This post was written in partnership with Explore North Myrtle Beach.
South Carolina’s coast is a good four hours farther away from our home in Nashville, Tennessee than the Florida beaches — Yet we return to South Carolina over and over again. That’s because we’re looking for more than just a beach on our beach trips — We want great food, an appreciation for the area’s history, plenty of preserved natural spaces, and lots of local culture. South Carolina has all that in spades, and North Myrtle Beach is no exception. We spent four days in North Myrtle Beach and fell in love with this laid back beach town just a few minutes away from pretty much everything. Check out our family-friendly itinerary and discover North Myrtle Beach for yourself.
North Myrtle Beach has a range of places to stay, including a wide selection of condos, beach houses and cottages. We vacationed at the towers at North Beach Plantation on this trip — These beach condos were the only high-rise towers for miles, so our beach was never crowded. We’d stay here again in a heartbeat.
Our two-bedroom/two-bathroom condo was spacious (even prettier than the one pictured here) and clean, with a large kitchen and dining area, washer/dryer unit, and the largest private balcony I’ve ever seen in a beachfront condo. Our kids loved having double beds and a flatscreen television in their shared bedroom and I loved the large whirlpool tub in the master bathroom. But what we loved most was what lay just outside our sliding glass door…
It was an entire complex of pools, fountains, and whirlpools. Just inside, off to the left, was another indoor pool and lazy river. The kids couldn’t believe their luck! The weather was chilly during our stay, but the kids swam every single day thanks to the indoor pool, lazy river and outdoor infinity pool, which was heated to 80 degrees.
North Beach Plantation alone was enough to make their vacation complete — They could happily have stayed here for the next four days and been perfectly content. My husband and I, however, had other plans!
We got in late on our first night in North Myrtle Beach — Fortunately, one of the most popular casual restaurants in town was right across the street from our resort. Hamburger Joe’s is known for its burgers and onion rings and both were delicious. In fact, we liked the food so much, we came back later in the week for another meal! This is the perfect spot for a tasty and affordable meal in North Myrtle Beach, but visit an ATM before you come — Hamburger Joe’s only takes cash.
The next morning, we headed out to explore the area. We stopped first at North Myrtle Beach’s iconic Cherry Grove Pier. Built in the 1950s, the pier quickly became a popular fishing spot, especially when a world record-sized tiger shark weighing in at nearly 2,000 pounds was caught on this pier in 1964! Today, visitors can rent a rod, reel and bait from the pier’s tackle shop and try their own luck. Pier employees are happy to provide instruction to beginners on how to catch their own dinner.
Since we’d happened to arrive at the pier at low tide, we spent most of our time here picking up the many seashells that dotted the sands. The Myrtle Beach area is rich in shells, and if you have a shell seeking family like mine, this is a very good thing!
Our next stop was Boulineau’s IGA, the largest supermarket on the Grand Strand. We planned to stop in for a few necessities for our kitchen, but we ended up staying here much longer than planned. Established in 1948, Boulineau’s has become a one-stop shop for everything a vacationer could possibly be looking for… and I do mean everything! In addition to food, fresh produce, a sizable selection of beer and wine, a deli, and a bakery (try their homemade fudge!), this two-story megastore also carries hardware, greeting cards, party accessories, toys, books, magazines, beach toys, and a thousand other odds and ends you never knew you needed until you got here.
Take this Sip-N-Ooodle, for instance — It’s a pool noodle THAT ALSO STORES A BEVERAGE. Drink while you play! Play while you drink! Where do they come up with this stuff?! This is a perfect example of the unexpected things you’ll find at Boulineau’s — Your shopping cart will soon runneth over.
Boulineau’s also has a short-order counter called Elizabeth’s Kitchen, as well as a dining area so that customers can eat their food on the spot if they’d like. I mention this because I noticed a steady stream of customers at Elizabeth’s the entire time we were there– It must be good.
Once we’d filled our trunk with goods, we headed out to lunch at Flying Fish Public Market & Grill. I have to admit, I have high hopes for a seafood restaurant that has its own fish market and is just a few steps away from a marina — Fortunately, Flying Fish did not disappoint.
In addition to stunning views of boats cruising the inland waterway out back, Flying Fish is the go-to place for fresh fish, prepared any way you like. Everything we ate here was absolutely delicious, especially my daughter’s shrimp po boy, my soft-shelled crab BLT, and the hushpuppies. Do not miss the hushpuppies here– They’re flash-fried like donuts and come with a cinnamon and sugar-flavored butter for dipping. They are HEAVENLY.
Meanwhile, I took advantage of the light and the fact that my kids weren’t neck deep in the water to take some family photos. If you find yourself at the beach on a cool day, be sure to take your family and your camera down to the shore– I’ve found the quality of the sunlight on these cooler-weather beach days really can’t be beat.
We cleaned up and headed out to dinner at the cozy Joe’s Bar & Grill, just a stone’s throw away from our resort. We’d heard this was one of the best places in town for dinner, and it ended up being our favorite meal while we were in town — and that’s saying a lot! Although the name makes this restaurant sound ultra casual, the menu is upscale and absolutely delicious. You’ll definitely want to make a reservation if you’re planning on a meal here — Even in the off-season, Joe’s fills up fast.
Joe’s has been open for 25 years here, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their menu. My husband’s Filet Neptune — tenderloin medallions topped with crabmeat, shrimp, scallops, and béarnaise sauce, was perfection. My shrimp & grits entree was literally the best shrimp & grits I’ve ever had. The seafood chowder was what we all aspire to be– rich and fabulous.
