My travel habits confuse even me at times. I’ve been to Central Asia and yet there are many amazing spots here in my own country that I haven’t even thought about visiting. Until recently, Myrtle Beach was on that list and I honestly don’t know why. I love coastal communities and I even have family in South Carolina and yet, I had never been to Myrtle Beach. Thankfully the fine folks over at Visit Myrtle Beach reached out to me and invited me down and I’m so very glad that I took them up on their kind offer. What I discovered was as different from my preconceptions as I could imagine so that’s why today I want to share exactly what surprised me because I’m willing to bet that you too will be just as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Around the world culinary habits are changing. Almost every city or region I visit is in the process of showcasing their culinary offerings, and with good reason. There’s been a worldwide explosion of new and creative restaurants and that’s certainly the case in Myrtle Beach. I knew that I’d be eating well while in South Carolina, but I never expected that the food aspect would play as important a role as it did. There are few things I enjoy more than great Southern soul food, which is one reason why it was my first stop in Myrtle Beach. Pulling up a chair at the locally famous institution Big Mike’s Soul Food, it was just the kind of low-key restaurant I love. I was quickly overwhelmed by choice though, finally deciding on a new-to-me plate of chicken bog. Made with rice, sausage, chicken and special seasonings, it was the perfect foodie introduction to the Low-Country. As I alluded to though, there are plenty of chefs flexing their culinary muscles whether it’s with a unique cocktail at The Chemist, or a meal you’ll never forget at Hook & Barrel, I haven’t eaten so well in a very long time.
To be honest, I sometimes avoid visiting beachside communities because I am not at all a lay on the beach kind of guy. I get bored very easily, but in Myrtle Beach finding something active to do was never a problem. There are few things I enjoy more than being out on the water; it calms be in a way nothing else can. That’s why a two-hour kayak trip with the tour company Black River Outdoors through the salt marshes of Murrells Inlet was the perfect way for me to spend a morning. Paddling around the grasses of Huntington Beach State Park, we saw a little bit of everything. Scores of birds in all sizes and colors, oysters and even a young dolphin. Kayaking through the salt marsh was also the perfect way to connect to the environment away from the glitz and glamor of the beach. Of course there are many other ways to spend an active day from golf to biking and everything in between.
I’m a history buff and always try to learn as much as I can about a new place when first visiting. I wasn’t sure that history would play a large role while exploring the area around Myrtle Beach, but I was very quickly proven wrong. History is everywhere and this region of South Carolina in particular has great importance not only in local, but national history. I started my education about an hour away from Myrtle Beach itself at the beautiful Hopsewee Plantation. In 1735, the Hopsewee Plantation house was built about 13 miles from Georgetown, South Carolina. One of many homes built amongst the lucrative rice plantations that once dotted the Low Country, it has somehow survived the centuries and today stands just as it did when it was first built. Like many other historic homes, it has changed hands several times throughout the years but at one time was home to the Lynch family and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It’s still privately owned and yes, they even live there and visiting is a fun and easy day trip from Myrtle Beach, as well as the perfect way to learn more about the history of the region.
I continued my regional education in nearby Conway, South Carolina where I found a surprising museum. Tucked away next to the town’s library is the Horry County Museum – honestly one of the best-curated museums I’ve ever been to. Recently renovated, the passion of the curation team is on clear display as I wandered throughout the exhibit rooms, all housed in a historic building that at one time was a school. From the history of the county in its earliest days to the present, to special exhibits highlighting culture and trends, it’s a fun way to spend some time. Plus, the town of Conway itself is well worth a visit and together they make for another great daytrip from Myrtle Beach.
Offseason is Amazing
I wish I could say that the timing of my trip was due to my own brilliance, but it wasn’t. I visited in late October only because it’s the only time I could go, but it turned out to be a masterstroke of luck. As I learned, autumn may just be the perfect time to visit Myrtle Beach. The crowds that descend on the communities along the South Carolina shore have left for the season, but the weather is still amazing. I left a chilly DC bundled up in a sweater and jacket, which I quickly left behind in my car when I arrived into Myrtle Beach. The temperatures were very comfortable throughout my time in the area and honestly, the weather could not have been better. Plus, I felt like I had the beach all to myself. Businesses hadn’t yet closed for the season, which meant I could eat anywhere I wanted without a wait and still enjoy everything that make people visit during the high season. No crowds, no lines, no traffic but with all the beauty and warmth that has made Myrtle Beach famous over the years – that’s a winning combination in my opinion. I can’t recommend visiting during the shoulder season enough and I know it’ll be the only time I consider for future trips.
I had some misconceptions about Myrtle Beach, all primarily due to college beach week. But Myrtle Beach is so much more than that and if you’re looking for an upscale beach getaway, it’s very easy to attain here. I loved my time exploring the region and I honestly can’t wait to go back and experience what I didn’t have time for the first go-around.