Plan a something-for-everyone, all-girls weekend at the beach.
Say the words "beach trip" to half a dozen people, and they are likely to summon distinct vacation visions: some sleepy and sun soaked, some packed with outdoor adventure, and some retail rich—where browsing for seashell-encrusted souvenirs and shopping for breezy cover-ups trumps every other activity on the to-do list. (Sarong City, here we come!)
When planning a seaside getaway with the girls, it's key to pick a place that can fulfill everybody's wish list. As the anchor of a 60-mile stretch of Grand Strand waterfront communities, each with its own unique appeal, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is perfectly positioned to cater to just about any crew's coastal escape. Innovative and crazy-fresh seafood? Check. Boutique-shopping districts loaded with charm? Check. Lush landscaped gardens, moonlit kayak tours, and live music spilling out into the streets? Check, check, and check.
What's more, Myrtle Beach's quick recovery from the effects of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 was just the beginning of the city's current renaissance. There is a fresh crop of new (and improved) hotels opening each season; the iconic boardwalk keeps expanding (this year, it will stretch all the way to 16th Avenue North); and old-favorite entertainment districts are proudly showing off new looks (see Broadway at the Beach's warehouse-inspired overhaul).
The warming trend in Myrtle Beach begins in March, with temperatures usually hitting the low 70s by April and reaching idyllic daytime highs in the upper 70s and low 80s by May. Now's the time to send a group e-mail to your girlfriends and start lining up your calendars. With so much variety offered, all you need to bring to ensure a good time is plenty of SPF—and a solid game plan for your vacation. That's where we come in.
Myrtle Beach Hotels and Resorts
If having a central location to slather on sunscreen together in the morning (or sip nightcaps in your pajamas at day's end) is key for your group, book a stay at the Island Vista Resort, where the multiroom suites sleep up to 10 and feature amenities like full kitchens, cozy living and dining areas, ocean-view balconies, and laundry machines. And with a nearly mile-long buffer separating the resort's wide, clean beach from the nearest hotel in either direction, it feels fully removed from the rowdy crowds and miniature golf madness of the city's more densely developed areas. Two miles northeast of the Island Vista Resort, at Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes—the gold standard of the Grand Strand—the lack of large-group lodging options is offset by luxe, recently refreshed rooms and a quiet, full-service spa. A multimillion-dollar tower renovation was completed in 2017.
Myrtle Beach Bars
Start things off on a high (make that high-energy) note with a cruise through the open-air bars clustered near the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, with their people-watching patios and party-time vibes. But a trip isn't all sugary frozen drinks and oversize fishbowls here—and it's worth veering slightly off the main drag for something with a little more personality and polish. At The Chemist, modern mixology is served up with a science-lab twist (try the Molecular Mule—with vodka, house-made blueberry-lavender simple syrup, lime juice, and from-scratch ginger beer) alongside a menu of experimental dishes such as diver scallops and yuzu foam or brownie-batter "hummus" served with berries and pretzels. The Prohibition-themed Strong Waters Craft Cocktails & Kitchen, fittingly under the radar, rotates a menu of local-leaning microbrews seasonally but always keeps two in-house, barrel-aged cocktails on tap, along with a Bartender's Choice option for indecisive—or adventurous—tipplers. Closer to the water, find newcomer RipTydz Oceanfront Grille & Rooftop Bar, which is owned by the folks behind Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet. RipTydz raises the (beach) bar with super-fresh seafood, a sprawling rooftop restaurant that transforms into a club, and a top-notch perch for sunsets. Watch for the 187-foot-high SkyWheel—a block away—to light up at dusk.
Head to The Bowery, a Myrtle Beach icon since its opening in 1944, for great live music from the house band, The Bounty Hunters.
Myrtle Beach Restaurants
Speaking of waterfront dining, there's no shortage of options, attitudes, and dress codes to choose from, and you and your girls can easily divide your time between fancier environs and flip-flop–friendly joints. For brunch, there's 56-year-old Myrtle Beach mainstay the Sea Captain's House, a 1930 home with a grassy lawn that backs up to the sand. Regulars go for Crab Cakes Benedict and the restaurant's signature She Crab Soup. In the evenings, locals descend on the lively joints along Main Creek in Murrells Inlet. Many of these spots employ their own fleets of fishing boats to deliver the daily catch: Dead Dog Saloon, beloved for its live music and award-winning hush puppies; The Claw House, a New England-style raw bar that joined the strip in 2016; and Drunken Jack's, known for its fried seafood platter and often-legendary wait times.
