For a long time, the north beaches of the Grand Strand were the Myrtle Beach little cousins. This string of tiny beach communities, largely residential, had very little shopping or commercial
businesses and almost no restaurants. Their claim to fame was, and still is, the miles of unbroken beach that lead north to the North Carolina state line.
What a change a few years makes! Today, this stretch of U. S. Highway 17, historically called Kings Highway, trails past some of the area’s best shopping, restaurants, golf courses, and entertainment venues.
The boundaries of this residential beachside municipality stretch along Kings Highway to the ocean and from just south of South Gate Road to just north of North Gate Road. The town limits also include a section of the Southern Palms Memorial Gardens cemetery across the street. Everything else on the west side of Kings Highway south of the Briarcliffe RV Resort almost to the waterway is in Horry County. There is no shopping or other commercial activity in Briarcliffe Acres, but nearby Barefoot Landing and the Tanger Outlets provide all of that and more.
Although Briarcliffe Acres is a private community, it is not gated so you can drive through if you like. You’ll often see the town police car parked at one of the entrances or out patrolling the neighborhood, so be sure and keep to the speed limit. Please note, the beach is private and for the use of community residents only.
The houses here are a mixture of older homes and newly built ones, all very well kept, and most of the yards are a couple of acres or more in size. Residents can walk, bike or take golf carts to the private beach. Briarcliffe has been a very sought-after neighborhood for years, so you won’t find many "for sale" or "for rent" signs here. If a house does become available, it’s quickly grabbed up. Briarcliffe Acres is in the Myrtle Beach schools attendance zone.
With a population of around 334 permanent residents (2010 census), tiny Atlantic Beach has a rich and vibrant history. Nicknamed the “Black Pearl,” the town came into being in the 1930s when Jim Crow laws forbid the mixing of races in public places, including the beach. African American entrepreneurs began opening businesses in this four block beachside community and Atlantic Beach became the alternative to the area's segregated beaches of the 1940s and 1950s. Today Atlantic Beach prides itself in being the only Black-owned beach in the country.
Author Becky Billingsley tells of the often brutal struggle for integration of the beach in her book Lost Myrtle Beach. Driving through Atlantic Beach today, you’ll see an earthen berm between 32nd and 33rd Avenues South, a reminder of a time when barriers between the races were both cultural and real.
The town has it's own city hall, mayor, city council, and police department. There are several commercial enterprises including a roller skating rink on Carolina Street and a number of businesses on Kings Highway. The town is also home to the Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival held each year on Memorial Day weekend.
What was once a tiny beach town north of Myrtle Beach today has become a sprawling, growing municipality. City limits stretch across the waterway to include Barefoot Resort, then along the east side of the waterway, and along the Atlantic Ocean north of Briarcliffe Acres all the way to House Creek at Cherry Grove, almost to the Brunswick Islands. The only beachfront exception is Atlantic Beach.
A mix of residential and commercial, North Myrtle Beach is a city that includes the north beaches of Windy Hill, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach and Cherry Grove. It also includes Barefoot Landing, a popular Myrtle Beach shopping and dining attraction where you’ll find the House of Blues and Alabama Theatre. The newest shopping venue, Coastal North Town Center, is building and expanding and includes the area’s first Publix grocery store, the only Hobby Lobby, and a Dick’s Sporting Goods among others. Main Street in North Myrtle Beach still has that old beach town feel and includes a collection of long-standing businesses like Hope Taylor & Company and Hoskins Restaurant where the locals hang out.
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