A Weekend in the Myrtle Beach Area
If you’re from the Southeast, you may already have some preconceived assumptions about Myrtle Beach, South Carolina… perhaps you picture miles upon miles of beautiful coastline and beaches, an affordable family-friendly getaway, the area’s first-class golf courses or its raucous guilty-pleasure nightlife scene. I had no expectations about the area prior to my first visit a couple weeks ago, but I was excited to experience a whirlwind weekend there.
What you should know about Myrtle Beach:
Before I tell you about my experience, there’s some things you should know about about the area. Myrtle Beach is just one city, but the “Myrtle Beach area” actually encompasses 12 very unique communities along a 60 mile stretch of stunning shoreline that locals affectionately refer to as the “Grand Strand.” The area is home to a lot of history, natural beauty and Myrtle Beach’s lively downtown Boardwalk area. It would be remiss for you to visit the area and only explore one of the 12 communities – there’s a lot to see starting with Little River in the North and traveling down to Pawleys Island on the southern end of the Strand. With this said, I (sadly) only had one weekend to explore the Myrtle Beach area, but was able to see quite a bit in 48 hours given the central location of the airport and the ease of navigating the area. I visited Myrtle Beach solo (and it was a blast!), but it’s a popular destination for couples, families and and girls/guys trips as well.
I also want to mention that the weather shown in my photographs from last weekend in mid-January is not typical. Myrtle Beach typically has mild weather in winter, but my trip just happened to coincide with a freak storm which wreaked havoc through most states along the eastern seaboard. (There were tornadoes in my base city of Atlanta – also is not common)! Regardless, the weather will likely be much more pleasant whenever you head to Myrtle Beach.
Planning a weekend? Here’s my recommendations on what to do in Myrtle Beach:
When you arrive check into your hotel, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, which is about 20 minutes from the airport if you’re flying. The view from my room overlooking the marina (above) was fantastic. You could easily spend your weekend lounging around the resort’s lovely pool, playing golf and dining in its top notch restaurant, Waterscapes, but you know me – I wanted to get out and explore! The hotel has a upscale southern feel without being too stuffy.
Get settled in and then pop into the hotel’s Reflections Bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. If you’re lucky Bob will be bartending and you may be able to convince him to break out his ukulele and sing you a tune. (100% serious… and it’s awesome). Head out that evening to Broadway at the Beach, a huge entertainment complex with a ton of shopping, dining and entertainment options. Stroll around and explore before grabbing dinner at American Tap House, which serves craft beer and delicious food in a trendy Americana-themed setting.
After dinner head over to Carolina Comedy Club, a stand-up comedy club within the same complex. The comics had me doubled over laughing for 90+ minutes.
After the show, explore Broadway at the Beach’s very popular nightlife scene. If you’re in a low-key mood, you can find live music back at American Tap House and a couple of the other venues. If you’re ready to “turn up” you won’t have to walk far to find a lively bar or club.
You’ve probably had a long night, so start with breakfast at the Marina Inn before driving south to Murrells Inlet. Start off exploring the show-stopping Brookgreen Gardens – a seamless blend of nature, history and art. Brookgreen is built on several former plantations and home to a large collection of American figurative sculptures displayed in a stunning (very-Southern) outdoor setting. Hop on a docent-led tour to learn a bit about the fascinating life of the garden’s founders, Archer and Anna Huntington, South Carolina history and the art of sculpture.
Brookgreen is also home to an open-air “zoo” unlike any I’ve been to. You can see all sorts of animals native to South Carolina like birds of prey, otters and alligators. I loved walking among dozens of herons, watching the otters play and gazing in awe at the bald eagles (they are huge)! I had heard from several friends that Brookgreen was a must-see that I shouldn’t miss… after experiencing it for myself, I now understand what they meant and completely 100% agree.
Brookgreen backs up to Huntington Beach State Park, which you should also try to explore. The park is home to a beautiful beach, great fishing, insane bird-watching (hold off before casting judgement until you actually see what I’m talking about, trust me) and the curious Atalaya Castle, a historic Moorish castle-like structure which was the winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington. (Yes, you read that right – a Moorish castle on the beach in South Carolina… Rumor has it that Atalaya is haunted and home to some peculiar and/or supernatural happenings).
