Georgetown, South Carolina

Hey y'all, it's a southern thing

Alligators, egrets, and the ghosts of souls lost at sea take up residence in Georgetown's historic waterways     Photo: courtesy, USFWS

IT'S A TOSS UP trying to decide which is more astonishingly preserved: the downtown of South Carolina's third-oldest municipality, bordered by the Sampit River, shaded by live oaks, and riddled with dozens of pre-Revolution buildings; the southern hospitality of the well-established families who live here; or the unspoiled natural riches nearby.

OUTDOORS: Five meandering rivers drain into Winyah Bay, providing weeks' worth of canoeing or kayaking alongside alligators, egrets, and the remains of 18th-century rice plantations. And to the southwest, Francis Marion National Forest offers a quarter-million acres of lakes, rivers, and low country, threaded by the 42-mile Swamp Fox–Palmetto Hiking Trail and 40 miles of doubletrack on the Wambaw Cycle Trail.

REAL ESTATE: Colonials—some built before 1800—in the laid-back historic district start at $170,000, though at that price they may have issues (hello, dry rot!). Newer homes in outlying neighborhoods can run as high as $400,000 (for a gorgeous spread along the riverbank).
HANGOUTS: Harbor House, a three-story Georgian bed-and-breakfast of 1700s vintage, affords a pelican's-eye view of the shrimpers and sailors docked along the Sampit River (doubles, $135–$175; 877-511-0101, www.harborhousebb.com). At the Thomas Cafe, a lunch counter on Front Street that opened in 1928, choose from Cajun omelets, crawfish-cake sandwiches, and bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

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