Pretty much every family in West Virginia vacations at Myrtle Beach. Being a true West Virginian, I have vacationed here so many times that I am bored. However, located only about ten minutes away, the landscape starts to perk my interest with the neighboring towns as Georgetown, Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Pawley’s Island, and Litchfield Beach. This five pack is referred to as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast and each has its own distinct personality.
South Carolina’s Hammock Coast
Georgetown is the furthest distance from Myrtle Beach and filled to the brim with American historical attractions. It was founded in 1729 and features a charming oak-lined downtown area (very similar to Charleston) with quaint, yet upscale restaurants and trendy locally-owend boutiques. The fine-dining restaurant scene here is causing quite a commotion because they are delicious, innovative, and serve fresh seafood, classic cocktails, and Lowcountry cuisine. My favorite restaurant in Georgetown is Seven Hundred Modern Grill & Bar. Start your meal with the Harborwalk Flat Bread (pickled red onions, goat cheese, roasted peppers, and spinach) and then try the Colonial Salad (dried cherries, hand-cut bacon, bleu cheese, topped with white balsamic vinaigrette).
Downtown has grown tremendously over the past few years. The Harborwalk is a boardwalk area with a great waterfront view of the Sampit River and is a place where people come to stroll around at night, especially to watch the sunset. Dining is top notch and the shops are high-end and stylish. You are sure to score some interesting photos. Georgetown also has a ghost history dating back to the Civil War and claims to be haunted. Drive around to see the antebellum mansions and old rice plantations; the two most popular are the Hopsewee and Hampton Plantations. Other popular things to do are deep-sea fishing, eco-tours, and sailing.
Family Fun Garden City
Garden City has spacious and less crowded beaches and a great pier (The Pier at Garden City) for hanging out and fishing or listening to live music and dancing. The family-friendly Pier has a cafe, tackle shop, and dozens of arcade style games, in a safe setting. My father-in-law loved fishing for blue crabs and Spanish Mackerel here.
Garden City is also home to “Sam’s Corner”, a 24 hour retro diner that has tasty and cheap hotdogs. Be prepared, as they only accept cash. The locals’ favorite restaurant is Sara J’s, a seafood spot built on the marsh, that is constantly rated one of the top restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area. Other points of interest would be Maze-Mania & Arcade, Myrtle Beach Surf School, Painter’s Ice Cream, and the slingshot ride outside of the pier.
Seafood Lovers Murrell’s Inlet
This sleepy fishing town is located on a protected inlet and features an awesome marshwalk that can be explored, weather permitting. Known as the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, Murrell’s Inlet will be your go-to dining destination. During the seasonal months of May through September, be prepared to wait, often for hours, for a table. My daughters adore Captain Dave’s Dockside Grill (which has been featured in Southern Living Magazine), a laid back Southern restaurant located on the water. They bring baskets of yummy hushpuppies to the table accompanied by strawberry butter.
Next door, Drunken Jack’s has a fun atmosphere, huge salad bar, and live music with a relaxing bar. Graham’s Landing is my favorite place on the inlet that not only has foodie-worthy eats and a nice patio overlooking the marsh, but also accepts reservations, something unheard of in these high tourist areas. I recommend the seafood baskets (flounder, oysters, shrimp, scallops, or a combination of two) or Grambo’s Shrimp & Grits. One of our favorite inexpensive places to eat is River City Cafe; do not miss their magnificent sweet tea, burgers, fries, and grouper reuben.
Murrell’s Inlet also is the home to Brookgreen Gardens, a combination of nature, flowers, art, and history all rolled into one stop. There are so many lovely things to see here, including their amazing sculptures. They also host holiday events. Another gem is the Huntington State Beach Park, one of the top birdwatching spots in North America.
Playful Pawley’s Island
Pawley’s Island has grown since the 1980’s, but it still reminds me of that era, in an upscale manner. Great shopping can be found at Oak Lea, my favorite being the Joggling Board store, a must for children’s clothing and Lilly Pulitzer. The Litchfied Plantation is a beautiful country inn retreat with superb historic roots, though unfortunately only open to resort guests.
Visit the Hammock Shops, recently renovated and looking spectacular, with whimsical stores, a natural setting with labeled plants, tree, and flowers, and cutting edge restaurants. This is my very favorite place on the Hammock Coast. The shops feature beachy clothing, art, jewelry, wind chimes, toys, pet gifts, and more. My choice eatery is bisQit, serving thick old-fashioned milkshakes (adult versions available, too!) and the American Beauty Burger, topped with American cheese, bacon jam, shredded lettuce, and a secret sauce. Seriously, Pawley’s contains blog-worthy eating! Frank’s Restaurant and Bar is a dining spot I have always wanted to try. Pawley’s Island is most famous for their hand-woven rope hammocks, made since 1938.
Laidback Litchfield Beach
Litchfield Beach is located halfway between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown and is built on and around rice plantations from the years gone by. It has impressive beaches, shopping, and just like the others, their own specialty dining spots. Litchfield Market Village has great boutique stores and a prospering wine shop. Directly behind this village is “Kudzu at the Beach”, a cooking enthusiast’s dream store. Kudzu features a fresh bakery, gourmet kitchenwares, posh grocery store with upscale wines, homemade frozen items for take and make, and not so common cookbooks. Try their roasted red pepper bisque with manchego, spinach/walnut ravioli, or their fantastic chicken salad!
Two of the area’s best award-winning golf courses also reside in Litchfield: True Blue and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Like many of its neighboring towns, Litchfield boasts a number of ghost stories, and my husband witnessed his own “unexplainable happening” during one of his golf games there. These properties are featured regularly in golf publications Top 100 Golf Clubs list.
The next time you visit Myrtle Beach, consider visiting one of these 5 Hammock Coast towns. These are all day trips, within driving distance, that would be an interesting change of scenery for those nearby. If nothing else, you will be sure to have a great meal.
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