There is more to Myrtle Beach than the beach! But it’s taken us a while to figure that out. For us, the beach is the main attraction. If it wasn’t too far from Fredericksburg, VA, this is a location we would consider living in once we get off the road. But as far as I am concerned (Debbie), that (getting off the road) won’t happen anytime soon!
We’d love to hear your thoughts about Myrtle Beach. Have you been? What did you like besides the beach? If you haven’t been, what have you heard about it, or what do you imagine it is like?
This is our fourth stay in Myrtle Beach in an RV (recreational vehicle). We wrote one post about our first time here, and two short posts here and most recently, here. Although we have mentioned it in a few other posts, we have never really shared more about the essence of this town.
Usually, where ever we go, we love to learn about the history of the area. For some reason, Myrtle Beach is one area we initially didn’t after a quick search of Trip Advisor for Myrtle Beach didn’t show any cultural museums of interest to us. Little did we realize we could have expanded the search to surrounding communities. But we were focused on the beach as it is amazing!
What an eye opener when we decided to learn more about the area to write this blog. I’m not sure why we didn’t discover this website before. Here’s a summary from the website, but do be sure and visit it and watch the five-minute video of a quick history of the area.
Early History. The area’s first inhabitants were the Waccamaw and Winyah Indians, who named the region Chicora, meaning “the land.” Kings Highway – a major thoroughfare through the Myrtle Beach area – began as an Indian trail long before Europeans settled along the Grand Strand. Later, this trail became the route from the northern states to Charleston and Savannah. These first inhabitants are the subject of the oldest and perhaps most elusive stories. While much has been written about Native Americans, documented facts about local tribes in the Myrtle Beach area are scarce. Physical evidence of their existence and way of life has been more forthcoming, however, as arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts continue to turn up.
Spanish Settlement. Early attempts by European explorers to settle the Grand Strand were disastrous. Spaniard Lucas Vasques de Allyon founded the first colony in North America here in 1526, but the settlement was ravaged by disease, and the inhabitants perished within a year.
English Settlement & Colonial History. A new chapter in the area’s history and lore was introduced after English colonists settled in the area. Suddenly, goods and supplies needed to be imported and exported across the ocean. By the 1700s, scores of pirates had taken to the high seas to intercept cargo vessels and make off with the goods. The South Carolina coastal waters were especially productive for pirates – and the coves and inlets along the Grand Strand provided great hiding places for these marauders. Pirates who became local legends include Edward Teach, called Blackbeard because of his coal-black beard, and Drunken Jack, who was left behind on an island with a huge stash of stolen rum – and was rumored to have died with a smile on his face. Meanwhile, English colonists formed Prince George Parish and laid out plans for Georgetown, the state’s third oldest city, in 1730. Surrounded by rivers and marshlands, Georgetown became the center of America’s colonial rice empire.
Initial Development. Until the 1900s, the beaches of Horry County were virtually uninhabited due to the county’s geographical inaccessibility and poor economy. Near the turn of the century, the Burroughs & Collins Company – a timber / turpentine firm with extensive beachfront holdings – began developing the Myrtle Beach area as a resort. In 1901, the company built the beach’s first hotel, the Seaside Inn. At that time, oceanfront lots sold for $25, and buyers received an extra lot if they built a house valued at $500 or more. Previously known as Long Bay, Withers, or Withers Big Swamp, the fledgling beach community was simply called “New Town” – until the Horry Herald sponsored a contest to officially name the area. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs – wife of the founder of Burroughs & Collins – won with the name “Myrtle Beach,” which she chose for the many wax myrtle trees growing wild along the shore.
Further Development & Expansion. In the 1920s, a group of businessmen began building an upscale resort called Arcady, at the north end of the community. Arcady featured the present Pine Lakes International Country Club — home of the Strand’s first golf club and birthplace of the magazine Sports Illustrated — as well as the legendary Ocean Forest Hotel. Several major developments took place along the Grand Strand during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1936 the Intracoastal Waterway was opened to pleasure boats and commercial shipping. During the 1940s, an Air Force base was established and used for training and coastal patrols during World War II. The base was closed in 1993. The Myrtle Beach Pavilion was built in 1949, and the historic band organ and carousel were installed in 1954. Myrtle Beach was incorporated in 1938 and became a city in 1957.
Hurricane Hazel & Reconstruction. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel demolished buildings and trees along the Grand Strand, clearing the way for new hotels and homes. During the rebuilding phase of the 1960s, a golf boom began, with new courses being built each year. The number of golf courses along the Grand Strand now totals around 115.
Modern History & Development. The Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which houses the official South Carolina Hall of Fame, opened in 1970. During the 1970s, new construction in the area topped $75 million, and the permanent population tripled. In the 1970s and 1980s, construction of attractions, homes, retail shops and other amenities increased steadily, paving the way for another boom in the early 1990s. The Grand Strand currently attracts over 14 million visitors and thousands of new residents to the area, each year. The Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area was listed as the ninth-fastest growing area in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released in March 2011. The area has grown 37 percent over the past decade.
