Myrtle Beach is considered the number one golf destination in the United States, but those who have visited the 'Grand Strand' know that is also a premier vacation destination. With its beautiful beaches and countless attractions, everyone can find something to keep them occupied.
Myrtle Beach's Grand Strand consists of a string of small communities that stretches from Little River on the North Carolina border to Georgetown. Its 60 miles of coastline have wide, sandy beaches for swimming, sunbathing and building sand castles; waters full of fish for pier or deep sea fishing and waves for surfing. For the fishing and boating enthusiast, the Intercoastal Waterway meanders through Myrtle Beach and offers even more opportunities for a day on the water. Little River
What better way to be introduced to Myrtle Beach than through Little River. As you enter South Carolina from North Carolina, this small village greets you with bright skies, beautiful flowers that bloom all year, sparkling ocean and majestic oak trees. Shops, restaurants, golf courses and retirement communities have sprung up in the last ten years, but Little River has managed to maintain a less hectic pace than the rest of Myrtle Beach.
Little River's biggest event is the annual Blue Crab Festival. Held in May on the weekend after Mother's Day, many visitors return for the fresh crab and other seafood, a juried art show, arts and crafts of all descriptions, face painting for the children, boat rides, and live entertainment. North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach consists of the four communities of Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach and Windy Hill where
Crossing the expansive bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway from Little River to North Myrtle Beach is an experience in itself. Steal a quick view of the houses, boats, marinas and bridges for miles in either direction — if you're not driving, that is.
In Cherry Grove, you'll find one of the most popular destinations of both residents and visitors alike, the
The other three communities in North Myrtle Beach are not as large or as developed as Cherry Grove, but they also have beautiful beaches and plenty of accommodations. North Myrtle Beach's population has mushroomed since 1990; consequently, so have the development and the traffic. From late April through early September, allow plenty of time to get down Route 17, the main thoroughfare from Little River all the way to Charlestown.
Beach and Boogie Music is king at the Beach Clubs like Fat Harold's Beach Club in Ocean Drive. This thumping, rhythmic music will have you dancing in your seat, if you're not up doing the "Shag," the official dance of South Carolina. Notoriously described as "the jitterbug on Valium," the Shag is fun to watch and even more fun to try. Myrtle Beach, the City
Once you visit Myrtle Beach and see the overwhelming number of hotels, motels, condominiums, restaurants and attractions, you will find it hard to believe that most of the development took place since the late 1950s. Getting to Myrtle Beach is easy thanks to the modern and efficient Myrtle Beach Airport. Once you get there, though, finding your way around can be tricky until you get the hang of the system used to number the roads. The roads are very crowded, but the city managers are dealing with the congestion by adding new roads. Veteran's Highway (Route 22) helps you avoid a large part of Route 17. Route 501, the other main highway, swings off of Route 17 to the west and leads to many of the popular golf courses.
Myrtle Beach has its own baseball team, the
Myrtle Beach has just about any kind of entertainment you can think of, such as The Carolina Opry, Dolly Parton's
The Southern Grand Strand
This southern part of the Grand Strand moves at a more leisurely pace than its northern counterpart, but is equally diverse.
Surfside Beach is directly below Myrtle Beach; consequently, some of the congestion is spilling over to this community. It is being forced to build new municipal buildings as its population swells. Like its neighbor to the south, Garden City, it is fighting to maintain its pristine beaches by not allowing high rise condominiums and hotels. Garden City is still more residential than commercial. It is a popular spot for surf fishing and family outings to the beach.
The residents of the small fishing village of Murrells Inlet preserve its heritage by continuing to fish in its many creeks and waterways. If you want fresh seafood, be sure to visit this self-proclaimed Seafood Capital of South Carolina. It is also the home of the lovely, serene
To get to Georgetown, continue traveling down Route 17 through Litchfield Beach and Pawley's Island. It has a relatively small population and is a well-kept secret, so it's a pleasure to leisurely walk the historic streets past the antebellum buildings.
Known as the golf capital of the United States, Myrtle Beach has over 100 golf courses of varying difficulty in the area. Golf is not the only thing to do, though. There are hundreds of other attractions for people of all ages.
Let the 'serious' golfers hack away. If you just want to have fun and relax, there are over 25 miniature golf places in the area. Some of the more exciting are Adventure Falls Golf, Hawaiian Rumble Golf and Jurassic Golf in Myrtle Beach and Mayday Golf in North Myrtle Beach. Each has its own surprises in the form of waterfalls, mountains and monsters that spew steam and grumble and roar.
