First Impression: The 60-mile-long Grand Strand makes a “grand” first impression, given this South Carolina treasure’s abundant year-round sunshine, gracious hospitality and endless opportunities for entertainment both on and off the water. The sun-kissed beaches and multiple water-sports options of the Strand serve up a virtual H2O-based playground. It’s also a fairway to heaven for golf aficionados who can tee up at more than 100 championship golf courses in this area dubbed the “Seaside Golf Capital of the World.” Each beach has its own personality and is worth exploring, from the high-octane energy of Myrtle Beach to the more laidback setting of Murrells Inlet. There’s truly something for everyone on the Strand.
Location: The Grand Strand is on the east coast of the United States in South Carolina and includes a handful of beach cities, such as the popular Myrtle Beach, Conway, Murrells Inlet and Georgetown among the handful. Technically a manmade island, the Strand is separated by the Intracoastal Waterway in northeastern South Carolina. It’s a premier family-friendly Southeast tourist destination, with a large portion of visitors coming from all over the world during the thriving summer months. Golf aficionados travel year-round, enjoying the pleasant fall weather and ample sunshine as well.
Getting There: Perfect for a any type pf getaway, iyou can easily access the Grand Strand by flying into Myrtle Beach International Airport, which is located on the south end of the Strand’s central Myrtle Beach, and approximately one mile from the Atlantic Ocean. It is accessible from Kings Highway or the Bypass. Huffman Helicopters is located on the eastern side of the airport with access from Kings Highway and provides tour services in the Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas. Within the U.S., you can travel to South Carolina by car, bus or train via the Waccamaw Coastline Railroad, a rail line that runs largely parallel to U.S. Route 501 between Conway and downtown Myrtle Beach.
Transportation: Once you arrive, the Grand Strand is easy to get around, but learn and know the rules of U.S roads well before arrival. Ocean Boulevard and Kings Highway (also known as Business Hwy. 17) run north and south along the Grand Strand parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. Highway 17 Bypass, or “the Bypass,” is the Grand Strand’s westernmost route, running parallel to the ocean. It begins in Murrells Inlet and continues northward until merging with Kings Highway. There are plenty of transportation options for fly-in visitors, including rental cars, taxis, shuttles, private car groups and a local bus service available by The Coast RTA. The Coast is affordable bus transportation offered seven days a week, along major thoroughfares, and to and from the Grand Strand and neighboring towns. Lymo buses travel on 22 routes servicing the Coastal Carolina region, including Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Conway, Loris and Aynor. If you’re considering visiting outlying cities, you’ll definitely need to book a rental car. Charleston, S.C. is only 99 miles away; Columbia, S.C., is about 148 miles away; Charlotte, N.C. at 174 miles away; and Savannah, GA, approximately 227 miles away. Orlando and its mega theme parks is only about 8 hours (500 miles) away, and may be worth adding a second stop to the end of your family getaway for the best of both worlds. Think about maximizing your travel time and interests with stops in both destinations.
Weather: The Grand Strand is well known for its family-friendly vibe, silky golden sand beaches, wealth of championship golf and abundant year-round sunshine. Though the area boasts some 215 sunny days per year, peak travel season is considered March 1 to September 30. A visit during this time typically offers prime beach weather and premium rates. November through February is considered the off season, which is the perfect time for adventure travelers or golfers to enjoy a trip filled with off-season rates and budget-minded travelers to get some deeper discounts. October and early November are the shoulder season and a favorite time for golfers who can get some great golfing discounts and enjoyable playing weather. The beach season normally runs from late April through September. The annual Sun Fun Festival signals the start of the summer season, which is typically long, hot and humid, with average daytime highs running 83 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and average night-time lows near 70 degrees F. Closer to the water, offshore breezes temper the summer heat a bit compared to inland areas of South Carolina. Humid summers have a near tropical feel in the city and give way to some warm, sultry southern summer nights. Summer thunderstorms are also common, with the most severe storms June through September in the late afternoons. They’re sometimes intense but brief, and tornadoes are rare. The Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach area has a mostly mild, relatively short winter season, with average daytime highs ranging from 57 to 61 degrees F and nighttime lows 36 to 38 degrees F from December through February. Winter temperatures vary more than summer temperatures, averaging only 33 days of frost. Snowfall is very rare in Myrtle Beach, but rare, brief appearances have happened. The Spring (March and April) and Fall (October and November) months are normally mild and sunny in Myrtle Beach, with high temperatures in the 60s and 70s degrees F.
