There’s more to Myrtle Beach than just ‘The Beach.’ These 15 spots make up the Grand Strand

Ever heard of “Little Golden Town”? Or how about a Chicken Bog?

Along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, you can find both. And that’s just the beginning.

There are 15 (— 15! —) distinct communities in the Myrtle Beach area, each with its own personality and unique things to do. There’s something for everyone in the Grand Strand: You can explore small-town South Carolina life in the agricultural community of Aynor, venture into nature at the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in Socastee, have an exciting day out on the water in Little River, or enjoy Myrtle Beach area’s history on Pawleys Island.

Below is our beginner’s guide to the Grand Strand and the 15 communities that make up this stretch of coast.

Why the Myrtle Beach area is called the Grand Strand

The 60-mile stretch of beach from Little River south to Georgetown is referred to as the Grand Strand. In German and old English “strand” refers to the shoreline, or the land that borders a body of water. According to several local sources, the Myrtle Beach area got its nickname from this newspaper’s predecessor, The Myrtle Beach Sun. Columnist Claude Dunnagan coined the term in an article from 1949 called “From the Grand Strand.”

The Grand Strand has inspired other nicknames, as well. In decades past, people jokingly called the region “Dirty Myrtle,” likely referring to the bars and seedy nightclubs that have since closed. It’s a moniker that doesn’t have as much insulting weight as it used to; in fact, some locals wear the nickname as a badge of pride. Nowadays, the Myrtle Beach area, with its family-friendly attractions and accommodations is simply referred to as “The Beach” by locals and visitors.

And now, let’s dive into the 15 communities:

Little River

Bridgette Singletary of the Pilot House serves up crab plates Saturday. The Little River Blue Crab Festival crowds the narrow streets of the waterfront with people from around the region looking for some great food, live music and a huge selection of vendors.
Bridgette Singletary of the Pilot House serves up crab plates Saturday. The Little River Blue Crab Festival crowds the narrow streets of the waterfront with people from around the region looking for some great food, live music and a huge selection of vendors.

Starting at the Grand Strand’s northernmost point is Little River, a boaters paradise. Whether you’re charting a boat to go fishing, renting jet skis or want to spend the evening on a casino cruise, this is where you’ll start your day on the water. While on land, you can enjoy seafood fresh from the boat at one of Little River’s restaurants.

Quick Tip: Celebrate this town’s bountiful catch at their annual Blue Crab Festival and ShrimpFest.

Loris



Loris’ biggest claim to fame is the Chicken Bog, a hearty rice dish made with a mix of chicken, onion, peppers and spices. The dish is so beloved in the town of Loris that locals host the Loris Bog-Off Festival every year, inviting folks from near and far to sample from a multitude of chef’s takes on Chicken Bog, ranging from traditional to experimental.

Quick Tip: Go in October during the Loris Bog-Off Festival and get yourself a Chicken Bog.

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North Myrtle Beach

At Inlet Point Plantation visitors get the unique opportunity to ride on the beach at Waties Island, one of the few undeveloped maritime forests in Horry County. June 16, 2022.
At Inlet Point Plantation visitors get the unique opportunity to ride on the beach at Waties Island, one of the few undeveloped maritime forests in Horry County. June 16, 2022.

This 9-mile stretch of coastline has a little bit of everything, but at a slower, more relaxed pace than Myrtle Beach itself. Enjoy a relaxing day strolling on the beach, or add a bit of adventure to your beach day by riding horses on Waites Island with Inlet Point Plantation’s horseback tours. North Myrtle Beach is also home to Barefoot Landing where you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and even a theater.

North Myrtle Beach is the birthplace of “The Shag,” a kind of high energy swing dance. There are still venues that host shag dance nights, complete with live music. Practice and maybe you can enter into North Myrtle Beach’s annual National Shag Dance Championships.

Quick Tip: If you enjoy thrifting, take a “consignment crawl” through North Myrtle Beach. The Sun News’ Caroline Williamson has tips on how to find a good bargain.

Atlantic Beach



Atlantic Beach, also known as “The Black Pearl,” is a historically Black town that exists because of the history of segregation. During the era of Jim Crow laws, Black people were not allowed to use the same beaches as white people in South Carolina. Atlantic Beach was formed to create a place where Black families could enjoy the beach, establish their own hospitality businesses and restaurants, and own property by the beach.

Today, Atlantic Beach remains one of only two Black-owned beaches in the United States. According to The Sun News, this neighborhood has lost half of its population from 2010 to 2020, but the community has plans to revitalize this historic beach, including building new homes, rental properties, and even a hotel.

Quick Tip: Locals are raving about C & G Bakery and Eatery, a restaurant serving heaping helpings of Southern comfort foods like cornbread, fried turkey wings and smothered pork chops. The owner, Regina Moody, is also known for her cakes. You can order a huge slice to enjoy for dessert or order a whole cake for any occasion.