For golf and tennis equipment and clothes, Martin's Golf & Tennis Superstore in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach is legendary. Golf Dimensions Superstore runs a close second. It has two locations in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach.
The entirely enclosed malls in the area are Colonial Mall in North Myrtle Beach and Inlet Mall in Murrells Inlet. Shoppers need not fret, though; there are a zillion strip malls and beach stores where you can find anything and everything from ceramic artichokes to paper mache zebras.
Plan to spend an entire day each at Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach. Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach has over 110 specialty shops, 13 factory direct stores, 12 restaurants, carousel rides, a waterway cruise, and entertainment at the Alabama Theatre. Broadway at the Beach in the heart of Myrtle Beach covers 350 acres and has over 100 shops, 20 restaurants, 10 attractions, pedal boat rentals, an IMAX Discovery Theatre, Ripley's Aquarium, and 10 nightspots.
If you don't want to abandon your fitness regimen while you visit Myrtle Beach, there is a Gold's Gym and a World Gym. Little River Swim & Fitness Club in Little River offers visitor packages.
Bowling enthusiasts have Little River Lanes, the North Myrtle Beach Bowling Center, the Surfside Bowling and Billiard Center, and Waccamaw Lanes to choose from. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball team, Class A affiliates of the Atlanta Braves, play at BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach. There are no bad seats and the games are a lot of fun for the whole family.
Sun and Surf
Myrtle Beach has 60 miles of coastline from Little River down to Georgetown, most of it beautiful sandy beaches. Water sports include swimming, snorkeling, diving, boating, fishing and even surfing. There are dozen of marinas where you can rent boats and personal water craft of all descriptions, or take a scenic cruise on the ocean or on the Waccamaw or Pee Dee Rivers.
Snakes, Alligators and Sharks, Oh My!
You don't need to be a child to experience Alligator Adventure at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. The 15 acres of boardwalk let you walk above and through the natural habitats of over 1000 alligators, crocodiles, and tortoises. On the way, you'll see exotic birds and the reptile house, the Serpentarium.
The Myrtle Beach State Park has various programs during the year and a nature center with live snakes, turtles and marine animals, and a wildlife habitat with a butterfly garden, bird feeders and birdhouses. Huntington Beach Sate Park in Murrells Inlet offers daily programs on birds, alligators, snakes, whales, dolphins, salt marshes, beachcombing and crabbing.
The people mover in Ripley's Aquarium behind Broadway at the Beach carries you through a see-through tunnel while fish and sharks swim all around you. It also has the largest display of ray sharks on the East Coast, dive shows, marine education presentations, creatures from the Amazon rain forest, octopus, sea dragons, thousands of colorful fish, and rays and horseshoe crabs that you can touch.
Myrtle Beach is home to some very talented entertainers and some of the best shows you'll see this side of Las Vegas. Both The Carolina Opry and The Alabama Theatre have received numerous awards for their singing, dancing, and comedy variety shows. At Legends in Concert in Surfside Beach, you'll swear that you're really seeing and hearing the real Elvis and Michael Jackson, among others. Each show features at least five tribute artists. The House of Blues at Barefoot Landing hosts some of the biggest names in country, rock, blues, and soul entertainers. Examples are Blue Oyster Cult, The Neville Brothers and Bruce Hornsby, to name a few. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede offer exciting dinner shows.
For the Thrill of It
When you or the kids get sick of sand in your sandwiches, head to one of the amusement or water parks. Family Kingdom Amusement Park has 30 rides and the largest all-wooden roller coast and Ferriswheel in South Carolina, a carousel, a go-kart track, bumper cars and more. The Grand Prix Family Thrill Park in North Myrtle Beach is divided up into four zones: Kids, Thrill, Race and Laser.
With the price of admission, you can spend an entire day at Family Kingdom Water Park. Try the 185-foot water flume and one of four slides or relax as you drift down the Lazy River. This water park also has separate sections for young ones and toddlers. Myrtle Waves Water Park has 30 rides over 20-acres. Its unique Racin' River's speeding current tests your skill on a skimmer board.
Myrtle Beach's history is a story of persisting, starting over and reinventing. Due to the ecological make-up and relative remoteness from early settlements in Charlestown and inland, it took a while for its founders to realize that the ocean, frequent blue skies, beautiful flowers and shrubs and unusual birds would attract vacationers.
