The 15 best (and oddest) things to do while driving to Myrtle Beach
It’s a well known fact that Myrtle Beach is a vacation destination like no other.
A simple cruise down the boulevard or a walk around Broadway at the Beach and you’re sure to see a few of the “Only in Myrtle Beach…” sights that make our area so quirky and charming. From tacky airbrushed T-shirts and gaudy fluorescent beachwear to the over-the-top decor at theme restaurants and fiberglass characters adorning our mini golf courses, there’s plenty of unique sights to see while you’re here.
But as they say “Getting there is half the fun...” and this is absolutely true when driving to Myrtle Beach!
Banking on the business of the many visitors headed to the coast, there are several interesting and quirky stops on the routes that lead you to the beach. Here’s a look at the Top 15 things to do while driving to Myrtle Beach, including some of the best (and oddest) spots along the way:
1. South of The Border & Pedroland
Thanks to the dozens of colorful, clever signs and a memorable mascot named Pedro, it’s pretty hard to miss this unique roadside attraction located just south of the S.C.-N.C. border where U.S. 501 and U.S. 95 meet. For more than 65 years this “highway oasis” has been wowing travelers with attractions including a reptile lagoon, Pedroland kiddie ride park and the Sombrero Tower, a 200-ft. tall observation deck. There’s also 3 restaurants, an ice cream shop, meeting facilities and tons of shopping — including a “Myrtle Beach” shop. • See website
Located just east of Marion, S.C., on U.S. 501, Sparky’s is a one-stop shop that combines a visitor’s center, gas station and downhome southern bar-b-que restaurant with a gift shop, and a fireworks store. Here you’ll find everything you could ever need for a beach trip — and plenty of things you never knew you needed. While you're there make sure to pick up lots of beachy trinkets, some tasty fudge, a new pair of leather boots and enough fireworks to light up the entire beach. • See website
3. The Holy City (a.k.a. Charleston, S.C.)
If not for already being known as one of the state’s top standalone vacation destinations, Charleston would absolutely rank #1 on this list of top places to stop. After all, what’s not to like? From Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter to The City Market and Rainbow Row there’s tons of history and amazing architecture here, not to mention top-notch southern cuisine. Sure, it’s a little more refined — some might say “uppity” or “highfalutin” — than Myrtle Beach, but if you’re coming from the south and have an afternoon to kill, it’s a great place to explore.
4. "Official" Myrtle Beach Visitors Centers
Though these all-inclusive gateways to Myrtle Beach information may not be as exciting as some of the attractions on this list, what is a little quirky about them is names which all seem to include "official" "best" or "world's largest" in the title. (We're all for marketing, but they can't all be the best, can they?) But despite what they lack in credibility, these info centers make up for in useful advice and an abundance of money-saving coupons. No matter which direction you’re traveling, you’re sure to find one on the way in. Locations include, Florence, Marion, Little River and Murrells Inlet.
5. Southern Plantations
There’s plenty of southern flair here at the beach, but if you want a real lesson in southern charm, take a quick trip to one of the area’s many historic southern plantations. Here you can see what it was like to live in the South hundreds of years ago, learn about farming popular crops like rice and indigo and tour the grounds from the palatial plantation houses to the stables and slave quarters. If you’re coming up U.S. 17 from the south you’ll find several to visit including Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, Hopsewee Plantation in Santee, Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown and even The Oaks Plantation at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet.
6. "The Seafood Capital of The World"
If you’re heading in from the North on U.S. 17, a quick detour down N.C. 179 to the quaint coastal town of Calabash, N.C., may be in order. Calling itself “The Seafood Capital of The World,” the town is known for it’s Calabash-style seafood, which consists of battered fish and shrimp fried to golden brown perfection. You can also explore the awesome gift shops such as Callahan’s of Calabash and St. Nick’s.
7. Georgetown Harborwalk
Though many of travelers simply pass through on their way to Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet or Myrtle Beach, making a stop in downtown Georgetown, S.C., is definitely worth the trip. Not only will you find great restaurants, shops and historical attractions along Front Street, you can also get some of the most gorgeous views on the entire Grand Strand with a quick walk down the Harborwalk. You can also hop over to the Harborwalk Marina a find several great boat tours, dolphin tours and sightseeing tours there. More information.
8. Sweetgrass Basket Stands
For more than 80 years, coil baskets of native sweetgrass and pine needles sewn with Palmetto leaf have been displayed for sale at dozens of stands along U.S. 17 between Mount Pleasant and Georgetown S.C. Native to the South Carolina Lowcountry, have been handed down from generation to generation since the 1700s and represent one of the oldest forms of West African art in the U.S. Not only do these exquisite local treasures make for great gifts, but buying one from a roadside stand is a sort of “rite of passage” that will make you feel like a real South Carolinian.