Myrtle Beach

The Myrtle Beach skyline as seen from the 2nd Avenue Pier. The week of Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of the tourist season along Grand Strand Beaches. May 31, 2022.
The Myrtle Beach skyline as seen from the 2nd Avenue Pier. The week of Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of the tourist season along Grand Strand Beaches. May 31, 2022.

The namesake of the area, Myrtle Beach is the heart of the Grand Strand. Here is where you’ll find most of the entertainment, dining, shopping and overall excitement that Myrtle Beach is known for. Broadway at the Beach is one of the most popular Myrtle Beach hot spots as its home to the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Quick Tip: On the southern end of the city is Myrtle Beach State Park, the first state park in South Carolina and one of the most beautiful. Considered an oceanfront maritime forest, it’s an exceptional place to go camping on the beach.

Carolina Forest

The entrance to Carolina Forest in Myrtle Beach.
The entrance to Carolina Forest in Myrtle Beach.

If you want to be close to the excitement of Myrtle Beach but want the peace and quiet of a small town, check out Carolina Forest. According to Jeremy Blanton, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Southern Shores, Carolina Forest offers the perks of Myrtle Beach living without the tourism, plus, you get a lot more house for your money than if you lived closer to the shore.

This residential community is home to River Oaks Golf Club, which features 27 holes spread out over 800 acres of land. It’s also home to other special interest activities including the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament and the Wheels of the Year car museum.

Quick Tip: It’s about a 20-minute drive from Carolina Forest to The Golden Mile, a beautiful stretch of beach lined with million-dollar homes. Because there are no hotels along this mile of beach, it tends to be less busy than other beaches on the Grand Strand.

Aynor

Guest pick their own sunflowers at Southern Palmetto Farms near Aynor, S.C. The farm is hosting a three day sunflower festival this weekend. July 8, 2022.
Guest pick their own sunflowers at Southern Palmetto Farms near Aynor, S.C. The farm is hosting a three day sunflower festival this weekend. July 8, 2022.

Nicknamed “Little Golden Town,” this small inland town is known for its agricultural traditions. Aynor’s biggest claim to fame is their annual Harvest Hoe-Down Festival, a September celebration complete with arts and crafts vendors, a pageant, local food and a parade. Locals come here year-round for comforting home cooking. Visit Myrtle Beach recommends Gore’s BBQ and Country Kitchen for traditional Southern BBQ with all of the fixing and Ned’s Sandwich Shop, a local favorite lunch spot that serves up their famous Ned Burger.

Quick Tip: Southern Palmetto Farms is a fun day trip for all ages. You can easily spend the day exploring their corn and cotton mazes, going on tractor rides and enjoying their sunflower fields.

Conway

Horry County Museum’s Hillary Winburn stacks sugar cane to be milled at the L.W. Paul Living History Farm. November 17, 2020.
Horry County Museum’s Hillary Winburn stacks sugar cane to be milled at the L.W. Paul Living History Farm. November 17, 2020.

For a day of arts and culture head to Conway. This town is brimming with Southern charm as well as history that you can explore at the Horry County Museum and the L.W. Paul Living History Museum. Conway also hosts several festivals throughout the year that celebrate local arts including the Riverfest, an annual summer music festival that takes place in Riverfront Park, and Gullah Geechee Community Day, a day dedicated to celebrating Gullah Geechee culture.

Quick Tip: Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Conway hosts an array of holiday festivities. Stop by for Thursday night events, including the Riverton Christmas Celebration and Living Window Displays where local businesses enlist friends, family and co-workers to re-enact holiday scenes in shop windows.

Surfside Beach

A mural on the side of a building off Surfside Drive in the town of Surfside Beach, S.C. was painted by Tommy Simpson.
A mural on the side of a building off Surfside Drive in the town of Surfside Beach, S.C. was painted by Tommy Simpson.

Though the Myrtle Beach area is full of places to take the kids, Surfside Beach is considered to be the most family-friendly destination in the Grand Strand. The town has seven public parks as well as beaches that are under lifeguard supervision. Surfside Beach is also known for its accessibility for people with disabilities. The town offers ramps, showers and restrooms at the beach for wheelchair users as well as resources for local businesses to create spaces for visitors on the autism spectrum.

Quick Tip: Every Tuesday from April through October, Surfside Drive transforms into the Surfside Beach Farmers Market. Here are some of the vendors you’ll find, according to The Sun News’ Jason Lee.

Socastee



This town is for nature lovers: It’s home to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, a great place to explore the coastal river habitat by canoe, go hiking along one of the park’s interpretive nature trails, or take in the scenery while riding your bike on one of their biking trails.

Quick Tip: Hunting is allowed in Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is closed to the general public during deer, hog and turkey hunts, and seasons for squirrel, snipe and raccoon are observed; however, hunting by boat is prohibited. Be sure to visit their website for more information on rules, permits and to stay up to date on when and where hunting is allowed.