For a predinner diversion, stroll along the half-mile MarshWalk and have a look at the goats and peacocks inhabiting tiny Goat Island offshore.
There are worthy exceptions to the always-eat-on-the-water rule. Hook & Barrel in Myrtle Beach is a new sustainable-seafood restaurant from cookbook author Heidi Vukov. Enjoy the elevated Italian eatery Costa Coastal Kitchen & Bar in Murrells Inlet and locally sourced Pawleys Island favorite Rustic Table from co-owners Anne Hardee and chef Adam Kirby. Try one of their signature items, like Shrimp "n" Gritz—with South Carolina Adluh creamed corn grits, sausage, tomatoes, parsley, butter, white wine, and lemon.
Myrtle Beach Shopping
Visitors can hardly hurl a seashell in this town without hitting one of those ubiquitous beach-gear emporiums that are bursting at the seams with cheap T-shirts and fidget spinners. But there are far more compelling options here. Start with a swimwear upgrade from Tara Grinna, a South Carolina-made line of fit-focused separates, tankinis, and cover-ups sold at service-oriented boutique La Plage Swimwear. Schedule a studio appointment with jewelry designer Ashley Hoffman Hidalgo. You can book a group shopping session or private design consultation to try on the designer's popular earthy, boho cuff bracelets, stacking rings, and matching personalized layering pendants. Then stock up on Southern-made snacks (from brands like Birmingham's Merry Cheese Crisps and New Orleans' Love, Cookie) while browsing at the original Southern Living store in The Market Common. To take a deeper look inside the happening local creative scene, join a First Friday Art Walk, now approaching its second year, and peruse the works on display in over a dozen galleries and restaurants located in the Five Points area along Broadway and Main streets. If you can't make First Friday, stage a walk of your own any day you like. And bargain hunters won't want to miss scoring great deals on designer brands at one of two Tanger Outlets locations in town.
Myrtle Beach Attractions
When you're ready for a change of pace from the go-go energy of Myrtle Beach proper, pile everyone in the car and head south to Huntington Beach State Park, where you can break up a day of sunbathing and shell collecting on its uncrowded beach with nature walks to spot wildlife like sandhill cranes, roseate spoonbills, and even the occasional alligator. Your crew can also enjoy a self-guided tour of the palm-shaded, castle-like, Moorish-style Atalaya, which was the onetime winter estate of philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, Anna, a sculptor.
Situated just across the road is Brookgreen Gardens, where over 80 of Anna's sculptures, plus a strong collection of works by more than 430 other American figurative sculptors, keep watch over more than 350 acres of elegant gardens, splashing fountains, and moss-draped live oaks. (FYI, during the summer, the gardens offer a special illuminated exhibit from 7 to 10 p.m.)
If there's a member of your group who's itching for some outdoor adventure, now's the time to test the waters—and her mettle—with a guided stand-up paddleboard excursion through the marshes of Murrells Inlet with Crazy Sister Marina, or book a sunset kayak tour or private small-group surf lesson with Surf the Earth in Pawleys Island. Leave time and room in your suitcase for a hand-knotted cotton rope hammock (designed in 1889) from The Original Hammock Shop in Pawleys Island. You'll relish this relaxing reminder of your trip every time you kick back in it.
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Lightweight layers, a wide-brimmed hat, and plenty of SPF are essentials. The vibe is casual, but you'll want to bring a few nicer outfits for nights out.
If time permits on your trip, travel 20 miles to Little River to dine on farm-to-table cuisine (which is paired with a well-curated wine list) at The Parson's Table Restaurant & Bar. It's housed in a converted 1885 church featuring a mix of salvaged elements from other decommissioned houses of worship across the South.
Unwind with a Wine Slushy on the front porch of the woman-owned La Belle Amie Vineyard, which is also in Little River.
A 50,000-square-foot, open-air waterfront development (to be filled with restaurants, shops, and a live-music venue) is set to open in 2018 on the boardwalk near 14th Avenue North. A similarly ambitious redevelopment project is happening at the same time at 14th Avenue South.