After the State Park, head on over to nearby downtown Murrells Inlet for lunch. If you love seafood and views, this is the place for you. I indulged in a spectacular meal at the ultra-popular, Wicked Tuna. Wicked Tuna is situated on one end of the Marsh Walk – a short picturesque boardwalk along the marshlands filled with waterfront bars and restaurants. The Marsh Walk is well-known during the daytime for its fun atmosphere and great seafood and live music and bar scene after dark.
On a related note, I adored Murrells Inlet and had trouble pulling myself away. This fishing village has a funky beach vibe and is positively charming. It’s chock-full with cuteness and a colorful historic past riddled with legends of ghost stories and pirates. The dreary weather gave the marsh a peaceful surreal feel, and even though I didn’t see Murrells Inlet in its typical sunny splendor, I loved it. (Oh, and there were no crowds)…
Stroll the area, take a boat ride and linger until after the sunsets over the marsh (another can’t-miss in the area) before heading back towards Myrtle Beach.
On the way north, stop in downtown Myrtle Beach for a memorable dinner at The Chemist – Craft Cocktails and Modern Cuisine. The restaurant is modeled after a science lab and serves molecular gastronomy concocted by their award-winning Executive Chef, Sean C. Thomas. Here’s a run-down of my experience at The Chemist:
Cocktails: I ordered the very cool and visually impressive Periodically Peach Martini pictured above (think lots of steaming dry ice) and the best “Molecular” Moscow mule I’ve ever tasted (it stands out from the pack because it is crafted with a touch of blueberry and lavender).
Food: Where do I even begin? I’m told that the menu is ever-changing with local seasonal ingredients and new innovative ideas. I sampled a couple dishes, but my favorites were the diver scallops with yuzu foam, their toasted bread topped with beer cheese fondue, a quail egg and Tabasco caviar, and the beef short rib, which melted in my mouth. My dessert was a “chocolate hummus” dip served with pretzels and strawberries. Yum… and made with beans! I promise you couldn’t taste the beans, but on that note, a vegetable in my dessert means its healthy, right? 🙂
With light-up cocktail menus, beverages served in beakers and the periodic table of elements plastered on the wall, this restaurant’s concept could go overboard and get cheesy pretty quick, but I really, really enjoyed it! I’m a sucker for a fun theme and Chef Thomas’ delicious dishes backed up the hype. As a bonus, I found the prices at The Chemist to be very reasonable by fine-dining standards in most large cities. The Myrtle Beach area is a haven for foodies, and all my meals were excellent, but this one was my favorite dining experience of the weekend.
The Chemist is perfectly located for you to explore downtown Myrtle Beach and the Boardwalk after dinner. Ride the SkyWheel for impressive views of the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t miss The Bowery for live music – the venue is legendary and the country band Alabama used to be their house band!
What you do on your last day in Myrtle Beach will likely depend on how much time you have and how exhausted you find yourself after your whirlwind weekend adventure. If you want to spend time outside, get out on a boat, fish, surf or try your hand at a watersport. If you like history, explore Hopsewee Plantation or the historic small “Mayberry-like” town of Conway. You could also choose to explore one of the other unique communities such as Pawleys Island or North Myrtle Beach, each with its own distinct vibe and attractions. Or, you could go to the beach and do nothing at all…
Are you wanting to explore South Carolina’s coastal Grand Strand and the Myrtle Beach Area?
Good – I thought so. 🙂 The Grand Strand has something for everyone. Literally.
If you’re considering a trip to Myrtle Beach this spring, make sure you book before January 31 for some ridiculous deals. Visit Myrtle Beach is doing their best to help you out during the phenomenon known as Blue Monday. I know what you’re thinking… what the heck is Blue Monday? Research shows that the third Monday in January is known as the most depressing day of the year – winter is in full swing and your post-holiday slump comes to a peak. Now it makes sense, right? To give you something to look forward to, many of the businesses in Myrtle Beach are offering great Blue Monday deals if you book your trip this month (so before January 31). For example, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes (where I stayed) is offering 40% off a stay of two nights or more(!!!) There’s a ton of other great deals to be had which you can check out here at Visit Myrtle Beach.
Remember those “preconceived assumptions” that I wrote about at the beginning of this post? You’re probably wondering whether I believe them to be true after visiting. The answer is yes – the Myrtle Beach area is all those things. It’s wild and a haven for the fun-loving. It’s historic and culture-filled. It’s full of natural beauty and oozing with southern charm. And, its waiting to be discovered by you.
Note: I was a guest of Visit Myrtle Beach and was compensated for my time and work, but the opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I was not given a specific itinerary and chose my own attractions and restaurants based on what I thought my readers would love most!
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