South Carolina Coast - Best Western Hotels & Resorts

  

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South Carolina Coast

Charleston Through the “Grand Strand”

The southern half of South Carolina’s coast is part of Lowcountry. From the beautiful and historic Charleston north, it’s still Lowcountry but with beach areas that become more accessible and turn into the wide, hard-packed sandy expanses that become inviting for everyone from sunbathers and beachcombers to surfers and sailing enthusiasts. This area, particularly from Pawley’s Island north past Myrtle Beach, is called the “Grand Strand.” From Charleston and sweetgrass baskets to Myrtle Beach and its many tourist-friendly pleasures, we’ll explore the northern half of the South Carolina coast.

We start in the Charleston area. Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina – founded in 1670 as Charles Towne, honoring the King of England – and the state’s second-largest city after Columbia. The Ashley and Cooper Rivers frame Charleston’s amazingly beautiful Historic District as they gradually meet up and merge into the Atlantic Ocean.

Charleston’s setting, history, architecture, restaurants, and friendly reputation earns it constant accolades, from being named “America’s Most Friendly City” by Conde Nast Traveler, the “Most Polite and Hospitable City in America” by Southern Living, a top city for high-tech companies and entrepreneurs by a number of publications, and in 2013 Charleston was ranked #7 among “World’s Best Cities” by Travel + Leisure (Barcelona, Spain was #8 and Paris, France was #9 – this is serious company!)

Historically, Charleston is a landmark for more than its age; this is home to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in April, 1861. The Fort Sumter National Monument contains plenty of exhibits and information on the Civil War – and its maiden battle – including the original flag that was flying over the fort at the time (you can only see small sections of it in low-light glimpses… it needs to be handled very carefully.) The monument is also the launch point for a boat ride to the actual Fort Sumter, several miles away.

It’s visible from the riverfront balconies; also visible upstream is one of the signs of new Charleston, the graceful Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (also known as the New Cooper River Bridge), a white cable-stayed span that carries U.S. 17 over the Cooper River. In between on the west bank of the Cooper River, next door to the Fort Sumter National Monument, is the South Carolina Aquarium. Across the river at Patriots Point is the USS Yorktown, which is open for tours once you’re done with Charleston proper.

While the Civil War was rough on the city, Charleston has weathered some natural disasters too; an earthquake in 1886 nearly destroyed the city as it was struggling to rebuild from the war. When you realize that earthquake was felt as far away as Boston, Milwaukee, and New Orleans, it gives you an idea of how powerful it was – they estimate 7.3 on the Richter scale. To this day, you may find metal bolts that look like “plus” signs in some old masonry buildings; those are there to provide stability in the event of another earthquake.

Hurricane Hugo in 1989 is much more recent and while it did $2.8 billion in damage to the city and locals will recall it like it was yesterday, the city and area recovered quickly. Today, it prospers. It’s becoming a hub for high-tech businesses too, to the point where one of its nicknames is becoming “Silicon Harbor.” Another primary nickname for Charlestown, since it can be a casual place, is “Chucktown.” But faith in this city is strong, and the multitude of churches is a testament to the long-standing nickname “the Holy City.”

Following U.S. 17 past the Best Western Sweetgrass Inn over the Ashley River, you land in Charleston’s downtown area; the Historic District lies to the south, all the way to the end of the peninsula. It is HIGHLY recommended to fully explore this area. The aforementioned Fort Sumter National Monument and South Carolina Aquarium lie along the Cooper River side (along with that beautiful view of the cable-stayed, harp-like Ravenel Bridge – U.S. 17 – behind them), but any drive south brings you to and through beautiful neighborhoods, historic sites, shops and restaurants, and at the end of the peninsula, The Battery.

Primary streets to check out include Market Street, Bay Street, Meeting Street, and King Street, which is home to the city’s burgeoning Fashion District. Many cobblestone side streets take you back to the days of old, even as the city embraces the future. The Charleston City Market on Meeting Street is a National Historic Landmark; the busy exchanging of goods takes place around historic Market Hall, which dates back to 1841, and the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum is also inside. The famous local sweet grass baskets, hand-woven in the region for centuries, often hold the works of art, crafts, food, jewelry, and other items being offered at the City Market. The Aiken-Rhett House, built in 1818, showcases life in antebellum Charleston; it’s right along King Street, not far from City Market and just north of today’s Fashion District.

