Don’t just pass by Conway on your next trip to the beaches in South Carolina. Stop for a while in one of South Carolina’s most charming and historical cities, drive its tree-lined streets, visit quaint shops, and walk along the Waccamaw River. Conway is known as South Carolina’s historic river town and has a long and proud history. Founded in 1732, it is one of the oldest towns in South Carolina. Conway was laid out on a bluff overlooking the Waccamaw River and originally named Kings Town after King George II. It soon became known as Kingston.
Many area residents fought in the American Revolution, and small engagements were fought near Kingston at Bear Bluff and at Black Lake. Brigadier General Francis Marion, who was known as the “Swamp Fox”, operated in this region, waging a monumental campaign for American freedom and had at least one documented campsite near Kingston. After the war, no longer wanting to honor King George II, the name was changed to Conwayborough and later shortened to Conway in 1883 by the General Assembly.
Conway flourished as South Carolina’s outpost on the Waccamaw River and boomed as an export center for timber products, shipping tar, pitch, turpentine, and pine lumber around the world in the 1870’s. In 1887, the railroad came to Conway, and a few years later, it was extended to the coast by a group of Conway businessmen, creating what is now known as Myrtle Beach and the famous Grand Strand.
“Conway Downtown Historic District is a national historic district located at Conway in Horry County, South Carolina. It encompasses the historic commercial and governmental core of the city and includes 32 contributing buildings and one contributing structure. They collectively document the growth and development of Conway from about 1824 to about 1950. The majority of the contributing properties were constructed between about 1900 to about 1940. Located within the district is the Old Horry County Courthouse and the town clock. The Art Deco style Holliday Theater was built about 1940. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and expanded in 2010.” (Wikipedia)
Although there are no walking tours, you can start your visit with a stroll along the Conway Riverwalk which meanders along the famous black water Waccamaw River where you will find rustic wooden buildings, trees draped in Spanish moss, a playground, marinas, picnic tables and a arboretum that features a wide variety of trees and plants. The Riverwalk is part of a historical walking trail, which features many buildings, homes, churches, and other places that define the early days of the town.
You will walk beneath the Waccamaw River Memorial Bridge which was constructed in 1937 honoring citizens of Horry County who served in wars from the American Revolution to World War I. The bridge earned a spot in the National Historic Register due to its unique architecture and influence on the early development of the Grand Strand.
To begin your self-guided walking tour or QR code tour, stop by the Conway Visitor Center while strolling along the Riverwalk and pick up the QR code tour information. You will scan the QR code with your mobile device and get information about 10 spots in the historic downtown area. At each stop, you can read a brief history, view a video, get a “fun fact” and see historic photographs.
For example, one of the 10 spots is Conway City Hall. You can learn that renowned architect Robert Mills built it in 1824 and that it was originally the Horry County Courthouse. And you can learn that the clock outside took master cabinetmaker W. H. Winborne three months to build.
You can also pick up “A Guide to Some of Our Oldest Citizens”, which features ten of Conway’s beautiful live oaks that are so treasured that the streets have been built around them. It is truly an amazing sight to see the oak in the center of the intersection of Beaty Street and Seventh Avenue where the streets circle around it. There is also the “Hanging Oak” just across the street from Conway City Hall where public executions were held until 1908. Another oak was named for the woman who stood in front of it to keep workmen from cutting it down to place railroad tracks, “the Mary Beaty Oak”.
If you are hungry after all of the walking you have been doing, you might want to try The Trestle Café & Bakery, a local favorite that offers delicious soups, salads, grilled sandwiches and bakery items. Another quaint place to eat is Dilly Beans, named after an old southern tradition of pickling green beans the same way you would cucumbers to make dill pickles. A dilly bean is included with every meal served, so you can try them for yourself.
If you would like something a little more substantial, Rivertown Bistro, which is actually a community favorite, opened in 1994 and built a reputation for unique dishes and unsurpassed service. But late on a cold January night in 2008, a fire started, and it was closed for over a year. The community pulled together to support the owners and the rest of the staff during the rebuilding of the Bistro. It reopened in February of 2009 to the smiling faces of staff and patrons alike. It is well known for its delicious Lowcountry cuisine.
