Myrtle Beach’s 97 kilometres of picturesque coastline, aptly called the “Grand Strand,” is most famous for its bustling beach atmosphere, replete with live entertainment, amusement parks, acclaimed seafood restaurants, great shopping and world-class golf. But the area also has a quieter side thanks to the beaches, wetlands and quaint fishing villages on its southernmost end. Take an extra-long weekend to explore both the upbeat and the serene sides of this beloved coastal area.
Start your holiday with a Southern breakfast at the Pier House Restaurant (try the Boardwalk Biscuits & Gravy), then take a walk along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Play a game of skeeball at one of the arcades and shop for souvenirs at the 30,000-square-foot Gay Dolphin store, a Myrtle Beach landmark since 1946.
Climb aboard the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, one of the tallest in North America, for a bird’s-eye view of the Grand Strand. Next, try your hand at some mini-golf. Myrtle Beach is known as the Mini Golf Capital of the World, so a visit wouldn’t be complete without playing one or more of its 50 elaborately designed courses.
For dinner, head to the Art Burger Sushi Bar, known for its great food and unique cocktails, and for the local artwork that decorates its walls. Try the Rembrandt Burger, which features a beef patty seared in duck fat and topped with confit mushrooms, Manchego cheese and Dijon mustard. Cap the evening with a show at the Alabama or The Carolina Opry theatres.
Go to Johnny D’s Waffles & Bakery for breakfast—Chef Jamie’s homemade Red Velvet Belgian Waffles with cream cheese icing are to die for. After your meal, head to the Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex to explore its unique shops and sample the handmade southern pralines at River Street Sweets. If you’re feeling adventurous, go ziplining across the man-made lake at the Soar + Explore Zipline & Ropes Course.
Lunch at Landry’s Seafood (at Broadway at the Beach), which offers great water views from its deck. Afterward, hop on the 340-foot-long moving pathway at Ripley’s Aquarium, where sharks, stingrays and tropical fish swim all around you. Then head to the Hollywood Wax Museum and snap a selfie with your favourite (waxy) movie star.
Visit the Duplin Winery in North Myrtle Beach—the largest winery in the South, specializing in wines made from the muscadine grape (for US$10, you can sample up to 10 wines). Later, head to the famous Ocean Drive, where the Shag, South Carolina’s official state dance, was born in the 1940s. At Fat Harold’s Beach Club, you can take a free Shag lesson on Tuesdays or just watch some smooth dance moves while chowing down on simple yet delicious options, like burgers, fries and chicken wings.
Drive to Huntington Beach State Park on the southern end of the Grand Strand for a morning hike to spot alligators, shorebirds and loggerhead sea turtles. Take the short Nature Center Boardwalk that extends over a salt marsh, then explore the pristine, five-kilometre-long beach or choose one of several hiking trails through coastal forests of oaks and red cedars.
Head 15 minutes south to Pawleys Island, one of the oldest resort areas on the East Coast. Stop for lunch at Chive Blossom Cafe where the she-crab soup is a must-try. Explore The Hammock Shops, a collection of more than 20 individual cottage stores, including the Original Hammock Shop, where the hammocks are still woven by hand as they were centuries ago.
Driving back north, stop at Murrells Inlet, a historic fishing village and the Seafood Capital of South Carolina. Dine at Wicked Tuna, one of several seafood restaurants located on the kilometre-long boardwalk known as the MarshWalk. After dinner, do a little bar-hopping along the boardwalk and toast to three great days along the Grand Strand.
Top Hotels in Myrtle Beach
From over-the-top luxury resorts to condo rentals and quiet inns, there’s no shortage of places to stay in the myrtle beach area. Here are two favourites.
A 145-acre oceanfront complex with two hotels, lakeside villas and oceanfront condominiums, this resort offers great amenities like a 50,000-square-foot sports club and a fun water park.
This small boutique resort in Murrells Inlet offers standard deluxe suites with full kitchenettes. There’s a clubroom, courtyard and even a rooftop widow’s walk.
[This story appears in the March 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated]