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South Carolina - Myrtle Beach
July 26, 2003
South Carolina has so much to offer visitors, it’s hard to know where to begin to describe its many attractions and amenities. As its east- west borders stretch from the sea to the mountains, the state offers a diverse landscape. South Carolina has always been an ocean playground for weary northern folks who want an escape from winter’s icy blast. For those who play golf, the state is famous for its many courses. It is also one of the choice destinations during the spring when azaleas, wisteria, Carolinian jessamine and other spring flowering bushes and vines turn the state into a flower lover’s paradise.
It’s easy to enthuse about South Carolina’s sand beaches, sun, surf and golf courses. But before you hit the beaches, there’s one stop that people arriving from the north should make, the historic community of Cheraw, the prettiest town in Dixie. Technically the town is located in South Carolina’s English District, but if you’re driving from the north and planning a circle tour - visiting the coastal areas first - Cheraw is a viable destination. The community is centrally located at the junction of a number of major highways - #9 #52 # 1 and #171. Yes, you read correctly, the old Highway #1 that links Maine with Florida runs, centre state - through the Cheraw area.
Cheraw is located on a sandhill ridge that runs from Richmond Virginia to Georgia. One of the most interesting features of the ridge are the long leaf pines that grow throughout the area. Their needles are much prized for mulch. Cheraw, now with a population of approx. 6,000 people, was designed with gorgeous double avenues that provide room for leafy canopies over quiet thoroughfares. The town, which appeared on maps as early as 1750, has more than fifty heritage homes, the oldest at #21 Third Street, dating to the 1770's. Some of the buildings that are of historical significance, sport plaques. During the spring, homes are enhanced by colourful displays azaleas, dogwood, wisteria, climbing jessamine, Lady Banks Roses, Cherokee Roses.
Cheraw gives a good introduction to what the state of South Carolina is all about, beautiful 18th and 19th century homes, gorgeous gardens, lots of history, southern barbeque and buffet, friendly people. A jazz fan? Dizzy Gillespie was born in Cheraw. A park, featuring some excellent and innovative sculptures is named in his honour. Dizzy, in bronze, blows his famous bent horn in the square in front of the Visitor Information Centre on the Town Green, the historic centre of Cheraw. Cheraw is part of the African-American Historical Sites tour on the South Carolina Cotton Trail. Its history is rooted deeply in those of African-Americans.
Visitors should stop at the Information Centre first for directions to local attractions. The Green itself is lined with attractive heritage buildings including the c1858 Town Hall, c1837 Market Hall, c1820 Inglis-McIver Law Office, c1820's Lyceum building, c1835 Merchant’s Bank Building. A drive, or walk around the heritage area, especially in April, reveals some of the most magnificent azalea displays in the state. Folks are proud of their heritage in Cheraw and it shows.
The Great Pee Dee River, which begins its journey to the Atlantic in Blowing Rock, N.C., flows past Cheraw. Close by its bank, sits c1774 Old St. David’s Church where the pews all face a centrally located pulpit. The church was used as a hospital during the Civil War by both sides in the confrontation. Soldiers from all the wars are buried in its cemetery. One of the most interesting graves is that of Captain Mose Rogers, commander of the S.S. Savannah, the first steam ship to cross the Atlantic, that crossing made in 1819. Members of the c1780, 71st Scottish Regiment are buried in Old St. David’s kirkyard.
Be sure to ask for directions to Country Kitchen Buffet, where for a reasonable price, you can enjoy soul food like fatback. fried chicken and country biscuits which share the buffet with mustard greens, corn bread, pickled beets, squash & onions, black-eyed beans, banana pudding and strawberry pie.
Cheraw has a variety of accommodation but in such an historic place, a bed & breakfast is one of the nicest ways to enjoy your surroundings. 314 Market St. Bed & Breakfast has all the amenities that one could ask for including a great host who will bend over backwards to please his guests. The area is surrounded by state parks, natural and recreational areas. Cheraw State Recreation Area has rustic cabins, camping area, equestrian Trails with their own camping area, lake and 18 hole golf course. It is home to a number of species of animals, birds and reptiles, including the Fox squirrel and endangered Red Cockaded woodpecker.
From Cheraw it’s an easy drive to either Charleston, 75 miles south, or to Myrtle Beach, on the coast, 100 miles east where Highway #9 intersects with Highway #17 at Little River. Take #17 south to North Myrtle Beach, the 365 day-a-year happening place. It’s tempting to write about Myrtle Beach’s miles of sand beach, sun and surf but if you think that there’s nothing else to enjoy, think again. You can have an adventure-packed three-four days in the Myrtle Beach area without once swimming in the ocean or playing a round of golf.
Do your homework before arriving in Myrtle Beach. There are thousands of rooms to choose from in a wide variety of price ranges. Young folks tend to gravitate to the traditional Beach area which has an interesting combination of Art Deco and mid-twentieth century ocean front accommodations. North Myrtle Beach, where most of the new commercial development has taken place has a number of large hotel complexes, including the beach-front Hilton Myrtle Beach that was handy to everything - theatre, shopping experiences, interesting and unusual attractions. Our focus for the trip was to cover those non-beach and golf attractions that the area has to offer.