Local Flavor: When there’s sand warming your toes, seafood typically tops your mind. No worries: You can get some of the freshest seafood in Murrell’s Inlet where it’s freshly drawn, prepared and served at many oceanfront restaurants. You can also enjoy a wide variety of delicious cuisine at a South, Central and North Grand Strand restaurants, from mouthwatering seafood and steaks to burgers and BBQ, ethnic specialties and scrumptious pastries. After an afternoon at the beach, enjoy a light lunch at a local deli or at an establishment on Broadway at the Beach, where you can dine amid the ocean’s natural splendor. In the evening, sophisticated paletes will take pleasure in the variety of gourmet cuisine, while casual diners and families can enjoy steak houses and buffets. You can also enjoy fabulous dinner cruises with fine dining and live entertainment on a casino ship cruising the scenic Atlantic Ocean. Some of the most highly recommended establishments by travelers include Rioz Brazillian Steakhouse, Flying Fish Public Market & Grill, Abuelo’s Mexican Food, Hamburger Joe’s, Miyabi Kyota Japanese, Kin Kong Sushi, Gulfstream Café, Cia Italian Restaurant, Gauachao, Chive Blossom, Quigley’s Pint & Plate and Carolina Roadhouse.
Retail Therapy: Squash your retail bug with an attractive and eclectic assortment of shopping options for all retail tastes and budgets, including designer-filled malls, trendy boutiques, factory outlets, specialty shops and flea markets. Stroll through dozens of South, Central and North Grand Strand shopping venues and fun-filled boardwalks, or sample the stores in the beach communities, including Myrtle Beach, Conway, Georgetown, Little River, Windy Hill, Crescent Beach, Ocean Drive and Murrells Inlet. Each town has its own variety of retail treasures just waiting to be discovered. Amid restaurants and entertainment, Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach features a variety one-of-a-kind shopping for accessories, shoes, jewelry, souvenirs and apparel with dozens of stores, galleries, boutiques and quaint markets providing a fun and diverse environment for all. Don’t worry about the non-shoppers, there are plenty of activities to keep them busy, too.
Abundant Water Sports: The pulse of the Grand Strand is felt on the beaches lined with abundant water-sports activities. Make some waves on your visit to the area with plenty of aquatic adventures, making sure to leave some wiggle room in your itinerary for weather or other delays that might alter your daily activities. Whether you desire relaxation on the beach or heart-pounding excitement—or a little of both—there is something for everyone! You’ll find more water-sports options than you could ever imagine on the Grand Strand, and in all the different areas, whether in the open water, inlets, channels and bays.
Golfer’s Paradise: The lifeblood of the Grand Strand, a stretch of more than 90 miles from Pawleys Island, S.C., to southern North Carolina, continues to attract golf groups, both big and small for its saturation of championship golf courses. Many golf aficionados have dreamed of teeing up at one of the 110 award-winning golf courses in the Grand Strand area dubbed the “Seaside Golf Capital of the World.” Beginners or advanced players can have their pick among rolling emerald-green courses designed by golf legends such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Francis Duane. The overabundance of courses, restaurants and bars feed golfers endless choices and encourages multiple and annual returns. The variety recruits newly intrigued individuals and groups, and brings back regulars year after year who can stick with their favorites or pick all-new options. Camaraderie is as big a part of a Grand Strand golf trip as the birdies and bogeys, and the whole family can enjoy a round of miniature golf courses and many other attractions. If you’re trip is mostly about golf, try and book accommodations within close proximity to your desired greens so you have the prime home base for your golfing itineraries.