Hungry? This is a place for unusual food combinations. Hit Sullivan’s Island off the peninsula and try a peanut butter burger at Poe’s Tavern (2210 Middle Street, 843-883-0083) or the Big Nasty Biscuit at the famous Hominy Grill (207 Rutledge Avenue, 843-937-0930), which has been featured on numerous foodie shows. Shrimp & Grits are a local delicacy, as is She-Crab soup, which is made from female crab meat. Places like the Hominy Grill, along with the Charleston Crab House (41 S. Market Street, 843-853-2900) and Hyman’s Seafood (215 Meeting Street, 843-723-6000) are great places to experience this unique dish.

Enjoy one (or more) of eight local brews at the Southend Brewery & Smokehouse (161 E. Bay Street, 843-853-4677) and take a ride up the glass elevator to a terrific view of the whole harbor. For marshmallow-y dessert lovers, the Moon Pie General Store (48 N. Market Street, 843-724-3525) – one of several in the South – sits along Market Street; but you’ll find sweet treats, confectionaries, and delectable desserts in places throughout the Historic District.

Toward the end of the peninsula, check out Rainbow Row with its blocks of colorful homes that lead you toward Waterfront Park and The Battery, which once defended Charleston from military attacks and still helps protect the Historic District from the occasionally angry Atlantic. This lovely area is perfect for a walking tour or horse carriage ride. Ghost tours are also popular; with a history as rich as Charleston’s, there are plenty of haunted stories to share.

To get a sense of the Old South outside of the Historic District, a run up Plantation Row is a must. Head out of downtown Charleston and make your way via I-26 and I-526 to SC Highway 61, also known as Ashley River Road, and head north. Paralleling the Ashley River, this road takes you to several amazingly beautiful plantations and gardens. Drayton Hall is a National Trust Historic Site, featuring the only surviving colonial plantation house along the Ashley River. The land was originally acquired by John Drayton back in 1738 and it remains in the Drayton family’s hands today (there have been some upgrades since). Architecture fans will marvel at its Georgian Palladian design, considered one of the finest examples of its kind in the nation. Tours are available of the house and the grounds.

The Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is next up the road, dates back even further: to 1676. Magnolia’s garden is the oldest “romantic garden” in the nation, but some of the work stays constantly new: it’s still a working plantation. You can tour the historic home museum, ride a nature train, and take a boat or boardwalk tour of the Audubon Swamp Garden, which is preserved marshland on the plantation grounds. Kids will love the Magnolia Zoo & Nature Center, and the Peacock Café and provide a food-and-drink pick-me-up for kids and adults alike. At 390 acres, there’s plenty of room to explore the grounds and work up an appetite.

Next up along the tree-lined, Spanish moss-laden Ashley River Road is Middleton Place. Another National Historic Landmark (circa 1741), Middleton Place features the nation’s oldest “landscaped gardens”, a large plantation house, and stable yards with plenty of activity. A nursery and market are on the grounds, and some regular wine-related events also happen here. The horticultural splendor in the gardens, designed on principles of French landscape architecture, make for a colorful and fun visit; original stone walls and other historic touches make this a very pleasant place to spend a chunk of the day.

Side Trip! Ridgeland

From Charleston, take US Route 17 N for 75 miles west until you reach Ridgeland – known historically as the “High Point of the South Carolina Lowcountry.”

A picturesque South Carolina town if ever there was one, Ridgeland offers a quaint escape from major cities like Charleston, and coupled with nearby cities like Walterboro and Beaufort, makes a great road trip itinerary stop.

Head to Ridgeland for some small-town fun like the Jasper County Farmers Market, and cute little outdoor spots like Tuten Park and Gopher Hill Square. Get a picture with the Ridgeland welcome sign or in front of the historic Jasper County Courthouse – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – trek down the Blue Heron Nature Trail, or take a shadowy drive down the Alley of Live Oaks.

Via I-26, you can also check out North Charleston and get refreshed at Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark. The city has a long naval history, having been home to the Charleston Naval Base until it closed in 1996. The Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial commemorates both the base’s history and the men and women who worked at the base and on the ships; be sure to check out the statues “The Lone Sailor” and “The Homecoming.”

