Kid-Approved Activities Are Fun For The Whole Family
North Myrtle Beach has always held a special place in my heart.
Soon after college, a job brought me to the South Carolina coast, where I met my husband. He lived in a small apartment, just a couple blocks off the beach on Ocean Drive. Back then, we spent long days lounging and strolling on the widest beach I’d ever seen, and danced the nights away at South Carolina’s most popular bars and shag dance clubs.
Returning a little more than a decade later with two young sons in tow, we wondered whether the beach town we adored in our 20s would be the right place for a family vacation.
We didn’t have to wonder for long. North Myrtle Beach quickly reminded us why we loved this special part of the South Carolina coast. It blends the laid-back feel of a classic Southern beach town with modern resorts and attractions, and when we invite my parents or in-laws—or brothers, sisters and their families—along with us, the fun just amplifies.
Finding the right place
With a family that includes grandparents and young children, we look for vacation rentals with enough space for everyone to spread out, a variety of nearby activities and a picture-perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean. A full kitchen that we can stock with plenty of snacks and ice cream—it is a beach vacation, after all—also is on the must-have list, along with a large dining table where the whole family can enjoy meals, swap stories and play games.
Whether you’re renting a beach home with a screened porch dotted with rocking chairs or an oceanfront condominium, bringing the family together under one roof helps create memories that will last forever. Our kids have always loved sitting around the table playing cards and hearing stories about long-ago beach trips filled with windows-down drives along the beach and arcade games, instead of earbuds and video games.
It also lets grandparents and grandchildren spend special time together, perhaps poolside for an afternoon, freeing mom and dad to take a long, uninterrupted walk along the shore and spend time at a beachfront restaurant for some chilled shrimp and a cold beer.
Hit the beach
There truly is no better playground for children than the beach. North Myrtle Beach’s warm waters and gentle waves offer a perfect introduction to the ocean for little ones, who can be overwhelmed by the crashing surf at other beaches. As the tide rolls out, the shallow pools left behind work as nature's kiddie pools where our children splash in the shallow water, make drip castles in the wet sand, and try to spot a stranded starfish or a minnow. And the expansive low-tide beach means there is plenty of room for kite flying and beach games.
A family beach stroll must include a stop at the Cherry Grove Pier, jutting 1,000 feet across the sand and ocean. Last time we visited North Myrtle Beach, our kids loved strolling out into what felt to them like the middle of the ocean. And they couldn’t resist peeking into a fisherman's bucket to see what was biting that day.
The beach isn’t just the main attraction during the day. Some of our favorite memories have been made while walking the beach at night, the children armed with flashlights and buckets, trying to spot and catch ghost crabs as they skittered across the sand. The kids were rarely quick enough to capture the speedy creatures, but that never stopped them from trying.
Beyond the beach, North Myrtle Beach offers another spectacular opportunity to experience the outdoors with little ones. Heritage Shores Nature Preserve, on an island accessible by a series of boardwalks, lets you explore the beauty of a pristine saltwater marsh.
Just a few feet from Cherry Grove Beach is one of our favorite jaunts. It's an easy mile-long stroll, even for young children, who stay on the lookout for animals and birds along the way. You may get lucky and catch a glimpse of an eagle soaring overhead. The stunning marsh, especially in the early morning and late afternoon light, makes a perfect backdrop for a family photo.
Pancakes and putt-putt
A trip to North Myrtle isn’t complete without at least one round of miniature golf and a stack of pancakes. We always make sure to stop at Dino’s House of Pancakes, which has been something of an institution in North Myrtle Beach for as long as I can remember. There’s nothing better than fueling up on pancakes and omelets to get you ready for a day exploring all the area has to offer.
Our next stop is usually one of our favorite miniature golf courses, Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, where the first hole sits atop a mountain, accessible by train.
New fun at an old favorite
Barefoot Landing—a shopping, dining and entertainment complex along the inland waterway—was always a fun stop for a meal or a night of live music at the House of Blues when my husband and I lived at the beach years ago. On our visits with the kids, we have learned a different way that it’s fun.
In the children’s area, our boys always beg for an extra ride on the carousel, with its 41 animals cast from original Barnum & Bailey molds. And finding our way out of Mirror Maze, a 2,000-square-foot hall of mirrors, never ceases to be a fun challenge for the whole family.
But our family’s best memories of Barefoot Landing involve alligators. Our kids have always been fascinated, and a little wary, of the alligators we’ve seen in the wild. Alligator Adventure let them learn all about the amazing prehistoric-looking creatures, including the chance to see a giant gator leap out of the water at feeding time. Talk about a wide-eyed adventure for kids.
We’ll be back
Our family vacations in North Myrtle Beach tend to leave us reminiscing about our early days there as we connect in some of the very same spots. The chance to see our children explore and appreciate a place we’ve loved makes each trip even better. And now, I have even more memories of the beach to look back on with fondness and joy.
You’ll make unexpected memories, too, when your family explores North Myrtle Beach!
By Megan Sexton