Faces of the Grand Strand
Fourteen distinct communities, fourteen distinct characters
Fourteen distinct communities, fourteen distinct characters
Stretching 60 miles along the South Carolina coast, the Myrtle Beach area encompasses many communities – 14, to be precise – and each with their own identity, and unique qualities and attractions. Though different, each community operates with Southern Hospitality in mind, welcoming visitors in to explore and appreciate what each has to offer.
Families first began vacationing in the city formerly called New Town more than a century ago, making their way from inland locales by horse and buggy, and then ferrying over the Waccamaw River to reach the undeveloped coast. Oceanfront development began in the early 1900s. Today, the Myrtle Beach area boasts hundreds of hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail stores and other hospitality businesses. The city also plays host to major events like March’s Myrtle Beach Marathon and the holiday season Beach Ball Classic.
Affectionately called the “Little Golden Town,” Aynor is located in western Horry County. The town got its start in the early 1900s as a terminal for a railroad from Conway. Each September, the town hosts the Aynor Harvest Hoe-Down Festival with crafts, food booths, music, dancing and more.
Tree-lined streets, historic homes and churches, a revitalized business district, and the wondrous Conway Riverwalk are what make the Horry County seat such a charming town. Conway has much to offer visitors as well, including walking tours, riverboat cruises, antique shops, restaurants and cafes, the Horry County Museum, art galleries and numerous historic landmarks along the centuries-old oak trees lining the streets. In late June, the city also puts on its annual Conway Riverfest, a weekend filled with food, music, fishing, golf and fireworks.
Little River was a popular harbor for pirates in the 1700s and Civil War blockade-runners in the 1800s. Today, its most popular event is the Blue Crab Festival, held each May. Arts and crafts, entertainment, and educational exhibits are featured alongside booths offering different culinary takes on the festival’s namesake – crab cakes, steamed crabs and other blue crab creations. In October, another tasty morsel from under the sea is given the spotlight in the Little River ShrimpFest, a weekend of music, fun and, yes, all the shrimp you can handle.
Located 35 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach, Loris’ claim-to-fame is its annual Loris Bog-Off, a festival and chicken bog cooking contest that draws huge crowds each October. A local specialty, chicken bog is made with chicken, rice, sausage, and assorted seasonings.
North Myrtle Beach
The nine-mile long beach community of North Myrtle Beach continues to thrive, almost 50 years after its inception. In 1968, four existing communities – Cherry Grove, Windy Hill, Ocean Drive, and Crescent Beach – were combined to form the city. Prominent annual festivals celebrate everything from St. Patrick’s Day to the end of summer. North Myrtle Beach is also the birthplace of the Shag dance, which became the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984. Strains of beach music can be heard in the Ocean Drive section nearly every night as those who love the Shag dance the night away. While Duplin Winery offers entertainment for adults, the Blackbeard's Pirate Cruise provides fun for the entire family. You’ll love the small-town charm of this community, which is home to Barefoot Landing and a wide variety of restaurants, entertainment, and shopping options. Right next to Barefoot landing, you’ll find the Myrtle Beach Safari Preservation Station where you can get up close and personal with tigers, tiger cubs and baby gibbons!
Nicknamed The Black Pearl, the Town of Atlantic Beach was formed mostly of Gullah/Geechee people, descendants of slaves who lived for 300 years on the Sea Islands stretching from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Today, Atlantic Beach residents are working to restore their rich history and revitalize their pristine stretch of beach.
Socastee is located just west of the Myrtle Beach International Airport, between Rt. 17 and the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. Historic Socastee is home to one of only 10 swing bridges in the state. Built in 1935, the bridge swings on a regular schedule. The town also hosts the Socastee Heritage Festival, which draws significant crowds in April of each year. The Intracoastal Waterway runs right through Socastee, so enjoy fun watersports at Island Adventure Watersports, near the swing bridge.
Horry County, South Carolina is home to the relatively-new Carolina Forest area, located north of U.S. 501 between Myrtle Beach and Conway along the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway. Primarily a residential area, this master-planned community offers some great dining and shopping opportunities, including Tanger Outlets on the 501. You can also find several golf courses and recreation centers here, along with a beautiful concentration of pine trees and hardwood forests. Nearly half of the 25-square-mile area has been set aside for conservation. Near the Carolina Forest area of the 501, you’ll find Wheels of Yesteryear and Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament!
Surfside Beach, located on the South Strand, proudly calls itself “the family beach.” Along its lovely beachfront, visitors will find beach houses, hotels, condominiums, and a popular fishing pier.
Garden City Beach
To the south of Surfside Beach is Garden City Beach. The majority of Garden City’s vacationers stay in beach houses and condominiums. With access to the ocean and inlet, Garden City Beach is a popular area for fishing, crabbing, and other water sports. The community has a fishing pier, marina, amusements, restaurants, and other businesses.
Once the lair of the infamous pirate Blackbeard, Murrells Inlet is known as “the Seafood Capital of South Carolina,” earning its title from the fresh fish, clams, oysters and crabs pulled from the surrounding waters. These fresh catches are prepared at the numerous restaurants nestled along The MarshWalk, a 1,400-foot boardwalk winding through the wetlands and offering stunning vistas and glimpses of wildlife and waterfowl. Murrells Inlet is also an excellent place to enjoy watersports, such as jet skis and parasailing, take a sunset or dolphin cruise, or book a fishing charter.
Established in 1978, Litchfield Beach continues to be popular with residents and visitors alike because of its quiet, natural beauty. Here you’ll find world-class golf courses, fine dining, and a relaxed pace of life. Soft sand and sea oats take center stage as beaches are more sparsely populated here. Thus, a long walk along the shore is a perfect way to erase all of life’s cares. Plus, runners, walkers, and bikers enjoy the 26-mile-long Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, which is part of the East Coast Greenway. For them, there is no better way to experience the natural beauty of this unique beach area.
Found at the southernmost end of the Grand Strand, Pawleys Island is one of the most historic resort communities on the east coast. It was once the summer home to wealthy pre-Civil War rice planters, and there are still twelve residences, which date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, intact in the historic district. Pawleys Island is proudly referred to as “arrogantly shabby,” as residents revel in its simple charms and natural beauty. Those charms rub off on visitors who enjoy the community’s unique shops, restaurants, and slower pace. Home to three of America’s top 100 public golf courses. So, enjoy a walk on Pawleys’ delightful stretch of white beach, or kick off your shoes and enjoy lounging in one of the area’s popular rope hammocks.
For additional information on the Myrtle Beach Area, visit www.VisitMyrtleBeach.com.