak. There are multiple operators such as Cap’n Rod’s Lowcountry Tours and Black River Outdoors.
The beaches don’t end in Garden City and Murrells Inlet. The Hammock Coast’s most famous beaches are found in Litchfield and Pawleys Island. The resort Litchfield By the Sea has welcomed visitors for decades and Pawleys Island is home to one of the first seaside resorts in America which beckons those looking for a step back in time. On the historic island of Pawleys, there are no commercial stores—not even grocery stores or gas stations—but there are plenty of places to stay, including homes that have stood for decades.
Murrells Inlet is the seafood capital of South Carolina, meaning you’re never far away from a delicious meal. For over 50 years, the town has been home to a number of seafood markets where you can purchase items to cook at home; and, of course, there are plenty of restaurants on the water where visitors can enjoy dishes like shrimp and grits, crab cakes, and fish tacos.
The seafood capital is not the only foodie favorite on the Hammock Coast, though. Georgetown has plenty of delicious eateries and you can visit some of the best on the Historic Georgetown Food Tour, which weaves history with food stops. The company also operates a Murrells Inlet tour.
And you can’t mention the Hammock Coast without talking about Palmetto Cheese, a unique and local take on pimento cheese. While the spicy cheese dish is widely eaten around the South, including at the Masters golf tournament, the popular Palmetto Cheese brand traces its origins to the Sea View Inn, a historic inn on Pawleys Island.
No matter what brings you to the Hammock Coast, there is plenty to keep you coming back year after year to this home of pristine beaches, rich history, and Southern charm.