A sense of needing to hurry or stress doesn’t exist in South Carolina’s North Myrtle Beach if you don’t want it to – and that’s especially true in the shoulder season, from mid-September through November. With light traffic and thin crowds, reservations are rarely needed. Really, the only reason you’ll ever need to check the time is to not miss the show at the Alabama Theatre.
North Myrtle Beach is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Barefoot Landing shopping center. The nine-mile-long beachfront isn’t as commercial as other parts of the 60-mile stretch of beach known as the Grand Strand, creating a more peaceful vacation and easier access to coastal and outdoor recreation. In general, North Myrtle Beach is more relaxed and low-key than the southern parts of Myrtle Beach, which caters more to family summer vacationers. But they both have plenty to fill a beach getaway.
The town was created in 1968 when four smaller communities – Cherry Grove Beach, Ocean Drive Beach, Crescent Beach, and Windy Hill Beach – combined into a larger town. The individual beaches still have their own unique atmospheres, with varying types of lodging, restaurants, and attractions.
North Myrtle Beach is a great spot for a long weekend getaway on the East Coast, especially for maximizing your beach relaxation while minimizing your spend. If you’re planning a trip, here’s where to go for the town’s best food, the wine club you may want to join before leaving, and one of the most fun variety shows you’ll find in the US.
The best time to go to North Myrtle Beach
The best time to go to North Myrtle Beach depends on what you’re looking for, but for return visitors, most agree fall is the perfect time of year. Sure, summer is the warmest season, but it’s also extremely crowded and at its most expensive.
But fall is also really warm, since the temperate tropical climate creates summer temps well into late October. Water temperatures are comfortable enough for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding until the end of September or early October, and outside temperatures remain comfortable enough for shorts and t-shirts during the day until the end of October.
The big attractions and most of the local restaurants are open year-round, and activities like guided kayaking tours and sightseeing boat tours continue throughout the year.
It’s also easier to find a place to stay in the fall. Most vacation homes and condos in North Myrtle Beach require a one-week minimum stay in the summer. But by mid-September, the restrictions loosen and many of the properties can be booked with a three-night minimum stay.
Things to do in North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach’s nine miles of sandy beachfront are inviting for guests most of the year, and even in the middle of December, you’ll see people walking along the shore. But there’s more to the town than just a beach.
Kayak through a saltwater marsh at twilight
Since 2009, owners of J & L Kayaking Justin and Laurie have led a team of skillfully trained kayaking guides on various kayaking tours. Visitors can pick from several tours ranging from sunrise tours to crabbing adventures, but one of the best is the Backwater Twilight Tour. Setting out from a boat dock, the guides lead the way through narrow passages of wavy cordgrass. When the sun goes down, you’ll use inflatable lanterns to keep the tour paddling through twilight.
Go horseback riding on a private island
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Inlet Point Plantation Stables is in a 4,000-acre plantation kept in an undeveloped, natural state. On their one-hour horseback riding tour, you’ll cross a bridge to the private, 1,380-acre Waties Island. The friendly and well-trained horses will do all the work while you enjoy the soothing sounds of the sea as you travel along the secluded beach and journey through the lush maritime forest.
Tours start at $75 per person and reservations are required.
Take a speedboat dolphin tour
There’s a reason why Myrtle Beach Watersports’ 70-foot-long speedboat is called the “Sea Screamer.” The boat reaches speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, even while fully loaded with 141 passengers. According to the boat’s captain, the high speed is to get out to sea quickly to find shrimping boats, which attract dolphins. And after about 20 or 30 minutes, you’ll start seeing the boats, which means dolphins breaking through the water’s surface. You’ll probably spend about half an hour watching the dolphins; be prepared to hear a series of “oohs” and “aahs” from everyone on board the entire time.
Tip: Arrive half an hour early to get a seat beneath the Bimini top for extra shade.
