On the northern end of the Grand Strand resides “A Tale of Two Cities” with a twist. It's always the best of times at the Carolina border towns of Calabash and Little River.
Located just 20 miles north of Myrtle Beach, these two tiny fishing villages sit just across the state line and the Intracoastal Waterway from one another. Although both are famous for their seafood restaurant, marinas, golf courses and laid-back lifestyles, each has its own distinct flavor and rich history that make them hidden gems in the far corners of their respective states.
The Town of Calabash, NC, proudly proclaims itself “The Seafood Capital of the World,” and they have the proof to support such a lofty claim. Much of the nation's seafood sails through its waterfront, and the town has more than 30 seafood restaurants despite its modest population of 2,000. Calabash-style restaurants, famous for their lightly battered and deep-fried brand of cooking, are now popular all over the globe.
The rich and famous have visited this quiet town for decades, including a well-known radio personality in the 1940s, Jimmy Durante.” According to local legend, his traditional sign-off, “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are” came from his frequent visits to the town's seafood restaurants. Calabash also boasts the beautiful beach towns of Sunset Beach and Holden Beach, eighth championship golf courses and a waterfront fishing community that producing large hauls of fish, shrimp and crab.
It’s hard to go wrong with any restaurants in town, but Ella’s Calabash Restaurant is a landmark and a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Calabash is also home to some excellent shopping in the downtown district, and golf has become the town’s second claim to fame. Oyster Bay, The Pearl and Sea Trail Plantation are among the many championship courses in Calabash, highlighting the scenic beauty of the area. From the beaches to the swamps and salt marshes, the natural terrain of the region is on full display on courses that are as beautiful to look at as they are challenging to play.
Just across the border, Little River, SC, serves as the earliest settlement in Horry County and its history is deeply rooted in sailing and fishing. Native Americans named it “Mineola,” which translates to “Little River,” an accurate description of the stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway that flows along the downtown district's Mineola Avenue.
Like Calabash, Little River's local economy is based in boating, fishing and tourism. Marinas line the surrounding coast, as do seafood restaurants, casino boats, golf, and watersports outfitters. If your timing is right, be sure to catch the Little River Blue Crab Festival in May and the Little River Shrimp & Jazz Festival in September. The town is also host to La Bella Amie Vineyard, which throws biweekly festivals throughout the year and offers daily tours and wine tastings. The Brentwood Restaurant is one of the finest dining establishments on the Grand Strand.
Golf is the most popular sport on dry land, although many of the award-winning courses in Little River feature a large number of water hazards. Diamondback, Heather Glen, Glen Dornoch, The Valley at Eastport, River Hills, Tidewater and Carolina Shores are among the top courses on the entire Grand Strand, so golfers can play a championship course in Little River every day of the week and still not play them all.
Best of all, the close proximity of the two towns make it possible to explore both sides of the border in a single day. Whether you’re in Calabash or Little River, you’re guaranteed a good time.
(Photo courtesy: AmericanRivers.org)