Perhaps no other place in the Palmetto State offers as much history per square foot as Georgetown’s Harborwalk Distric. Combine three museums and a half-dozen parks with an incredible view of the Sampit River, and we doubt we could find a better South Carolina road trip to recommend!
Georgetown, South Carolina’s third oldest city after Charleston and Beaufort, offers an especially vibrant mix of history and small-town charm. Meandering along the edge of the historic district, its Harborwalk allows you to explore parks, shops, restaurants, and no fewer than three museums – all within the span of a quarter-mile! It also offers stunning views of the Sampit River, which empties into Winyah Bay.
Walking Tour of Georgetown’s Waterfront
The following resource will guide you along Georgetown’s waterfront, from west to east. Begin your tour at the Kaminski House Museum, then proceed to the Harborwalk’s entrance at Joseph Rainey Park. The Harborwalk, a wide wooden boardwalk, is bordered by a row restaurants and shops on one side and the Sampit River on the other. Sites east of the Harborwalk require a bit more walking but are well worth the trip. Find pictures, links, and descriptions for the following landmarks below!
Kaminski House Museum
Joseph Rainey Park
Constitution Park (Harborwalk entrance)
River Room & Waterfront Dining
Francis Marion Park
South Carolina Maritime Museum
Rice Museum (alley access to and from Front Street)
Kaminski Hardware (Harborwalk exit)
Independent Seafood (2 blocks east)
Heriot-Tarbox House (2 blocks east)
East Bay Park (4 blocks east)
Morgan Park (6 blocks east)
1. Kaminski House Museum
Our walking tour of Georgetown’s waterfront begins at the luxurious Kaminski House, built in 1769 by wealthy merchant Paul Trapier, once called the “King of Georgetown.” Trapier was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1776 but died before being able to serve. Today the house is operated as a museum, which, in addition to daily tours, hosts major events at Christmas and the Fourth of July.
2. Joseph Rainey Park
A brick walk leads from the Kaminksi House grounds to the fountain at the base of Joseph Rainey Park – the first of four parks on the Harborwalk. History buffs will appreciate this stop on our tour as there are very few South Carolinians as intriguing as its namesake. Born to a former slave, Rainey rose from his trade as a barber to became the first black person ever elected to the United States Congress, where he served in the House of Representatives just shy of a decade.
3. Constitution Park
Constitution Park serves as the “official” entrance to Georgetown’s Harborwalk, and it is marked by two cannons, both used at Battery White during the Civil War when they served as part of the Confederate Defense System. Before being moved to the Harborwalk, they stood at the entrance to the United States Naval Defense building on Front Street.
4. Waterfront Dining
Next comes a spot near and dear to our hearts – the River Room. For 35 years, the River Room has served as the “anchor” of Harborwalk dining, and it is arguably Georgetown’s most famous place to grab a steaming plate of seafood while soaking up the cool breeze and warm sun. (The River Room is the red-brick building in the photo above.)
There is no city in South Carolina that offers as many opportunities for waterfront dining as Georgetown does, and we sure wish the rest of the state would take the hint! The Sampit River is such an integral part of life in downtown Georgetown, and as you explore the Harborwalk, you may come to feel as we do – that the people of Georgetown simply aren’t willing to take her for granted. Along with the River Room, other waterfront restaurants on the Harborwalk include The Big Tuna, Fast and Fresh, Castaway’s, Buzz’s Roost, and Root.
5. Francis Marion Park
After lunch, stroll down to Francis Marion Park, where a stone and bronze marker commemorates South Carolina’s preeminent Revolutionary War hero. Francis Marion Park serves as the site of many musical performances for the community.
6. South Carolina Maritime Museum
Home to the prized Fresnel (pronounced fray-nell) lens of the old Georgetown Lighthouse, this museum’s mission is to share South Carolina’s rich and remarkable maritime history. Built in 2011, the museum features old photographs and paintings, sketches, documents, models, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that both entertain and inform.
7. Lafayette Park
Lafayette Park commemorates the Marquis de Lafayette, who arrived in Georgetown’s harbor in 1777 at the age of just 19! Although young, Lafayette was a captain, with four years of experience, in the French army. He traveled – against orders – to serve in the Continental Army, helping the United States win its freedom from England. Lafayette Park is graced by a bust of the Marquis and is home to the Rice Museum’s Herb Garden.
8. Rice Museum at the Town Clock
The clock tower is the most notable feature of the Greek Revival structure. The lot where this building stands has housed a town market since 1788. In 1841 a fire destroyed many Front Street structures between Queen and Screven Streets. An earlier market, made of wood, had sustained severe damage in the Hurricane of 1822 and was torn down as a fire break. The market was rebuilt in 1842, and the clock tower was added in 1845.
9. Rice Museum at Kaminski Hardware
This antebellum mercantile, located on Front Street and accessible via an alleyway from the Harborwalk, is part of the Rice Museum complex and houses its gift shop, art gallery, and maritime exhibits. On the third floor, an eighteenth-century cargo ship has been carefully restored by the University of South Carolina. Known as the Browns Ferry Vessel, it has been declared the “most important single nautical discovery in the United States to date” by anthropologists worldwide.
10. Independent Seafood
Independent Seafood is located a quick two-blocks from the end of the Harborwalk. Watch as returning boats empty their daily catch of shrimp, scallops, oysters, grouper, and flounder onto the wharf, sorting each group by size. Commercial fishing was once a key component of Georgetown’s economy, and this old-school seafood market is a living relic of the port city’s past. Its shabby cinder-block office may not look like much, but Independent Seafood is the pride of Georgetown.
11. Heriot-Tarbox Home
The Heriot-Tarbox Home, located behind Independent Seafood, is over 250 years old, having been built by a British Loyalist in 1765. In 1936 it was purchased by Herbert Glennie Tarbox, who had served as the foreman in charge of constructing the Grace Memorial Bridge (also known as the “Old Cooper River Bridge”) between Charleston and Mount Pleasant. When Tarbox returned to Georgetown in 1937, he restored this house and became a shrimper. His son, Herbert Glennie Tarbox, Jr., took over the family business after he became paralyzed from a stroke. Independent Seafood is now owned by his grandson, Herbert “Glennie” Tarbox, III.
12. East Bay Park
Two more blocks will lead you to East Bay Park, a recreational complex with ballfields, basketball and tennis courts, a disc golf course, and a large playground. Benches, tables, and shelter make it ideal for a picnic, and the East Bay Boat Landing, located on site, affords an opportunity for small craft to come and go. The park sits at the top of a small peninsula that extends out into the Sampit River and Winyah Bay, affording views like the one above. The best part of all, of course, is that it welcomes dogs!
13. Morgan Park
If Georgetown’s Harborwalk and Waterfront were a rainbow, Morgan Park would be its pot of gold. Occupying the bottom portion of the peninsula described above, it is natural and secluded. Its prime location between the Sampit River and Winyah Bay means there are incredible views anywhere you look. One of Georgetown’s secret treasures, its the perfect place to stop and rest after your tour.
14. Stewart-Parker House – Bonus Landmark!
The historic Stewart-Parker House, where George Washington once slept, stands just west of the Kaminski House Museum. Until recently, it was owned by the Colonial Grand Dames. It was recently purchased by a private owner. Because it is no longer publicly accessible, we do not include it in our tour. However, if you are lucky enough to be able to access the Sampit River by boat, you can see still it from the water!
Georgetown Harborwalk & Waterfront: More Images