9. Traveler's Church (a.k.a. Tiny Chapel)
Just past Conway, S.C., near Coastal Carolina University on U.S. 501, you’ll find a tiny chapel so small that if you blink you just might miss it. According to Roadside America, this minute facility with six tiny pews — seating up to 12 people — was built in 1972 and has survived multiple disasters including a tree falling on it and vandals setting it on fire. The church’s Deacon Tommy Jones says “hundreds” of marriages have happened here and that the doors are never locked, so if you’re looking for some “quickie” nuptials on the way into town, this is your spot.
10. Little River Waterfront
If you’re coming in from North Carolina along U.S. 17 to the beach, don’t simply breeze through this small town. Instead take a quick jaunt down Mineola Avenue to the Little River waterfront and check out this charming little area. You’ll find several restaurants worth trying — including Patio’s Tiki Bar, Key West Crazy and Crab Catcher’s — as well as charming gift shops like Pirate’s Treasure House. And if you’re looking to get a jumpstart on hitting the water, you can also hop on a fishing charter or hit the Big M Casino Boat for an a quick gambling fix ... who knows you could double your money before you even get to the beach!
11. Fireworks shops
Despite the fact that fireworks aren’t actually allowed to be set off on local beaches or within Myrtle Beach city limits, there sure are PLENTY of places around to get a little bang for your buck. Whether you’re looking for a few sparklers for the kiddos or an Independence Day display that would make the founding fathers proud, you’re sure to find all the best fireworks here at the beach. On the drive in alone, you’re likely to pass at least 2-3 shops, not to mention the many fireworks stores in Myrtle Beach. Some spots to check out include Atlas Importers and Sparky’s in Marion, Hugo Fireworks, Great Scott Fireworks and Cheap Charlie’s in Conway, Williard’s Fireworks, Area 51 Fireworks and State Line Fireworks in Little River, and Factory Outlet Fireworks on S.C. 9 near Loris.
12. Local Museums
If you’re up for a little learning, there’s several local museums and points of interest on the way to Myrtle Beach worth checking out. You can learn about space and the sea at Ingram Planetarium and the Museum of the Coastal Carolinas in Sunset Beach, N.C., bone up on farming and local history at the Horry County Museum and L.W. Paul Living History Museum in Conway, or learn about sailing and rice production at the Kaminski House, Rice Museum and S.C. Maritime Museum in Georgetown. Auto buffs may also want to stop by Wheels of Yesteryear, near Tanger Outlets on U.S. 501 on the way into town. More about Myrtle Beach Museums.
13. Awendaw Green & Sewee Outpost
Once you pass Charleston and Mt. Pleasant heading up from the south, the last hour or two to the beach can be a bit bland. With long deserted stretches through Francis Marion National Park, there’s not much to look at. Luckily, though the small town of Awendaw, provides a bit of breakup from the monotony, with attractions such as Awendaw Green, Sewee Outpost and Buck Hall Recreation Area. Here you can check out some great live music during one of the area’s famous “Barn Jams” grab a bite to eat at Sewee Restaurant or even stop and play a round of disc golf or two.
14. Roadside Produce Markets
If you’re looking for a taste of local flavor, there’s no place better than the many country markets and produce stands on your way into town. Here you’ll find some of the freshest produce around from corn and tomatoes to sweet potatoes and locally-caught shrimp. If you just need a snack to hold you over there’s a great selection of local treats like candied pecans and boiled peanuts. Some you’re likely to run across include Green Acres Country Market in Florence, Po Boys Produce in Galivants Ferry, Aynor Produce in Aynor, Lee’s Farmers Market in Murrells Inlet and Holden Brothers Farm Market in South Brunswick, N.C.
15. "Old Baldy" Lighthouse
For some people, driving a half an hour out of your way to see a pair of lighthouses may seem crazy, but if you do take the time to visit these awesome attractions, you’ll sure be glad you did. Both the Oak Island Lighthouse in Oak Island, N.C., and the Bald Head Island Lighthouse (a.k.a “Old Baldy”) near Caswell Beach, N.C., offer tours which allow visitors to explore the grounds and go up inside for breathtaking views — and photos — of the ocean and its surroundings. For the full experience, it’s best to drive into downtown Southport, N.C., and take the ferry across the Cape Fear River to Bald Head Island.
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