With hailstones and cold rain hitting my face at the helm while the tow boat dragged Meander at speeds she had never seen before, I knew I would be facing a big repair bill when we landed. What I didn’t know was that where we were headed would turn out to be one of the most charming towns on the ICW—Georgetown, South Carolina. And it’s dog-friendly as well.
Happy Thoughts About Georgetown
I had no reason to think happy thoughts about Georgetown the first time we landed there in the winter of 2016. We had only been cruising a few months and we were still learning everything.
We landed at a marina north of the downtown in our first strong current. Only staying for one night, we didn’t walk the mile downtown. However, we were on the dock long enough for an Annapolis cruiser who saw our hailing port (Cambridge, MD) to come down to spout all kinds of racist filth (apparently being from Maryland made him think he would find common cause? Ugh.). Luckily, the sports fishermen who populated most of the slips were much more decent.
As we headed south toward Charleston, I saw no reason to look back fondly on Georgetown.
The following spring, headed on our first trip north toward the Chesapeake Bay, Meander’s engine stopped in the narrow waterway north of Charleston. There was no room or wind to sail. So we called Tow Boat US, hoping we could get the boat to safety before the expected storms we were racing.
Even being towed much faster than our own engine could help us travel, the storms were quicker. By the time we hit Winyah Bay, the skies had opened up sending pouring rain and hail into our cockpit in the raging wind. Mike and Honey stayed dry below. And as the person on board most likely to be able to steer behind the tow boat without losing concentration, I got the lucky job of being on the wheel.
Luckily, the storm had mostly passed by the time we docked at a marina on the edge of the downtown. And after repairing the engine, we got a chance to explore the town.
Now, on our third time through, I’ve gotten to see more of Georgetown and have really enjoyed it. And it’s been a great place to explore with our dog, Honey.
Exploring Georgetown, South Carolina With A Dog
We anchor in the Sampit River, within sight of downtown Georgetown. It’s one of the easiest places to anchor with a dog, thanks to two well-maintained free docks where we can tie up the dinghy while we’re walking Honey.
The town docks attach to the Harborwalk, a boardwalk that is especially popular with dog walkers in the early morning and after the sun begins to set. The Harborwalk passes by private and charter boats on the water side and shops and restaurants on the town side. Any of the restaurants along the Harborwalk are a great place to watch people. And every restaurant we’ve seen with outside seating has welcomed Honey to join us.
In fact, there are three ice cream shops along Front Street, and two of them invited Honey inside. Our favorite is Sweeties which sells homemade ice cream and candies. But even better, the owners of Sweeties are big supporters of rescued animals and raise money to help their favorite cause.
One of Georgetown’s loveliest features is its pocket parks—tiny green spaces with shade and a few benches located every few blocks. Since Honey, like most dogs, isn’t impressed by cute shops or even restaurants unless she gets a morsel, these pocket parks are a great place to give her a break. We even carry her favorite ring so we can stop for a quick game of tug when we walk by one of the parks.
We’ve met many other friendly dogs and their people on walks. The pocket parks, while small, are large enough to make puppy introductions without causing stress related to too-close quarters.
At least one of the local boat guides, Cap’n Rod’s Low Country Tours, allows polite, leashed dogs on board. The boat is roomy and one way to learn about the human and natural history of the area. I haven’t inquired about the others.
After all, I already have a boat.
Exploring Georgetown, South Carolina Without A Dog
I would never travel anywhere without Honey. But Georgetown does have some interesting attractions that are not dog-friendly.
One that caught my eye is a local inn that referred to itself as the area’s first bed and brew. Apparently, you could stay there and learn from the owners about brewing beer.
Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina, behind Charleston and Beaufort. It has several history museums.
We enjoyed visiting the South Carolina Maritime Museum which has information about and artifacts from various shipwrecks found off the coast of South Carolina. I especially enjoyed seeing a display devoted to Robert Smalls, the historical figure I most want to see a movie made about.
Robert Smalls was an enslaved river pilot of the ship CSS Planter. In 1862, he and the crew hatched a scheme to deliver the boat to Union territory. But first, they picked up their families who gathered where they could be picked up as the boat snuck toward the Union blockade.
Smalls helped to convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army and Navy.
Mr. Smalls spent the rest of the Civil War using his skills as a pilot before relocating briefly to Philadelphia as a free man at the war’s end. Although not able to read or write at the time, by the time he returned home to Beaufort, SC he had educated himself and become financially successful enough to buy the home of his former owner.
He later represented Beaufort as one of our nation’s first black congressmen and distinguished himself by writing legislation that would make South Carolina the first state to provide free and compulsory education.
See? Wouldn’t he make a great movie figure? Ryan Coogler, if you’re looking for a project…
We also visited the Gullah Museum. We learned snippets of information about the Gullah people of low country South Carolina when we were in Beaufort and Charleston.
But the founder of the Gullah Museum in Georgetown filled in the gaps—telling us about how the expertise of enslaved Africans led this part of the south to make its wealth growing rice and indigo. And how the skills of African cattle handlers led the Carolina low country to adopt the techniques most Americans associate with the West—open range cattle grazing.
At the center of the museum’s collection were two story quilts. One told the story of the Gullah Geechee from their culture in West Africa through the forced migration, slavery, and eventual freedom.
The other story quilt told the story of Michelle Obama whose father was born in Georgetown. Oh, and while the Gullah Museum is not technically a dog-friendly site, the owner’s dog is on hand to greet visitors.
I would probably visit a lot more museums if they all had dogs. Wouldn’t you?
North From Georgetown
After leaving Georgetown, our next stop will be Myrtle Beach. But the Waccamaw River we’ll travel there bears no resemblance to the busy beach resort.
One cruiser I met who was doing the Great Loop (a 6000 mile trip up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, through the canals and Great Lakes, and down the midwest to the Gulf of Mexico) said she that the Waccamaw was one of the three most beautiful waterways on the Loop. (The other two were the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway and the Hudson.)
Close to Georgetown, the river banks border abandoned rice fields. As we travel north, the bare fields give way to deep woods bordered by cedar trees growing in the shallow shoreline. The cedar trees give the water a dark stain that reminds me of iced tea.
The Waccamaw is one of my favorite rivers on the ICW and I look forward to traveling it every time.
Honey will be on the lookout for alligators.
Most Charming Dog-Friendly Town In South Carolina
If you like lovely architecture, history, easy access to the waterfront, and want a new place to explore with your dog, check out Georgetown. I find it’s a hidden gem that many people who are familiar with other coastal Carolina towns don’t know. It might even be the most charming, dog-friendly town in South Carolina.
And if you’re lucky, you won’t have to see it for the first time through a haze of driving rain and hailstones. So you’ll probably love it even more than I do.
Your Turn: What kinds of places do you most like to visit with your dogs?