Many people would concur that a day spent leisurely strolling white sand beaches picking up shells, digging moats around a sand castle and running into and away from ocean waves would be a day well spent.
Throw in a bit of Southern charm and you have a fun and friendly beach vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, located on America’s eastern seaboard.
Vacationers have been visiting Myrtle Beach for over a century. Myrtle Beach is part of a 60-mile stretch of sand labeled The Grand Strand, one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the country.
Myrtle Beach even has a unique story about its name. In the early 1900s, the local paper sponsored a contest to officially name the area where many hotels and vacation homes began to popping up.
Mrs. F. E. Burroughs, wife of the town’s founder Franklin Burroughs, won with the moniker Myrtle Beach because of the many wax myrtle trees growing along the shore.
Today the area is more popular than ever, not only as a beach vacation, but a golfing and fishing destination as well.
What to Do in Myrtle Beach
The beach in Myrtle Beach is what people come for, and the central area features a mile-long boardwalk that runs from Second Avenue Pier to the south to Pier 14 on the northern end.
In the middle are seaside resorts, high-rise hotels, restaurants, shops and water sports. If you can’t find something to do here, you’re not trying.
One of the things you can see from almost anywhere on the beach are the brightly colored parasails of Ocean Watersports floating over the Atlantic.
A full-service water sports office located right on the beach, Ocean Watersports has been operating since 1981. They offer parasailing, banana boat rides and jet ski rentals for all abilities, with some age and weight restrictions depending on the activity.
While you can just show up on the beach and request an activity, they do recommend buying tickets online in advance to ensure you get the ride you want when you want.
To encourage this they have a non-restrictive cancellation policy and won’t charge you if your plans change, however, they do appreciate a phone call.
If floating above the shore taking in the panoramic views of Myrtle Beach appeals to you, but parasailing is a bit out of your comfort zone, ride the SkyWheel.
Secure inside six-person sit-down gondola, you and your crew will enjoy 360 degree views of The Grand Strand. A “flight” on the wheel consists of three revolutions (about 8-10 minutes).
Best of all, no matter the weather outside, hot and steamy or breezy and chilly, the climate-controlled gondolas will have you flying in comfort. Purchase a VIP ticket that allows you to skip the line and receive a goody bag to take home.
Something distinctive about the quaint wooden piers of Myrtle Beach is that they are privately owned and just to walk on them requires a fee.
At Second Avenue Pier, that fee is only $2 per person and it is used for the upkeep of the pier. Built in 1936, Second Avenue Pier has been rebuilt three times due to Hurricanes Hazel (1954), David (1981) and Hugo (1989).
Fishing from the pier is open from March to Thanksgiving and the bait shop offers equipment rental, fishing license included. Even if you don’t fish, visitors can still spot sting rays, jellyfish and even sharks patrolling the waters around the pier.
During the summer, the pier hosts a weekly fireworks show on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m.
For a full sensory experience, bring the family to Broadway at the Beach where there is something for everyone – shopping, rides, entertainment and restaurants.
Located a mile and a half inland on the Robert M. Grissom Parkway at 29th Avenue, Broadway at the Beach will thrill the adventurer with jet boats and zip lines and even a mini-midway amusement park for the youngest thrill seekers.
There is also Ripley’s Aquarium and WonderWorks, an “amusement park for the mind.”
On the western end is a nightlife area for those 21 and up that is home to a comedy club, sports bars, a dance club and a dueling pianos bar. With 75 shops and over 20 eateries, everyone gets what they want.
If your idea of summer is watching the Boys of Summer, then head to TicketReturn.com Ball Field to see the Single A Minor League Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
The Pelicans debuted in 1999 in the Carolina League and are the defending Carolina League Mill Cup Champions. Affiliated with World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (Pitcher Kyle Hendricks played here in 2012).
The team currently sits on top of the Southern Division and if you purchase tickets on the website instead at the box office, you save two dollars per ticket.
Where to Eat in Myrtle Beach
Captain’s Seafood House on the northern end of Myrtle Beach has been a relaxing spot on the water for half a century. What began as a single family’s vacation home in 1930 was turned into a restaurant in 1954.