It took a few days when it just wasn’t “beach” weather to finally research the area and discovered there is much more in the surrounding areas. So far, we have really only explored four areas:
- We visited historic Georgetown when we were here in March 2014. We arrived in summer clothes, coming from Florida, so quickly had to bundle up. We were excited to discover there was the Georgetown County Museum (our favorite type). We drove the nearly 30 miles. It was a very brisk and cold day. We parked a bit far from it, imaging limited parking. Not smart as we had to fight the cold wind, trekking our way there….only to learn, it was closed on Mondays. And so are most county museums. Fortunately, we remembered there was another even smaller museum which gave us tours of three historic houses as well. The main thing we learned was the history of the rice plantations. We didn’t know that this area was the rice capital of the US until after the Civil War. We enjoyed strolling around town and waterfront as the wind didn’t seem as strong by the time we were visiting the other locations. This is a very small town and historic district. We did enjoy it but haven’t ventured back to the county museum. Click here if you would like to see a photo album of our pictures.
2. We do love gardens and Brookgreen Gardens doesn’t disappoint. If you don’t mind a few nude statues mixed in. The initial cost may seem high, $15, but that is good for seven days. And we recommend visiting it over a few days. We spent two leisurely days here twice when we were in the area. Our grandson was oblivious to the statutes but loved the open green spaces, water fountains and the zoo. The gardens are also known as a public sculpture garden which displays the figurative sculpture works of American sculptors, including many pieces by Anne Hyatt Huntington.
Registered as a National Historic Landmark, Brookgreen Gardens is a wonder of native flora, fauna, and American sculpture. Considered by many to be the jewel of the Grand Strand, Brookgreen Gardens has been delighting visitors since its creation (and donated land) in 1931 by Anne and Archer Huntington. Located off Highway 17 in Murrells Inlet, the entrance is conveniently marked by a larger-than-life statue of a horse and rider.
Among the nine-thousand lush acres of South Carolina history and lowcountry landscapes you will find the most significant collection of outdoor figurative sculpture by American artists in the world. At Brookgreen Gardens you will learn about the rice plantations of the 1800s and the Gullah culture of the enslaved Africans who worked them. Guests are able to see animals in scenic enclosures that respect the animals and the surrounding environment at the Lowcountry Zoo and Native Animal Habitat. The little ones will love the Butterfly House and the Peace Garden Room for Children along with the fountains, reflecting pools, and hidden pathways. There are plenty of open, green spaces to enjoy a picnic or lay back and watch the clouds go by at Brookgreen Gardens. Guests can explore all Brookgreen Gardens has to offer on foot, by boat tour or by the Trekker tour vehicle.
3. Across from the gardens, on the beach side of Kings Highway, is Huntington Beach State Park. The Huntington’s donated this land as well and helped to create Brookgreen Gardens. A portion of Brookgreen Gardens is a nature reserve, and another section is leased to the state for Huntington Beach State Park. The gardens, historic plantation sites, and their adjacent residence ‘Atalaya Castle‘ are a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, it was a dreary day when we visited and we don’t have any pictures. But this is a lovely and quaint place to explore the lives of the Huntington’s. They were kind and generous people.
4. We explored the area by driving around. Looking at condos and villa’s for sale (we really like the area), drove around North Myrtle Beach and to the Boardwalk and Flywheel.
We’ve only been here in off season, October, January, and March. We can’t imagine what it must be like during the summer season. There is very little traffic except at some shopping and highway intersections. After looking all around, we really like staying in the area we have stayed the most, Pirateland. We are between Surfside Beach and Myrtle Beach State Park. There is also a nice hike in the State Park. The beach is just wonderful, but we do have to watch the times we go walking. The beach does “shrink” during high tide.
Since we are here in the off-season, many restaurants and activities are closed. We aren’t golfers. But did you know this area started the “golfing packages?” Hotel stay plus golfing? It’s also a fisherman’s paradise. And now we have learned there is kayaking, so we do hope to try that next time.
The biggest disappointment to us, as non-foodies, are the restaurants. We don’t eat out much, but when we do, we would like a good meal. That has been lacking here. Except we did have to eat breakfast out when we took our motorhome in to have our washing machine installed. We ate at the Omega Restuarant and it was superb! It is open for breakfast and lunch.
One other distractions are the $20 helicopter rides along the beach and being near the airport. We do hear the helicopters and jets flying over when we are out on the beach. Our grandson loves to shout and point AIRPLANE, so we noticed them more when he was here.
Finally, we have enjoyed the church services we have attended here. Last winter, we met up with a man we attended church with in New Jersey. We attended his church and had lunch. We did like that restaurant but can’t recall the name of it. We really do feel close to the Lord here because we are outside and on the go most of the time here. We love hearing the ocean slapping the beach!
Psalm 96:11-13 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.