Some ships were subs, and the H.L. Hunley Submarine Museum is busily restoring this Civil War-era (yes, Civil War-era) submarine that, despite having been sunk early in its history, stands as the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy warship. It was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean floor in 1995 and is on display in a tank, where the restoration process is underway. The Best Western PLUS Airport Inn & Suites is right nearby, along the interestingly-named Ashley Phosphate Road.

From Charleston’s downtown, follow U.S. 17 north; from North Charleston or other suburban points, I-526 to U.S. 17 north will do the job. Try to head from downtown Charleston though, so you can enjoy the beautiful ride over the Ravenel Bridge, a twin cable-stayed structure that is as breathtaking to look at as it is to drive over, affording terrific views of the Cooper River as well as Fort Sumter National Monument.

On the other (east) side, duck over to Mount Pleasant just east of Charleston and check out the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, which incorporates the 872-foot USS Yorktown, the 322-foot USS Clamagore (the only GUPPY III submarine preserved in the U.S.), and the 376-foot USS Laffey in its displays and exhibits. They include the Medal of Honor Museum, the Cold War Memorial, and – on land – a Vietnam Naval Support Base Camp.

Trivia: The USS Yorktown, commissioned in 1943, served in World War II and earned 11 battle stars. Later, she served in the Vietnam War – earning five more battle stars – and had a busy 1970, appearing in the war movie Tora! Tora! Tora! and assisting in recovery for the Apollo 8 space mission. Now a National Historic Landmark, she has been a museum ship at Patriots Point since 1975.

A few miles to the south, Sullivan’s Island offers Fort Moultrie National Monument, which lies across the water from Fort Sumter. Completed in 1798, Fort Moultrie is a series of citadels that offer not only a look at history, but beautiful views of the water nearby Fort Sumter, and Charleston across the bay. This is actually the second Fort Moultrie; the first begun back in 1776 and was built of palmetto logs, helping to inspire South Carolina’s nickname as the “Palmetto State.” Lighthouse fans will also appreciate Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse nearby, which despite its modern design and non-availability for tours (the Coast Guard is still using it), sits along a beautifully wide, sandy stretch of beach; when the lighthouse illuminates at dusk, the views get even better as you can see Forts Moultrie and Sumter, and Charleston itself down the coast.

The Best Western Patriots Point lies near U.S. 17 by Patriots Point’s museums and access to Sullivan’s Island. On the other side of the highway just a few miles northeast you’ll find more antebellum history at Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, which greets you after a nearly mile-long drive under towering oaks. The grounds cover 16 acres and centers on Boone Hall, which dates back to 1850. It’s just a short drive off U.S. 17, which our main highway as we continue up the South Carolina coast.

This area is widely known for sweetgrass baskets, which originated in West Africa and were renowned for their strength and style. Made of native sweetgrass, along with some pine needles, palmetto leaf, and other handy materials, some baskets were constructed so tightly that they can hold water; most have been used through the centuries for carrying crops. Descendants of West African slaves maintain a strong community and basket-weaving tradition in Mount Pleasant – there’s even an annual Sweetgradd Sure, you can find sweetgrass baskets in Charleston’s City Market, but in Mount Pleasant along U.S. 17 – as it has been since the 1930s – you can buy baskets directly from the artists and families who craft and sell them.

Also just off U.S. 17 as we get ready to head out of Mount Pleasant, you’ll find Snee Farm and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, named for Charles Pinckney, former South Carolina governor, and prior to that, a noted author and signer of the Constitution. Perhaps he was not noted enough though, since he is referred to as the “Forgotten Founder” (and it is true that when want to you sign something they ask for “your John Hancock”, not “your Charlie Pinckney”.) The National Historic Site includes his former home and plantation grounds, a visitor’s center, and Snee Farm, which occupies 28 of the 715 acres and offers a boardwalk and walking trails, and exhibits covering the home, agricultural history of the region, archeological exhibits, and the ecosystem that marries farmland and wetlands.

Heading northeast out of Mount Pleasant – and the Charleston metro area in general – commune more with nature as you approach Francis Marion National Forest, which occupies a large swath of inland territory between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. As you approach the forest boundary, bird lovers need to check out the Avian Conservation Center’s Center for Birds of Prey. The center opened in 1991 and is at the forefront of studying and helping birds of prey and other species as they battle with changing ecosystems and we learn more about how to heal and preserve the birds and their habitats. Open year ‘round Thursday through Saturday, visitors can tour their resident bird collection, check out flight demonstrations of hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and more, and explore exhibits that include free flight areas and a special area for owls.

