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Myrtle Beach

Things to Do in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

There are so many things to do in the Myrtle Beach area, for kids and adults. Dining, shopping, entertainment, and outdoor recreation.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is one of my family’s favorite beach vacation destinations because of its long wide beaches and the plethora of things to do in and around the ocean. We have spent at least a week or two there almost every year for the last fifteen years.

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The Grand Strand

We’ve been to beaches all over the world, but very few beaches can compare to the section of the Carolina coast known as the Grand Strand. There are more than 60 miles of public beach between Little River and Winyah Bay. (Gotta admit, until I started looking up a couple of facts for this post, I’d never heard of Winya Bay!) For this post I’ll be concentrating on the area from Cherry Grove Beach to Garden City Beach, which makes up the Greater Myrtle Beach Area, encompassing almost 40 miles of beach.

Myrtle Beach

It’s entirely possible to walk from one end of the beach to the other without encountering any obstructions. While I’ve never walked this entire stretch of beach from one end to the other on any given day (that would be a LOT of walking) I have walked all of it over time and can assure you there isn’t an unpleasant spot on the entire beach.

Where is it located? Well, based on the number of searches for “Things to Do in Myrtle Beach NC” apparently there is some confusion! It’s in South Carolina, but it’s at the top of the state; Calabash, NC, known for its fried seafood, is just a few miles from Cherry Grove, so it’s a popular place to visit (and eat) from anywhere in the Grand Strand.

Myrtle Beach Lodging

There is a plethora of lodging in the Myrtle Beach area. Hotels, condos, and houses; oceanfront, oceanview, and many many options a street or two away from the ocean. Spending a few hours online looking at all the lodging choices can yield some good deals.

If you prefer to rough it you can tent or RV camp at one of several campgrounds or two state parks. Most of them have very clean facilities, trails, lots of recreational opportunities, and heated pools.

We usually rent a condo. Two of the biggest vacation rental companies in the area are Elliott Beach Rentals and Thomas Beach Vacations. There are also several smaller companies, and plenty of units on VRBO and Airbnb.

We generally book online, but let me suggest that you always confirm your reservations with a human being. Some of the systems are so automated that no humans are involved. Unfortunately that can mean that if something goes wrong with your booking no human has a clue that there is an issue.

View from a balcony at Myrtle Beach

Don’t let this happen to you!

Last Christmas the forecast was unseasonably warm, so we decided to pop down to North Myrtle Beach for the remainder of our vacation. Found a property on VRBO, managed by a small local realty company. Booked it. Signed the contract we were emailed. Paid. Received email with confirmation and welcome packet.

Based on previous experiences, we assumed that either our keys would be in a packet in a dropbox outside the office, or we’d have keyless entry via the app that the company’s email told us to install.

To our surprise when we arrived the next evening there was no packet, no keyless entry, and NO  WAY to get into our condo. It took two hours and multiple calls to an answering service to get anyone from Carolina Realty to return our call. 

When they did, they had no idea what we were talking about and or that we even had a reservation. They later said the problem was that their automated system only notified the office email, and no one monitored the system over the holiday.

Our condo wouldn’t be ready until the next aftternoon. When we told them we were standing on the porch of the condo, in the dark, and live 6 hours away, they just said, “Sorry.” When we asked for suggestions as to what to do now, they recommended a couple of cheap motels that have seen better days.

Fortunately, since it was December we were able to find an oceanfront room at Avista Resort, a couple of miles down the beach. The resort has great water amenities and the staff there were actually much more sympathetic to our plight than the staff of the realty company that caused it, and we ended up kind of wishing we’d just stayed there for the whole trip.

Myrtle Beach Recreation

Once you’ve checked in, unpacked, and maybe picked up a few groceries, the fun starts. Speaking of groceries, here’s my new favorite #lifehack for the beach: order groceries online so that they’re ready to pick up when you want them. There are plenty of grocery stores in the area, including Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, and Walmart.

You will, of course, want to spend at least some of your time walking in the sand, playing in the ocean surf, making sand castles, and collecting shells to prove you’ve been to the beach–otherwise you could be vacationing anywhere.

A woman paddling a kayak

Outdoor Activities at Myrtle Beach

And speaking of the ocean, you’ll have no shortage of recreational options in and around the ocean. There are several different kayak, canoe, and paddleboard tours that you can book. Exploring the salt marshes and main channel are always fun, as are the the island and shelling tour. There’s nothing quite like seeing all of the spectacular waterfowl that live in marshes. 

If you want to keep to the water theme you can go parasailing or rent a Jet Ski to zip around on–things we haven’t done yet but may do next time. You can take surfing lessons or stand-up paddle board lessons.

You might enjoy taking one of the many dolphin cruises. And for those of you who want to get a little bit closer to the marine life you can always go deep sea fishing.

Myrtle Beach is known for its golf courses. There are more than 80 golf courses for the golfers in your family. You could actually golf at a different course almost every day for a whole summer. Now there’s an idea!

There are plenty of stables in the area to go horseback riding. In the summer you’ll mostly find inland options, but come fall and winter you can ride on the beach.