Now that you have seen the historic town of Conway and had lunch, you might want to take a tour of the beautiful black water Waccamaw River either by boat, canoe or kayak. Listed below are some venues that offer these excursions with some information about the boat tours Conway SC, contact numbers or websites:
Captain Jim’s Scenic River Tours, 4 Elm Street, Conway, South Carolina, 843-246-1495—”Experience the picturesque riverfront of Conway, South Carolina’s Historic Rivertown, while enjoying a relaxing cruise on the beautiful Waccamaw River. Soak in the peace and serenity of the riverboat “River Memories”, a luxurious and quiet electric cruising yacht. Captain Jim, a Conway native, takes you on a history and nature adventure. Travel back in time when Native Americans inhabited this area. See a 19th century warehouse once used by steamboats that plied the dark and mysterious waters of the Waccamaw. View historic southern riverfront homes that belonged to some of Conway’s earliest and most prominent citizens. Most of all, take in the beauty of nature. A southern swamp dominated by bald cypress trees, moss draped live oaks, and an abundance of native wildlife to include the king of the river – the American Alligator. This unique and extraordinary adventure awaits you.” (rivermemories.org)
“River Memories” is a US Coast Guard approved tour boat and has a capacity of 11 persons (the Captain plus 10 passengers). A cruise on “River Memories” Conway SC is the ultimate pleasure cruising experience – in comfort and style – for special times and special memories. The “River Memories” offers a 90-minute narrated Sightseeing Cruise, 30-minute cruises in conjunction with special events such as Community festivities like the Rivertown Jazz and Arts Festival, Bluegrass on the Waccamaw, etc. or Wine and Cheese Cruises which are conducted on selected late afternoons, or nights and are for private groups only.
Black River Outdoors, Cypress Swamp Tour meets at 932 Cox Ferry Circle, Conway, South Carolina, 843-546-4840—”Paddle along the Waccamaw River and the surrounding creeks and swamps, shaded by beautiful Cypress trees draped in Spanish Moss. On this two-hour kayak tour, your knowledgeable and funny guide shares interesting information about the swamp, its plants, and its wildlife inhabitants. The swamp is home to a pair of nesting osprey, as well as numerous other birds. As we paddle the calm waters on this peaceful kayak tour, you may see snakes, turtles, and sometimes alligators! The snakes are almost all nonvenomous, and all are harmless.” (blackriveroutdoors.com)
Gator Bait Adventure, 3650 Forestbrook Road, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 843-503-3276—”Escape from civilization into the calm, quiet waterways and feel like you stepped back in time. Moss draped Cypress and wildlife surround you on your adventure. Birdwatching, Photography, Wildlife and History tours take you to the most desirable locations and give unique opportunities that can only be found in Coastal Carolina. Our Guides are local and know all the best spots in the Myrtle Beach, Conway, Grand Strand Area!” (gatorbaitkayakadventures.com)
The Morning Big Cypress Tour is a Historic Conway Tour where you will see historical sites, railroad bridges and swamps. Kayak with Gator Bait Adventure and then visit Conway, South Carolina. “It’s a charming small town not far from Myrtle Beach, but a world away. Great locally owned shops, restaurants and plenty of Southern Hospitality! Beautiful historic homes, moss covered Live Oaks and a Riverwalk Park along the Waccamaw river.” (gatorbaitkayakadventures.com)
Below are some reviews about the Waccamaw River Tour Conway SC that sound great. It appears that spending a day on the Waccamaw River is a great way to relax, have fun and enjoy the day with family and friends while learning about the local history, wildlife and landscape.
KbStauffer—”Great Kayaking Experience! Jane and Chris were great guides and we had a great time Kayaking, fun for both the beginner and experienced as we had both in our group. We saw lots of wildlife, including alligators, and some beautiful riverside flora / fauna. The tour was both educational and fun, and we are so glad we booked with them. Excellent time – would recommend to anybody!”
Sportsguy4141—”Nice Get-Away From The Crowds. Nice relaxing day on the river and not too far to drive. Guides were very informative. Great family trip.
Teachergoff—”Fun family trip!! A good way to start to the day! Our son is 15 and loves sports and the beach. He really enjoyed the kayaking trip as we did. The guides were very nice, helpful and patient with those on the trip who had never kayaked. They were also very knowledgeable about the area and history. Definitely recommend for a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas!”