Other natural preserve areas can be found along the drive too, including the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, a 22-mile long barrier island provided protected habitats for a variety of birds and waterfowl. The Buck Hall Recreation Area just off U.S. 17 provides access to Cape Romain while offering fishing, biking, hiking, hunting, nature viewing, and horseback riding. The Sewee Visitor & Environmental Education Center greets visitors to the area and offers everything from tours of remote lighthouses constructed on the barrier island in the 1800s to a glimpse of the rare red wolves that have been brought, bred, and protected here.

This area is near McClellanville, where you can tour the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, a handsome 12-room mansion under towering oaks on a sprawling 275-acre spread in the Francis Marion National Forest. You can tour the mansion – built back in 1735 – or enjoy plenty of outdoor recreational activities offered on the grounds, from fishing to sweetgrass basket making.

Past there, we head over the South Santee and North Santee Rivers; along the latter you’ll find the Hopsewee Plantation. A South Carolina National Historic Landmark, this low country rice plantation home has been well-kept and preserved since its construction around 1740. It still serves as a private residence, but tours are available and the grounds offer walking trails and even The Tea Room, where you can enjoy a variety of Southern teas and local fare such as shrimp and grits or pimento cheese biscuits.

Next up is Georgetown, a city of 9,000 that is second only to Charleston in seaport activity. It’s the third oldest city in South Carolina, perched on Winyah Bay where four rivers come together in preparation for the final flow into the Atlantic – hence the major seaport activity. History abounds here, with periodic European settlements dating back to the 1520s according to some; what is not disputed is that by the 1720s, Georgetown was platted with a four-by-eight block grid of streets which today comprise the city’s historic district.

The surrounding lands proved productive, and for a period in the mid-19th century Georgetown has the largest rice-exporting port in the world; the Civil War helped put an end to that. Lumber was also big business into the early 20th century, but also declined with the Great Depression. Today, the city has over 50 items on the National Register of Historic Places, from homes to plantations to chimneys to schools; many are in the historic district. A drive down Front Street off U.S. 17 in Georgetown allows you to check out many of them in a compact area; it’s a great place to get out and walk around. The town is filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants serving fresh catches of the day from the surrounding bays and rivers.

Along Front Street, you’ll also find several museums: the Kaminski House Museum is a throwback to life in the 18th and 19th centuries; even the previous owner’s bridge table is still set up. There are other quirky features inside this 1769 home along with an art gallery, and the attractive grounds surrounding it are popular for events and weddings. The Stewart-Parker House, built in 1740 is next door and can be visited with the same admission, although the far more extensive tour is at the Kaminski House. Just down the street, the Rice Museum is located inside The Old Market, a 19th century brick building with a four-faced clock that towers over downtown Georgetown. Many locals refer to it as “The Town Clock.”

The museum showcases the historical importance of the rice crop to the area. Next door, the South Carolina Maritime Museum explores the extensive maritime history of the state, supports and educates people on the nearby lighthouse that remains the oldest operating lighthouse in South Carolina, and displays the oldest vessel on exhibit in the U.S., the Browns Ferry Vessel, originally from the early 1700s. Behind and next to the museum is Lafayette Park, which abuts the Sampit River – which is a lovely river despite clearly not being named by someone in marketing.

Just off Front Street, you’ll find more shops, some nice neighborhoods under towering live oaks, and two more museums: the Gullah Museum on King Street reopened in 2014 and explores the history of the Gullah people, who came here as slaves and have remained a vital community through the South Carolina coast. This museum recognizes their efforts and contributions to Lowcountry culture. Nearby on Broad Street, the Georgetown County Museum offers a wide cross-section of historical artifacts, displays, and more that illustrates the colorful and busy history of the area.

From Georgetown, U.S. 17 banks east over the Intracoastal Waterway and towards the shoreline, where Pawley’s Island is the next town, accessible just off the highway via two causeways. Pawley’s Island essentially marks the southern start of the famed “Grand Strand” – a 60+-mile stretch of uninterrupted beachfront, extending in a gentle arc toward North Carolina. Small and relatively quiet, Pawley’s Island is one of the oldest resort areas on the east coast; early monikers included “arrogantly shabby.”

