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|Myrtle Beach, SC: South Strand Family Vacation Ideas – Marsh Walks, Atalaya Castle, and Sunrise on a Vintage Beach.
The southern section of Carolina’s Grand Strand includes beach communities with distinctly Southern charm and style. Only a short drive north to the action, they remain on the quiet side, framed by picturesque marshes, embraced by gentle waves and soft sea breezes.
The communities include: Surfside, Garden City Beach, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield Beach and Pawley’s Island. Day adventures from any of these communities to Georgetown, Mt. Pleasant or even Charleston are easy.
The South Strand offers vacations on the slightly quieter side. Gaze at the sea once plied by the infamous Blackbeard. Sample fresh clams and crabs prepared down-home-style. Stay at Surfside dubbed South Carolina’s family Beach. Go for fishing, boating, crabbing or kayaking and sleep in Garden City Beach. Merrell’s Inlet is known for seafood; Litchfield is known for quaint shops; Pawley’s Island is known historic Southern charm.
Walk the marsh. From Murrells Inlet a 1,400-foot boardwalk known as The Marshwalk weaves through the wetlands and over the marsh reeds making it easy to spot indigenous wildlife and waterfowl. The best time to be on the boardwalk is just at dawn or just at sunset. Not only is there plenty of activity but the commotion is accompanied by a well orchestrated symphony of sounds. Bonus points: The 750-foot Veterans Pier walkway provides terrific access out to the marsh. A “Bike Bridge” extends over the Murrells Inlet salt marsh. Once completed, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel from the northern Georgetown/Horry County line on Highway Business 17 straight through to Pawleys Island.
Watch the animals. Low Country History & Wildlife Preserve is part of the tranquil Brookgreen Gardens. The options for families are unique to the area. From bouncing along in an oversized jeep to gliding along in a 48-passenger pontoon boat, the experience will be one-of-a-kind. The all-natural exhibit showcases the history from the time of the early Native American residents. The Low Country habitats feature non-releasable animals and include a waterfowl aviary built over a tidal swamp, river otter and alligator habitats along a creek. Bonus points: Interpreters onsite provide a variety of ways for visitors to interact with nature and its inhabitants.
Glide over the water.
One of Charleston's oldest outfitters, Coastal Expeditions provides exception kayaking opportunities for families. They claim no experience is necessary and they mean it. Their emphasis is on quality and safety while having fun. Their focus is preservation and environmental education and all of the guides are also dedicated naturalists. Bonus points:
They offer a Young Naturalists' Kayak Adventure Camp dedicated to practicing skills of kayaking and natural exploration.
Discover a vintage beach. In the 1930s Myrtle Beach State Park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Then as now it offers families delightful one-of-a-kind experiences. In addition to almost one mile of beachfront, this 312-acre location has a campground, cabins, picnic areas, a fishing pier and nature center nature trail - "Sculptured Oak Nature Trail". The nature center provides oodles of ways o explore together observing saltwater aquariums, seeing live reptiles and using interactive natural history displays. Bonus points: Myrtle Beach State Park is a "DiscoverCarolina Site", usually open Tuesdays through Saturdays, depending on the time of year. Need to know: Equestrian beach access is available during December, January and February each year.
Visit a castle by the sea. Perched on the edge of South Carolina’s Atlantic coastline in Murrells Inlet and surrounded by 2500-acre coastal park is the Moorish looking Atalaya “castle”. Once a private winter residence of whom else but the Huntingtons. It now offers families a perfect picnic spot and a place to play “pretend”. Huntington Beach State Park also offers families many ways to have fun and learn at the same time. In addition to three miles of one of the most pristine beaches on the Grand Strand, the park includes salt marshes, a freshwater lagoon, and maritime forest. Ranger-led programs include topics such as “Under the Sea,” “Terrific Turtles,” “Snakes Alive” and “Surf Safari.” When the nature center is not open simply proceed to the outdoor wildlife habitat complete with bird feeder, bird houses, butterfly garden, bird baths and nature sculpture. Bonus points: From March to November, Coastal Exploration field trips allow visitors to join staff educators for alligator viewing, marsh and nature trail exploration and a close-up look at the history and mystery of Atalaya. The park is known to be one of the best birding sites along the East Coast. Need to know: It is illegal to feed alligators, or disturb loggerhead turtle nests or hatchlings.
