Need a break from the thrill rides, waterslides, miniature golf or amusement parks? Try these undiscovered gems on your next Myrtle Beach vacation.
On the less crowded southern end of the beach sits a little treasure, The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum. This beacon of culture features 11 galleries with changing exhibitions and an especially friendly staff. Look for paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, collage and more. Located in a vintage beach cottage dating to 1924, the museum is housed in what was once a vacation home for the families of two Carolina textile magnates. Bonus: Admission is free. myrtlebeachartmuseum.org
North at popular Barefoot Landing is a free opportunity to get up close up close and personal with exotic animals such as monkeys, elephants and tigers at Myrtle Beach Safari/TIGERS. The most interactive experience is ticketed at a 50-acre preserve, but the free version, called Preservation Station, is at Barefoot Landing. myrtlebeachsafari.com
Also on the south end lies Myrtle Beach State Park with a 650-foot pier perfect for fishing or strolling. There are affordable campground accommodations plus six furnished cabins with heat and air conditioning. Reserve in advance. southcarolinaparks.com/myrtlebeach
A half-hour drive south, near Murrells Inlet, step into another world where coastal breezes rustle Spanish moss in the live oaks. Brookgreen Gardens encompasses an idyllic 15 square miles of renowned sculpture gardens with art museum, butterfly house, small zoo and boat rides. Gullah history, language, culture and food are celebrated — apropos to this setting of four former rice plantations. brookgreen.org
Across the highway is 2,500-acre Huntington Beach State Park with direct ocean access, hiking, horseback riding and the remains of Atalaya Castle, home to art lovers/creators Archer and Anna Huntington who founded Brookgreen in 1931 (she was a prominent sculptor). Both the gardens and the park are National Historic Landmarks. huntingtonbeachstatepark.net/atalaya.html
North of Myrtle Beach is another free opportunity — this time to get up close and personal with exotic animals such as monkeys, elephants and tigers at Barefoot Landing’s Preservation Station. View a free wildlife exhibit and living tiger museum. For a fee, have your photo taken with a baby tiger and a young ape while they sit on your lap! myrtlebeachsafari.com
Inland, a half-hour north of Preservation Station is the Conway community and its free L.W. Paul Living History Farm, showcasing the area’s rural life from 1900-1950. Special, themed events — usually the first Saturday of each month — include cooking and blacksmithing demos, spring planting day, tobacco heritage, making lye soap and more. See farm animals and explore replica buildings. horrycountymuseum.org
For more information on this coastal paradise and its many attractions, check out visitmyrtlebeach.com.
(This story appears in the Aug./Sept. 2017 issue of Allegiant Air's Sunseeker Magazine. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Atalaya Castle and Kathy M. Newbern)