Beach Laws, Rules & Regulations

Beach laws, rules, and regulations for Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Horry County unincorporated areas are very similar with a few exceptions.

Most of the SC beaches have rules about erecting a shade tent, canopy, sun umbrella or any other portable shading device, as well as allowing dogs on the beach (click here for our page on dog friendly beaches), alcohol, and surfing. It seems incongruous with the freedom of the beach, but regulations are sometimes necessary for the safety of beachgoers and the protection of sea turtle nests.

High season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That’s when 100,000 or more visitors and locals per day head for the beaches for sun, surf, and fun. That’s a lot of people packed onto a narrow strip of sand between the dunes and the tide, but with some cooperation and an attitude of sharing, everyone can have a good time.

Dog on the beach on a leashDogs on the beach must always be on a leash.

Beach Laws for Horry County Beaches

The county maintains about 14 miles of public beaches that include Myrtle Beach State Park and other unincorporated areas. Lifeguards are stationed along these beaches from May 15 to September 15 each year. Usually you’ll find signs posted at public beach accesses and walkovers with a list of dos and don’ts, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this information. Click here for the Horry County website. Here’s a brief rundown, along with my editorial comments.

  • No alcohol, fires, grills, or glass are allowed on the beach.
  • No driving on the beach. If you want to do that, go to Daytona.
  • No overnight camping or sleeping on the beach.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beaches from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. May 1st through Labor Day. Dogs must be on a leash 7 feet long or less and owners must pick up after their pets. You may not bring your pet python to the beach!
  • No littering, fireworks, or nudity on the beach. That includes that thong bikini you bought in the Bahamas.
  • DO NOT WALK ON THE DUNES OR PICK OR DESTROY SEA OATS. This is serious. Destruction of the dunes and dune vegetation leaves the coastline vulnerable to erosion. Then there would be no beach for you to enjoy.
  • No solicitation or commercial activities. Don’t try to sell your timeshare, we have professionals for that.
  • No bicycles on the beach from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. May 1st through Labor Day.
  • If you plan on surf fishing, you must first obtain a valid South Carolina issued Surf Fishing License.
  • Swimmers must be no more than chest deep in the water depending on conditions and must obey all lifeguard directions at all times.
  • Surfing is allowed anywhere along Horry County beaches from sunrise to sunset, but not within 75 yards of any pier.
  • Horses are only allowed on the beach from November 1 through February 28 in the designated equestrian zone, which is the area south of Myrtle Beach and north of Surfside Beach.
Sun umbrellas must not block the lifeguard stand.

Beach Shade Devices

This has been a bone of contention for the cities and county. Most of the laws are now pretty uniform. Here’s what Horry County has ruled.

  • Tents, tarps, cabanas, pavilions, sports-brellas, or similar devices are not allowed on the beach at any time.
  • Only umbrellas no more than 7-feet 6-inches wide are allowed.
  • Shading devices of any kind cannot be tied, bound, or connected to each other in any manner, BUT all shading devices must be secure.
  • DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING OVERNIGHT! Shading devices, floats, chairs, toys, etc. left between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. will be removed.
  • No shading device may be placed within 10 feet of any established umbrella line of the beach franchise holders and must be in line with or landward of the established umbrella line. So, if you see a line of umbrellas all the same, you may place your umbrella at least 10 feet away from and in line with or on the dune side of the line.
  • Do not block a lifeguard’s view or encroach on his/her area. You will be asked to move.

Beach Laws for Myrtle Beach

These really are laws and are written as such on their website. It’s a lot of legalese, but here’s the gist.

If the lifeguard tells you to get out of the water GET OUT OF THE WATER! The lifeguard’s word is law. Also, be sure to know the beach flag colors and what they mean.

Shading devices cannot be any larger than 12-feet by 12-feet, or 144 square feet, and cannot be any taller than 9-feet after they are installed. These devices must be at least 10 feet away from any other shading device and are not allowed on the beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The only devices allowed year-round are circular umbrellas with a diameter of 7-feet 6-inches or less.

No horses are allowed on the beach.

There are some additional restrictions of sailboats and other watercraft, and no changing clothes in the public bathrooms. Otherwise, Myrtle Beach laws are the same as Horry County.

North Myrtle Beach Rules & Regulations

NMB has a much shorter list of don’t-dos and is a little different on the sun umbrella topic. They allow a 7-foot 6-inch pole and a 9-foot wide umbrella. Since they designate no other shade devices between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it is assumed that these devices can be used in the off-season from Labor Day to Memorial Day. (“No tents, tarps, cabanas, pavilions, sports-brellas or similar devices, or any material mounted on supports allowed on the beach May 15-September 15.”) The exception to this is baby tents no more than 31-inches tall, 31.5 inches wide, and 38-inches deep which are allowed on the beach year-round.

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Other rules include:

  • If you dig a hole, you must fill it in before you leave. This is for both people safety and for sea turtle nesting.
  • No one under 17 years of age is allowed to have a laser pointer. There apparently have been incidents in the past of these devices causing air and water traffic problems.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., May 15 to September 15.
  • No horses allowed on the beach.

Other North Myrtle Beach laws are the same as Horry County.

Surfside Beach

  • Surfside Beach does not permit dogs or other domestic pets on the public beaches between May 15 and September 15.
  • No horses allowed on the beach.
  • No surfing within 300 feet of the fishing pier and only in designated areas between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from May 15 to September 15.
  • There are no restrictions on the size of shade tent or other shading devices, but they must be placed 10 feet behind lifeguard stands.

Other Surfside Beach laws are the same as Horry County.

Other Beaches

The Brunswick Islands and Georgetown County beaches have similar regulations.

Here is the list for Sunset Beach.

Ocean Isle Beach

  • No cabanas, canopies, tents, or awnings are allowed on the beach at any time.
  • Sun umbrellas are allowed.
  • Do not leave anything on the beach between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., it will be removed.
  • All beach equipment must be set at least ten 10 feet from any sea turtle nest or dune vegetation.
  • Keep off the Dunes!
  • NO DOGS allowed on beach strand from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
  • No bicycles on the beach from April 30 to October 1.

Ocean Isle Beach has some steep fines for violating these laws, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with what you can and can’t do here. Other rules are similar to Horry County, with some additional information regarding sea turtle nests. Click here for more information.

Georgetown County

  • Rules here are very similar to Horry County except tents and cabanas are allowed.
  • Dogs must be leashed from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • No horses on the beach from March 1 to October 31.
  • No sleeping on the beach from midnight to sunrise.

Most of these things are common sense and not really an issue for most of us. Cart your stuff in, cart your stuff out and keep off the dunes. Enjoy!

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