Monday, June 25, 2007

Georgetown: The Shelling and Lighthouse Cruise

The lighthouse on North Island at the mouth of Winyah Bay, South CarolinaOn Tuesday, June 19, Cheryl and I drove to historic Georgetown, SC - about 35 miles from our hotel in Myrtle Beach. We had a 1pm reservation for the Carolina Rover's Shelling and Lighthouse Cruise.

Georgetown is a beautiful old historic town. The streets are lined with huge oak trees. The downtown area includes a small waterfront where the boat we were taking docks.

Cheryl, outside one of the stores at Georgetown's waterfront.The "shelling and lighthouse tour" that the Carolina Rover offers was pleasant - but it was also badly named. We spent about two and a half hours on a pontoon boat listening to an individual give us narration as we motored across Winyah Bay. Tidbits included:

  • The water in the bay is brown because plant life in the bay produces natural tannins similar to those in tea. Pirates used to come and soak new white sails in the water in Winayh Bay to turn them brown.

  • The brown pelicans that populate the bay dive into the water for their food. They live to be 12 or 13 years old and then begin to develop cataracts on their eyes from all the diving. The end result is that they can't see to catch food anymore and they die.

  • A Union ship, the USS Harvest Moon, was sunk in the bay and its smoke stack is visible above the water.

  • In the 1800's a young girl whose father ran the lighthouse drowned in the bay in a storm. Her ghost sometimes warns sailors of impending storms...

If you go on the "shelling and lighthouse tour" to tour the lighthouse you'll be disappointed. The lighthouse is an active navigational beacon, so Homeland Security won't let tourists walk through it anymore. The picture at the beginning of this blog was as close as we got.

Our group looking for shells on North Island in Winyah Bay.If you go on the "shelling and lighthouse tour" to gather shells you'll be disappointed. The North Island has lots of shells. But the Carolina Rover takes groups of 50 people there three times a day to spend half an hour picking over the shells. What good shells there are become the property of the first few kids off the boat. Extensive beach combing is limited by the fact that you have 15 minutes to walk down the beach before you have to start back toward the boat. Two or three people in our group found something other than run-of-the-mill cockle shells. We did better ourselves on Pawleys Island.

The trip was relaxing, educational, and $56 (for the two of us)...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for an informative, unbiased opinion of this tour. It really helped!

Anonymous said...

You got that right we went 6-8-06
and we were informed that we could tour the lighthouse. We payed $75 for me my husband & our 2yr old son. When we got on the boat they told us that it was under construction. We got as far as you did to it. Then when we got to the island there were these huge horse flies that eat us up and they hart. I was very disappointed. From Newport, TN.

Rebecca said...

Hi, I go there on my boat all the time and see the pontoon with all the visitors. However that guy lied to you, I go in the lighthouse everytime I go. He may have not wanted you in there for insurance purposes being that its so run down. The guide should have warned you about the horsefly's! Those are rough down there. Anyways, the tourist always get the good shells lol, I dont understand that tour.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you guys had a bad experience. I have taken the tour several times and enjoyed it each time.Part of the enjoyment is just being on the water, seeing dolphin or an alligator, the birds etc. The shelling has been great some times and just ok sometimes but I always find something of interest.

I enjoyed the narration of the bay, the rice plantations, pirates and history of the area. Each tour was around 31/2 hours and we all enjoyed it. As for the lighthouse it is posted and Carolina Rover brochures do not indicate you visit it. There is a move to place the lighhouse in the state jurisdiction and it would become a tourist attraction at that point.The boat pulls up to the lighhouse and slows to a crawl so pictures can be taken and a little narration done.

If you just want shells, go to Pawleys Island. If you want an enjoyable trip on the water go with a tour from Georgetown.

Not everyone enjoys so much time on the water. Some people don't like deep sea fishing, golf, parasailing, casino boats, lying on the beach for hours etc. etc. etc. Everyone has their own experiences the love or hate but you have to admit there are many things to do along the SC coast. We go every year and really enjoy the area.

Anonymous said...

My husband, children (ages 11 & 14), and I took this tour on 6/14/10 and we received a bit more than we bargained for! The boat ride was very nice. The naturalist was very informative, although a bit corny at times, he shared a lot of information about the history of the area, the lighthouse, shells, etc. He was very friendly and receptive to questions. We also enjoyed combing the beach for shells. Unfortunately for us, we ended up being on board with several chain smokers. I am still surprised how bad the smoke really was, being that we were on an open boat. It would have been nice if the smokers had been asked to do their smoking in an area of the boat that would have minimized the impact of it on the rest of us. After viewing the lighhouse, we were told that a family on board would be dropping an urn with family ashes overboard. They proceeded to have a remembrance ceremony. While this was a very meaningful and important event for that family, Our family, personally, feels like that should have been a PRIVATE charter. At the very least, the rest of us should have been informed that this was going to occur so that we could have had the choice of going on that excursion. It turned what was supposed to have been a fun experience into a somber one for the four of us and our 11 year old is still talking about it. My advice is to ask a lot of questions before you go!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, per your information, my wife and I will pass on this "cruise".

Anonymous said...

We took this cruise on 8/5/2011. I had taken the Captain Ron tour 5 years a go, so I know what to except somewhat. This one was a bit different. The other one did more narration about the different plantations. The trip took close to 4 hours total due to the return trip against the tide making it slower late in the day. We were the only trip that day, so we got ebough shells for me. I was going more to take other family who never went on anything like this. They loved it. Spent an hour on the beach. After a 10 min walk, we go to the shells. Like I said, I got more than I wanted. I was mainly there to take pictures anyway. Even then, I picked up 4 large welk shells and a few others. On the way back, we did see dolphins. Even saw one jumo clean out of the water, which I never seen before in numerous trips. We would go back.

Anonymous said...

On August 27, 2011 My son, myself and a friend went on the Capt. Ron tour and thought it was fabulous. Capt. Doug was our guide and he was exceptional. He would answer any questions you might have. The shell island itself was interesting. He would also tell you things about the shells you find. I found many, many nice shells and there was a young man who found a live starfish. It was beautiful. We got to spend a little over an hour on the island and the tour of the rice fields and the plantation homes was awesome. I cannot swim but I had absolutely no fear on this tour. Many dolphins and birds were seen by us and I tell you I would LOVE to take my 11 year old grandaughter on this tour. Hopefully next summer.