South Carolina’s Grand Strand is 60 miles of uninterrupted Atlantic beach that includes the well-known Myrtle Beach. The summer season extends through October, and the winters are so mild that people are often barefoot on the beach on Christmas.
North Myrtle Beach is a town of 16,000 at the northern tip of the Grand Strand. It lacks the spring break vibe and lively boardwalk of Myrtle Beach and hovers beneath the vacation radar. But once discovered, it is seldom forgotten. The slower pace and fewer crowds of North Myrtle Beach make it a great vacation destination for families and for people who want to take it easy. It is also an upscale retirement haven: senior friendly and plenty of golf courses.
Like most small towns, their local gems are not splashed on billboards, but people familiar with North Myrtle Beach have shared with us their favorite places:
Discover Platt’s Seafood
1108 Sea Mountain Highway, North Myrtle Beach, open all day every day
Fishing tackle and bait are just the beginning for Platt’s customers. They sell all you need for coastal cooking including mixes for cheesy grits and hush puppies. With daily deliveries from local boats, they offer the freshest fish and shellfish around. Their crab cakes are nearly all crab with just enough filler to hold them together. Their housemade soups, chowders, and seafood salads are culinary delights, and their key lime pie has won awards. You can order your seafood prepared for the table or purchase it raw. The knowledgeable staff will tell you how to prepare it. Order their low country boil of shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob–and don’t forget a key lime pie for dessert.
710 Bowling and More
1105 Highway 17 South, North Myrtle Beach, opens 3 p.m. daily
You’ve waited all year for this beach vacation, and now it’s pouring. You are grumpy, the kids are fighting, and not everyone loves bowling. 710 is so much more than a clean, family-friendly bowling alley with a good restaurant and bar. Bocce, darts, table tennis, corn hole, and board games are free. Billiards and shuffleboard are $5 an hour. 710 has many coin-operated games The food is reasonable and tasty with a children’s menu and an entire page of Southern comfort food in addition to typical pub fare. Trivia Thursdays are popular, particularly when the weather is not cooperating.
Learn To do the Shag
North Myrtle Beach is the home of the shag, a partner dance often described as the jitterbug on quaaludes. Main Street bars such as Fat Harold’s offer free lessons, and live D.J.’s play the music to dance to. For the best shag shoes, the Shoe Center, 710 Highway 17 South, has fashionable shoes with soles that grip the dance floor so you won’t go spinning into the street — unless you are innovating a dance move that involves golf carts and pedestrians.
Enjoy a Festival
North Myrtle Beach’s main festivals are the fall Irish-Italian Festival, St. Patrick’s Day Festival and parade, and Mayfest, a kickoff to summer fun. These festivals rock with live music, local crafts, great food, and family-friendly fun. Instead of the parking nightmare of festivals in larger cities, North Myrtle Beach organizes free parking venues and shuttles to the festivals. Golf cart rides, some as short as three blocks from car to Main Street, add to the fun as friendly locals give warm Southern welcomes and free rides.
The Great Christmas Light Show features more than 2 million lights festively displayed along a 1.5 mile drive through North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex. Over 500 magical light displays, some up to 55 feet tall, are custom made for the show. Visitors experience 20 enchanting animated figures and holiday scenes where the lights come to life accompanied by music. After the light show, families enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores in Santa’s Village, tube down Santa’s 40-foot inflatable slide, and, of course, meet Santa.
Taste the Real Italy
The Grand Strand including North Myrtle Beach has a large selection of Italian restaurants that range from ho-hum chains to family owned and operated pizzerias. The best and most authentic is Rapone, 3303 Highway 17 South, North Myrtle Beach, an unassuming trattoria next to an ice cream shop. As in Italy, this is a neighborhood gathering place for pizza and Southern Italian cuisine made from family recipes brought by immigrants from the old country. Many ingredients are from Italy such as 00 flour, Marzano tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella. Pizzas are cooked in a traditional brick oven, and the limoncello is house-made.
Visit Little River
This little fishing village neighboring North Myrtle Beach has a quaint, little downtown, but its biggest attractions are two restaurants favored by residents of North Myrtle Beach. The Parson’s Table, 4305 McCorsley Avenue, Little River, dates back to 1865 when it was a church. Restoration work used wood from old barns and stained glass from old churches to form an intimate restaurant of several rooms. Staff will point out their one Tiffany glass. The catch of the day is always excellent, and their She Crab Soup is highly praised. Surf, turf, or Weiner Schnitzel, your meal is guaranteed delicious and the ambiance is enchanting.
Across the street from the Parson’s Table, The Brentwood Restaurant and Wine Bistro, 4269 Luck Avenue, Little River, is a renovated 1910 house with several dining rooms and a patio. In summer, you can enjoy a lobster boil and live music on the patio. Year round, the cuisine is Low Country French. The restaurant is haunted, and guests can sign up for a ghost tour after dinner.
Bring the dog
North Myrtle Beach is one of the most dog-friendly places in the U.S. Most restaurants with outdoor seating welcome Fido and most will supply a bowl of water even before you ask. Grocery and other large stores have no problem with shoppers putting dogs in their carts. Smaller stores are concerned only that the pet is leashed and well mannered. Dogs are welcomed on beaches; but during the summer season, they must be off the beach between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
North Myrtle Beach is an all-season getaway depending on your vacation aspirations. Beach walking, music, low country cuisine, golfing, and laid back activities are popular year-round. If swimming and tanning are your goals, May through October are the best months to visit.