Get a free shag lesson
The “Carolina Shag” became a popular partner dance in places like Fat Harold’s Beach Club in the mid-1900s. And today, Fat Harold’s is one of the few dance clubs exclusively for shag left in the country. For the past 30 years, it’s offered free shag lessons on Tuesday nights. According to shag instructor Shag instructor Lori Setzer, “There are people who are nine years old that do the dance, and people who are 90.”
Tip: Even if you don’t dance, it’s fun to stop by the beach club to watch the amateur and professional shaggers (and order one of their signature fried bologna sandwiches).
Catch ICONIC at the Alabama Theatre
You’ll clap, sing, and let loose silly, sentimental tears while watching the musical performance during the Alabama Theatre’s ICONIC show. The variety show debuted in early 2023 after nearly a year of preparation and features a high-tech, 40-foot digital wall. The show is two hours of glittering sequin costumes, jaw-dropping choreography, and heartfelt performances from a talented ensemble cast.
Shop or stroll through Barefoot Landing
Barefoot Landing is a four-acre shopping complex with more than 100 shops and restaurants around an artificial lake between Kings Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway. Shopping options range from clothing at M.R. Ducks to jars of delicious, locally made honey at Savannah Bee Company, and the must-see PURPLEologist, a store where everything is purple.
Greg Norman Australian Grille is an upscale, waterfront restaurant, and at LuLu’s, you can get a table with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway or kick off your shoes and play some beach volleyball. Flying Fish Public Market & Grill is a great place to pick up fresh seafood to cook at home, or you can settle down at a table to a classic “lowcountry boil” or seafood platter.
Restaurants in North Myrtle Beach
Snooky’s Oceanfront Restaurant
Snooky’s is an oceanfront restaurant in the Cherry Grove area of North Myrtle Beach. You can sit outside on the patio, but the best view in the house is the coveted rooftop seating. The “Fresh Catch Bites” appetizer is a great starter, and you must try their homemade pimento cheese.
2208 N Ocean Blvd, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Johnny D’s Waffles and Benedicts
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For a second brunch option, head to Johnny D’s Waffles and Benedicts. Chef Jamie trained at the Culinary Institute of America before moving to Myrtle Beach and gained national attention for her signature red velvet waffle when the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore sampled the breakfast on live television. The cake-batter waffle is drizzled with homemade cream cheese icing and topped with powdered sugar. But just in case that’s too sweet, there are also classic breakfast options like benedicts, omelets, and pancakes. It’s rated 35 out of more than 600 restaurants on TripAdvisor.
3900 Hwy 17 S, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
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After 20 years of running restaurants in Charlotte, NC, owner Henry O’Boyle opened a third location for Boardwalk Billy’s in his favorite beach town: Myrtle Beach. The spacious covered deck and outdoor patio offer plenty of room, and it has one of the largest, most diverse menus in the Grand Strand. Options range from sushi and burgers to tacos, seafood baskets, and the “Boardwalk Billy’s Famous Oyster Roast.” You may want to start the entertaining evening with its crab cheese dip, made with spicy cheese and fresh crab dip served with chips.
1407 13th Ave N, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Joe’s Bar and Grill
Walking into Joe’s Bar and Grill feels like entering your uncle’s cabin deep in the woods. Taxidermy animals hang on the wood-paneled walls and a stone fireplace greets guests. Ask to be seated on the Raccoon Cove deck, and you might spot the furry animals eating at an outdoor table beside the marsh. A good starter is the seared yellowfin tuna served with mango ginger slaw, followed by any number of steaks, seafood, and chicken entrees. Reservations are recommended.
810 Conway St, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
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After Brandon and Ashley Causey opened a homemade ice cream shop in 2017, it didn’t take long for locals to vote them as having the best ice cream in North Myrtle Beach. Melt makes all their concoctions on site each day, with all flavors ranking as a 10 out of 10. Somehow, its double-stuffed Oreo ice cream made the chocolate cookie taste better than eating them directly from the package.
204 Main St, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Dino’s House of Pancakes
Opened in 1970, Dino’s was one of the first pancake houses in North Myrtle Beach. It’s a family business, with owners Tom and Barbara Kandris working alongside their children. It’s known for enormous servings of fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with fresh strawberries.