Garden City Beach

Crowds fish off the side of the Garden City Pier. Myrtle Beach area piers took a battering from Hurricane Ian this year but a strong pier culture prevails drawing fisherman and tourist back year after year. October 10, 2022.
Crowds fish off the side of the Garden City Pier. Myrtle Beach area piers took a battering from Hurricane Ian this year but a strong pier culture prevails drawing fisherman and tourist back year after year. October 10, 2022.

The top attraction at Garden City Beach is the pier where you can go fishing by day and dance to live music by night. The Pier at Garden City also has an arcade and karaoke for the kids so the parents can unwind one of the two full-service bars. Located between Surfside Beach and Murrells Inlet, Garden City Beach is also a great place to spend a day on the water with surfing, dolphin watching tours or even parasailing!

Quick Tip: Whether you’re new to surfing or have been riding the waves for a while, Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City is the place to go if you’re looking for surf gear. It’s a local favorite run by surfers for surfers.

Murrells Inlet

Brookgreen Gardens is holding it’s “Summer Light: Art by Night” events where visitors stroll the historic sculpture gardens under the glow of ten unique lighting installations. Live music is performed and food trucks offer local fare as the sun sets transforming the gardens. “Art by Night” is held on Wednesday and Saturdays from 6-10pm. Non-Member ticket prices are $25 for adults and $15 per child. May 18, 2022.
Brookgreen Gardens is holding it’s “Summer Light: Art by Night” events where visitors stroll the historic sculpture gardens under the glow of ten unique lighting installations. Live music is performed and food trucks offer local fare as the sun sets transforming the gardens. “Art by Night” is held on Wednesday and Saturdays from 6-10pm. Non-Member ticket prices are $25 for adults and $15 per child. May 18, 2022.

Head to the self-proclaimed “Seafood Capital of South Carolina.” Murrells Inlet is recognized for being a historic fishing village and a place steeped in folklore as its the reputed hideaway for the legendary pirate Blackbeard. Aside from seafood and folklore, Murrells Inlet is home to Huntington Beach State Park, an exceptional place for bird watching, and Brookgreen Gardens, a stunning botanical garden where you can stroll through iconic South Carolina landscapes.

Quick Tip: Check out Murrells Inlet MarshWalk, a half-mile boardwalk along a saltwater estuary that also has outstanding waterfront dining.

Litchfield Beach

A summer day at North Litchfield Beach.
A summer day at North Litchfield Beach.



This quiet, beachfront retreat is a favorite among golfers who can find several world-class golf courses right in Litchfield Beach. Even if golfing isn’t your thing, the serene beaches and surrounding nature can soothe your soul. Go for a stroll down the 26-mile Waccamaw Neck Bikeway and afterward, treat yourself to one of the many restaurants Litchfield Beach has to offer.

Quick Tip: Litchfield Beach is a resort town that offers luxury accommodations. Litchfield by the Sea is where you’ll find a wide selection of rentals, condos and houses with oceanfront, lakefront or scenic marshland views.

Pawleys Island

From the Southernmost tip of Pawley’s Island fisherman fish in the inlet between Pawley’s and Debordieu Plantation. The rock barriers protecting the coastline remain. Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2022.
From the Southernmost tip of Pawley’s Island fisherman fish in the inlet between Pawley’s and Debordieu Plantation. The rock barriers protecting the coastline remain. Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2022.

Take a step back in time at Pawleys Island, one of the oldest resort towns on the East Coast. This barrier island on the southern end of the Grand Strand has a historic district where you can see homes that date back to the mid-1800s.

Pawleys Island is also where nature lovers can see loggerhead turtles who lay their eggs on the beach from mid-May through July. Keep an eye out for SCUTE volunteers who not only protect the loggerhead turtle eggs, but also educate visitors about Pawleys Island’s nature and preservation efforts.

Quick Tip: Out of the 20 top golf courses ranked by PGA professionals, Pawleys Island has five of them, including Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, which is second on the list.

Georgetown

Jackie and family lived in the house for only a year after her husband’s death.
Jackie and family lived in the house for only a year after her husband’s death.

On the southernmost end of The Grand Strand is Georgetown, South Carolina’s third oldest city. What was once one of the states most important ports (alongside Charleston and Port Royal) is now a scenic waterfront city brimming with history. If you want to see gorgeous colonial era homes, take a walk through Georgetown’s downtown area where more than 60 homes are listed on the National Historic Register.

For classic southern cooking, head to Ball & Que which has been serving seafood and other south staples for over 50 years. And to get a taste of Georgetown’s history through food, try Between the Antlers, which focuses on regionally specific cuisines that leverage local ingredients.

Quick Tip: The architecture and landscaping of Georgetown is striking. To get a closer look, you can visit Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000-acre natural preserve and wildlife refuge that also has a stunning 13,500-square-foot mansion on the property.