Myrtle Beach's first inhabitants were the American Indian Waccamaw and Winyah tribes. 'Waccamaw' and 'Chicora' (meaning 'the Land') are names still in use today as the area settlers respectfully tried to preserve the rich Indian heritage. An Indian burial site on Waites Island near Little River, and the remains of an Indian village on Wachesaw Plantation near Murrells Inlet have been preserved.
The Spanish explorer Lucas Vasques de Allyon was the first non-Indian to try to settle in the area in 1526. Within a year, though, the entire settlement died from disease. The English Arrive
In the late 1600s, the English were more successful. They began trading with the Indians north of Charles Town (later, Charleston). Eventually, the English established settlements in what are now Horry (location of Myrtle Beach) and Georgetown counties. The main street of Myrtle Beach, King's Highway, became the primary overland route between seaports in northern states and Charleston and Savannah, Ga.
Prince George Parish (now Georgetown) was established in 1730. In the late 1700s, an agricultural economy emerged as rice plantations flourished because of the many marshes and rivers in the area. Indigo and tobacco crops were prosperous as well. Many Americans are surprised to learn about how profitable and important rice was to the Southern economy. You can learn more about it by visiting the Rice Museum in Georgetown from March through November. Legends and Lumber
Further north, the famous pirate Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach was busy bullying the waters off the coast of the Grand Strand until his death in 1718. Legend has it that another infamous pirate, Captain Kidd, buried some treasure near Murrells Inlet. Another legend is that of Murrells Inlet's most famous inhabitant, Alice Belin Flagg (1833-1849). It is said that she will appear if you walk around her Pawley's Island grave backwards 13 times.
In the 1820s, Henry Buck moved from Maine and established the first sawmill and the beginnings of the next phase of the area's history. He soon became Horry County's richest citizen by establishing the area as a primary producer of pine timber, tar and turpentine products.
After the Civil War, Franklin G. Burroughs, a young man native to the area, teamed up with Benjamin Collins to form the Burroughs & Collins Company. The two young entrepreneurs expanded their operations from turpentine and mercantile stores to timber, farm credit, riverboats and farming. Burroughs had enough foresight to see Myrtle Beach as a seaside resort, and he and Collins built the first railroad between the beaches and the western part of Horry County.
By 1907, 'New Town,' as Myrtle Beach was known, finally became a popular vacation destination. A contest was held to give the area an official name. Addie Burroughs, the widow of Franklin G. Burroughs, proposed the name 'Myrtle Beach' for the large Wax Myrtle Shrubs with red, purple or white flowers that resemble crinkled crepe paper. Myrtle Beach Finds its Niche
Catering to the wealthy, a group of businessmen built the Arcady resort in 1920. The resort included the area's first golf course, Pine Lakes International Country Club, and the lavish Ocean Forest Hotel. Once again, though, Myrtle Beach's economy was thwarted, this time by the Great Depression. Arcady was dissolved, and the Ocean Forest Hotel was razed.
Finally, after the Great Depression and World Wars I and II, Myrtle Beach's economy started to revolve exclusively around tourism, instead of agriculture. For about ten years, the beach tourism industry flourished. Hotels and cottages were built by the dozens. Vacationers flocked to the area in horse carriages and by train. Claude Dunnagan, a local reporter, dubbed Myrtle Beach as “the Grand Strand” in 1949, and the name stuck.
One More Time
It is no secret that South Carolina's entire coastline is susceptible to hurricanes. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel blew into the area with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour and wiped out cottages, shops, restaurants and hotels. Myrtle Beach's economy was devastated once more.
The resilience and hard work of the South Carolinians persisted, and Myrtle Beach was rebuilt once again. Taking a lesson from Arcady, the developers built golf courses on the former rice and tobacco plantations, as well as amusement parks, cottages, motels and hotels. The area's economy quickly boomed. The permanent population tripled in the 1970s, and even Hurricane Hugo in 1969 couldn't drown the growth and popularity of the Grand Strand.
Myrtle Beach continued to grow through the 1990s. Now, Myrtle Beach has more than 100 golf courses, 1800 restaurants, nearly a dozen live entertainment venues, and countless other attractions. It is South Carolina's number one tourism destination and has been reported by the Travel Industry of America (TIA) as second only to Orlando as the most popular summer destination in the US.
Once you decide to visit the Myrtle Beach area, you won't be sorry. You may, however, have a difficult time deciding where to stay. There are literally hundreds of places of all descriptions on the beach, at golf courses, on the rivers, and at quieter places away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches.
