Myrtle Beach

I just got back from my first trip to Myrtle Beach and I had to share my thoughts on the experience. We had a great week and there is a lot to go over. My rating is detailed at the bottom of the post. Let’s start with the logistics of the trip.

Transportation

We had over 70k points on JetBlue and were able to score 4 free round trip tickets from Boston for the trip. I had to pay the tax of about $45 and baggage fees of $40 each way but that was it. I saved about $1100 on the flights. The only problem was, JetBlue doesn’t fly to Myrtle Beach. So we called an audible and flew in to Raleigh-Durham.

It was about 3 hour ride from there to Myrtle but not too bad overall. The Raleigh airport is clean, not crowded and a very nice experience. There are no rental car counters inside the Raleigh terminal. You need to take a shuttle to another location on the airport property. The shuttle was quick to arrive and the driver was courteous so it was only a minor inconvenience and not a big deal. We rented a Toyota Rav-4 from Dollar at a very reasonable cost of $225 with unlimited miles for the week. I thought that was a pretty good deal (see Rental Car Strategy  for how I do this). We got in the car, added the address to Google Navigation and we were off. There was no traffic to speak of and the ride was a smooth one. I enjoyed seeing the North and South Carolina landscape on the ride. Overall, it was a nice experience.

Accommodations

Mrs. P-and-P found a great place to stay called the Tilghman Golf and Beach Resort which is located right on North Ocean Boulevard across the street from the beach in North Myrtle Beach. My wife and I determined pretty early in our property search that we wanted to be in a quieter, more family friendly area. We weren’t looking to be in the craziest part of the Grand Strand. We figured we could drive to the noise if we wanted it but we couldn’t get quiet if thats what we wanted. Several people told us Cherry Grove (North Myrtle Beach) and and Surfside (Southern Myrtle Beach area) would be the best choice for us. We were fortunate to go with another family that we are good friends with. Both of our families have two girls close to the same ages. The wives are good friends and us husbands are as well. The men are golfers and both the wives are beach people so it was a perfect match for a Myrtle Beach trip. We decided to use Homeaway and VRBO for our search. When selecting the condo there was certain criteria that was very important to us.

  1. Must be on the beach
  2. Must have great big balcony
  3. Must enough beds to accommodate 4 adults and 4 children
  4. Must be reasonably priced
  5. Must be clean

Those were the main criteria and the Tilghman delivered. We wanted to be right on the beach so we could sit on the balcony and look out at the ocean and we wanted to be able to walk right onto the sand. After looking at properties though, we realized it would be an extra $600-$800 to be across the street and right on the sand for the size unit we needed. I was willing to pay it initially but when we saw the Tilghman and saw how it satisfied most of our criteria for a really good price ($1900/week divided by two families), we decided to jump on it. The balcony was huge and was a focal point for us during the stay and we were high enough so we still had a great view of the ocean.

The balcony of the unit we rented was also huge. We could easily fit all 8 people out there. Not all rooms at the Tilghman have oversized balconies though and we made sure we rented one that fit the criteria. The owner of the unit was in contact with us before our trip and answered questions for us several times about chairs, towels, etc.. She couldn’t have been nicer. The unit also had a full kitchen, washer dryer, dining area and the huge balcony I mentioned. It was exactly what we wanted. The property was also nice as they offered two pools, a lazy river, a small grill to get some food, and supervised activities for the kids. The walk across the beach was super easy and was a key aspect of the trip enjoyment. It was so close, we could go back and forth at will for beers, food etc.

Things to do

This is a dizzying topic when describing Myrtle Beach. There is so much to do that I can’t cover it all. For our trip, with 4 kids in tow, we expected to be running around and doing a ton of activities. Looking back, we didn’t actually do a lot of stuff, but we felt like we did as we were constantly on the move all week. The ladies and kids in our group were beach bums and really just wanted to hang at the beach most days and play in the waves. It worked out great because I wanted to golf and it took some of the pressure off knowing they were happy hitting the ocean for the day.

Golf – Any trip to Myrtle beach almost certainly includes golf of some form. Myrtle Beach has the largest concentration of golf courses in the U.S.,  probably the world. There are over 100 courses here and they are amazing. I had the pleasure of playing 4 days while I was here and despite a couple of bad situations (I will explain this in the golf course reviews upcoming) it was memorable. The courses here are just different than Massachusetts. The layouts are much more interesting and there are aspects we just do not see at home. I am definitely coming back for another few rounds here.

