The Grand Strand

“If you haven’t been to the Grand Strand in the last five years you haven’t been.” - Brad Dean, President/CEO Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce

A day at Myrtle BeachA day at Myrtle Beach

Contrary to popular myth, things don’t always move slowly in the South, especially when you are smack-dab in the middle of the newest go-to destination. Once a sleepy little beach town

that rolled up the boardwalk from Labor Day to Memorial Day, Myrtle Beach is experiencing resurgence in the number of both vacationers and people moving here.

For years this part of the Carolina Low Country known from Atlanta to Raleigh as simply the Beach was the South’s best kept secret. On Fridays during the summer months families from Conway to Columbia would pack up and drive east on U. S. Highways 378 and 501 for a weekend at the Beach.

I remember because I was the kid in the back seat asking, “When are we going to get there?” In the 1950s my dad was stationed at Fort Jackson in Columbia and we would make the 3-hour drive on a Saturday morning for a day trip.

It took for-EVER but it was worth it!

Bird Island in the Brunswick Islands, North CarolinaA crowded day on Bird Island

What is the Grand Strand?

It was also around that time that the name Grand Strand was becoming popular for the 60-mile stretch of beach from Little River to Georgetown. First coined in a December 3, 1949 newspaper column by writer Claude Dunnagan, the name seemed to fit the curved sweeping Atlantic coastline of what early settlers had called Long Bay, and it stuck.

Through the years, the Strand has seen tremendous growth and today offers a dizzying array of resorts and hotels, attractions, outdoor activities, shopping and restaurants to over 16,000,000 visitors a year. According to the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, the top three reasons that people come to the area are the Myrtle Beach weather, quality of life, and the amenities.

Garden City Beach, SCSurfing at Garden City Beach

South Carolina Beaches

The Grand Strand runs along the coast beginning at the North Carolina state line in Horry County and continues into Georgetown County ending at Winyah Bay and Georgetown. In addition to Myrtle Beach it encompasses a number of other beaches including North Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, Litchfield Beach, and Pawleys Island. The Strand also stretches inland to the historic town of Socastee and the modern-day developments in Carolina Forest, all the way to the Rivertown of Conway.

The original inhabitants were Native Americans of the Waccamaw and Winyah tribes, so you’ll find lots of things from schools to shopping malls named Waccamaw and Winyah. Geographically, the Waccamaw River, which joins the Intracoastal Waterway in Socastee, divides the Waccamaw Neck (the coastal island) from the mainland and empties into Winyah Bay some 30 miles south.

House of Blues, North Myrtle BeachThe House of Blues is a popular entertainment venue.

Plantations and Pop Music

Area history includes pirates, Revolutionary War heroes, ghosts and legends, and a humble hammock. There are still plantations you can visit, although rice and indigo, not cotton and tobacco, were the major crops that once put the area on the economic map.

The Strand offers vibrant live performance venues and many festivals honor the past and celebrate the present. Locals who got their start here include TV personality Vanna White, a native of North Myrtle Beach, and pop music artist Darius Rucker and his band Hootie and the Blowfish.

Predictions are that the Grand Strand will continue to grow and spread beyond its historic borders. The addition of Brunswick County North Carolina to the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area (the seventh-fastest growing metro area in the nation) means that the Strand will likely continue to expand northward.

There’s much to see and explore here, so let’s get started.

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