Choose Your Vacation: Discover Your Vacation Style in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Everyone has their own personal “vacation style”. Some like to lounge on the beach all day, while others prefer an action-packed trip full of new experiences. On a recent visit to South Carolina’s North Myrtle Beach area, my family and I found four communities that had their own unique personalities—proving that at North Myrtle Beach, you can have it all or just relax. Do your vacation.
Vacation personality: Adrenaline & Entertainment
Destination: Ocean Drive
If you’re all about excitement, Ocean Drive is the place to be. At the heart of North Myrtle Beach, Ocean Drive has been a gathering spot for the young—and young at heart—for decades. Its wide, flat beach was once popular with teenagers for drag racing, and in the 1940s these beachgoers adapted swing dancing to avoid kicking up the sand, giving birth to a new dance called the Carolina Shag.
That playful spirit is still alive and well in Ocean Drive, and it really does infuse you with energy. My two favorite spots here, hands down, are Fat Harold’s Beach Club and the O.D. Pavilion and Amusement Park.
Fat Harold’s is one of those laid-back local places where you’re welcomed like family. Though it’s a bar and restaurant, the real draw is the shag dancing— they give free lessons every Tuesday, or you can simply join in and learn from other dancers. I saw all kinds of people there. Locals and tourists. Energetic little kids and smooth old timers. Twenty-somethings perfecting moves that will make their friends back home jealous. It has such an open and relaxed energy that you can’t resist getting pulled into the joy and laughter! It’s truly a can’t-miss experience.
Then there’s the O.D. Amusement Park — if it doesn’t get you feeling like a kid again, nothing will. It has carnival-style favorites like bumper cars, a roller coaster, the tilt-a-whirl (that thing still makes me scream like a fool) and so many other classic rides. We spent hours playing those silly carnival games and goofing off in the arcade. The park is right on the beach, too, so we took a few minutes to indulge in some cotton candy and hotdogs while we enjoyed the view.
The intersection of Main Street and Ocean Drive is affectionally referred to “festival-central” by both the visitors and locals we met during our stay. They told us we couldn’t miss Music on Main, a weekly family-friendly concert where dancing in the streets is not only common, but encouraged!
Vacation personality: Outdoor Adventure
Destination: Cherry Grove
Are you the type who wants to spend every minute outside? Head to Cherry Grove, where you can experience everything from an exciting day of surfing to a relaxing kayaking tour.
Cherry Grove first became a popular travel destination in the 1950s, when a pier was built to attract visitors and saltwater fishermen. Thanks to several notable catches (including a record 1,780-pound Tiger Shark) the pier is still a top fishing location.
Here’s the best news: there’s a bait and tackle shop directly on the pier where you can rent poles or crab traps, buy lures and live bait, and get insider information on what’s biting that day! It’s a great way to try saltwater fishing without having to buy or carry around a ton of gear.
Right next to the pier is the Kokopelli Surf Camp, which is an outdoor family vacation dream come true. You can take a kayaking or paddleboard tour of the salt marshes and islands, or you can rent equipment for your own custom adventure (there’s free delivery and pickup).
The most exciting thing about the Kokopelli Surf Camp, however, is the surfing, of course! Professional surfers teach the classes, with a low student-to-teacher ratio so everyone gets personal attention. They’re so good at what they do, they guarantee you’ll be riding the waves by the end of the lesson. Another bonus: the kids were so tired that evening they fell right to sleep, which meant vacation gold for the grownups—relaxing drinks on our condo’s porch while watching the sun retreat.
One more local treasure worth mentioning is the Cherry Grove Oceanfront Park. We discovered this little oasis on a walk, and made it our go-to hangout for beach days. It has restrooms, outdoor showers, benches in the shade, and a patch of grass that makes a nice place to take a break from the hot sand and have a picnic.
Vacation Personality: Relax and Refresh
Destination: Little River
Little River is definitely worth a visit if you’re craving a low-key, small-town retreat.
Named after the river that borders North and South Carolina and empties into the Atlantic, Little River is best known for its annual Little River Shrimp Fest and The World Famous Blue Crab Festival. If you can’t make it to the festivals though, don’t worry—this quiet fishing village has more than its fair share of exceptional seafood restaurants, many right on the waterfront.
If you want to catch your own dinner, there are a lot of family-friendly fishing charters run by locals who will show you how to land the big ones everywhere from inshore to the deep sea.
Fishing isn’t the only thing to do in this charming town, though. You can spend a peaceful day exploring the many waterways by paddleboard or kayak, play a game of golf on one of Little River’s several award-winning courses, or just soak up some South Carolina charm and natural beauty with a cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Vacation Personality: Mix it Up
Destination: Windy Hill
Does everyone in your family have a different vacation personality? That won’t be a problem if you go to Windy Hill. One way to make everyone happy is to go straight to Barefoot Landing.
Surrounded by the waters of Louis Lake and the scenic inland waterway, Barefoot Landing has an incredible mix of unique shops, restaurants, live shows and music, and interesting attractions. It’s a great way to mix a leisurely stroll with some excitement (and a blessing when everyone wants something different to eat). Our family is always looking for kid-friendly nighttime entertainment, and we found it at the Alabama Theatre. The Show suited everyone’s taste, ranging from country, gospel, Broadway, pop and rock music to great family comedy.
The thing my family liked best about Barefoot Landing was Alligator Adventure, the “Reptile Capital of the World.” They had gators of course, as well as snakes, tortoises and the biggest crocodile I’ve ever seen—his name is Utan, and he’s about 18 feet long and 2,000 pounds. It’s been a long time since I’ve been awed by an animal attraction, but I found myself slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the sight of him. My mother is not a fan of reptiles (good thing she missed Utan), but Alligator Adventure has birds and furry critters as well, so she loved her visit, too.
BONUS Destination: North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex
If you’re looking for fun with the family, check out the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex. I heard about it from a friend whose daughter was in a soccer tournament earlier this year. Between games, they entertained themselves at a few of the attractions in the park.
Start your day at Go Ape Line & Treetop Adventure, where you can zip through the trees on a high-flying ropes course.
With your adrenaline still pumping, run (or walk) next door to Shark Wake Park, a wakeboarding park that accommodates riders of all levels. If you prefer to spectate, it’s just as fun watching others soar across the ramps from the large observation deck.
If you bring your furry friend along on your vacation, they’ll love a visit to Waggin’ Tails Dog Park.
For a family-friendly evening activity, make sure to check out the events calendar for live concerts at the park’s amphitheater. They happen frequently throughout the summer and are usually free!
Vacations in our family can be a challenge to plan because everyone wants to do something different.
In North Myrtle Beach, though, everything you need is right there and it’s so easy to flow from one vacation mode to the next. On the drive home, I was listening to the kids in the back seat talking about the trip and I felt so relaxed and happy that I realized we’d done it—everyone had experienced the perfect vacation.
By Kellilynn Hann