With a dark mahogany bar and lots of windows overlooking a small courtyard and the beach beyond, it is a vacationer’s surf and turf paradise and a favorite weekend brunch spot of the locals.
On the Boardwalk next to the SkyWheel Landshark Bar and Grill provides a cool respite from the hot beach. With a seafood heavy menu and a blender working overtime the restaurant doesn’t really have an inside.
It’s basically one large patio deck with full views of the beach and ocean. Although famous for its Margaritaville singing owner, Landshark has plenty of dishes and drinks for all ages.
The Fish Sandwich is the catch of the day grilled or blackened and goes perfectly with a Southern Sweet Tea.
American Tap House at Broadway on the Beach provides a refined pub experience. Living up to its name with over 40 beers on tap the ATH uses fresh high quality ingredients sourced locally when possible and all dishes have a southern flare.
This is one of the few non-chain restaurants at Broadway at the Beach and it doesn’t disappoint with Dry Rubbed Wings and Grilled South Carolina Grouper.
While Tap House is in the name, the bar has a variety of house-made cocktails such as the Strawberry Jam featuring locally distilled Firefly White Lighting Moonshine.
The restaurant also has a large patio outside and some 20 HD TVs inside.
On the third floor of the Second Avenue Pier is the Pier View Open Air Bar providing casual seaside dining.
There is a wraparound deck with comfy couches and soft chairs for taking the view while the inside has ceiling fans to cool you off.
With a small, but tasty menu of snacks, sandwiches and burgers, guests can dine while watching the tide come in.
Fishing in Myrtle Beach
Most fishing charters are located in the town of Little River on the border with North Carolina, about 25 minutes north of Myrtle Beach proper.
That is because here is where the Little River enters the Atlantic Ocean and the marinas of the Intracoastal Waterway are plentiful.
There is also the most variety of fishing in this area from the river, including inlets and bays to open ocean.
Whether a beginner or an advanced fisherman, everyone will enjoy Reel Action Fishing Charters. Captain John and his two sons, Captains Johnny and Josh, can turn anyone into a qualified fisherman in only four hours.
They run their boats all year long and the season determines the type of fish you catch. Like real estate, fishing is all about location, location, location.
Reel Action will take your family into the back creeks and flat waters of the Little Neck River for trout and dog fish all the way to the Atlantic Ocean where Red Fish, Sea Bass, Flounder and even Sharks are available.
Most of the fish are catch and release, but if the fish is a keeper, Captain John will not only send it with you, but recommend places to clean and cook your catch.
Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach
For family fun, the Sheraton Broadway Plantation is an ideal getaway. Located next to Broadway at the Beach, Sheraton Broadway Plantation has its own water park, indoor/outdoor swimming pools and mini-golf course.
There are so many fun things to do the kids may never want to leave. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Lazy River with floats provided.
The water park features a giant pirate ship with short water slides and water guns for the kids to play on and a two-story water slide for all ages. There is also zero entry pool and a life guard on duty for the littlest ones.
The rooms are all one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas complete with full kitchens, laundry and screened in patios or balconies.
Located on the beach next to Captain’s Seafood House, Caribbean Resort and Villas offer condo and suite-style living with one to four bedrooms, a seaside water park, and on-site spa and dining.
The original Dominican Tower had a recent renovation and the new Cayman Tower is now available with larger units for extended families.
For those wanting some quiet, the Chelsea Villas are across Ocean Boulevard and there is an on-site Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.
For an authentic seaside family vacation, consider renting a vacation home from AirBnB.
Over 300 options exist from tiny beach cottages and apartments to seaside mansions. Live like a local with the beach just outside your door.
If You Travel to Myrtle Beach
Author Bio: Carrie Dow is a member of the North American Travel Journalists’ Association, Carrie Dow is a freelance travel writer based in Lakewood, CO, whose work has appeared in Islands, Go Nomad and Interval World. She is the Local Editor of DrinkDenver, a part of The Drink Nation, a website devoted to finding the best happy hours in cities across the US. She is also the founder of What’s Pawsitive, a website covering animal welfare issues and animal-based travel around the world. An occasional football widow, she is mom to a Siberian husky and a Siamese cat.