The busiest times of the year are traditionally November, and then March all the way through the first two weeks of September. Most of the 'Snowbirds,' as the winter visitors from northern states are called, arrive shortly after Thanksgiving and stay through March. Golfers swarm to the area in November and then again in March. Of course, prices skyrocket during the busiest months, especially the summer.
April and May are somewhat quieter, but by far the most beautiful months. Everywhere you look are azaleas bursting with purple, pink, red and white flowers including Bradford pear trees with delicate, white flowers; herons, egrets and sandpipers are also prancing about. You may even see an alligator or two, but they become more adventuresome during the warm summer months.
Helpful Hints for Making Reservations
Many places, large and small, commercial and independent, have similar names with the words 'ocean', 'oceanfront', 'sands', and 'beach' in them, so be careful to choose the one you really want. Also, make your reservations very early. Many families and golfers who return to the area every year make their reservations for the following year while they are here.
North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach stretches from Little River to the Briarcliffe Acres community, and includes the four very small communities of Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach and Windy Hill.
You won't find as many huge hotels in North Myrtle Beach as in Myrtle Beach, but there are still plenty of places from which to choose on its nine miles of beaches, including hotels, motels, efficiencies, cottages, and condos.
The Best Western Ocean Sands Resort and the Ocean Drive Beach and Golf Resort are typical of the bigger accommodations. Their prices vary greatly depending on the time of the year, and they have rooms, suites, and efficiencies, pools and fitness centers.
If you prefer, you can get away from the beach and stay on the Intercoastal Waterway. A little difficult to find but with quieter surroundings, the Hampton Inn Harbourgate is adjacent to the Intercoastal Waterway and offers marina privileges at Harbourgate Marina. If you can afford it, the spectacular Barefoot Resort North Tower is very beautiful. Away from the beach, it is located across the Intercoastal Waterway from Barefoot Landing, a popular place with shopping, dining, and entertainment. It is surrounded by are four golf courses and 700 acres of wetlands. Barefoot Resort was previously presented with the first-ever award from South Carolina's Governor Jim Hodges for preserving the environment while developing the resort.
As expected, most places to stay in Myrtle Beach are on or very close to the ocean. The number of choices is overwhelming as is the variety — condos, villas, rooms, suites, efficiencies, efficiency suites, cottages — you name it. For a longer stay in a cottage or condo, there are many condo and real estate offices in the area, too.
Hotel and Motel Chains
Nearly all of the big hotel and motel chains are represented in Myrtle Beach.
The Courtyard Myrtle Beach-Barefoot Landing is actually located in between North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach on Highway 17. It is near 'Restaurant Row' and not far from Barefoot Landing, Veteran's Highway (Route 22), Walmart, and many golf courses.
A Fairfield Inn and a Hampton Inn are at Broadway at the Beach in the heart of Myrtle Beach, although not on the ocean. There are many restaurants, shops, attractions, and live entertainment venues in this area. These inns are also close to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and BB&T Coastal Field where the Pelicans baseball team plays.
There is a Comfort Inn in North Myrtle Beach, and Comfort Inn & Suites Beach Front Central on the ocean in Myrtle Beach. La Qunita Myrtle Beach Inn and Suites, Quality Inn by the Shore as well as Four Points Hotel (Sheraton) are all located on the beach.
Holiday Inn is well represented on the Grand Strand with a Holiday Express in Restaurant Row and three inns in Myrtle Beach, one in Surfside Beach and one in Murrells Inlet. The Holiday Inn Oceanfront Resort Hotel is a favorite with families as it is near the Myrtle Beach Pavilion and other popular attractions.
Embassy Suites Myrtle Beach at Kingston Plantation is in between North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach 13 miles from the Myrtle Beach airport and near Restaurant Row. You would never know that you're in the bustling Myrtle Beach, though. Secluded by 145 landscaped acres, every suite offers an ocean view.
Other Places to Stay
The independent hotels are equally nice and offer the same amenities as the chains.
One of the most popular spots is the Breakers Resort Hotel & North Tower. On the beach but centrally located, this 70-year-old resort offers a 10% discount for weekly stays, AAA members and Senior Citizens. It also has organized activities for the children (in season).
Even if you do not check in at Landmark Resort, pay a visit. It is a huge complex with the 'largest resort indoor pool complex in America'. There are five whirlpools, two 300-ft. Lazy Rivers (indoors and outdoors), a huge indoor pool with a fountain in the middle of it, and, for the young ones, an Indoor Kiddy Pool, a Kiddy Fun Pool and a Kiddy Lazy River.