Head to the south beaches - Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield Beach, and Pawleys Island – for food, fun, and some Carolina history.
The Grand Strand stretches along the Atlantic coastline for 60 miles from Little River at the North Carolina state line southward to Georgetown at Winyah Bay, with Myrtle Beach itself right about in the middle. Head south from Myrtle Beach and the great expanse of sand becomes broken by inlets and tidal marshes that present a kind of wild beauty.
Here the land, known as the Waccamaw Neck, makes a sweeping curve and the beaches face almost due east into the Atlantic as opposed to the Brunswick Islands’ south facing beaches. U. S. Highway 17 is pretty much traveling north and south at this point like the signs say it does (but it only really sort of does). But the biggest change you’ll find here is the culture. The South Beaches are pure Low Country.
Formerly called Flora Beach for the wife of an early developer, Surfside Beach was once part of a vast plantation. In 1952, the land was purchased and the name changed to Surfside Beach. Proud of its “Family Beach” reputation, Surfside Beach has a residential feel when you get off Business 17 and drive through its quiet neighborhoods. The town has 36 beach access points and 12 public parking lots with metered or pay-station parking.
When the streets change from numbers to names, you know you have left Surfside Beach and are now in Garden City Beach. Not actually an incorporated town, Garden City lies in both Horry County and Georgetown County and crosses the county line just south of Atlantic Avenue. Garden City Beach is famous for its 668-foot long fishing pier known as the Pier at Garden City. The pier features an arcade, the Pieradise Café, open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and live entertainment, weather permitting.
Murrells Inlet also straddles the county line between Horry County and Georgetown County, but the historic “town center” lies in Georgetown County. Once the home of the Hermitage and the ghostly tale of Alice, Murrells Inlet has a great marsh-front restaurant row that features burgers, seafood, live music and a view of Goat Island. Although there are no beaches here, the inlet itself separates Garden City Beach from Huntington Beach State Park. The park and Brookgreen Gardens are just south of Murrells Inlet on U. S. Highway 17.
Litchfield Plantation dates back to the early 1700s when it was a 1400-plus acre rice plantation. Today the circa 1740 plantation house is a popular wedding venue and is part of the Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort. The resort includes a country club community with an onsite championship golf course, vacation rentals, and resort amenities. Litchfield Beach itself is a residential community off Highway 17.
“Arrogantly Shabby” is how the natives describe themselves on Pawleys Island. This historic beach vacation destination has played host to visitors for over 200 years and is considered to be one of the oldest summer resorts on the east coast. Famous for its ghosts, the Pawleys Island Hammock and a laid-back lifestyle, the island itself remains free of commercialization, but you’ll find plenty of on the mainland.
In recent years a number of “plantation” developments have sprung up south of Pawleys Plantation on the mainland, but the most iconic is DeBordieu, a private, gated, golf course community affectionately called "Debbie Do" by locals. You can't get to the beaches here as this is all private land. South of Debbie Do is Hobcaw Barony, a historic plantation that houses a wildlife refuge and natural areas with a visitors center that offers programs and tours.