Looking to make the most out of your vacation? Not only is Myrtle Beach full of family fun, but also neighbors some of the Carolinas’ most charming cities you won’t want to miss out on. Here are 5 day trips that are just a short drive from the Grand Strand.
Situated about two hours south, Charleston is a port city rich in history, tradition and southern hospitality. The trip to Charleston is part of the adventure. Often referred to as “Sweetgrass Highway”, Highway 17 is populated on both the north and south sides with vendors displaying their handmade Sweetgrass baskets. This basket making practice became popular in South Carolina in the early 17th century and you will definitely want to pick one up as a souvenir of your trip. If you’ve heard of Charleston, you are probably familiar with the infamous Rainbow Row. Following the Civil War, East Bay Street was poverty-stricken and in an effort to improve the neighborhood, the homes were painted beautiful pastel colors. Today, this stretch of homes is now one of the most photographed areas in Charleston. Since there is so much to see in so little time, a historic carriage tour might be a good option to keep in mind. This horse-drawn carriage ride will let you discover the beauty of Charleston without walking miles on foot. If exploring Charleston’s cobblestone streets has worked up an appetite, the downtown area has no shortage of 5-star dining. Many of Charleston’s restaurants are locally owned, making the experience that much more special for visitors.
If you are looking for small town southern charm, Georgetown is another must-see. Founded in 1769, this town is home to beautiful plantations, historic museums, restaurants and boutique shops. Follow the moss-covered oaks into Georgetown’s historic district where you will find a variety of things to do for the whole family. Visit the Georgetown Harborwalk to enjoy views of the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers and eat delicious low-country cuisine on the waterfront. If you are a history buff, you’ll definitely want to check out the Kaminski House and Rice Museum. The Kaminski House was once owned by the “King of Georgetown”, a man named Paul Travier who was the colony’s wealthiest merchant in the 1750’s. This beautiful plantation home looks over the Sampit River and holds a collection of American and English antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Rice Museum gives visitors insight into the rice crop industry and how it shaped Carolina culture. If you are visiting in the evening hours, grab your beach chairs out of the car and take a seat in Francis Marion Park for Music in the Park to hear great local bands perform.
Like Charleston, Wilmington is a port city that truly has something for everyone. One of the most notable features of the city is the National Register Historic District spanning over 230 blocks. Featuring beautiful churches, classic architecture, brick-lined streets and beautiful homes, this is a stroll you won’t want to miss. Another historic pit stop is the Cameron Art Museum, a gallery located on a Civil War site that features a variety of exhibits as well as a café with locally sourced foods. If shopping and local culture are more your style, check out Market and Front Street. While exploring these streets you’ll likely see local jazz performers on street corners, which makes the hunt for souvenirs even more fun. For an educational experience you won’t want to miss, catch a taxi across the river to visit to the Battleship North Carolina. This amazing WWII battleship serves as a memorial to the 11,000 North Carolinians who died during the war.
If you’re looking for a mellow way to spend your day, Kure Beach offers pure and unspoiled beauty and is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature and family. This small town beach is big on things to see and offers an escape unlike any other from the hectic pace of everyday life. Be sure to check out Fort Fisher on Pleasure Island. This pristine island is accessible via ferry and is home to one of the best aquariums on the East Coast. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher features stunning exhibits of aquatic environment and wildlife. Explore marine life from salt marshes and tidal pools to a two-story open ocean exhibit featuring fish, sharks and eels. Meet Luna, a rare albino alligator, feel the smooth skin of a gliding stingray and come face-to-face with a loggerhead sea turtle. Explore more with behind-the-scenes tours, outdoor adventures and camps.
Calabash & Sunset Beach
On the way to Wilmington you’ll find Calabash, a beautiful coastal town located just over the North Carolina state line. Calabash is known for its fun shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Don’t forget to take the kids to Calabash Creamery for dessert after dinner; with traditional and homemade gourmet flavors everyone is sure to find a treat that will make their mouth water. A little science lesson during summer vacation never hurt anybody, right? Check out the Ingram Planetarium on the way to Sunset Beach. In addition to free admission, the planetarium offers a Sky Theater, hurricane simulator and laser light shows that are sure to excite every member of the family.
Sunset Beach and Bird Island are must-sees for someone looking for a little slice of heaven off the beaten path. One of the first things you will notice is the absence of high-rise hotels in the area, keeping this beach slightly less crowded than other surrounding locations. If you’re up for an adventure, take a walk over to Bird Island for the Kindred Spirit Mailbox – a landmark in the area for almost 30 years. At this mailbox you can read anonymous letters disclosing hopes and dreams of previous beach goer’s and even write your own.
If you’re not looking to travel far from the Myrtle Beach area, Conway is another great option. Take a stroll down the Conway Riverwalk to enjoy some peace, quiet and relaxation. Due to the scenic views, the Riverwalk is a popular location for family photos. Looking for somewhere to escape the heat? Theater of the Republic is Conway’s historic playhouse featuring popular musicals such as Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mary Poppins, Godspell and more. This town stands out in that all of the restaurants and shops in the downtown area are locally owned and unique to Conway. Antique stores, consignment shops and boutiques are just a short list of what you’ll come across while exploring. If you are interested in learning more about local culture, the Horry County Museum is conveniently located on Main Street. This museum holds a variety of exhibits including photography, natural history, military, Native American history and more. Admission to the Horry County Museum is completely free, making this a budget-friendly excursion for all families.
The Carolinas have so much to offer and lucky for the distant traveler, they are all within driving distance. Come enjoy all of the beautiful views, history and secret treasures these neighboring cities hold. If you’re looking for a great central location to all the fun, Myrtle Beach is where you want to be.
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