Regular visitors to the Myrtle Beach area know that the Grand Strand — with its 60-plus miles of beautiful Carolina coastline and a wide range of fun and family-friendly activities on tap — is a great place to visit. But even among the locals, there are still plenty of fascinating things to discover about the area.
So, while you’re dreaming of your next visit to one of the East Coast’s top beach destinations, check out these 10 fun facts about the Myrtle Beach area:
- Myrtle Beach’s first “locals” were the Waccamaw and Winyah tribes of Native Americans — and their legacy is remembered in the names of local landmarks and geographic features like the Waccamaw River and Winyah Bay. The area’s first “tourists” were Spanish settlers who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with Spanish explorer Lucas Vazques de Allyon. The group founded the area’s first colony just south of the Cape Fear River, but disease wiped out the settlement within a year of its establishment. (Of course, future tourists found much better fortunes.)
- Legendary country music supergroup Alabama began its march to stardom — and eventually the Country Music Hall of Fame — in 1973 as the house band at downtown Myrtle Beach’s The Bowery, which is still open today. In fact, the band borrowed its name from a sign that used to serve as the backdrop to The Bowery’s stage. The band went on to win eight Grammys over the course of its storied career.
- Long Bay — with its crescent-shaped coastline that runs from the Cape Fear River in North Carolina to Georgetown on the Grand Strand’s southern end — was a popular spot for pirates in the early 1700s. Notorious buccaneers including legendary English swashbuckler Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, used to hide out in the local inlets and attack ships transporting treasure. Blackbeard eventually met his demise in Cape Fear.
- The 1989 movie “Shag,” which starred Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda and Scott Coffey, was set in and filmed in Myrtle Beach. Other movies to be shot on location on the Grand Strand include “Chasers” (1994), “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” (1991) and “Swimming” (2000), along with TV shows “Dawson’s Creek” and “Eastbound & Down.” Recently, significant portions of “Magic Mike XXL” (2015) were filmed in downtown Myrtle Beach.
- In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Myrtle Beach was known as “New Town” — until the local newspaper sponsored a contest to give the growing area an official name. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs — the wife of the founder of development company Burroughs & Collins, which played a huge role in developing the area — won the contest with her name choice. It was inspired by the many wax myrtle trees growing on the coast (rather than crepe myrtle, which is a popular misconception).
- Built in 1901 at the bargain price of $3,800, the Seaside Inn was Myrtle Beach’s first hotel. Located on the oceanfront near Pavilion Park at present-day 8th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, the hotel had no electricity or indoor plumbing. But for just $2 per night, Seaside Inn guests got three square meals, a roof over their heads and easy access to the beach — the same attraction that lures people back to our stretch of the Carolina coast more than a century later.
- Longtime “Wheel of Fortune” letter-turner Vanna White was born in North Myrtle Beach, as was The Golf Channel reporter Kelly Tilghman. Other locals to go on to fame include actors Anthony James (“Unforgiven”) and Christopher Jones (“Forrest Gump”), as well as actresses Madison Iseman (“She Will Be Free”) and Melissa Wyler (“Legally Blonde 2”).
- Now home to Fuddruckers and Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf, the tract of land located between 21st and 27th Avenues North just inland from Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach was originally known as Washington Park, and was home to a harness-racing horse track that opened in 1938. Featuring a 5,200-seat grandstand and a 1.5-mile course, it later became a NASCAR track, a golf course and driving range, and home to the old Myrtle Beach Mall.
- Sports Illustrated magazine was born in Myrtle Beach. In 1973, a group of Time Inc. executives visited the area by way of the old train line out of Conway, and they made a visit to the links at Pine Lakes International Golf Club — Myrtle Beach’s first golf course. While there, the group finalized its plans to release the popular sports publication, and a plaque memorializing the event can still be seen near the clubhouse on the grounds today.
- The Grand Strand hosts more than 14 million visitors each year — part of the reason it was voted America’s No. 1 summer destination by TripAdvisor in 2014. Other area accolades include the title of No. 1 Hot Spot for Winter Meetings (Convention South magazine), inclusion among Huffington Post’s Best Restaurant Cities, and a spot in the Top 10 Places to Retire in S.C. (Movoto).
Ready to start dreaming about (and maybe even start planning) your next fun-filled getaway to the Grand Strand? Visit The Breakers Resort’s website today for a virtual visit that will help you prepare for your much-anticipated real one coming down the road! With our comfortable oceanfront accommodations and the wide-ranging amenities found on-site, we’ve got everything you’ll need to enjoy the perfect beach getaway once our vacation days are upon us again.
Sources: City of Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce