The area now called the Grand Strand, stretches over 50 miles along the Atlantic coast from North Myrtle Beach southward to Georgetown. The North Myrtle – Myrtle Beach, and the Georgetown – Pawley’s Island areas have quite different histories. While both areas were home to the Waccamaw and Winyah Indians, Georgetown was first laid out by British colonists in 1730 and is the third oldest community in the state. The area became a center for growing rice, indigo, and cotton, and with the help of African slave labor a plantation culture took hold. Exports of these crops and lumber transformed Georgetown into a wealthy community. Glimpses of its history are preserved in some of its churches, homes, and the remains of plantations. It is also depicted in the Georgetown Rice Museum. Pawley’s Island, which is just northeast of Georgetown, became one of the first summer resorts and was used by plantation owners in the pre-Civil War period. http://www.cityofmyrtlebeach.com/
Horry County (pronounced “oh – ree”), where Myrtle Beach is located, was cut off from the plantation culture of Georgetown because it was separated by the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers. The inland area near Conway was inhabited by hard working farmers, lumbermen, and fishermen. The resort potential of the island supported construction of a railroad in 1900 connecting it to mainland, and soon the Seaside Hotel was built. It was immediately popular as a resort destination and in the 1920s the Ocean Forest Hotel and Resort was added. The island continued to prosper and grow throughout the next several decades. Beginning in the 1960s the golf boom hit the area and by the 1970s and 1980s many other attractions, homes, retail establishments, and other development followed. In 1986 the Carolina Opry Theater was built, putting the area into “show business.”
Myrtle Beach today blends together beach communities, many resort-type golf communities, a little of Nashville and Branson, and even some of Disney World. The population (near 25,000 on the island and countywide near 200,000) grew more than 36% during the decade of the 90s. The area has 460 hotels and motels, and hosts an estimated 13.7 million visitors each year.
It has been dubbed “The Golf Capital of the World” with a remarkable 120 excellent courses in the area. The Grand Strand has many miles of sand beaches, fishing, boating, tennis, amusement parks, nature preserves, and 11 live theaters with over 15,000 seats. It has over 300 outlet stores, many specialty shops, and countless restaurant choices — including dinner theaters, and names like Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, and the NASCAR Restaurant.
Nearby communities where growth and development is continuing include:
Little River (population 7,100) is north of North Myrtle Beach and stretches to the North/South Carolina border. It is 23 miles north of Myrtle Beach and within easy reach of all its amenities. The community is on the inland side of the Intracoastal Waterway, away from the coastline. However, it has an abundance of marina facilities and an excellent inlet to the ocean. There are a number of local restaurants and a good amount of shopping. Myrtle Beach is just minutes away. http://www.littleriverchamber.org/, or http://www.littleriversc.com/ .
North Myrtle Beach (population 11,000) is along the ocean immediately north of Myrtle Beach. It has a great beach and all of the amenities of its neighboring community. http://www.n-myrtle-beach.sc.us/ or http://www.northmyrtlebeachchamber.com/
Murrells Inlet (population 6,000) is best described as a quaint seaside fishing village. It is located along Rte. 17, just 13 miles south of Myrtle Beach, at the edge of beautiful Huntington Beach State Park. The area is in the heart of lands that were cultivated into large rice plantations in the mid-1800s, and pirates sailed into its creeks to hide and prey on cargo laden ships bound for England. As its name implies, it has an ocean inlet and the area developed into a popular commercial and recreational fishing site. Today it is a small residential village that offers easy access to a great many amenities only minutes away. http://murrellsinletsc.com/default.html
Pawley’s Island (population 20,000) is an ocean front community on a barrier island, about 23 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Like many of the communities in Georgetown County, its history dates to the 1700s and it is tied to the rice plantation culture of the 1800s. It is about 30 minutes from the Myrtle Beach airport, and 70 miles from Charleston. Historic Georgetown is 13 miles southeast, across the Waccamaw River and Pee Dee River bridges. Pawleys Island today is a popular retirement location, with beautiful beaches and a number of gated communities. It has more than a dozen eating establishments, including fast food, and several fine golf courses. Its resource cities are Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. Charleston is not far away. http://www.townofpawleysisland.com/
Historic Georgetown (population 9,000), is located 34 miles south of Myrtle Beach at the confluence of the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers, which form Winyah Bay and lead to a deepwater ocean inlet. The Waccamaw River, which flows south from the Myrtle Beach area, is a beautiful body of water – picturesque, wide, and deep. It forms a section of the Intracoastal Waterway. Spaniards in1526 first inhabited Georgetown, which is named for King George II of Wales. Throughout its long history, Georgetown has been a manufacturing area, and a well-known seaport. Its shipments were Royal Blue Indigo dye, lumber, rice, cotton and tobacco. In the 20th century its produce has largely become paper products and steel from local industries.
Georgetown has a quaint old main street section, and a good number of historic structures, including a number of very old churches. Its protected waterfront has a number of small marinas. There are several restaurants, and a limited amount of shopping. Georgetown County, or which Georgetown is the county seat, was the fifth fastest growing county in the state. http://www.georgetown-sc.com/
Arts & Culture
The Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a complete events calendar. http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/play/calendar/search.html
Brookgreen Gardens, across the highway from Huntington Beach State Park, is a sculpture garden that showcases more than 500 works by 241 American artists on the site of four colonial plantations. (843) 235-6000
Myrtle Beach is well known for its “feature theaters” that bring in nationally known talent and produce outstanding stage shows.
