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6 things to do when you're visiting Myrtle Beach

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist in Journalism and an award-winning travel writer. She is the author and owner of PratesiLiving.com with her husband, coauthor of Southern Heat with Chef Anthony Lamas, and co-owner ...

What to do in Myrtle Beach to get the most out of your trip

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is often thought of as a lively family and golf vacation destination with busy beaches, nightlife, and indoor and outdoor activities sure to please all ages.

However, Myrtle Beach is more than just one town. It’s part of an area known as the Grand Strand, which encompasses 60 miles of South Carolina coastline beginning just above North Myrtle Beach in the tiny fishing village of Little River and extending to Pawleys Island on the southern end. Made up of 12 communities, each has its own distinct feel and characteristics, and each offers unique places to stay, activities and dining options for families and couples alike.

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1. Look for the quiet side

What to do in Myrtle Beach to get the most out of your trip
Image: Roger Pratesi/Pratesi Living

North Myrtle Beach is a great choice for accommodations. There are many condominiums, beach rentals, hotel and resort properties, and award-winning restaurants in an area that is less congested than the heart of Myrtle Beach. Situated on a beautiful 9-mile stretch of beach, North Myrtle Beach has many properties right on the coast, perfect for sunbathing and playing in the sand and surf.

For something even quieter, head south of Myrtle Beach to Surfside Beach or the small community of Garden Beach, where generations of the same families have been vacationing for years. Here you’ll find plenty of beach houses and condos to rent. Pawleys Island, a historic town and one of the East Coast’s oldest summer resorts, offers another option with its casual chic and laid-back vibe, unspoiled beaches, and sand dunes.

2. Visit Little River

Located 20 miles north of Myrtle Beach, life takes a step back in time in the quaint little town of Little River. Known for its Blue Crab Festival, which takes place in May, Little River has many historic live oak trees and several marinas. Boats are available for rent along the waterfront for fishing or a day of relaxing on the water.

3. Spend time at Myrtle Beach State Park

An oceanfront maritime forest, Myrtle Beach State Park offers many opportunities to enjoy the unexpected green space and quiet nature trail just minutes from the beach. The park is home to some of the best surf fishing in the state (license required), and the Myrtle Beach Pier offers excellent fishing as well.

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4. Kayak tour of the Waccamaw River

What to do in Myrtle Beach to get the most out of your trip
Image: Roger Pratesi/Pratesi Living

Black River Outdoors offers many outdoor adventures. Choose from sunset tours in Murrells Inlet, a tour of Georgetown Harbour or a tour of Sandy Island that teaches guests about the Carolina Bay ecosystem. For a thrilling and scenic ride paddling along the black water creeks and lakes of the Waccamaw River in Conway, book their Guided Cypress Swamp Tour. Nature enthusiasts, adventurers and children will all love the wildlife viewing opportunities. Expect to see a few herons, egrets, alligators and swamp canaries, just to name a few. It’s a unique experience to get close to nature on the river.

5. Check out Murrells Inlet

Take the time to visit this charming fishing village on the southern side of the Grand Strand known as the Seafood Capital of South Carolina. Kayaking, deep-sea fishing, watching the fishing boats come in along Marsh Walk, excellent waterfront dining and seeing live music are the most popular activities in this picturesque town. With all of the fresh seafood, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad meal. To experience the area like a local, dine at The Inlet Crab House & Raw Bar or Creek Ratz.

On the way back to your hotel, stop at Brookgreen Gardens, a national historic landmark that features the largest collection of American outdoor sculptures in the world.

6. See Pawleys Island

What to do in Myrtle Beach to get the most out of your trip
Image: Roger Pratesi/Pratesi Living

At the southernmost part of the Grand Strand is Pawleys Island. If you haven’t made plans to stay there, take the time to visit, and enjoy a day on its white, sandy beaches; lounge in a rope hammock; and then have lunch or dinner at one of their many great restaurants.

The next time you think of a family — or couples — vacation, plan a trip to a quieter side of the Grand Strand where there's truly something for everyone.

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