Hidden Gems Worth Discovering!
In beautiful locations across the world, the people who call those places home are typically familiar with a few lesser-known spots, new residents and lucky visitors deserve to appreciate. We are sharing a few here but keep our secrets if you can!
Down a nondescript gravel road, just off Highway 17 in Murrells Inlet, soak up scenery only Oyster Landing can deliver. There’s little printed info about this hidden gem, and it’s loosely referred to as a boat ramp, but there is more to know.
Although it is separated from Huntington Beach State Park by a couple of swanky residential neighborhoods, Oyster Landing is a public park property. On the eastern side of Highway 17 just south of the point where Business and Bypass 17 split (Hwy. 17 Business will take you into the village to enjoy restaurants, shopping, and the Marshwalk), the gated but unmanned entrance (Oyster Landing Road) flies under the radar in all the best ways. The gates are open from dawn to dusk.
There are multiple reasons the place is magic. The little strip of roadway winds through a lovely stretch of maritime woodlands before opening onto stunning marsh views. Creeks and marsh expanses studded by tiny island hummocks (pirates hid here!) stretch north, south, and east to the ocean beyond. If you are seeking a place to simply park, rest and reflect, this is your spot.
With an ample stretch of accessible marsh shoreline, there is no better place to launch a small boat or kayak. In truth, there is no ramp; simply back in, drop your boat, and park your vehicle. You need to watch the tides carefully, so you don’t get stuck in the marsh on a falling tide. When the tide falls low, you won’t be able to negotiate your way back until the tide turns.
Low tide is the right time to don your mud boots and wander out to harvest oysters and clams. When the tide is higher, you can fish from the shore, toss a shrimp net, or drop a crab trap. Children swim and splash in the shallows.
Please be sure to wear appropriate shoes, and do NOT go barefooted. Oyster shells and pluff mud can quickly become a dicey proposition.
The Landing property has expanded in recent years and offers more parking than before. That positions Oyster Landing as the just-right location to park your car and head out on a bike ride or run on the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway. Go north, and you’ll weave through the edges of Huntington Beach to Litchfield and beyond. Head south, and you’ll meander the charming fishing village. Either way, the views are supreme.
Black River Cypress Preserve ● Andrews
You are going to be blown away by this magnificent locale deep in the countryside but only thirty short minutes from historic Georgetown. We know because we only recently stumbled upon the treasure ourselves!
Tucked into SC’s coastal plain, this place – and its centerpiece, the Scenic Black River – is home to some of the country’s richest natural resources. That is not an exaggeration. Newly open, this privately-owned 1,000-acre nature preserve serves as an outdoor education and recreation site that offers an opportunity to experience some of North America’s most diverse and exotic ecosystems—from mysterious black water swamps and rivers to sparkling pine savannas. Visitors can investigate via winding hiking and biking trails, or paddle through the swamps along maintained canoe and kayak trails. Birdwatching is off the charts.
You must make reservations as a group of six or more. They welcome, (but only by appointment!) church groups, civic clubs, environmental groups, hiking and paddling groups, photography, cultural and natural history groups and more. School groups are especially beloved by the Preserve; education and fitness are central to their mission statement, and school groups and youth programs are free. Facilities for meetings and leadership groups are available. Entry to the Cypress Preserve is free of charge, as is biking and hiking on the property.
Speaking of biking and hiking, as we head to press they have Saturday morning hikes and bikes – and they provide the gear! – free of charge. Find details and a schedule on their Black River Cypress Preserve Facebook page. You must make reservations in advance; email Sarah@cypresspreserve.org to get on the waiting list for any Saturday event.
If we had more space, we would write volumes. Please find time to peruse a wealth of information – including details about specific programs – at CypressPreserve.org and Facebook. You will like what you learn.
Hobcaw Observation Pier ● Georgetown
Barely north of Georgetown, the “broken bridge” that runs parallel to the Siau Bridges serves up stellar views and an opportunity for anglers to enjoy reaching portions of the river inaccessible without a boat. Sometimes it is called the Hobcaw Fishing Pier. So, for those who even notice it at all, it is widely assumed as only a place for fishing. Never assume. This place is certifiably an off-the-beaten-path treasure.
The entrance is located on the west side of Highway 17, between the two bridges. Follow the rough but short dirt and gravel roadway to a relatively small parking lot. Scout’s honor, it will be worth those few bumps in the road.
The Pier punctuates the Pee Dee and, at the end, there’s a covered gazebo. Bring a lightweight chair, a book, and a beverage, and sit for a while. Solid-as-a-rock bridge rails create a safe barrier for children to scamper about and peer out at the river. Birdwatching is real fun. It is an uber-great place to walk for exercise; the bridge’s slight incline ups the good-for-you quotient. One fine day found a young married couple doing a well-choreographed exercise routine as they powerwalked up and back again. The views – Winyah Bay on one side and the Pee Dee River on the other – are stellar, especially at sunrise and sunset.
The Pier is open from 6 AM to midnight seven days a week. There is a porta-potty if you dare. On the Pier, looking east to the hustle and hurry of the traffic crossing the Siau bridges, you will feel whole worlds away. Go soon.
Morgan Park ● Downtown Georgetown
The gem that is Morgan Park is tucked away on the southern tip of the larger and better-known East Bay Park located at 515 East Bay St. In East Bay, there’s access to tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, a large playground, and a public boat ramp, too. And other stuff. But it is Morgan Park, a more under-the-radar treasure, we want to tell you about here.
Just off the Winyah Bay end of Front St., Georgetown’s main drag, is a parking area for East Bay Park. Seek out the Morgan Park sign. A short walk down a grassy path from East Bay Park, visitors cross a boardwalk and meander a lovely maritime forest trail. And then Morgan Park unfurls. Depending on tides, there is as much as a mile of shoreline for scenic strolls – or for a chair, book, and beverage. (No swimming, though! Currents are very unpredictable here on the edge of Winyah Bay and the Sampit River.)
Several short boardwalks and trails weave through the woods and offer opportunities for sweeping waterfront vistas. Both grassy and straw-covered open areas are perfect for kids at play. Picnic shelters with tables make this an ideal destination for a romantic picnic and for families, too. Grown-ups seeking solitude find it here in spades; the Park rarely, if ever, has a crowd. If need be, you can head back over to East Bay Park to use the public restroom facilities.
Morgan Park’s location has always made it a strategic site. As early as 1776, an earthen fort that later came to be known as Fort “Winyaw” was constructed here. Later, it figured significantly in the War of 1812. And later still, in the Revolutionary War, General Francis Marion, SC’s beloved Swamp Fox, fought here.
Morgan Park was named to honor the significant accomplishments of William Doyle Morgan, Georgetown’s mayor from 1891 through 1906. One of his finest triumphs was the planting of three hundred live oak trees in the heart of Downtown. Georgetown’s spectacularly beautiful Historic District owes much to Morgan and his trees.
Morgan Park is a special place worth discovery. If you have not been before, get set for surprise. Admission is free.