 

Kids Activities – There is a lot for kids in Myrtle Beach. Although we did the beach mostly, we also went min-golfing, visited two different small seaside amusement parks, and went for ice cream every day. The resort we stayed at had activities for the kids such as watermelon eating contests, and karaoke at night. We could have done zip lines, water sports, an animal show, or many other activities but there just wasn’t enough time to explore everything. We have a reason to come back now, which is great.

 

Beach – This was the star of the week for the wife and kids. Every morning, Joe and I would go play golf and one of the wives would go rent an umbrella and chairs at the beach. There are companies that provide nice chairs and umbrellas on a daily rental basis and it turned out to be well worth it. They put your name on it and you can come and go as you please throughout the day. I believe it was ~ $30 for the day but I don’t remember the actual cost.

Fishing – If you like to fish, there is some nice options for you here. Rent a boat or hit one of the piers, or you can try your luck with fresh water as well. There were many lakes and rivers in the area. We saw people reeling fish in on the pier the whole week, including sharks (I tried not to think about it when we were in the water).

Shopping – If you like cheap souvenir and t-shirt stores, then Myrtle Beach is your mecca.  Every corner for 60 miles had a store. How do they all stay in business I wonder ? We did frequent a couple of stores so my youngest daughter could buy a few things. She is addicted to nick-nacks and trinkets she can put in her room. It is now a tradition for her. Every vacation we go on, we find the stores and she buys signs, pictures, t-shirts and other assorted crap. Her room looks like a gift shop. We didn’t see a ton of higher end stores but that is not surprising in a beach community.

 

Dining – I have to say the food was better than I expected. We had a couple of so-so meals but also a couple of outstanding meals. I think if you know where to go (a local), you can eat very well. We went to the Parsons Table one night with a local (a relative of the family we traveled with), and it was truly wonderful. It is located in an old church and everything was top notch. There is also no shortage of fast food joints to grab a quick bite. At the golf courses, food was very good as well. Overall I was very happy with the menu choices and the quality of the food in the area.

One place in particular was memorable for us: Flantasy Island. It is a tiki bar right on the beach across the street from the Tilghman Resort. The owner (Flanders), is originally from Massachusetts and we chatted with him every day as we stopped in for a beer and some food regularly. It was one of the highlights of the trip for the family. If you are close by, you need to visit.

 

Charleston

I have always wanted to see Charleston and so we decided to take a day trip down south to see this historic city. We knew it wasn’t super close but getting there was not easy from North Myrtle Beach. It took about 2.5 hours to drive down which wasn’t too bad. It could have been much quicker had there been an actual highway to get there. We drove main routes but there isn’t a major highway connecting the north and south. Overall not a bad ride but definitely could have been easier if the infrastructure was in place.

Once we got to the city, it was worth the trip. We arrived and went straight to downtown to take a carriage ride. It was very enjoyable and the guide we had was very knowledgeable about Charleston history. The city is beautiful and it feels like stepping back in time in some spots. There are horse and carriage everywhere. Many of the horses were clydesdales and they are massive. It is really fun to be in a historic city with hundreds of horses going up and down the streets. It is not something you see everyday.

Historic Homes

The city itself is loaded with historic homes and taking a carriage ride and seeing them up close and hearing about their history is a lot of fun.  There are photo ops everywhere.  I have tons of photos of historic homes. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.  The colors and the French influence on many of these areas is quite striking. I really enjoyed the carriage ride and hearing about the city. It was worth the ride.

The downtown area is also very vibrant and has a lot to see. There is a marketplace where you can walk around and shop or get something to eat. It was very crowded the day we were there but we still had fun. We didn’t end up staying long because of a thunderstorm and pretty severe weather. It was sunny and hot when we got there but 4 hours later, it had changed dramatically. We had to scramble to get back to the cars as the sky got dark. On the ride home it was white knuckle-time as there were reports of tornados and the rain was so heavy, we actually had to pull over for a minute. It was a little scary but we made it. Despite this blip on the radar, we enjoyed the city and want to come back and spend a longer time exploring.

Conclusion

Myrtle Beach was a great family vacation for us. As mentioned, I don’t think we did a ton of activities but we enjoyed the area and there was something for everyone. The beach was beautiful and was the focal point for the girls while golf was the driving factor for Joe and I (no pun intended!) . We think the area has enough activities to warrant more visits over the next few years. I am going to start planning the next trip by Christmas.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced beach area to go to that has activities for the kids and golf, with great weather, then Myrtle is the place for you. Remember the strand is 10’s of miles long and there are spots that are quiet and spots that are crazy. This gives you options when planning your vacation. There are no shortages of places to stay and the sheer size of the area will give you enough to explore for multiple trips. My family loved it and a return trip is a guarantee.  See my Rating below.  Happy Travels !!