Myrtle Beach isn’t for everyone. You either love it or hate it. For many people who visit the Myrtle Beach area, relaxing on the beach is enough, but for some, there is only so much time they can spend sitting around doing nothing. Even with all the attractions in the Myrtle Beach area, if you don’t venture way from the beach area, you can miss out on a so much the coastal area has to offer. The Coastal Carolina area has a rich history filled with some truly interesting southern tradition along with beautiful and amazing scenery. So much can be experienced just a short car ride away.
Here’s 5 day trip recommendations from a local:
Just a short 15 minute drive from the heart of Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen Gardens is a combination of art, history, and zoo. Boat rides turn into history lessons and a visit to the butterfly house becomes a lesson in conservation. A fascinating way to spend a day or more and each admission purchased is good for 7 days.
Brookgreen Gardens is a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve. The 9,100-acre property includes several themed gardens with American figurative sculptures placed in them, the Lowcountry Zoo, and trails through several ecosystems in nature reserves on the property. It was founded by Archer Milton Huntington, stepson of railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington, and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington to feature sculptures by Anna and her sister Harriet Hyatt along with other American sculptors. Brookgreen Gardens was opened in 1932, and is built on four former rice plantations, taking its name from the former Brookgreen Plantation.
Atalaya Castle, also known as Atalaya, was the winter home of industrialist and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington and his wife, the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. The castle is located along the ocean in Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC, just a short drive from the center of Myrtle Beach and almost directly across the highway from Brookgreen Gardens.
The 200 by 200 foot masonry structure was built from 1931 to 1933 apparently without drawn plans, Archer Huntington had already designed the residence for them with his detailed imagination ‘in his head. Atalaya (AH-tuh-lie-yuh) means “watchtower” in Spanish, as in the real Atalaya Castle in Spain. The house is dominated by a square tower, which housed a 3,000 gallon water tank. Rising nearly 40 feet from a covered walkway, it bisects Atalaya’s inner court. The inner walls of the main courtyard were covered with creeping fig vines, Sabal palmettos, the South Carolina state tree, and other palms. The living quarters consist of 30 rooms around three sides of the perimeter, while the studio, with its 25-foot skylight, opens onto a small, enclosed courtyard where Anna Hyatt Huntington worked on her sculptures. Pens for animal models, including horses, dogs and bears, are situated adjacent to the open studio. The building also features hand-wrought iron grills designed by Mrs. Huntington, which cover the exteriors of windows. These and shutters were installed for protection against hurricane winds.
During World War II the Huntingtons vacated Atalaya and provided it to the Army Air Corps for use from 1942 to 1946. The Huntingtons last used Atalaya as their winter home in 1947. Most of the furnishings were sent to New York City after Mr. Huntington’s death in 1955. The studio equipment was moved to a new studio at Brookgreen Gardens.
After roaming through this castle, you can then spend an hour or two relaxing on one of the least crowded beaches along the Grand Strand located right there within Huntington Beach State Park. Be sure to make a stop before or after the small causeway to photograph alligators and other beautiful creatures in their natural habitat!
(3) Charleston, S.C.
Between a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Myrtle Beach (depending on what part of the beach you are staying) Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. Founded in 1670 as Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783.
Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people, Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly [City]” by Travel + Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 and 2014 by Condé Nast Traveler, and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.
Charleston is known for its unique culture, which blends traditional Southern U.S., English, French, and West African elements. The downtown area has gained a reputation for its art, music, local cuisine, and fashion. Spoleto Festival USA, held annually in late spring, has become one of the world’s major performing arts festivals. Charleston is known for its local seafood, which plays a key role in the city’s renowned cuisine, comprising staple dishes such as gumbo, she-crab soup, fried oysters, Lowcountry boil, deviled crab cakes, red rice, and shrimp and grits. Rice is the staple in many dishes, reflecting the rice culture of the Low Country.
There is an abundance of activities and attractions in the Charleston area from the Historic Charleston City Market to boat tours and civil war fort tours (Fort Sumter) that it is wise to research all that is available and visit with list in hand to see as much as possible in one day. Patriot’s Pointe, along Charleston Harbor is home of the USS Yorktown and the Naval and Maritime Museum and can be a day’s adventure in itself. You can spend hours watching the native Gullah ladies hand weave the most beautiful sweet grass baskets ~ but be prepared, these hand woven beauties do not come cheap!
If you arrived in the Myrtle Beach area without a car, there are tour companies that will take you on a day trip to Charleston. Most will have you enjoy an all inclusive day of sightseeing around one of the South’s most beautiful and historic cities. The trip will include a city tour by bus or carriage, delicious lunch and fabulous shopping in the historic market district, and a choice of three afternoon attractions (Boone Hall, Fort Sumter, or Patriots Pointe). Free pick up and drop off is offered at most hotels.
(4) Georgetown, S.C.
Just a 30 minute drive south from Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, SC is the third oldest city in South Carolina and full of interesting history to explore. You can spend the afternoon cruising down Front Street exploring all the shops and restaurants, strolling along the Georgetown Harborwalk to enjoy gorgeous waterfront views or walking through downtown exploring historical sites. Every inch of Georgetown will show you more and more southern charm in every corner of this quaint port city. It is also the perfect destination for waterfront shopping, dining, boating, fishing, historic tours, and ghost tours. There are so many fun things to do. Throughout the year, Georgetown is host to many events, festivals, parades, and concerts. Be sure to bring your camera to capture some of the best photographic opportunities in the South. You will be pleasantly surprised!
You can take in attractions like the Rice Museum, Kaminski House Museum and SC Maritime Museum, find hidden treasures at unique art galleries and shopping places or eat at some of the best restaurants in the area. A quick day trip to Georgetown can sometimes feel closer than going into the heart of Myrtle Beach if you are staying at the south end in Murrells Inlet or Pawleys Island.
Murrells Inlet is legendary! It’s the seafood capital of South Carolina, the place where hushpuppies were invented, where Blackbeard and other pirates of the high seas stashed their ill-gotten booty, and the place where locals and visitors alike have reported a chance meeting with one of the Inlet’s ghosts.
The South Carolina coastal waters were especially productive for pirates and the coves and inlets along Murrells Inlet provided great hiding places for those marauders. Pirates who became local legends include Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard because of his coal-black beard, and Drunken Jack, who was left behind on a nearby island with a huge stash of stolen rum. You can visit the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk and take a ride on a pirate ship! You and your children can experience the magic of sailing away in search of sunken treasure!
The Gray Man is South Carolina’s most famous ghost with several different versions of his story. No matter which version you read (or hear) they all have a common ending – the Gray Man warns residents to flee the island from an impending hurricane. People still claim they see the Gray Man. In 1954 a grandmother on vacation with her family saw a man dressed completely in gray fade to a blur before fading away. The next day tornadoes ripped through the area. One person tried to chase the Gray Man only to have him disappear in front of their eyes. So if you visit the area in late September or October, keep an eye turned to the beach. And if you do see the Gray Man, heed his warning. and take shelter.
The Murrells Inlet MarshWalk offers fishing charters, shopping and water sports, along with waterfront dining at some of the area’s finest restaurants ~ all connected by a boardwalk. Each restaurant has an outdoor area with live music. From the boardwalk watch the goats play on Goat Island and watch the local fishing boats come into dock where the chefs from the local restaurants are waiting to make their selections for that nights “special.” You can’t get fresher seafood anywhere!