Pawley’s Island as a resort and vacation destination dates back to when wealthy plantation owners would build summer homes here, seeking to escape the relentless mosquitoes – and the malaria they carried – on their plantations inland. About a dozen of these original homes – some built as far back as the 1780s – still stand. They tend to have an architectural style popular in the West Indies, often with cypress on some exterior walls, large porches, and high foundations to protect from storm and gale tides. They’re part of the small but charming historic district on the island, which generally runs only about a quarter of a mile wide.

Pawley’s Island includes a history of hammock-making that dates back to the 19th century, and some shops carry the famous local rope and rope styles used to make them, although manufacturing for the hammocks is now in North Carolina – but if you’re wondering why the “Pawleys Island Community” sign has a hammock on it, now you know. The Hammock Shops Village offers 20 specialty shops and restaurants, sheltered by beautiful towering live oaks along Ocean Avenue/U.S. 17. Nearby, the Shops at Oak Lea, offer a variety of boutique fashions, hand-made jewelry, art, and more.

Approaching Huntington Beach State Park, you’ll find Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,100-acre park on four former plantations that offers themed gardens, the Lowcountry Zoo, sculptures, and trails through nature preserves. The statue of fighting stallions out front is hard to miss!

On the north end of the park, U.S. 17 has a split-off (Business U.S. 17) that separates from U.S. 17 for about two miles and goes into the heart of Murrells Inlet, which proclaims itself the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina.” The “Business” – also known as the “Waterfront 17 Highway” – is the old road… of course it’s more interesting. Named in 2011 for famed author Mickey Spillane, who lives on Murrells Inlet from the 1950s until his death in 2006, the Waterfront 17 Highway nudges up against the creeks that separate the mainland from the ocean with swamps and barrier islands.

The seafood coming out of these waters can be mighty tasty; restaurants and oyster bars are lined up along the drive to serve it all up to both residents and visitors in the mood for some coastal fare. Some places take local names, like “Creek Ratz”, in salute of kids in the area who love to play in the creeks and come home mud-covered – earning the nickname “creek rats.”

On the north end of Murrells Inlet, “Waterfront 17” meets up with Business 17 and the mainline U.S. 17, which is a faster inland highway. For the Tour, we recommend following Business U.S. 17/Ocean Avenue.

This brings you into the heart of the bright lights and bustling attractions of Myrtle Beach, one of the most popular vacation and golf destinations in the United States. Attractions for families, spring breakers, and guys’ and girls’ weekends – whatever people may travel for, Myrtle Beach has you covered somehow – after all, 14 million visitors per year can’t be wrong.

Ready to hit the links? Over 100 courses beckon – most of them public – handling the over 3.5 million rounds played each year. Championship courses from premier designers can be found up and down the Grand Strand, from oceanfront to well inland. The World Amateur Handicap Tournament has been taking place in Myrtle Beach annually for over three decades; PGA tours regularly make Myrtle Beach a stop. You have plenty of choices, in all price ranges, throughout the region.

Myrtle Beach is a draw for bikers, too: Myrtle Beach Bike Week brings up to 200,000 riders, mostly on Harleys, to the area in spring and fall. Black Bike Week, the largest African-American Motorcycle Rally in the U.S., draws 350,000-400,000 each year around Memorial Day weekend. Of course, riders come to the area throughout the year, as drives up and down the Grand Strand and throughout the Carolinas are popular whether or not there are official rallies.

Family and “touristy” entertainment is everywhere in Myrtle Beach. Near the waterfront and primarily along Ocean Avenue, you’ll find shops, the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and the eye-catching SkyWheel, a 187-foot tall ferris wheel that adds vibrant, dancing colors to the city’s skyline at night while offering riders beautiful views of the area regardless of the time of day.

In need of a bigger adrenaline rush? Check out Myrtle Beach Thrill Rides, featuring the Slingshot, a reverse bungee thrill ride that launches you 300 feet into the air and “bungees” you around (yes, we’re making it a verb) before bringing you back gently – and wide awake – back to the ground. There’s also the Skycraper, which whips you around up to 60 miles per hour and 175 feet in the air, producing 4G’s of force.

