Don’t break the bank when visiting one of the best beaches in the US, where everything from museums to pier visits to live entertainment can be free. We’re talking Myrtle Beach — the fastest-growing city in the nation.
Tap into how fun being frugal can be along the 60 miles that make up Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand with the list below — you’ll find ideas that are great for date night, hang time, or family fun, all showcasing how this slice of South Carolina offers up its delights for free (or just about!).
1. Pick from 60+ miles of wide-open beaches
Time on Myrtle Beach’s best stretches of sand comes free of charge. There are plenty of frugal ways to while away the sunny days, from bodysurfing to throwing a Frisbee to reading/picnicking/relaxing under the shade of an umbrella.
Reference the SC Beach Access Guide (scan the amenities map and swim advisories), load up on the SPF, and you’re ready for a day of free fun and sun. There are numerous “beach stores” in town to grab any extra accoutrements, and if what you need is a beach-going wheelchair, two Grand Strand communities, Surfside Beach and North Myrtle Beach, offer those for free, too.
2. Explore The Pier at Garden City
Like to fish? Relax and listen to live music? Stroll for sea views? Blast up some arcade games? Sing karaoke? The Pier at Garden City — eight miles south of Myrtle Beach — offers all these free or low-cost activities and more, but it’s most famous for its constant stream of anglers and musicians.
And while the onsite cafe’s hand-dipped ice cream and ice-cold drinks may require opening the wallet, the 668 feet of over-the-ocean views and live tunes come free for the taking.
3. Visit the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum
The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum opened its doors in 1997 and has been welcoming guests for free ever since.
With 11 galleries housing rotating exhibits, the museum showcases a wide range of visual arts, from mixed media to sculpture to oil paintings, and there are programs to creatively engage children and adults alike throughout the year. The museum is also home to the Lineta Pritchard Pottery Studio — you might run into aspiring or working potters during open studio hours.
The museum’s location is worth mention, too: From here, you’re a short walk away from Springmaid Pier, Myrtle Beach’s second-longest pier and just the spot to take in the sea-nic views.
4. Create your own mural tour in Conway
15 miles from Myrtle Beach rests the charming river town of Conway, whose old-timey town center comes lined with street art. Explore this clash of ages by creating your own walking tour of Conway’s newest and brightest murals.
Nine modern pieces of art — including a piece on the water tower — depict the history and culture of this river town. Tack on a wander under the live oak trees, maybe stop in a shop or get a bite to eat, and end your walking tour on the town’s riverwalk, ideally on a swing facing the Waccamaw River.
5. Explore Huntington Beach State Park
One of the jewels of the South Carolina park system, Huntington Beach State Park comprises three miles of pristine beach, 2,500 acres on Murrells Inlet — home to a wide array of wildlife, in and above the water — and more than enough campsites for a last-minute reservation (usually!).
Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children 6–15, with children under six totally free. Though it comes with an additional fee, the tours are worth it: Follow a naturalist around the park for a lesson on all things wild and wonderful, or tour Atalaya Castle, a National Historic Landmark located inside the park.
6. Catch a breeze on the area’s bike trails
From boggy marshes to windswept dunes, Myrtle Beach’s bike trails never cross the same backdrop twice — and with the region’s bounty of greenways and boardwalks, getting on two wheels and exploring is safe and easy.
If you’re yearning to be out in nature, then spots like the above Huntington Beach State Park (with 26 miles of trails) or the East Coast Greenway — bikers can access the epic 3,000-mile route near Carolina Forest — provide plenty of natural beauty and distance from the sounds of city life.
Tip: Many area hotels offer bike rentals, and there are also dedicated spots to rent bikes if your hotel or Airbnb doesn’t come with wheels.
7. Travel back in time (yep, for free)
Before it was all glitz and glam and SkyWheels, Myrtle Beach was an Indigenous outpost and then agricultural hotspot — up until some 75 years ago. You’ll travel through these eras at the Horry County Museum and L.W. Paul Living History Farm, for free.
Start inside the museum, where exhibits focus on the human and natural history of Horry County, one of the largest counties in the eastern United States. Then head outside to experience Myrtle Beach life on a “one-horse farm.” Replicating the period from 1900-1955, peek inside the kitchen with its wood-burning stove, learn about curing meat and sourcing fresh water, and definitely make friends with the family mule.
8. Wander the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
Take one step on the Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade and you’ll be taking part in South Carolina tradition. Part of Myrtle Beach culture since its early days, the boardwalk was and is a place to see and be seen, get to the heart of the downtown action, and soak in the timeless revelry of the Grand Strand.
More than a mile long and winding over the sand from the 14th Avenue Pier to the 2nd Avenue Pier, this is one of the best boardwalks in the US, according to Conde Nast Traveler. The people-watching, window-shopping, and sea-breezing are totally free.
9. Experience Broadway at the Beach
June through August, Broadway at the Beach — essentially a massive entertainment district — transforms after dark with its Great American Nights Series. Weather permitting, catch free nightly music, strolling entertainers, dancing, and weekly fireworks. Stiltwalkers, acoustic musicians, storytellers, and plenty of DJ dance parties happen all season long.
10. Stroll the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk
It’s true that the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk is home to some of the region’s best seafood restaurants, but those fabulous establishments rest on an intertwined system of tidal creeks and salt marshes also worth exploring.
Sunset is one of the most popular times to promenade down this half-mile boardwalk, when it’s common to spot a snowy egret lifting off a bank or tiny crabs scurrying into the seagrass. Expect free sights, free rhythms of live music, and free aromas of hot hushpuppies and freshly fried shrimp.
11. Experience sensory fun
Savannah’s Playground in The Market Common has a simple goal: to be welcoming and fun for children no matter their age or abilities. It’s the Southeast’s first all-abilities playground.
Divided into three zones — early childhood, school age, and interactive — look for ADA-compliant and adaptive swings, sit-and-spin elements, and the Harmony Music Park, which invites children to creatively make music as part of their playtime.
12. Hunt for shells and shark teeth
Visit any of Myrtle Beach’s stretches of sand, and you’ll more than likely see someone stopping, stooping, and celebrating. They’re hunting for shark teeth and shells, a time-honored tradition for beachgoers of all ages.
There’s a trick to knowing what to look for, but with 60+ miles of uninterrupted coastline, there are plenty of chances to get the hang of spotting these tiny fossils.
13. Get a sugar rush
It doesn’t cost much for a little by-the-pound candy or sweets at Sugar Life Ice Cream, a kaleidoscope of color, flavor, and sweet offerings. Choose a goody from a selection of ice cream flavors, novelty candy items, bulk bins, and various other sweet treats, including old-fashioned candy and a local classic: salt water taffy. In Myrtle Beach, a few dollars and a little sweetness goes a long way.