Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
A Storybook History
The Myrtle Beach area and the Grand Strand have a storybook history. Indeed, dozens of books have been written about long-lost Native American tribes, colorful pirates, and roaming ghosts. But for the most part, these stories have been shared orally - told and retold over hundreds of years, generation after generation. Not surprisingly, the stories change over time, as different storytellers add their own embellishments. As a result, there are many different versions of the same tale. However, this hasn't diminished the importance of these tales to our local culture, or the enjoyment of hearing, reading, or re-telling them.
The Grand Strand's First Inhabitants
The area's first inhabitants were the Waccamaw and Winyah Native Americans, who named the region, Chicora, meaning "the land." Kings Highway - a major thoroughfare through the Myrtle Beach area - began as a Native American trail long before Europeans settled along the Grand Strand. Later, this trail became the route from the northern states to Charleston and Savannah. These first inhabitants are the subject of the oldest and perhaps most elusive stories. While much has been written about Native Americans, documented facts about local tribes in the Myrtle Beach area are scarce. Physical evidence of their existence and way of life has been more forthcoming, however, as arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts continue to turn up.
A new chapter in the area's history and lore was introduced after English colonists settled in the area. Suddenly, goods and supplies needed to be imported and exported across the ocean. By the 1700s, scores of pirates had taken to the high seas to intercept cargo vessels and make off with the goods. The South Carolina coastal waters were especially productive for pirates - and the coves and inlets along the Grand Strand provided great hiding places for these marauders. Pirates who became local legends include Edward Teach, called Blackbeard because of his coal-black beard, and Drunken Jack, who was left behind on an island with a huge stash of stolen rum - and was rumored to have died with a smile on his face. Meanwhile, English colonists formed Prince George Parish and laid out plans for Georgetown, the state's third oldest city, in 1730. Surrounded by rivers and marshlands, Georgetown became the center of America's colonial rice empire.
Until the 1900s, the beaches of Horry County were virtually uninhabited due to the county's geographical inaccessibility and poor economy. Near the turn of the century, the Burroughs & Collins Company - a timber / turpentine firm with extensive beachfront holdings - began developing the Myrtle Beach area as a resort. In 1901, the company built the beach's first hotel, the Seaside Inn. At that time, oceanfront lots sold for $25, and buyers received an extra lot if they built a house valued at $500 or more. Previously known as Long Bay, Withers, or Withers Big Swamp, the fledgling beach community was simply called "New Town" - until the Horry Herald sponsored a contest to officially name the area. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs - wife of the founder of Burroughs & Collins - won with the name "Myrtle Beach," which she chose for the many wax myrtle trees growing wild along the shore.
The Beginning of Golf and Vacations in Myrtle Beach
In the 1920s, a group of businessmen began building an upscale resort called Arcady, at the north end of the community. Arcady featured the present Pine Lakes International Country Club -- home of the Strand's first golf club and birthplace of the magazine Sports Illustrated -- as well as the legendary Ocean Forest Hotel. Several major developments took place along the Grand Strand during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1936 the Intracoastal Waterway was opened to pleasure boats and commercial shipping. During the 1940s, an Air Force base was established and used for training and coastal patrols during World War II. The base was closed in 1993. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion was built in 1949, and the historic band organ and carousel were installed in 1954. Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938 and became a city in 1957.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
The original Myrtle Beach Boardwalk was built in the 1930s and it quickly became the focal point for the developing tourist destination. For many years, the Boardwalk was graced by US servicemen stationed nearby, by entrepreneurs whose imaginations were sparked by the boardwalk and the exciting Atlantic coastline, and by tourists who attended nearby dance halls, arcades, pavilions, restaurants, and attractions. The Bowery, the original home of “Country Supergroup” Alabama, opened in 1944, and the Gay Dolphin gift shop opened in 1946, and no doubt their customers enjoyed a stroll on the iconic attraction.
Myrtle Beach Convention Center
The Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which houses the official South Carolina Hall of Fame, opened in 1970. During the 1970s, new construction in the area topped $75 million, and the permanent population tripled. In the 1970s and 1980s, construction of attractions, hotels, homes, retail shops and other amenities increased steadily, paving the way for another boom in the early 1990s. After Wheel of Fortune hostess Susan Stafford left in October 1982, North Myrtle Beach native, Vanna White, was selected as hostess of the show, putting the Myrtle Beach area on the map of the national television industry. With 425 properties, equaling 157,000 rooms/suites, the Grand Strand attracts over 20 million visitors each year.
A Premier Golf Destination
The Myrtle Beach area boasts over 90 of the most unique, challenging and picturesque golf courses in the world, making it a premiere destination for golf enthusiasts and aficionados with more than three million rounds of golf played annually.
Golfers of all levels can experience the beauty of oceanfront holes or stand in the midst of giant live oaks draped in Spanish moss on the site of a colonial rice plantation. Course designers have taken great pains to protect the natural habitat and wildlife indigenous to the Grand Strand while creating courses that are technically challenging and beautiful. Among the world-renowned architects: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, and Greg Norman.
After a day on the course, visit a local golf center for additional tips to perfect your game, dine at one of over 1,800 full-service restaurants, enjoy a live show at one of seven local theaters, or simply relax and take an evening stroll anywhere along the 60 miles (100km) of beaches located on the Grand Strand.
Miniature Golf Capital of the World
The Myrtle Beach area is called the "miniature golf capital of the world” for its more than 50 miniature golf courses throughout the Myrtle Beach area. The destination also features more mini golf courses per square mile than any other city in the country.
The area has seen tremendous growth in miniature golf since the first course was built in Myrtle Beach in 1930. In fact, the US ProMiniGolf Association, which is part of the larger World MiniGolf Association, holds its own “Masters” tournament annually at the Hawaiian Rumble Mini Golf Course in North Myrtle Beach.
The Grand Strand
The Myrtle Beach area stretches from Little River to Pawleys Island, comprising 14 distinct cities along the South Carolina coast. Home to 100km of sandy beaches, an assortment of entertainment and family attractions, Southern hospitality and world-class golf, the Myrtle Beach area presents the quintessential vacation experience.
A Popular Beach Holiday Destination
The Grand Strand continues to rank as one of the fastest-growing holiday destinations in the nation. Given its accessibility, by air or by car, and a wide variety of attractions for couples and families alike, the Myrtle Beach area received several new accolades in 2019 including being ranked number one on USA Today’s list of “50 Cities Where Everyone Wants to Live,” one of Yahoo! Finance’s “30 Most Affordable U.S. Vacations for Families,” and one of Southern Living’s “The South’s Best Beach Towns 2019.”
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