Many visitors to The Beach arrive on Highway 544, a shortcut to the South end. You’ll pass some of my favorite little gems, hidden in plain sight, as you drive down that road.

Pelican’s SnoBalls

I know—it’s a long, hot drive to the beach. So, stop in at Pelicans for a SnoBall. They’ll have a flavor you like – I PROMISE!! I can make that promise because I know their 101-flavor list will not fail me. The peach & mango are a perfect pairing (just sayin’!) And don’t leave off the condensed milk topping!

Pelican’s started in Garner, North Carolina, the brainchild of a 13-year-old. Now they’re a nationally-recognized franchise, known for having THE BEST SnoBalls—because they are fluffy shaved ice, not icy chunks.

Hannah made my creation, and she confided that the Sour Tsunami in a Shark attack cup is their most-ordered item. But, the Stuffed SnoBall has vanilla ice cream in the center. I hear it calling my name!

Pelicans snoballs flavor choices

Ann’s Produce

My hairdresser recommended this produce stand. She said, “You’ve GOT to go to Ann’s!” And she was right! Fresh items galore and cantaloupe with a heady aroma to make a Southern girl drool!

Locals and visitors alike will enjoy the Hoop Cheese found at the register, just like it has been since the time of country stores. And if you can stand the heat, take some fresh Habaneros home to your kitchen. I’m a wuss, so it’s cantaloupe and fresh ‘maters for me. The big, acidic tomatoes from Hendersonville, NC, make the perfect sandwich. Recipe? Sunbeam bread, Duke’s mayonnaise, and thick, juicy slabs of tomatoes (salted and peppered, of course!) It’s a Southern thang, y’all!

I remember spending hours shelling black-eyed and crowder peas on the porch with my Mama and Grandma. But Ann makes it easy to cook a pot of peas…check out the cooler…no shelling required!

Boiled peanuts? Why, yes, they’ve got the pot boiling. So go on and buy a bag. It’s hard to beat that salty goodness.

Waccamaw NWR Recreation Area

Keep an eye out for a little brown sign announcing the Waccamaw NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) just off 544. You go past the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority, and a short distance later, you’ll be on a dirt road leading to the wetlands.

The Refuge offers 55,000 acres of wetlands, forest, and rivers, perfect for fishing, birding (more than 200 species call this area home), hiking along interpretive trails, and wildlife photography. Plus, there are blackwater swamp areas for exploration by canoe or kayak. What a gem!

Waccamaw NWR trail

Carolina Marketplace

You’ll find a great spot for picking up gifts or souvenirs near the fire department. With over 65 vendors, Carolina Marketplace has booths filled with everything from antiques to old coins to new items, vintage to crafts, to books. It’s easy to get lost wandering the aisles and remembering earlier times.

I need to go back in; they just opened a garden center! My thumb isn’t green, but it isn’t entirely brown either. The store is open seven days a week. The shop is easy to spot—just look for the driftwood out front.

Vanity Suite Salon

A beauty shop with a multi-talented staff, the ladies at Vanity will keep you looking your very best. Stop in for anything from a manicure to a cut and color! They’ll also steer you in the right direction for a great meal or the best produce in the area—you know what they say…if you need to know something, ask your beautician!

Tanya’s Country Cafe

Are you looking for a heaping plate of meat & three? You’ve found the place! Today’s meat choices at Tanya’s Cafe included turkey and dressing, fried flounder, shepherd’s pie, or pork chops. Your choice of sides ranged from cole slaw to speckled butter beans to fried okra or squash to broccoli salad to peach cobbler. You say you just want a sandwich? Wait until you see that list! Most meals will run you about $10. Be sure to save room for that cobbler—oh, and don’t turn down the ice cream!

Tanya’s is only open until 2:30, so don’t drag your feet!

Indo Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar

Indo dishes up Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese dishes, fresh to order. Eat here, and you’ll probably find yourself talking to an attractive woman who wants to know where you’re from and how you heard about the restaurant. Of course, that will be the owner, Chef Laura Smith. She is genuinely interested in her customers and a delight to talk with.

The Indo lunch specials will feed two (unless you have a voracious appetite!), and the delicious sauces are all made in-house.

Insider Info:  There will soon be a bakery between Tanya’s and Indo. So watch for it and pick up your breakfast treats while you’re in the area!

Duck Donuts

My first “Duck Donut” was actually IN Duck (North Carolina, that is.) I spotted the bakery near my condo, mostly because of the line down the sidewalk. I checked it out, had my first maple & bacon donut, and history was made. Yum! I mean, you can’t go wrong with bacon—it makes everything better!

All self-respecting locals give directions based on where things “used to be.” Just so you know, Duck Donuts is where Surfside Kroger’s used to be, near the Ocean Lakes stoplight. Go on by and see Carlotta, the store manager. The best time to go is between noon and two, but ssshhh… don’t tell everyone! Ask to order from the secret menu, and get a Bacon in the Sun and maybe a Boardwalk (I don’t want to give away too much, but Oreos are involved!) Tell Carlotta I said, “Hey!”

By traversing Highway 544 between 501 and 17, you can miss much of the “beach traffic” while locating hidden gems that you’ll want to visit.