Live large scale entertainment in Myrtle Beach is alive and well, with performances at a number of locations. The exuberant shows at both the Alabama Theatre and the Carolina Opry come highly recommended. Both offer shows six days a week and mount special shows during holidays times. In addition, the Alabama Theatre mounts a special “fill-in” show on the seventh day. Shows are different so you can see both without duplication of music and other entertainments.
The Alabama Theatre is located in the Barefoot Landing shopping and entertainment complex in the heart of North Myrtle Beach. Barefoot Landing includes restaurants, factory stores and attractions such as Alligator Adventure, Teddy Town Circus and the House of Blues. In particular, the unique Alligator Adventure is worth the price of admission just to see their extensive collection of live reptiles, including huge turtles. While at Barefoot Landing, you should try The Crab House with their wide selection of seafood.
Broadway at the Beach, offers another opportunity for shopping and entertainment. It’s easy to find on Highway 17 and offers enough variety for a full day’s excursion. The complex is built around a man-made lagoon and features themed areas - Carousel Park, New England Fishing Villages, Charleston Boardwalk, Celebrity Square, Caribbean Village. Visitors can choose from such attractions as Ripley’s Aquarium, IMAX Discovery Theater, Myrtle Waves, NASCAR Speedpark and live theatrical performances. There are a number of restaurants on-site to choose from but be sure to have one meal at the Hard Rock Café, housed in an impressive pyramid
Take a bit of time to explore Ocean Boulevard, in the heritage area of Myrtle Beach with its Art Deco and mid-century commercial architecture, discount beach apparel shops, mini golf, pavilion amusement park, fun houses and beach area. This area, south of North Myrtle Beach by a few miles, is well worth a visit. The Sea Captain’s House Restaurant is a tradition in this area, located as it is on N. Ocean Boulevard with windows overlooking the ocean. Their extensive menu features the best seafood in the Myrtle Beach area. Those who don’t like seafood can choose from an excellent selection of “land-based” entrees. Reservations are recommended.
Give yourself one day to explore Brookgreen Gardens, a half hour’s drive south of Myrtle Beach. Physically, the Gardens are located on Highway #17 between Myrtle Beach and Pawley’s Island. The Gardens consist of 9,100 acres of lands that were three former rice plantations. They are home to the Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington Sculpture Garden, a Low Country History Center and Wildlife Refuge. Permanent exhibits include Exploring American Sculpture, Lowcountry - Change and Continuity, Cultural Garden, Native Animal Habitats and a domestic animal exhibit. Visitors can take creek and trekker excursions, a guided garden stroll, sculpture or botanical focus tours.
A ten minute introduction to the Gardens is a must-see before setting out on your own explorative tour. The film, “Gray Oaks of Mystery”, gives great background on the Huntingtons and the Gardens. As there are more than 500 pieces of figurative sculpture displayed creatively throughout the extensive acreage, wear comfortable shoes and give yourself lots of time to enjoy the landscape. The combinations of flowers, sculpture and picturesque settings are wonderful. Water plays an important role in the Gardens with myriads of fountains offsetting sculptures. Spring is the best time to visit Brookgreen for displays of azaleas, magnolias jessamine and early spring bulbs. You can have lunch at the Pavilion Restaurant where a cool fruit salad with a large glass of iced tea, in a flower and sculpture setting, is a real treat. Garden favourites are Live Oak Allee with its culmination, the golden statue of Dionysus, the gorgeous Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculpture, “Diana of the Chase” in its own reflecting pool and a small statue in the Sculpture Court entitled “St. Francis of the Curb”.
After visiting Brookgreen, your next stop should be at Huntington Beach State Park, almost directly across the road from Brookgreen, to see the winter home of Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Milton. The Moorish influenced “cottage” called “Atalaya”, was begun in 1931. It is guaranteed that you’ve never seen anything like this residence. There’s an excellent explanation and blueprint for “Atalaya” in a reasonably priced publication entitled “Huntington Beach State Park, that’s available in the Brookgreen Gift Shop. It’s worth purchasing, just for the blueprint. Uninhabited now, visitors enjoy wandering through “Atalaya” with its inner courtyard, central tower and gorgeous wisteria vines. Pack your bathing suit for an hour or so of sun-worship at the State park’s pristine beach.
As you drive along Highway 17 toward Brookgreen, keep your eyes open for great examples of mid-century commercial architecture and fun-type advertising gimmicks, including a very stretched limo with its own swimming pool. Hungry? A great place to eat cheap is at K & W Cafeteria which has three locations in the Myrtle Beach area. Try their country biscuits with jam - the best in the south.
There are several things people should know about South Carolina, the first and most important being that you should always observe the speed limits. You should always make accommodation reservations in advance to avoid disappointment, especially if you plan to stop at some of the historic bed & breakfast establishments. There are some establishments that either aren’t open on Sundays, or keep reduced hours so plan your trip carefully. Always write for area information before you go. You don’t want to miss anything. If you’re wondering when to visit, the month of April comes highly recommended. Roads are less traveled. Flowers are gorgeous. Attractions are less crowded.
IF YOU GO:
Cheraw, S.C 29520
Cheraw, S.C. 29520
P.O. Box 2115
Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29578
North Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29582
Myrtle Beach, SC. 29572
North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
(corner of 30th Street and North Ocean Boulevard)
Pawley’s Island, S.C. 29585
Murrells Inlet, S.C. 29576
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