(Photo by Meg McKinney)
Ah. A week of beaches. Each day we’ll highlight our favorite places to dig our toes in the sand.
We kick off our Beach Week with one of the alltime family beach destinations: Myrtle Beach.
There’s a time and place for quiet, sandy isolation. But it ain’t right now, and it ain’t Myrtle Beach. This South Carolina mainstay is perfect for family fun. (I declare that hitting all the souvenir shops on Ocean Boulevard while a towering ice cream cone drips down one’s hands should be part of every Southerner’s education.)
With all that said, I’ve circumnavigated the neon lights and bypassed the all-u-can eat seafood buffets to find some of this town’s most authentic stops.
Best Peaceful Beach
Spread your towel at >Myrtle Beach State Park, just 15 minutes south of the craziness. You’ll have to pay a small fee ($4 adults, $1.50 children 6-15), but the more peaceful experience (and restroom facilities) make it worth every cent. Bring your own umbrella and chairs. 843-238-5325. (Map)
Free Beach Parking
Find less crowded public beach access points (free parking, but no restrooms) dotting Ocean Boulevard starting around 34th Avenue N and stretching north. (Map)
Our favorite lunch stop remains the authentically Italian Luigi’s Trattoria with its imported prosciutto de Parma sandwich with fresh mozzarella. 503 61st Ave N, 843-497-7080.(Map)
A local introduced us to the quaint Sun City Café located downtown, and now we’re fans of the spicy fish tacos for life. The limited menu features West Coast cuisine and a laid-back, island-living atmosphere. 801 Main Street, 843-445-2992. (Map)
More than 100 shops and several restaurants fill the giant, red-brick-paved village known as Broadway at the Beach. Tease the fire-breathing dragon outside the Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf and ahh! at the fireworks show over the lagoon on Tuesday nights (10 p.m.). 800-386-4662. (Map)
Must-Stop Souvenir Shop
It’s simply immoral to leave Myrtle Beach without a hike through the four floors of The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove. For almost 60 years, this family-owned icon has peddled shells and shark teeth. How will anyone believe you’ve been unless you bring something back, right? 916 N Ocean Blvd, 843-448-6550. (Map)
Skinny on the Seasonal Rates
Myrtle Beach’s high season generally stretches from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Rates begin building in June, spike around July 4th, slack slightly the rest of the month, and really drop in August. (Map)