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Gwen Fowler

Gwen Fowler

Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.

Unwind in the Historic River Town of Conway

Family Vacations / Coast / 2 Days

On your next trip to the South Carolina beaches, don't simply pass by Conway—take the time to immerse yourself in this hidden gem. Once a mere gateway to Myrtle Beach, Conway offers the perfect retreat from the sun and surf of the Grand Strand. Drive along its tree-lined streets, explore quaint shops and stroll along the beautiful Waccamaw River.

To fully appreciate the beauty of this delightful town, plan to spend at least one night. Make a reservation at the Cypress Inn, an elegant, 11-room bed-and-breakfast on the Waccamaw River. Innkeepers Carol and Hugh Archer, along with Anne and George Bullock, are renowned for their warm hospitality, as praised by travelers on various travel sites. Each room features a private bath and you can indulge in a delicious full breakfast served every morning.

a mural of a coal train in Kingston Park
The historic Riverwalk features murals that show off Conway’s artsy side, the most stunning being the train mural in Kingston Park on the corner of Main and Fourth Streets.

A Walking Tour of Conway

After you check in, take a stroll along the Riverwalk, a trail along the Waccamaw River. It's a beautiful spot, with trees draped in Spanish moss, which reflect in the dark water on still, sunny days.

The Riverwalk is a popular spot for photographers, as it offers an array of stunning photo opportunities and many families and brides have their photos taken there.

Your walk will take you to the Conway Visitor Center, where you can pick up free guides for shopping and dining, including menus for many local businesses. While most of the downtown area was built in the early 1900s, some churches and homes were built in the early or mid-1800s. Pick up a map of historic sites, which lists 39 historic buildings and homes, 17 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Don’t forget to grab a copy "A Guide to Some of Our Oldest Citizens," which will take you on a tour of Conway’s beautiful live oak trees which are so treasured the streets have been built around them.

There's the Hanging Oak just across the street from Conway City Hall; public executions were held here until 1908. There's the Mary Beaty Oak, named for the woman who stood in front of another oak, the Wade Hampton Oak, to prevent workmen from cutting it to place railroad tracks. My favorite is the oak at the intersection of Beaty Street and Seventh Avenue. It is actually in the center of the intersection, and the streets circle around it.

Before dinner, head back to the Cypress Inn to relax on the front porch. When you’re ready, walk up the street to Rivertown Bistro for an incredibly good dinner. Everything here is delicious, but my favorites from the starter menu are the Lowcountry spring rolls stuffed with chicken, tasso ham and cheeses. The salads and sushi are excellent, and entrees include seafood, chicken, beef and pork. Some interesting sides are available, including mac-n-cheese noodle cake, collards and sautéed spinach.

Chef Darren Smith and his wife, Cyndi, opened Rivertown Bistro in 1994, and it gained a loyal following. It was destroyed by fire in 2008, but it reopened with more space a year later. The staff is very friendly, the decor is pleasant, and this is just one of those places where you feel very welcome and comfortable.

Some of the tables upstairs give you a peek down into the bustling kitchen. If the weather is pleasant, ask if you can dine on the upstairs porch.

If you love good community theater, see if there is a performance at Theatre of the Republic. The home of Theatre of the Republic is an old movie theater that opened as the Theatre in 1947 and now is Main Street Theatre.


Travel Tip
Travel Tip:

f you're in Conway at 10 a.m. on Thursdays, you can join a historic walking tour at the Conway Visitor Center, or schedule an appointment to take one just about any time.

Conway visitor center, a mural of train workers, the interior of the Trestle Cafe features antiques
Settlers began living in Conway, originally named Kingston, in 1735. Explore some of Conway’s history on a self-guided walking tour.

Shop Conway’s Historic Downtown

Checking out doesn’t mean you need to leave Conway. After enjoying an exceptional breakfast at The Cypress Inn, take another stroll along the River Walk and explore some of the unique shops downtown, like Papa's General Store, fine clothiers in the indoor shops of Black Water Market and Ocean Fish Market, where you can purchase fresh seafood to go or eat on-site.

Be sure to stop in at Conway Glass, where owners artists Barbara and Ed Streeter have their bowls, vases and ornaments on display. Don't miss seeing a replica of the Christmas ornament the Streeters made for the White House in 2010. They also offer glass-blowing classes and demonstrations.

Make sure you stop for lunch before you head out of town. Enjoy some old-timey classics like grilled cheese and homemade chicken salad served on freshly baked sourdough bread at The Trestle or spice things up at Caribbean Jerk Cuisine where you’ll find authentic island flavor and some of the best jerk chicken around.

You probably won't be ready to leave beautiful Conway yet, but you can always return for another visit soon.

Travel Tip
Travel Tip:

Wondering when to visit? Several events are held annually along the scenic Riverwalk, including a Christmas boat parade and the summertime Riverfest.

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