Myrtle Beach sees 14 million annual visitors. It is home to 90 golf courses, 425 hotels, and a multiverse of shops and attractions. The strip is thirty miles of action and entertainment, so the question is, how will you decide what things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina?
The first hotel in Myrtle Beach was built in 1901. Oceanfront lots sold for $25 at the time. In 1920, a group of businessmen established the city’s first resort, and several more resorts were added over the next thirty years.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the town really boomed, tripling in population. New construction of attractions, homes, and retail shops steadily increased throughout the 1980’s, paving the way for another tremendous expansion in the early 1990’s.
Make no mistake: The town will entertain you or die trying. You’ll be dining with pirates one moment, then find yourself staggering down the boardwalk with a crudely-sloganed t-shirt and an armload of tickets before you know what happened. A lot can go wrong in Myrtle Beach.
We’re here to keep your head from spinning. There are some really great things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina that get lost in the hurtling neon raceway. Enjoy!
One of the most highly regarded sculpture gardens in the United States is Brookgreen Gardens, SC. If you love sprawling botanical arrangements and/or spectacular sculptures this floral gem is an absolute must-do on the Carolina coast.
This estate was founded in 1931 by Archer and Anna Huntington. The gardens feature the work of Anna Hyatt Huntington, as well as a vast collection of figurative sculptures by other American artists. It is one of very few places to have earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The sculptures are amazing and over 500 of them adorn the parked-out, 350-acre setting. To read more about this incredible place to visit, check out Brookgreen Gardens SC. We give it our strongest recommend possible.
Archer and Anna Huntington built their southern getaway on a 9,000 acre beachfront plot in the early 1930’s. The centerpiece of the land was their residence, called Atalaya Castle. Archer was a wealthy, New York philanthropist with a profound love of Hispanic culture. He was also a fan of Moorish architecture and designed Atalaya to reflect the style. Atalaya means “Watchtower” in Spanish. Central to the castle is an elevated tower (shown above) that lends a look of the landscape in 360 degrees.
At Huntington Beach S.P. you can tour the home and grounds of Atalaya Castle for two dollars. There is also a phenomenal Nature Center, a salt marsh full of large birds and educational materials, a campground, a playground, playfields, and a lengthy strip of perfect beach.
You can read more about Atalaya Castle if you like!
Wheels of Yesteryear is a vintage auto museum focused on the 60/70’s muscle-car era. Here you can see all your favorites models up close and personal in a time capsule setting bursting with Americana.
Over the years Paul and Carol Cummings have built an enviable collection of original and restored classic rides. About one-hundred cars are on display at a time, and each summer the Cummings family will drive in different makes and models to keep the inventory fresh and the customers coming back.
One of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina is to spend the day at the beach. We’ve heard several folks tout North Myrtle as the place to be, and others say South Myrtle. No one ever says, “Just step off the boardwalk and pull up some sand,” but all of it is good.
From Huntington Beach S.P. to the south, up through Garden City and Surfside Beach (an autism-friendly beach — very cool), Myrtle Beach S.P., the Boardwalk, up through Atlantic Beach and North Myrtle Beach, the beach is very similar in wave and sand quality (map of beaches). North Myrtle Beach is the more expensive part of the city and sixteen miles from the center of town. The Boardwalk can be obnoxious if that’s not your thing. We enjoyed Garden City and Surfside Beach.
This is where we break from the most original best things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and get into the more common touristy stuff that can be found in similar beach towns.
Broadway at the Beach is an abomination that your children will love. Imagine a man made lake surrounded by shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions galore. Now picture a massive speedboat roaring up and down the lake and carp begging for dog food beneath the boardwalks. Next you’ll want to pretend you are surrounded by an Aquarium, Wonderworks Museum (our favorite), Dinopark, Le Grand Cirque, Broadway Theatre, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a Zipline, some Carnival Rides, and an Escape Room. And finally, bury yourself beneath fifty restaurants and a million overpriced stores. Huzzah! You’ve just traveled to Broadway at the Beach in your mind!
As you drive up and down the strip in Myrtle Beach you’ll notice the unusual word “Calabash” thrown around on restaurant signage. It means lightly fried seafood served buffet-style, but feel free to use it as your new favorite adjective for whatever you like.
The best of the Calabash Seafood Restaurants is Captain Benjamin’s Seafood Restaurant. There are bigger places with bigger signs — one stretch has three massive Calabash restaurants in succession, which is super weird — but Benjamin’s has the best food. And that’s why we go to restaurants. Map.
This is the beating heart of the town — albeit this particular heart has cardiomyopathy and an ejection fraction around 20%. Not a doctor, but …
The boardwalk of Myrtle Beach is considered one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina by those who love souvenir shops, mediocre food, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and ticket-producing games. There is a quality Ferris wheel, and the inimitable Gay Dolphin Gift Cove store is something everyone should explore.
The Gay Dolphin is four to six stories (its hard to tell) of stuff you can buy. There is nothing classy about it, yet the awesome volume of it creates a spectacle. You know what else makes a spectacle? Loud, shirtless people that smell like marijuana.
Located between Huntington Beach S.P. and Garden City (south of Myrtle Beach a few miles) is the small town of Murrells Inlet (map). Here the ocean flows inland and creates a back-bay atmosphere with fishing boats along a salt marsh. At Murrells Inslet you will feel miles removed from the bustle of Myrtle Beach.
The marsh walk is one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. It behaves like a date-night hot spot, with a half-dozen sporty restaurants and a prominent, scrollable boardwalk along the salt marsh. Here you will find the usual salt marsh birds: Pelicans, heron, egrets, and gulls. The Murrells Inslet Marsh Walk is best at sunset.
This is a very popular destination built to handle massive crowds. There are so many restaurants, putt-putt courses, and three-story, neon beach stores, it will make you eyes roll back in your head until they ache. We found it flabbergasting to witness miles and miles of stuff on which to spend money.
Many beach towns succumb to this fate, and while most do it more tastefully, Myrtle Beach is the honey badger of tourist trap beach towns. The competition for our dollars is apparent, and we find this offensive to our taste. We will only allow ourselves to be over-catered, overstimulated, etc. to an extent.
It would seem Myrtle Beach’s heyday was decades ago and it is now beyond its expiration date. Perhaps society has moved past the garish idea of carnival towns, yet Myrtle is still slapping the cymbals and boinging the mouth guitar for the crowd.
All of that aside, the town has fantastic beaches and golf courses will continue to draw visitors. The Huntington Beach State Park / Brookgreen Gardens combo on the south side of town is one of the best places to visit in South Carolina. There is a good vacation here if you can maintain focus.
Thank you for reading! We always try to be real with our reviews and recommend what we think is truly the best of what a location has to offer. Feel free to peruse the website for other travel destinations, tips and resources, or musings from the road. God bless!
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