Wide, sandy and sun-drenched, the Grand Strand in South Carolina is a 60-mile stretch of captivating coastline.

This region offers 14 communities, each with its own personality – with Myrtle Beach as the charismatic center of gravity. Beachgoers have their pick of inviting shores, from crowded and lively to remote and quiet. Nature lovers are also spoiled for choice: salt marshes teem with wildlife, trails ribbon through maritime forests and botanical gardens bloom year-round. Fresh seafood abounds everywhere. And family fun, from putt-putt to zip lines, is a hallmark of the region. 

If you only have a few days (and with the caveat that some attractions are only open in warmer months), here are some of the top things to do in and around Myrtle Beach.

Spend a day on the beach

Myrtle Beach is the anchor of the Grand Strand, and it’s the best bet for active beachgoers. Head here for water sports, oceanfront dining, Boardwalk shenanigans and summer festivals. Surfside Beach hugs the coast just south of Myrtle Beach. Also known as Family Beach, this two-mile stretch of sand has lifeguards, a gently sloping coastline and wacky golf-cart parades. It has also been recognized for its autism-friendly businesses

Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park offer a more low-key experience as well as opportunities for hiking, camping and wildlife watching. Further south, Litchfield Beach earns loyal fans for its crowd-free coastline and relaxing small-town vibe. Neighbor Pawleys Island encourages all-day relaxing with its empty white-sand beaches, protective dunes and famous roped hammocks.

Ride the SkyWheel

This soaring landmark is no mere Ferris wheel. Rising 187ft above the downtown Boardwalk, the SkyWheel offers 10-to-15-minute “flights” in 42 temperature-controlled gondolas, which each hold up to six passengers. Most of the gondolas are fully accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters, while more than one million LED lights wow onlookers during the dynamic evening light show.

Savor fresh seafood in Murrells Inlet

Twenty-five minutes south of Myrtle Beach, this inviting fishing village is known as the seafood capital of South Carolina. Fishing boats pull up beside waterfront restaurants in Murrells Inlet, where chefs await the day’s catch. Linked by the half-mile wooden MarshWalk, popular seafood restaurants overlook weathered piers and lush marshlands, and offer a prime choice for a lovely evening out. One sure bet for fresh seafood? Head to Wicked Tuna, a hook-to-plate seafood restaurant that overlooks the inlet and employs its own fleet of fishing boats.

Kayak the coast

Paddlers seeking wildlife, coastal beauty and solitude have numerous options within a short drive of downtown Myrtle Beach. Salt marshes hug the coast at Murrells Inlet, where kayak tours float past pelicans, egrets, sea turtles and dolphins. Other trips explore the swampy wonders of the Waccamaw River and its moss-draped cypress trees, or drift past lonely islands and empty beaches strewn with shells and sand dollars. Most guided trips are great for families and last a half-day, with many trips offered year-round.

Go shag dancing at Fat Harold’s 

Shag dancing (known as “shagging” in these parts) is the official dance of South Carolina. According to lore, this easy-going swing dance akin to a slow jitterbug was birthed in North Myrtle Beach in the 1940s and 1950s, with doo-wop, old-time R&B and beach music providing the irresistible soundtrack. You can watch – and join in on – all the moves at Fat Harold’s Beach Club and surrounding dance clubs most nights of the week. Lessons at Fat Harold’s are $10 on Monday nights – no partner needed – and free every other Tuesday night. 

Marvel at a Night of a Thousand Candles

The most enchanting place in the Palmetto State in winter is Brookgreen Gardens, 16 miles south of Myrtle Beach. The Nights of a Thousand Candles take place from late November through the early New Year: after sunset, a tunnel of live oaks, all wrapped in strands of white lights, funnels visitors from the entrance to an illuminated wonderland of flowers, shrubs and trees. Statues of gods and goddesses cast mysterious shadows across fountains and pools in the twinkling darkness. These events sell out, so buy a ticket before your visit.

Horseback ride on the beach...and beyond

Horseback riding is allowed on designated sections of the Grand Strand from the third Saturday in November through the end of February. This means you can gallop – or perhaps gently walk – along the surf in winter. Most guided trips run 90 minutes and cost about $75; Grand Strand Horseback Riding leads outings from Myrtle Beach State Park. In warmer months, when the beaches are off-limits to horses, many companies guide riders across inland farms, where you might see cows and canals instead of sand and surf.