Nightlife: The only way to top a fun-filled day on the water is an exciting night on the town, of course! The Grand Strand, especially Myrtle Beach, comes alive after the sun sets with sultry ocean breezes, reflecting moonlight off the ocean, and pulsating music and neon lights spilling out of nearby clubs. Whether a family, couple or friends out having fun, you’re all sure to fall under the spell of the Grand Strand and Myrtle Beach’s thriving nightlife, which is well stocked with nightclubs, discos, sports bars, dinner theaters, opry houses, beach hotspots, shag clubs, karaoke bars, contemporary and country dance clubs, and other hot spots, which include adult-only and family-friendly options. Match your mood and choose your poison. If you like live music, it’s everywhere in Myrtle Beach, from pop, rock, country, blues, R&B, instrumental, jazz and more. You’ll find great nightspots throughout the Myrtle Beach area. The northern areas of the Grand Strand, featuring Little River, North Myrtle Beach, Windy Hill, Crescent Beach, Ocean Drive and Cherry Grove, are famous for shag clubs—though the S.C. state dance [shag] is done just about everywhere. In Myrtle Beach proper, you’ll find nightclubs from the oceanfront to Conway and Aynor. The South Strand highlights the beach communities of Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield Beach and Pawleys Island, each featuring its own set of bars with a local flavor and a more laid-back style. When visiting the Grand Strand, taking time to explore and enjoy the variety of nightlife is a must-do!
Celebrity & Movie Trivia: Vanna White, an American television personality and film actress best known as the hostess of Wheel of Fortune since 1982, was born in Conway, South Carolina, in February 1957. She was born Vanna Marie Rosich, but after her father abandoned their family, she took the last name of her stepfather, Herbert Stackley White Jr., a former Myrtle Beach real-estate agent. Numerous movies have also been filmed in South Carolina, several in Columbia and Charleston, but 1967’s Don’t Make Waves and 2000’s Swimming were a couple of the movies filmed on location in Myrtle Beach.
Casino Ships: Centrally located at the hub of the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is home to South Carolina’s ONLY casino ships. The beautiful Atlantic Ocean coast comes alive day and night with Vegas-style gambling, live music and entertainment, and fine food aboard elegant casino ships that set sail twice daily on 5-hour cruises from beautiful Little River. It’s just a short drive north from Central Myrtle Beach. While onboard the casino cruise ships, you’ll enjoy free well drinks while playing all your favorite games, including Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, Texas Hold ‘Em, Let it Ride, 3 Card Poker and hundreds of slot machines. A casino cruise is a great way to cap off a fun-filled day. If you prefer a daytime gambling cruise, you’ll be back in time to explore all the dining, entertainment and clubs that Myrtle Beach nightlife has to offer.
First-Class Fishing: The Grand Strand offers premier saltwater fishing, as well as inland freshwater catches and pier fishing, too. It has immediate access to the Atlantic Ocean, along with numerous creeks and channels that feed into the ocean, all of which are salt water. Grand Strand deep-sea fishing is a true adventure and a thrilling experience. There are several piers to cast a reel; some are free, some with a fee and most with bait shops. If you don’t have your own rod and reel, you can purchase or rent one at a local bait and tackle shop, pier or sporting goods store. Individuals 16 years of age or older need a license to fish from the surf, but not from a public fishing pier. Visit dnr.sc.gov/licensing.html for current fees and license applications. In addition to the hearty Atlantic Ocean, the Grand Strand area has bountiful inland waters, including the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs parallel to the coast from Little River to Socastee where it merges with the Waccamaw River, and Murrell’s Inlet is dubbed the “seafood capital of South Carolina” for freshly caught, prepped and served seafood. Along the way, other rivers and tributaries feed into the waterway, and passage to the ocean is gained through Little River or Winyah Bay. Almost all of the fishing expeditions provide informative narratives about the region’s wildlife, scenic wonders, history and popular fish tales [legends]. From April to October, enter your catch caught from a pier, surf, inlet or deep sea in the annual Grand Strand Fishing Rodeo for monthly decals, shoulder patches and prizes totaling over thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise. To introduce your youngster to fishing, Garden City Beach’s smaller pier is free, quiet and great for crabbing. There’s also a small kids park when they need to burn some energy.