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I’m stretched out on the warm sand of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My eyes are closed, but I hear the happy shrieks of my family playing Frisbee along the shore. The pounding of the waves adds to the soundtrack, and I find myself almost lulled to sleep.
It’s a welcome stress relief after the year we’ve all been through. Like many others, we’ve chosen a beach vacation for our first post-COVID family getaway.
In fact, beach towns are among America’s top vacation destinations. A recent survey by Vacasa found that 57 percent of Americans are planning a beach vacation this year.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has long been a top American beach destination. Known for its golden-sand beaches and world-class golf courses, it draws thousands of visitors each year. It is especially popular with families.
One reason is that the region offers an affordable beach vacation. During our visit, I’ve found that the prices for dining, hotels and attractions are about a third cheaper than similar prices would be at beach destinations in Hawaii or California. That really helps when stretching a family vacation budget.
Myrtle Beach for Families
Bustling Myrtle Beach is made for families with children. Kid-friendly activities abound, from larger-than-life mini-golf parks to water parks, an aquarium, an interactive science museum, a pirate show, the 187-foot Myrtle Beach Skywheel and more.
There is a wide array of restaurants to suit just about everyone, but the town also has an abundance of kid-friendly establishments, including a large assortment of popular pancake houses.
The Grand Strand
Yet Myrtle Beach is only part of the story. The town is one of 14 distinct communities that line the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beach that winds along the southern coastline of South Carolina from the small town of Little River to Pawleys Island.
The golden-sand beaches along the Grand Strand are undoubtably the main attraction. They are clean and well-maintained. There is ample paid parking on many lots right along the coastline and easily accessible facilities.
While it would be easy to stay in Myrtle Beach during your whole trip, you would be missing out if you didn’t explore more along the Grand Strand. Each of its 14 communities have their own vibe and feel.
Surfside Beach, South Carolina
Surfside Beach is one of those communities. Though the region has many excellent hotels and resorts, we choose to stay in a 4-bedroom vacation rental in Surfside Beach, which has a little slower, quieter pace.
This little town of 4,500 is nicknamed “the family beach”, and they take that mission seriously. In 2016, the town became the first autism-friendly travel destination.
The town’s pristine beaches are cleaned daily, and they were uncrowded. We rent a few beach umbrellas, chairs, and a cooler from a local beach supply store, and spend many long, lazy days on the sand.
Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
My kids are young adults, so Murrells Inlet is among our favorite places here in South Carolina. This little fishing village was once the lair of Blackbeard, the pirate. Now, visitors and locals alike head here for outdoor adventure.
If you want to play on the water, this is the place to go. You can rent kayaks, pontoons and other boats. Or, take a sunset cruise, rent jet skis or go out on a deep-sea fishing excursion — all from Murrells Inlet.
One afternoon, some of our family headed out on a fishing excursion with Voyager Deep Sea Fishing. They return with smiles and a cooler full of fish.
At night, Murrells Inlet comes to life along the popular Marshwalk, with many waterfront dining establishments offering live music and beautiful views of the sunset.
Our favorite restaurant at Murrells Inlet is Wicked Tuna, which prepares tasty seafood dishes using fish caught locally on their own boats. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Thinking of your next spring break? Take a look at this article on the best spring break beaches in the southeast.
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
North Myrtle Beach is a nine-mile-long community on the Grand Strand that is especially known for its shopping and dining. The town’s Barefoot Landing is a shopping and entertainment complex on the Intracoastal Waterway, and we visit several restaurants here during our stay. Our top pick is Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s, where we enjoy heaping plates of fresh seafood.
North Myrtle Beach is the birthplace of the Shag, a partner dance with smooth fancy footwork performed to beach music. Beach Music is unique to the Carolinas. Popular songs include I Love Beach Music, Carolina’s Calling Me and Myrtle Beach Days.
The Shag became the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984. It’s said that if you drive along Ocean Drive at night, you can hear the sound of beach music as those who love the Shag dance the night away.
Be sure to also check out some of the other award-winning shows Myrtle Beach has to offer like the Comedy Variety Show or the Elvis Tribute Show. Book your tickets in advance to see one of these popular events here.
Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Those who want a quiet, unhurried vacation experience might want to head to Pawleys Island, located at the southernmost end of the Grand Strand. Its residents are known for their appreciation of “arrogantly shabby,” reveling in simple charms and natural beauty. That is evident in the community’s unique shops and restaurants, as well as their obvious love for lounging in rope hammocks.
The island was once the summer home of wealthy pre-Civil War rice planters. Today, there are 12 residences dating from the late 1700s to mid-1800s in the historic district.
Many visitors come to Pawleys Island for golf, and it is home to three of the country’s top 100 public golf courses.
Conway, South Carolina
On our last day of vacation, we visit the town of Conway, one of the oldest towns in South Carolina. Walking along the oak-lined avenues of this historic Southern community is like stepping back in time.
After asking one of the locals for their favorite place to eat in town, we stumble into the Pickled Cucumber, a local diner that is obviously popular with the locals. After getting our simple but delicious meals (we get heaping plates of one meat and two sides for $8.25 each), it’s easy to see why.
Kayaking with Black River Outdoors
It’s fun to be on the water so we join a guided kayaking tour on the Waccamaw River with Black River Outdoors. Our guide, Mike, shares his deep knowledge of the area as we paddle through the beautiful creeks and Cypress swamps.
We are the only ones on the water, and it is serenely quiet as we listen to the warbling of nearby birds. The water is still, and it’s an easy paddle under the shade of trees draped with Spanish moss.
Mike points out turtles, water snakes (all the ones we see are harmless), birds and more. Though we were hoping to see alligators, they are shy and elusive. As we follow Mike in our kayaks through a narrow channel, all I hear is the dip of our paddles and the song of a lone bird. I stop paddling and float, soaking it all in.
Such moments are meant to be savored. And right here, deep in the Cypress trees of South Carolina, I am savoring this one.
Weather in Myrtle Beach
The weather in Myrtle Beach varies depending on the time you visit, and temperatures range from 39°F to 88°F. Summers can be hot, which makes for nice beach time. Winters are short and often rainy. The best time to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is in the late spring or early fall.
Book This Trip
Ready to hit the Myrtle Beach shore this year? Be prepared with everything you need for your travels like hotel or VRBO reservations, favorite foodie spots, best local shops and more through Travelocity and TripAdvisor. When you are ready to go, find the best airline deals and transportation bundles on Kiwi.
You’ll also want to be sure to book a couple of activities here before everything is reserved! Check out GetYourGuide for tours, activities and skip-the-line tickets around Myrtle Beach. Cancel anytime up to 24-hours before and get a full refund.
For more information on Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand see https://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/