MYRTLE BEACH, SC
Those coming to the Myrtle Beach area will find 60 miles of beautiful, sandy beaches, a wealth of fun water activities like parasailing and a 1.2-mile boardwalk that USA Today chose in 2013 as one of the country’s top boardwalks for food. More recently, Trip Advisor chose the area as the #1 summer destination. It’s all true, but there are also insider attractions that are off the beaten path once you want a little break from the sun.
PLACES TO STAY
First, let’s consider accommodations. The Mansfield Plantation in historic Georgetown is one of South Carolina’s most architecturally intact rice plantations and on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a bed and breakfast that also offers guided tours and educational programs.
Serendipity Inn is an older inn about four blocks from the ocean in downtown Myrtle Beach. Quiet and peaceful, the breakfasts are good and it received a Trip AdvisorCertificate of Excellence for 2014.
If you’re looking for more of a resort atmosphere (this is the Grand Strand!) there are a lot of oceanfront and near-ocean resorts that offer commanding views of the beaches. Or, perhaps the beach house that your parents once rented is still available, if you’d like to recapture that long-ago, fill-the-house-with-all-your-family atmosphere. You can find more than enough choices atwww.VisitMyrtleBeach.com.
Once your decision’s made, it’s time to play.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ATTRACTIONS
Although we promised to take you outside the normal radar, we’ve got to include Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach. Sure, it’s well known, but there’s an important reason for that – it’s a fabulous afternoon or morning destination. During the summer, Kids Night Out offers youngsters ages 6-14 a night in the aquarium -- with music, dancing, karaoke, scavenger hunts, pizza and more, until these happy campers go to sleep "with" the sharks in the shark tunnel!
OK, anyone who has ever visited the Grand Strand knows there are a myriad of attractions, including rides, miniature golf, including Family Kingdom Amusement Park , where you’ll experience the thrill of the rides and ocean breeze in one place. We recommend it all. But, did you know there’s the Carolina Improv Company, presenting interactive improv comedy, appropriate for all ages?
If you’re out traveling the roads, there are a number of great roadside attractions along U.S. 17: the S.C. Civil War Museum in Myrtle Beach; Original Benjamin’s featuring the largest buffet in the North Myrtle Beach area; and several new zipline adventures up and down the Grand Strand area in as well as dozens more activities to enjoy.
For a bit of highbrow entertainment, we suggest attending a performance by theLong Bay Symphony (yes, a professional symphony orchestra along the Grand Strand). Or, check out Atlantic Stage, the first and only professional theatre company in the Myrtle Beach area.
Carolina Opry is a very popular entertainment venue. Featuring 4 shows and a Holiday show to choose from during your visit.
RESTAURANTS AND MORE
Eventually, after all that fun is done, you and yours will be hungry. And while there’s nothing wrong with a burger or pizza, we are at the beach, after all, where seafood reigns supreme. And nowhere is it more supreme than theMurrells Inlet Marshwalk, otherwise known as the “seafood capital of South Carolina.” There are eight eateries serving whatever your stomach craves, from burgers and fries to fresh seafood, wood-fired pizzas and delicious steaks.
Want something along the northern part of the Grand Strand? We recently tried Brentwood Restaurant in Little River and were so impressed we returned the next night – unheard of in an area with literally thousands of good restaurants! Chef Eric Masson is French-born and French-trained and the food is sublime. The crab cake is a work of art, but my husband says the she-crab soup is even better. You be the judge.
Another possibility is The Cypress Room at Island Vista. This four-star restaurant has floor-to-ceiling views of the ocean and a menu that offers European-inspired Lowcountry cuisine. Grouper with herb butter sauce, perhaps, or maybe a New York Strip steak with Horseradish cream sauce?
And then there’s Thoroughbred’s Chop and Steak House, a local favorite since 1988.
Aspen Grille is a relatively newcomer to the beach, but it’s garnered great reviews for fresh Carolina seafood. The menu changes seasonally and the scallops are divine! For some, there’s nothing better than a leisurely morning in search of the perfect vacation breakfast.
If your eggs improve with an ocean view, consider the Sea Captain’s Housewhere locals and visitors have dined for years, from dawn til night.
An alternative is the much newer Croissants Bistro & Bakery. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays is a feast. Hint: If you need a cake for a celebration while you’re there, they’ve got great options.
Eggs Up Grill is a locals’ favorite, with seven locations in the area and more in the region. Choose sweet potato pecan pancakes or waffles with cinnamon syrup, or build your own omelet.
Johnny D’s Waffles & Bakery is another fine option. For pure decadence, consider the Red Velvet Waffles, covered with Cream cheese icing. Those with a modicum of restraint may consider Johnny D’s Skillet – everything delicious, together. Hint: Check out their Coney Island Chili Sauce, available online or on site.
Myrtle Beach veterans of many years will remember Mammy’s Kitchen, a fixture in Myrtle Beach for more than 60 years. It’s continues to serve hearty food and the breakfast and fruit buffet is stellar. (Want to branch out? Fried chicken and waffles are good here, and yes, it’s a southern thing.)
WATER ACTIVITIES & RENTALS
Day two (or three or ten): Explore new territory by renting a boat or jet ski and touring parts of the Intracoastal Waterway. There are lots of reputable boat rental companies, but we chose Barefoot Resort Watersports as the closest to our house, located in the marina across from the Barefoot Landing shopping complex.
For deep sea fishing, Little River offers charters and tickets to ride aboard fishing boats heading out as far as the Gulf Stream.
And, if you simply like being near the water, consider the Garden City Pier. A few miles south of Myrtle Beach, it’s still part of the Grand Strand, but located in a quiet family-oriented beach community. The Pier, however, is anything but silent, with live music on either end, and an arcade for the little ones (plus fishing whenever the impulse strikes.)
GOLF COURSES & SHOPPING
Are you a golfer? If so, you already know that it would take months to play the more than 100 courses in the area.
For those into sports and sports history, Pine Lakes Country Club in Myrtle Beach hosted Sports Illustrated’s first sales conference in June 1954, just weeks before the release of the premiere issue. Today, visitors will find a room with press clippings and other mementos from that conference.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is currently rated No. 3 by Golf Magazine on their “Best Public Golf Courses in South Carolina” roster and No. 3 by Golfweek on their “Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina” roster.
There are so many worth playing, you’ll have to pick and choose. One resource is on the VisitMyrtleBeach.com site and more reviews can be found at MB Golf Holiday.
We haven’t even mentioned the shopping, which is legendary along the Grand Strand. You’ll find excellent malls, starting with Coastal Grand Mall, South Carolina’s largest and one of its newest shopping attractions. There’s also Tanger Outlet malls, The Market Common, Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing, plus lots of Mom and Pop one-of-a-kind stores that feature resort and beach attire and accessories.
BACK TO THE BEACH
And so we end where we began. The beach is wide, sandy and oh-so-inviting. Beachfront near the resorts can be at a premium in high season, but if you want a peaceful walk along the sand, consider visiting Huntington Beach State Park.The locals love it and you’re sure to appreciate it’s natural beauty. And while you’re there, carve out a few hours to head across Highway 17 and visit Brookgreen Gardens, a favorite haunt for so many children who grew up here, and just as endearing today as it was 50 years ago.
Clearly, you’ll need more than a few days to do this favorite destination justice. But what a grand way to enjoy a vacation, or second home getaway.