There are several ziplines and ropes courses in the area.

Things to Do with Kids in Myrtle Beach

One of our favorite attractions is Family Kingdom Amusement Park. Family Kingdom has about three dozen rides, ranging from kiddie rides through family rides to thrill rides. Their Swamp Fox roller coaster is one of roughly a hundred wooden roller coasters that are still in operation in the US. There’s no charge for admission if you just want to walk around, play some games, and get some Italian ice. To ride, you can either buy tickets or a wristband that gives you unlimited rides. They offer a discount for military and veterans.

The lights of Family Kingdom Amusement Park at Myrtle Beach SC reflect in Withers Swash at night.

There are also two water parks, Wild Water & Wheels down in Surfside Beach and Myrtle Waves

And of course, there’s always mini-golf! The greater Myrtle Beach area boasts over fifty mini-golf courses. Since our youngest daughter wanted to be a paleontologist, our favorites were Jurassic Golf and Professor Hacker’s Dinosaur Adventure Golf

Side note: If you have a budding paleontologist in your family make sure you also visit Dino Park Myrtle Beach at Broadway on the Beach, and DinoLand Cafe (which is kind of like a low-budget but cute version of T-Rex).

Things to Do in Myrtle Beach Area

If you want to get away from the beach, spend a day at Brookgreen Gardens, a lovely botanical garden down just past Murrell’s Inlet. The Gardens are situated on over 9,000 acres. Every section of the botanical garden is amazing, but make sure you check out the Butterfly House. There’s nothing else quite like it in the Grand Strand.

In addition to the beautiful flowers you’ll also find the largest collection of outdoor American figurative sculpture in the country. You should also check out the zoo there. And if you need to rest your feet, the Creek Excursion pontoon boat tour ($10, March through November) or one of the two mini-bus tours they offer ($10 each) may be just what the doctor ordered.

Then on your way back to the beach, stop at one of the great restaurants at Murrell’s Inlet for dinner!

Myrtle Beach Shopping

A colorful fish tank with coral at Ripley's Aquarium
A colorful tank at Ripley’s Aquarium

When you’re done with recreation for the day there’s always shopping. Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach boast dozens of shops and restaurants. Both also have fireworks shows once a week, and since they’re on different nights, you can go to both.

When you’re at Broadway at the Beach, make sure you take the kids to Ripley’s Aquarium and to Wonderworks “amusement park for the mind” (a.k.a. the “upside down house”). 

Make sure you visit the iconic Gay Dolphin Gift Cove and its 26,000 square feet of novelties, gifts and clothing. This is the largest gift shop in America and has been one of the cornerstones of Myrtle Beach since it opened back in 1946. Oh, how I loved this place when I was a kid in the ’70s!

You can also check out the many shopping malls. 

And of course you’ll need reading materials. The area has both Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million. But if you’re like us, you’ll want to explore a used bookshop or two. My favorite, by far, is Beach Bookshop & Video in Cherry Grove. The proprietor is a nice guy and my family always finds something delightful and unexpected there. Bookends and Books & More are also worth a visit.

Myrtle Beach Dining

All this activity is sure to build up an appetite. Myrtle Beach has a truly dizzying array of restaurants to choose from. When I’m at the beach, I like to eat seafood! Giant Crab Seafood Restaurant, Crabby Mike’s Calabash Seafood down in Surfside Beach, and Snooky’s Oceanfront are a few of the options. 

Snooky’s has lionfish on their menu. Previously, I’d only ever had lionfish in Belize. Lionfish is an invasive exotic and also a very tasty flaky white fish. What better way to control an invasive exotic than to turn it into a tasty meal?

There are plenty of chain restaurants, of course, such as the Outback, Carrabba’s, P. F. Chang’s, etc. If you collect t-shirts from Hard Rock Cafe, there’s one at Broadway at the Beach.

If you’re craving for Indian food, there are several Indian restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area, but let me highly recommend Bombay at the Beach. The food there can’t be rushed, but is not to be missed! We make a point of eating there on every trip to the Grand Strand. 

If you’re looking for a little more adventure, you can turn dinner into an experience with dinner shows in Myrtle Beach. The two most fun are probably Medieval Times and Pirates Voyage

Knights on horseback at Medieval Times dinner show in Myrtle Beach
Medieval Times dinner show in Myrtle Beach.

Also, as mentioned above, there are some great restaurants at Murrell’s Inlet. I especially like Bovine’s and Wicked Tuna.

And lastly, if you like muscadine or other sweet wines you can sip your cares away with a wine tasting at Duplin Winery or at La Belle Amie Vineyard.

Myrtle Beach Entertainment

If you’re looking for straight-up entertainment you can check out some of the many shows and theaters in Myrtle Beach, as well as a plethora of bars and clubs for nightlife.

Sunrise at Myrtle Beach

Huge thanks to my husband Warren for collaborating with me on this article. Check out his wine-related posts and videos!

There’s really no place like Myrtle Beach. If you want long beaches to walk on plus tons of other stuff to do, plan your next beach getaway for Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand. Happy vacationing!

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