Georgetown, a seaside town on Winyah Bay, is one of South Carolina's oldest and prettiest little towns. It's also a perfect weekend getaway for families. So pick the kids up right after school on Friday and head for the coast. That's what we did recently and had a terrific, jam-packed weekend full of seashells, alligators, ghosts and sandcastles.
Friday Night: Harborwalk
When you arrive, make your way down to Georgetown's beautiful and historic waterfront district. A stroll down Front Street, lined with centuries-old buildings filled with restaurants and boutiques, is a perfect way for parents to unwind and for kids to explore.
Find the big town clock at the Rice Museum and turn down the brick alley towards the water. There, behind Front Street and sandwiched between the centuries-old buildings and the docks of Georgetown's harbor is the wonderful Harborwalk. Walking down the wooden planks, the water below your feet, the backs of the buildings on one side and boats on the other, feels like being in a secret world you weren't supposed to see. The kids galloped and skipped up and down the dock, searching for turtles and talking to people working on their boats.
The Harborwalk will also take you right behind the site where a recent fire destroyed eight historic buildings. The kids spent a long time looking at the site and asking questions about what they were seeing, what caused the fire, and what happens next. Luckily, no people died in the fire, and the town has already started the process of cleaning up and rebuilding. The fire itself is part of Georgetown's fascinating history now.
Find a restaurant along Front Street (several have views of the harbor) for dinner before turning in. You'll have a big day tomorrow.
Saturday: Shell Island Tour
Head out to a truly spectacular, undeveloped barrier island in Winyah Bay. Cap'n Rod's Lowcountry Plantation Tours four hour Shell Island Tour will take you past old rice plantations and the North Island lighthouse to a beach littered with shells, driftwood, tidal pools and, once you're past the jetty, crashing waves.
Our daughter, Mary Frances, searched for shells. Son Jimmy concentrated on building dams to hold back the receding tide. In what felt like no more than 10 minutes but was in a fact an hour and a half, it was time to walk back to the boat down the beach.
We all agreed that we could have happily stayed on that lovely beach for another three hours and been content. Luckily, there's more beach to explore tomorrow.
Saturday night: Ghost Tour
Georgetown claims to be one of the most haunted towns in America. The town, founded in 1729, is certainly old enough to have built up some good ghost stories. The perfect guide for learning about the otherworldly residents of Georgetown is William of Williams Ghost Walks of Georgetown.
After meeting outside a local pub, William takes you on a walking tour of the most haunted buildings in town. Some of those haunted homes also happen to be some of the loveliest, and the tour is not just spooky but beautiful as well. William is truly a historian at heart, and his tales bring to life the people who lived and died long ago.
Sunday: Huntington Beach State Park
Spend Sunday at gorgeous Huntington Beach State Park, just a few minutes up U.S. 17 near Pawleys Island. The park was once part of the estate of the famous sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington. Atalaya Castle, the home where they spent their winters and where Huntington created some of her amazing sculptures, is open for tours. It's definitely worth walking through, and is probably unlike any other house you've ever seen. The kids were especially intrigued by the "Bear Pens."
As soon as you drive into the park, a causeway takes you over beautiful wetlands where you're almost guaranteed to see an alligator or heron if you're patient. We saw at least five different alligators as we walked up and down the embankment, including one that was at least 10 feet long sunning itself on a tiny sandy island. Long boardwalks will also bring you right out into the middle of the marshes.
The Nature Center gives you the chance to see some of the park's wildlife up close. They have touch tanks with horseshoe crabs and sting rays, and baby alligators and terrapins on exhibit.
And, of course, there's the beach -- long and wide, stretching for seven undeveloped miles. It's gorgeous. A beach for running and leaping, building sandcastles and watching the pelicans dive. A beach whose water is still warm enough for wading (and swimming, if you're brave!)
It all makes Georgetown the perfect place for a family weekend getaway this fall.