Conversely, you can just walk along the beach, check out the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! or the nearby Children's Museum of South Carolina, or browse the shops along Ocean and the side streets… that’s perfectly okay, too. Much of the oceanfront area can be enjoyed on foot or bicycle up and down the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, a 1.2-mile path that runs from 14th Avenue down to 2nd Avenue. At the current southern end, take a stroll out onto the Second Avenue Pier, a great spot for fishing, picture-taking, grabbing a bite at the Pier House Restaurant, and catching some of the best views of the beaches and city.

Trivia: Opened in 2010, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk has been rated the #3 boardwalk in the nation by National Geographic (behind only Atlantic City and Coney Island) and #2 in the nation by Travel & Leisure.

Further inland along mainline U.S. 17 between 21st and 29th Avenues, a 350-acre spread known as Broadway at the Beach offers great shopping with over 150 stores, restaurants, nightclubs, and larger-than-life attractions such as Ripley's Aquarium, Pirates Voyage, WonderWorks, and more. Across you’ll find NASCAR SpeedPark, with seven go-kart racetracks, mini-golf, rides, and arcade games. Just down the street along U.S. 17 is Myrtle Waves, one of the largest waterparks in the country.

A few blocks away lies the Carolina Opry, offering rock, country, and comedy shows – sometimes all combined. If you’re up for more shopping, The Market Common Myrtle Beach offers upscale shopping – primarily chain stores – on the former grounds of an air force base. There’s also a Tanger Outlets near U.S. 17 and U.S. 501. And that’s just a sample!

Myrtle Beach has two pro sports teams, too. One is the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are a Class A-Advanced baseball team in the Texas Rangers’ farm system. They play in TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, just off U.S. 17. The stadium, which accommodates up to 6,600 spectators, also houses events like the annual “Baseball at the Beach” collegiate baseball tournament held in conjunction with nearby Coastal Carolina University. The area even has a professional soccer team, the Myrtle Beach FC, part of the National Premier Soccer League.

They play at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, which also hosts major track and field events, area football games, and more. This is still NASCAR country, and the Myrtle Beach Speedway features an oval just over half a mile. The Speedway has held major NASCAR events in the past, with generations of many top driving families – Pettys and Earnhardts, for example – taking part. Today, the track offers a variety of races including the Whelen All-American Series, and you can even take a stock car and test the track yourself!

Driving in and through Myrtle Beach offers two main options: Ocean Avenue (for beaches and downtown) and U.S. 17, aka “the bypass.” Following Ocean Avenue brings you past towering high-rises, provides frequent access to the beaches, Boardwalk, and 2nd Avenue Pier, and brings you to the main downtown attractions. The Best Western PLUS Grand Strand Inn & Suites is south of the main attractions, offering a private pool area, beach access, and easy walking distance to all the fun.

The Best Western PLUS Carolinian Oceanfront Inn & Suites is on the north end, offering high-rise views of the ocean and city. The mainline U.S. 17, known to many as “the bypass,” parallels Ocean Avenue further inland, with access to attractions like the ballparks and Broadway at the Beach, along with many golf courses. Along this stretch of highway, the Best Western PLUS Myrtle Beach Hotel offers quick driving access to any of these attractions as well as points north and south. As you can see, Myrtle Beach is definitely worth a long stay to check out all there is to see and do.

Ready for a somewhat calmer beach stretch as we wrap up our Tour? Then North Myrtle Beach serves as a great wrap-up along the South Carolina coast. Once four separate towns, the area united in 1968. Quieter than its bright, bustling neighbor, North Myrtle Beach still offers up great shopping and entertainment. Barefoot Landing features over 100 stores, restaurants, and attractions, including a House of Blues, the Alabama Theatre, Alligator Adventure, a carousel, riverboat, and more. North Myrtle is known for “shag dancing,” a slower-paced version of swing dancing popularized in the 1940s.

The National Shag Dance Championships happen here every year in March, and places like Duck’s Beach Club, Fat Harold’s Beach Club, the Spanish Galleon Beach Club (sensing a “beach club” theme here?), and more feature and occasionally offer lessons in shag dancing. If you prefer to dance on the beach, the sandy beaches of the Grand Strand’s north end provide plenty of room.

U.S. 17 comes within blocks of the Best Western Ocean Sands Beach Resort, which is right on the water and the northernmost hotel on our Tour. From North Myrtle Beach, U.S. 17 jumps back over the Intracoastal Waterway and heads to North Carolina, so that wraps up our Tour. Might as well stay a while and enjoy everything the Myrtle Beach area and the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina has to offer!