2120 Hwy 17 S, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Twelve 33 Distillery
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According to owner Kevin Osbourne, there’s a reason for the name of this distillery near North Myrtle Beach. “We named our distillery Twelve 33 as an homage to December, 1933, which is when we celebrated our freedom to drink again,” he said.
There’s a hidden speakeasy if you know the password, and inside, you’ll find a place with comfy leather seating and wood-paneled walls perfect for enjoying a not-so-illicit drink. You can take a guided tour, or get right to sampling its bourbons, gins, vodkas, and rums.
593 SC-90 E, Little River, SC 29566
North Carolina-based Duplin Winery is the world’s largest producer of muscadine wine – a type of sweet wine made with grapes native to the US’s southeastern states. Do the “Bottling Experience” tour to see how they bottle wine in mason jars, or settle in at one of the tasting bars for a wine tasting flight. Once you discover your favorite wine, you can order one by the glass and enjoy it on the outdoor patio.
If you join the wine club, you’ll get a complimentary glass of wine each day for you and a guest. Members also receive three bottles of preselected wine each quarter. It costs $52 per quarter to join, and you can use the membership benefits immediately. And you don’t need to live within the state to have wine shipped your way.
4650 Hwy 17 S, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
Crooked Hammock Brewery
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Rich Garrahan opened Crooked Hammock Brewery in Delaware in 2015. Drawing on his favorite childhood memories, he wanted to create a place for people to escape into a backyard full of games and barbecues. Fortunately for North Myrtle Beach, he opened Crooked Hammock Brewery at Barefoot Landing in 2021. Expect artificial turf, swinging hammocks, and picnic tables spread across the backyard, with a great craft beer menu.
4924 Hwy 17 S, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582
North Myrtle Beach hotels and rentals
You can use any beach you like in North Myrtle Beach no matter where you stay, since all the beaches are public. There are a few oceanfront resorts along the shore, but most of the towns beachfront space is occupied by vacation homes.
North Beach Resort & Villas is a 7.5-acre resort between Kings Highway and the Atlantic Ocean. The resort has impressive outdoor swimming pools, a cabana club, and a day spa. The oceanfront condos in high-rise towers and spacious cottages are all within walking distance of the beach.
Avista Resort is a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom oceanfront condos with balconies. Guests can relax in indoor and outdoor pools, float in the twisting lazy river, or play on the splash pads. The resort has several on-site restaurants, including the elegant Just Off Main or the Tree Top Lounge, with a pool table and great views of North Myrtle Beach.
Another good option is Bay Watch Resort, with hotel rooms and suites that can accommodate large groups. Most importantly, though, is that the North Myrtle Beach hotel has a whopping 18 indoor and outdoor water amenities like swimming pools, lazy rivers, and hot tubs.
How to get to North Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach International Airport is an increasingly popular way to travel to the Grand Strand between North Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet. It welcomes about three million visitors per year and is served by Spirit, American, Southwest, and Delta. There are direct flights from lots of cities on the East Coast, plus destinations as far west as St. Louis, MO; and Minneapolis, MN.
There’s also a large rental car fleet, with the usual brands like Alamo, Enterprise, and Hertz. The airport is about 20 miles from North Myrtle Beach.
If you’re driving to North Myrtle Beach, most of the drive will be on a highway, but the actual Grand Strand isn’t connected to the highway. It’s a 90-minute drive once you exit Interstate 95. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Charleston, SC; 3.5 hours from Charlotte, NC; and just over an hour from Wilmington, NC.
How to get around North Myrtle Beach
There’s no public transportation in North Myrtle Beach, but that doesn’t mean you need a car. Lyft and Uber are available year-round.
But in North Myrtle Beach, most visitors use another method to get around: golf carts. They’re a way of life in the town and a great way to get between your vacation rental and oceanfront destinations. Golf carts are allowed on most secondary roads between Kings Highway and the ocean during daylight hours. Of course, drivers must obey traffic laws and pay for parking when required.