Alabama Theater, North Myrtle Beach – http://www.alabama-theatre.com/
Legends In Concert, Surfside Beach – http://www.legendsinconcert.com/
Palace Theater – Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex – http://www.palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com/
Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, North Myrtle Beach – http://www.dixiestampede.com/
The Carolina Opry, North Myrtle Beach – http://www.TheCarolinaOpry.com/
The Myrtle Beach area, with 120 fine golf courses, arguably offers the largest collection of golf courses available anywhere in the world. There are even more under construction. Most of them are open to the public, and many are championship caliber. The courses range from ocean side settings to salt marsh lands, to forested lands with massive live oaks draped in Spanish moss. The long list of course designers includes Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tom Fazio and Pete Dye. http://www.myrtlebeachinfo.com/cvb/adv/golf/golf.asp
Myrtle Beach offers an abundance of choices for outdoor recreation, including 46 miniature golf courses, amusement parks, horseback riding, biking, hiking, tennis, fresh and salt water fishing, boating, or sailing, and all the beach activities.
Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet is noted for its diverse habitats and a wide variety of wildlife. It has pristine beaches, salt marshes, and freshwater lagoons that are home to American alligators, bald eagles, osprey, and nesting loggerhead sea turtles. The park is also one of the East Coast’s finest birding sites. The park offers 127 campsites, picnicking, hiking, bike riding, shell collecting, fishing, and crabbing. In addition, coastal exploration programs are offered throughout the year. http://www.huntingtonbeachsc.org/
Myrtle Beach State Park offers 350 campsites, a fishing pier, public beach, and nature center. A variety of hands-on educational programs invite families and groups of all ages to learn about beach combing for sea treasures, catching crabs off the fishing pier, foraging for wildlife, or a dozen other Lowcountry activities. http://southcarolinaparks.com/park-finder/state-park/795.aspx
The city of Myrtle Beach offers an impressive list of recreation facilities including indoor pools, gymnasiums, fitness center, tennis, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more. http://www.cityofmyrtlebeach.com/recreation.html
Coastal Carolina University was established as a branch of the College of Charleston in 1954. Then in 1960 it became a regional campus of University of South Carolina, and finally became independent in 1993. It enrolls more than 6,000 students and offers 33 degree programs. http://www.coastal.edu/
Grand Strand Chapter of Senior Friends, sponsored by Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, is part of the National Association of Senior Friends, a not-for-profit organization for persons over age 50. It provides social and health benefits and opportunities through one source. Activities offered include monthly Dutch-treat luncheons, chapter meetings, bowling league, brown bag day and night trips, an annual convention, member-guest cookout, birthday party, and Christmas dance, and much more. There are many health benefits and discounts available for members through the medical center and its facilities. http://www.grandstrandmed.com/specsrvc.asp
Grand Strand Regional Medical Center is a 219-bed acute care hospital located in the heart of Myrtle Beach. It has a medical staff of more than 275 physicians and a support staff of over 900. Grand Strand has the only cardiac surgery program in Horry and Georgetown counties and is a designated trauma center. http://www.grandstrandmed.com/
Georgetown Hospital System has two hospitals in neighboring Georgetown, 40 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Georgetown Memorial Hospital is a 142-bed acute care hospital and Waccamaw Community Hospital, opened in 2002, has 40 inpatient beds as well as 29 beds in an acute physical rehabilitation center. Both hospitals offer a full range of inpatient and outpatient services and 24-hour emergency service. http://www.georgetownhospitalsystem.org/
Loris Healthcare System serves the North Strand area and parts of North Carolina. It includes Loris Community Hospital, Seacoast Medical Center and other healthcare facilities. Loris Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital with 105 beds and the Extend Care Center is licensed for 88 beds. There are 50 physicians on staff. http://www.lorishealthcaresystem.com/
Conway Medical Center is a private non-profit institution with more than 200 physicians and 160 private rooms. Located off highways 501 and 544, it is also the home of the Kingston Nursing Center an 88-bed nursing center owned and operated by the hospital. http://www.conwayhospital.com/
Myrtle Beach International Airport offers flights from seven scheduled airlines. http://www.myrtlebeachairport.com/
Conway-Horry County Airport, on Highway 378, is five miles west of Conway. It serves general aviation aircraft with parking, refueling, and maintenance. (843) 397-9111 http://www.airnav.com/airport/KHYW
Grand Strand Airport is in North Myrtle Beach between Highway 17 and the Intracoastal Waterway. It serves private and corporate aircraft with parking, refueling, and maintenance. (843) 272-5337 or (800) 433-8918
The average air temperature for January is 60 degrees and the water is 51 degrees. In July, the air temperature averages 91 and the water is 81 degrees. –
Wilmington, NC – 72 miles
Georgetown – 35 miles
Charleston – 95 miles
Hilton Head – 191 miles
I-95 at Florence, SC – 69 miles