My son ordered the prime rib off the kids menu. Check out the size of it! I also loved that beverage choices on the kids menu included a Roy Rogers, a Shirley Temple, and a Virgin Daiquiri. Way to make the kids feel special!
On warmer nights, sit outside if you can find a spot — Joe’s has a lovely deck that overlooks the Carolina salt marsh. It’s also home to a family of raccoons, and they’ve become quite popular with the patrons.
After a mouthwatering dessert of Mandarin Pineapple cake (made from an old family recipe by the owner’s daughter), we had one more stop to make before heading home.
Fat Harold’s Beach Club! This local hotspot is THE place to go to learn South Carolina’s state dance: The Shag. It originated right here in North Myrtle Beach and shag dancing continues to be a popular way to spend an evening for locals and tourists alike. Fat Harold’s was packed with shag dancers — Kids are welcome to join in as well until around 10pm, provided they’re well-behaved! Fat Harold’s also offers shag lessons each week for adults and for children. It’s definitely worth a stop (or several) while you’re in town.
We started off the next morning with a late breakfast at local hotspot, Hoskins Restaurant. This Main Street mainstay is always crowded with diners, and it’s worth the wait. Breakfast is inexpensive and filling, and the home fries can’t be beat.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Main Street without a stop at The Wildflower. This eclectic shop is chock full of new and vintage furniture, accessories, and curiosities.
It was time for the activity my son was most looking forward to on our trip– a visit to Alligator Adventure. Located in the heart of North Myrtle Beach, Alligator Adventure is actually one of the largest reptile facilities in the world, and it’s definitely worth seeing.
Inside, you’ll find hundreds of alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles of all shapes and sizes. Alligator Adventure is home to seven rare albino alligators, as well as the largest crocodile in the United States. Born back in the 1960s, ‘Utan’ is truly ENORMOUS.
Alligator and reptile shows are held throughout the day, giving guests a chance to pet and hold alligators and other reptiles. As you can imagine, my son was in heaven. And honestly, we all had a great time here and learned quite a bit about alligators- It was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Dinner that night was in a nearby fishing village called Little River, where The Parson’s Table is a highly-regarded restaurant housed in an 1850s Methodist church. We loved the atmosphere inside the restaurant and marveled at the main dining room’s Tiffany chandelier and the elaborate collection of stained glass throughout the structure.
We had another decadent meal here, and ate so much that we could barely move when our meal was finished. Standout dishes include the homemade cornbread and the Brooklyn Brown Ale-glazed Beef Short Rib. We also loved our Brie en Brioche appetizer. The Parson’s Table is definitely a first-rate option for a night to remember.
We had plans to go kayaking the next morning, but on the way, we made a stop at Crumb Buns Bakery. Don’t let the unassuming storefront fool you — You can find some incredible pastries, pies and breads here, as well as a line of locals to prove it.
We tried a little bit of everything — for research purposes only, of course — and from the raspberry twist to the cookies to the strawberry cheese danish to the moist crumb buns topped with powdered sugar, everything was delicious. I would return here in a heartbeat.
We drove on to Great Escapes Kayak Expeditions in nearby Longs, South Carolina for a two-hour guided expedition on the peaceful Waccamaw River. My husband and I opted for tandem kayaks with the kids, but this black river is so calm that both my 9 and 12 year old easily could have navigated it in solo kayaks.
This was my favorite activity of our trip. The weather was perfect and the leaves were just starting to form on the trees, making for beautiful spring color along the river banks. We paddled through a protected nature preserve and saw osprey, herons, turtles, and, as the grand finale at the very end of our trip, a large herd of wild boar rushing along the river bank. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
For lunch, we headed back to Little River, where Capt. Juel’s Hurricane Restaurant has been open on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway since the 1950s. Our hearty lunch here was another favorite meal of the trip– We feasted on fresh sushi, a crispy fish sandwich with a surprisingly delightful coating of cornflakes, firecracker shrimp, a tender mahi-mahi sandwich, freshly made hushpuppies, and a thick, juicy cheeseburger.
We stopped after lunch at The Country Rooster, a gigantic, barn-like shop filled with antique and vintage finds, garden accessories, Christmas decor, furniture, local crafts, and more.
After a few hours of swimming back at our resort, it was time for our vacation’s grand finale, at least as far as the kids were concerned:
A trip to Pirates Voyage for dinner and a show.
The show itself was also phenomenal and included lots of acrobatics, pyrotechnics, animals, aerialists, and more. Even the food was good– At a dinner theater show, I don’t set the bar too high, so I was pleasantly surprised by the meal. We had a great night here and I’d recommend it to any family visiting North Myrtle Beach.
We woke the next morning and sadly checked out of our beautiful condominium. The days had gone by too fast, and we felt like we were leaving just as we were settling in. Before we went to the airport, we had time for a walk at Heritage Shores Nature Preserve, seven acres of trails on elevated boardwalks in the Cherry Grove salt marsh.
It was time to head back home, but we can’t wait to return. North Myrtle Beach has everything we love — a laid back, family friendly atmosphere and close proximity to all kinds of restaurants and activities. Check it out for yourself and I think you’ll love it, too.
For more ideas on what to do in and around North Myrtle Beach, check out my post on iExplore.com: 7 Reasons North Myrtle Beach is the Beach Town of Your Dreams.