A fence in the dunes along the Boardwalk of Myrtle Beach at dusk, with the SkyWheel and apartment buildings in the distance
Dunes provide a respite from all the action of Myrtle Beach’s Boardwalk © Getty Images

Stroll the Boardwalk 

Anchored by the SkyWheel, the 1.2-mile Boardwalk is crammed with arcade games, ice cream parlors, souvenir shops, volleyball courts, beachwear stores and busy hotels. The all-American scene is not to be missed in summer, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Officially dubbed the Oceanfront Boardwalk & Promenade, the walkway stretches from the 2nd Ave pier area to 14th Ave North. The family-owned Gay Dolphin gift shop, open continuously for 75 years, hawks shells, t-shirts and souvenirs. RipTydz Oceanfront Grille & Rooftop Bar serves up cocktails with ocean views. 

Bird-watch at Huntington Beach State Park

Scan the skies and salt marshes for great egrets, blue herrings and even bald eagles at Huntington Beach State Park, a favorite stopover for migrating birds and one of the top birding spots in the Southeast. Birdwatchers have spotted more than 350 species of birds at this 2500-acre park, which is home to maritime forests, freshwater and brackish marshes, shrub thickets, beaches and dunes. Pick up a bird checklist then stroll the marsh-flanked Causeway for the best viewing. The new Nature Center also has a birding area. 

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Seek out high-octane adventures for families

Smell the popcorn, hear the screams and feel the ocean breeze on the Swamp Fox, a classic wooden roller coaster that careens around Family Kingdom, an oceanfront amusement park packed tight with 35 rides. Funplex Myrtle Beach, which opened in 2021 at the northern end of the Boardwalk, has seven rides including the Sky Velocity, which drops riders six stories. At the beach, several family members can float above the ocean at once on parasailing trips – reaching heights of up to 500ft. Below, jet skis bounce across the waves with banana boats in tow as families cling tight.

Wander through WonderWorks 

This eye-catching, upside-down building is the hub of this three-in-one attraction, an immersive adventure destination that is one part children’s museum, one part amusement park and one part science lab. Various interactive “wonder zones” bring scientific concepts to life, while the outdoor Soar + Explore area boosts the adrenaline factor with a zip line and three-level ropes course. WonderWorks is not unique to Myrtle Beach, but its mix of interactive physical and cerebral activities provides a fun alternative to a day of lying out in the sun.

A woman puts at a mini-golf course next to a palm tree and fiberglass elephant in Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach and its surrounding region may have more mini-golf courses than any place in the country © Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty

Putt-putt with pirates and dinosaurs

Rome has ruins. London has pubs. And Myrtle Beach has mini-golf courses, with at last count more than 50 of them puttin’ their stuff (sorry). Some sources even say that the Grand Strand has more courses per square mile than any place in the country. What makes these 18-hole courses memorable? Their exuberant embrace of wacky themes. Pirate ships, dinosaur kingdoms, jungle wonderlands and Hawaiian backdrops have entertained families since the first course was built here in 1930. No ifs, ands, or...putts about it.

Immerse yourself in Gullah culture

Even after the brutal Middle Passage, enslaved workers on coastal South Carolina plantations retained many traditions from their West African homelands. Delve into this rich history, memorable customs and beautiful crafts in the coastal village of Georgetown, home to the Gullah Museum and the Rice Museum.

Zenobia Harper offers tours exploring Gullah culture several days per week at Hopsewee Plantation, a former rice-growing estate on the North Santee River. Workshops here teach sweetgrass basket weaving, a Gullah tradition since the 1700s. Brookgreen Gardens, built on the site of four former rice plantations, offers a weekly Gullah program (Jan–Nov). The Lowcountry Trail here spotlights the lives of those who owned and worked the fields. 

Hit up Broadway on the Beach

With its unabashed embrace of shiny corporate excess, Broadway at the Beach may not offer an afternoon of Lowcountry authenticity. But this sprawling shopping, dining and entertainment complex – which surrounds a 23-acre lake – knows how to bring the rah-rah. Highlights include a lake-crossing zip line, the Pavilion Nostalgia Park carousel, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, dueling pianos at Crocodile Rocks and Ripley’s Aquarium, where penguins and the jellyfish beckon. 

Sip craft beer

The outdoor beer garden at Crooked Hammock Brewery in North Myrtle Beach embraces backyard fun with hammocks, firepits, bocce ball, cornhole and a playground. Grand Strand Brewing Co, which opened in 2021, fills a two-story building in the heart of downtown Myrtle Beach. Enjoy live music and outdoor seating (including Adirondack chairs and picnic tables) as you sip an Airbrush Hazy IPA. Serious beer samplers will want to make the one-mile drive inland for the Dirty Myrtle DIPA at hyperlocal brewery New South Brewery, around since 1998.

You might also like:
When to visit Myrtle Beach for sun, festivals and great deals
Top 6 beaches in South Carolina
Where to explore Gullah culture in the US

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