Relaxing Day Trips to the Small Towns of the Grand Strand

Georgetown, SC
Photo: Steve Moore via Flickr

My favorite thing to do is eat. That and visit the small towns that line the coast and waterways of the Myrtle Beach area. I grew up on South Carolina’s Grand Strand and food is a big part of the coastal living experience. Starting at Peaches Corner on the boulevard to Brants hamburgers by the “big rollercoaster.” Some old favorites are still there, some are long gone.

But the rich history of the Myrtle Beach area lives in the quaint towns that surround it. So, if you’re craving a break from the beach, and want to really get a feel for the entire area, take a relaxing day trip with the family through the laid-back, river and beach towns. In hindsight, it may turn out to be your favorite day of the trip.

Conway: Strolling on the Historic Riverwalk

Conway, SC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Dyan via Flickr

Many of you pass through Conway heading into Myrtle Beach. This town is home to a gorgeous trail along the Waccamaw River that seems like something out of a movie. The historic Riverwalk is a coveted wedding photo op that weaves through historic buildings, oak trees, and the glass-like reflection on the water. It's one of the area's many great nature adventures. Conway is known for preserving its historic buildings. They even pave around old trees, leaving them in middle of the road. The town leaders’ tenacity for all things historic is a welcome change in this day of throwaway landmarks and paved paradise. And while you’re here be sure to stop by some of Conway’s best restaurants, including Crady’s, Rivertown Bistro, Dilly Beans, Black Thai, The Outer Limits, Oliver’s, and El Cerro.

Carolina Beach: Homemade Gelato on the Boardwalk

Carolina Beach, NC: : Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Visit Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach is reminiscent of the Myrtle Beach area from years past. Visit Island Ice on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk for homemade gelato and Italian ice, as you stroll down the newly refurbished boardwalk. Try the Lemon Cookie Gelato! Then, jump on the ferry to Ft. Fisher at Kure Beach for a glimpse into Civil War history.

Long Bay Resort (Starting at $49/night)


Mullins: Fried Chicken on Fine China

Mullins, SC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Brain Rackley via Flickr

Mullins is a town in the Myrtle Beach area that features a rich tobacco history. There are still tobacco warehouses and a tobacco museum, but the real star of the show here is Webster’s Manor. It’s a Bed and Breakfast housed in an old mansion from the late 1800’s. Here they serve an old-school, southern buffet. Not the kind with plastic plates and forks, but a country buffet with Blue Willow China! They’ve got some of the best fried chicken, turkey and dressing, fried shrimp, and fresh veggies, and they’re also known for their Buttermilk Pie and Coconut Cake!

Marion: Treasure Trove of Antiques

Marion Emporium: Grand Strand Antiques
Photo: Marion Emporium

About an hour from Myrtle Beach is Marion, a town as pretty as any historic town you’ve seen! And Marion has some of the best antiquing around. The Marion Emporium, along with the Golden Leaf Antique in neighboring Mullins, offers a treasure trove of antiques that you can’t find elsewhere.

Aynor: Grab Homemade Pizza on Your Way In

Aynor Inn: Pizza at South Carolina Restaurant
Photo: Aynor Inn

Most people think of Aynor as a drive-by town (similar to a fly-over state) on their way into the Myrtle Beach area. But, there’s one thing you must do here…eat lunch on your way in. Try the Aynor Inn, just a hop off Hwy. 501, for a country buffet that even serves pancakes on the line, and has the best homemade pizza around!

Georgetown: Where America Began

Georgetown, SC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: City of Georgetown

As you may know, some historians claim American history began in Georgetown, SC – even before Charles Town (Charleston). Unfortunately, most of the earliest settlements here failed. Needless to say Georgetown is rich in history and culture with more than 50 historic homes, museums, waterfront restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, bookstores, and plantations that are open to visitors. And it’s only 40 minutes or so from the downtown Myrtle Beach area! Stop by the famous Kudzu Bakery for the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world.

Cherry Grove: Vintage Myrtle Beach

Cherry Grove, SC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Mike Carroll via Flickr

Old fashioned beach houses, seafood shacks, classic tourist souvenirs, and shopping, plus great inlet fishing, Cherry Grove is a snapshot of old-school Myrtle Beach area. Eat at Duffy’s Seafood Shack for a true beachy meal of shrimp poppers, blackened fish and Po’ Boys. Also, Boulineau's is a must-see destination store, if you do nothing else.

Little River: Waterfront Seafood and Deep Sea Fishing

Little River, SC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Sheldon Shaw via Flickr

Little River has always been considered a fisherman’s hotspot. And talk about seafood shacks! Waterfront seafood is Little River’s claim to fame, with dozens of great restaurants to choose from. And if you’re looking for a memorable family fishing trip, Little River has the best deep sea fishing charters in the area. If you’re passing Cherry Grove going north, definitely stop by this town.

Calabash: Gift Shops and Incredible Farmer’s Market

Calabash, NC: Small Town in the Myrtle Beach Area
Photo: Rich Strobel via Flickr

Quaint shops and restaurants pepper the coastline in the seaside town of Calabash. This is the seafood capital of South Carolina. Enjoy a Calabash-style seafood dinner (light and crispy breading on fresh seafood) and then on to Callahan’s of Calabash, a must see gift shop and souvenir store. Callahan’s is really a Christmas store, a very famous one…google it. They also have nautical home accessories, country-style decor, shell souvenirs, candy, and more.  While you’re here, you should also check out Indigo Farms, a farmer’s market, roadside stand, bakery, gift, and garden shop all rolled into one...with farm animals to delight the kids! This family owned farm is a great place to grab some organic produce on vacation.

With many small towns surrounding the Myrtle Beach area, a 40 minute to one hour drive can take you away from tourist traffic and toward experiences you won’t find at the beach.

Sea Watch Resort Beach
Photo: Sea Watch Resort

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About Lisa McLaughlin

Lisa McLaughlin is a native of Myrtle Beach. Her background is in sales, editing, and food writing with The Sun News and SC Woman magazine. She currently lives in the country on a farm with goats, mini ponies, and even a collie.