Here in London summer is winding down already, and I can’t help but think of places where summer is still full on. Much of the US truly has a ‘real’ summer. Summer is hot as can be which means it’s time to go to the beach. This is why I felt so lucky to be able to meet my family in Virginia to take a road trip down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
There are certain trips that are quintessentially American: spring break in Florida, the 4th of July in New England and spending those first weeks of summer in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach must be the most popular beach destination for domestic tourists. Each year, 14 million visitors make their way to one of the many beaches in the area. So, why is it so popular? It’s because it has a sort of sub-climate, making it warmer than the surrounding areas. It also offers a ton of different activities and landscapes, from mini golfing to camping on the beach to eating fried fish.
After a few days of enjoying Virginia, we started on a road trip. I grew up looking out the window as my parents drove up and down the east coast year after year. I love the sights, the pitstops, and the giant billboards that pop up as you go further south. As any east coast road tripper knows, the best part of the drive is truly Pedro’s highway advertisements for South of the Border. I honestly can’t believe it still exists. We made stops at markets along the road to buy peanuts and watermelon, and as soon as we hit the South, we stopped at Zaxby’s! Yes, it’s a fried chicken place, but their sauce is incredible.
Arriving in Myrtle Beach, vacation vibes immediately got me in the mood.
Since we came to Myrtle Beach to go to, well, the beach we decided to spend our first day somewhere quite close by. I was a little wary of going nearby because of how famously popular Myrtle Beach is. Apparently, 14 million visitors annually, making it one of the most popular summer destinations in the US. Despite its popularity, Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area stretches for miles on end. There are several areas to enter the beach because Myrtle Beach is really just a long white beach that goes on forever, connecting to other beaches as you go up and down the coast. This means that you can most likely find a spot without sitting right up next to someone.
After a packed lunch on the bench, we headed to the very heart of Myrtle Beach: the boardwalk. Boardwalks are one of my favourite places to discover when visiting a seaside town as they kind of feel like stepping back in time. Ice cream parlours, arcade plazas, and Ferris wheels, it’s a ton of fun.
As soon as I saw all the arcades, I knew we needed to go! I love the old-school vibe it brings, and also how much fun these classic games are. My youngest brother, Victor and I hit the arcade before dinner. We played as many as we could, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
By this time, we’re getting hungry! As we were in the South I really wanted to try some typical Southern cuisine and there is nothing that fits the bill more than a restaurant called Simply Southern Smokehouse. It’s real Southern food with real Southern hospitality. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet with home-cooked meals including barbecue meats, sweet potatoes, corn, potato salad, biscuits, and then some simple desserts like peach cobbler and banana pudding. It was all comforting, delicious, and well… simply Southern!
Even though I had been to the Carolinas multiple times, I had never actually researched places I wanted to visit. I just kind of went with the flow so to speak. This time around, however, I made a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try. On Day 2 we started our day with Johnny D’s waffles and bakery. This place is phenomenal. I’ve never seen so many waffle choices before! They also have all the classic American breakfast staples but with a Carolina twist, like Eggs Benedict with crab!
It was difficult to gain any energy after that large, satisfying breakfast, but we had big plans for the day. We headed to one of my most beloved spots along the East Coast: Huntington State Park. One of my favourite things about the US is all the national and state parks because they are so incredibly beautiful and amazing to explore. In addition, because there’s a fee to enter, the park is well-maintained and does not attract huge crowds. I’m more than happy to support our national parks if that means we get to keep them clean!
Besides having an awesome beach, this particular park is well-known to wildlife enthusiasts! Its beach and wetlands are inhabited by sea turtles, alligators and tons of birdlife.
There are several trails to walk along including a boardwalk that goes over a lagoon. Because most of the trails are so close to the swamps, you can easily sit down and spot wildlife on either side of you. We came back a second time simply because as you know never know what you’re going to see, it’s a different walk each time! Watch out for the alligators though!
For dinner, we decided to go low-key, but of course, our version of low-key is buying hundreds of oysters to shuck at our apartment! This is something of a family tradition as my dad as a teenager was an oyster shucker. We also all love oysters to death. Victor was a bit weary of having so many squishy bites, but even he joined in the fun.
Our luck ran out on the third day weather-wise. It poured all day, we mostly stuck to activities indoors: movies, board games, etc. The weather cleared up by the evening so then we ventured out have some fun starting with none other than mini-golfing!
Did you know that Myrtle Beach is the mini golf capital of the world? This is because the area has over 50 mini-golf courses. It’s impossible to pick one over another, so you kind of just have to go with it. We picked Mt. Atlanticus Minotaur Goff (yes, Goff, not golf). This place is incredible. With two outdoor 18-hole courses, there’s a lot to discover. From waterfalls to caves, it was so much fun to hearken to my inner child.
For dinner, we headed to Dead Dog Saloon. It’s a family-run, Southern restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s called the Dead Dog Saloon as it honours all those beloved doggy pals that we’ve lost over the years. It’s such a sweet way of remembering our best friends!
Food-wise, they have all sorts of sandwiches, burgers, seafood, steam pots, BBQ, and even tacos.
Before heading home we decided to go for one more adventure: go-karting! My Dad is the biggest fan and always jumps at the chance to race. We all grew up watching Formula 1, so honestly we’re more than prepared for a little ol’ go-kart racing.
The sun came back out for our last full day in Myrtle Beach. To try and escape the crowds, we headed south along the coast until we reached Surfside Beach. The town of Surfside Beach is incredibly charming and definitely has its own character. The white picket fence beach houses of delicate rainbow shades decorate either side of the main street. The beach is also beautiful!
The last lunch of our trip was spent at a Surfside Beach local favourite: Bubba’s Fish Shack. This was my absolutely favourite place in the Myrtle Beach area! Their Southern-style seafood is absolutely delicious. I particularly recommend their sandwiches, i.e. Bubba-wiches! Our favourites were the famous fried flounder — toasted sourdough with lettuce, red onion and fried green tomato — and the blackened grouper — wild caught grouper blackened and served with the same toppings. Both are so simple yet so satisfying.
I couldn’t hope for a better ending to our vacation to Myrtle Beach.
What do you think of this quintessential American holiday in the South?