My wife and I had spent years in the beginning building our lives—buying larger homes as kids came along. Then came years of change—downsizing—as they grew up and moved out. Now we were back where we had begun—two people together. Somewhere along the way, there was the shared realization that, as empty nesters enjoying the first years of the rest of our lives together, it was time to replace business meetings, business trips and business lunches with vacation plans and romantic getaways.
On the list? The quaint seaside town of North Myrtle Beach.
Years ago we’d visited some of the coastal cities along the east coast, but North Myrtle Beach would be a new experience.
Or, should I say, experiences?
Up, up and away
When we arrived, we quickly realized we could be as idle or as active as we desired. Ready to get going, we chose active.
In North Myrtle Beach, the key word is ‘beach’. Its backyard is the Atlantic Ocean that, naturally, makes water sports—kayaking and paddleboarding, for instance—extremely popular. From the water’s edge, just a glance out to sea and we wanted to kick off our shoes and join in the fun. A pair of surfers were ripping across the curl of breaking waves while jet skis were slicing across the smooth water beyond the crashing surf. What surprised us both was seeing that on some of those surfboards and jet skis were people our age. I hadn’t surfed since college, but with concessionaires renting boards and jet skis up and down the coast, I was ready to give it the old college try.
But today was for both of us, and we chose to take to the skies on a parasailing flight—which was as thrilling as it looked from the shore. Towed behind a speeding motorboat and safely suspended beneath a full canopy, the world from hundreds of feet above the water revealed a panoramic view of the Grand Strand. You might expect row after row of high rise hotels. But in North Myrtle Beach, what we saw from that height was mostly beach homes and condos. And, to our surprise, at the north end of the beach we could also see riders on horseback enjoying a slow-paced walk along the water’s edge. Occasionally, a pod of dolphins would break the surface of the water while farther out to sea; charter boats with hopeful anglers had their fishing poles fanning out from the sides of the vessels in search of the catch of the day.
Back on land we checked on the activities we’d seen from the sky. Several services offer horseback riding on the beach, with Inlet Point Plantation offering it year-‘round on Waites Island. As far as fishing charters, we could choose from dozens of licensed charter services moored at nearly every marina. And those sleek dolphins we saw from a distance? Well, we could get a much closer look by setting sail with a dolphin cruise aboard the Sea Screamer or Sea Thunder or sailing with Voyager Deep Sea Fishing and Dolphin Cruises which, by the name, suggests a chance to see dolphins and catch a fish.
During the week, we’d check these and other activities off our list. The jet skis and surfing (I got the hang of it pretty quickly), fishing off Cherry Grove Pier, and attending a show at the Alabama Theatre.
Next, we headed to the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex. We heard it was worth a visit and, little did we know, we would end up spending a whole day there!
We started with a nice stroll along the walking trails when a sign caught our eye: GoApe Zipline & Treetop Adventure. Curious, we walked in and the next thing we knew, we were flying high through the treetops on a ropes course!
That afternoon, we stopped by Shark Wake Park, which we heard was a wakeboarding adventure, without the boats! We watched from a large viewing area as beginner and expert wakeboarders showed off their skills on the ramps.
After all the fun, we ate a late lunch (and a cold beer) at the two-story “Shark Shack.”
With shopping, shows, golf and even a round of miniature golf that proved nearly as challenging as the real thing, our days were so full we couldn’t understand how we ever had time for work.
We’d been going so fast that the thought of a visiting a winery fit our plans perfectly. We were trying to choose between La Belle Amie Vineyard and Duplin Winery when we realized we had no longer had a schedule or obligations. We didn’t have to choose either one.
We could visit both.
Just ten minutes from the Cherry Grove Pier in Little River, the setting of La Belle Amie Winery took us back in time—and not just the antebellum South. It took us back to the days of our first dates when we could enjoy each other’s company without the pressures of work and deadlines. We sampled wines in the tasting room, tried a few of their dressings and dipping sauces, picked up some items in the gift shop, took a guided tour of the winery and wrapped up our visit lazing in a front porch rocking chair. We could have spent all day in the rocking chair, watching other visitors (and locals) dancing The Carolina Shag along to live music out on the spacious back patio. We learned The Carolina Shag was a popular dance along the coast of the Carolinas (with origins right here in North Myrtle Beach.)
Visiting their fellow vintners at Duplin Winery was like heading to a friend’s house for a casual party. With live music and guests playing bocce ball outside, it was the perfect setting for a wine tasting. We also learned about the history of the winery’s roots in Rose Hill, North Carolina. Not only was the tasting fun, but it was also informative! As the week was coming to a close, their sprawling store was the perfect place for last-minute gifts (and a few bottles of our new favorite labels).
In just seven days we found we were operating with a more natural sense of time—doing things when we felt like it and stopping when we wanted.
With a few hours of daylight left, we returned to town and took a stroll around McLean Park, a lovely 10-acre greenspace where, once a month, locals bring beach chairs and blankets and settle back to watch a movie under the stars. Tonight, however, we’d follow a romantic meal with a show. We’d already visited the Alabama Theatre, House of Blues and Legends in Concert, so tonight we bought tickets for the high-energy show at the Carolina Opry. With rock, pop, country and Broadway tunes, the Opry reminded us of the North Myrtle Beach resort area which we saw as a radio dial. Give it a spin and you’ll land on a different style of live music played at nightclubs, beach bars, juke joints, concert halls, and honest-to-goodness theatres. Spin it again and you’ll find a variety of activities on land and on the water. Keep tuning in and you’ll find time to laze on the beach or, as we found, relax at a winery.
Everything we wanted to do could be done in North Myrtle Beach. It was our time.
Plan your coastal escape in North Myrtle Beach
By Adam Sargent