Way down upon the Santee River. North of Charleston, the exquisite Hopsewee Plantation stands as a tribute to the area’s rich history. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, it has always been important to the area and remains an American treasure. Built almost 40 years before Revolutionary War, it was originally part of the lands owned by Thomas Lynch, Senior and hence became the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hopsewee is on the Santee River and was once surrounded by rice fields which were its source of income until the Civil War. Today the house and grounds are available for viewing. A word of caution, this is the real thing not an interactive simulation. For families that love history this spot is a delight. Bonus points: A variety of living history events are conducted throughout the year. Hopsewee is located immediately off of Highway 17 about halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston on the North Santee River.
Rice, not just for takeout. The Low Country offers a uniquely American connection to a food staple that we take for granted. The Rice Museum in Georgetown showcases the importance of rice to the culture of the South. With maps, dioramas, artifacts, and displays other exhibits, visitors learn more about a society based on one crop. Lafayette Park surrounds the Rice Museum building and is a refreshing urban green space on the banks of the Sampit River. Bonus points: The Maritime History Gallery is included with admission to the Rice Museum. The gallery contains oldest boat in North America, The Brown's Ferry Vessel, a 50 -foot river freighter. Believed to be built in 1710, and sunk somewhere around 1730, this vessel is of significant importance as it proves there was shipbuilding at least 50 years earlier then otherwise known.
See the Greatest Generation's greatest weapons. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world and home to USS Yorktown (a.k.a. “The Fighting Lady”). Board the vessel and feel the power of the American aircraft carrier. The USS Yorktown became one of the best known warships in American history because of her service during World War II in the South Pacific. Nearby is the USS Laffey (a.k.a.“The Ship That Wouldn’t Die”), a destroyer that participated in the D-Day landing in Europe as well as breath-taking maneuvers in the Pacific. Discovery: A remnant of the Cold War Era, the submarine USS Clamagore is available for viewing. Bonus points: After fifty years at sea, one of the most decorated vessels in United States, The US Coast Guard Cutter Ingram is also berthed within the complex.
Make it happen.
To see the bigger picture, make vacation plans and take advantage of website online discounts.
Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. 1200 N. Oak Street, Myrtle Beach, 29577 or www.visitMyrtleBeach.com
See the animals. Low Country History & Wildlife Preserve at Brookgreen Gardens. 1931 Brookgreen Gardens Drive Pawleys Island, 29585. (843) 235-6000
Glide over the water. Coastal Expeditions. 514-B Mill St Mt Pleasant, SC 29464. (843) 884-7684
Discover a vintage beach. Myrtle Beach State Park 4401 South Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29575, (843) 238-5325
. Call 1-866-345-PARK
(7275) or www.SouthCarolinaParks.com
Visit a castle. Atalaya “castle. Huntington Beach State Park 16148 Ocean HWY Murrells Inlet, SC 29576. (843) 237-4440
Way down upon the Santee River. Hopsewee Plantation. 494 Hopsewee Plantation, Georgetown, SC 29440. (843) 546-7891
Rice, not just for takeout. The Rice Museum. PO Box 902 Georgetown, SC 29440. (843) 546-7423
See the Greatest Generations' greatest weapons. The Patriots Point Fleet is on Charleston Harbor. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. 40 Patriots Point Rd. Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. (843) 884-2727
Content provided by Travel Communications Inc. based on site visit and interviews. Images provided by South Carolina Office of Tourism. Copyright 2014.