There are two sides to Myrtle Beach: The one most people know glows in neon lights and features a wide variety of attractions, entertainment, restaurants and shopping; and the one where people go to get away from such popular spots.
That's what makes the Grand Strand such a great place to vacation. With 14 million annual visitors invading this 60-mile stretch of coastline, there are places with heavier concentrations of tourists close to all the action, along with countless acres of scenic wetlands and woodlands where you can get away from it all.
Here are three hot spots to find the crowds, and three perfect places to escape:
Find the Crowds
* Broadway at the Beach: This entertainment, shopping and dining complex is the hub of activity during the summer months. In addition to the many attractions, restaurants, bars and retail stores, Broadway also hosts free fireworks shows and festivals where locals and tourists alike go for a fun night on the town. When the sun goes down the action heats up as big crowds flock to Celebrity Square for a late night of dancing, live music and fun.
* Myrtle Beach Boardwalk: Located in the heart of downtown Myrtle Beach, this 1.2-mile stretch of oceanfront walkway also leads visitors down a path to Plyler Park and the Promenade, where free concerts, fireworks displays and festivals are held throughout the summer months. This place gets packed but the Boardwalk offers lots of room to roam. There are several bars and eateries along the Boardwalk where large crowds gather for great food and drink and good times.
* Murrells Inlet Marshwalk: The South Strand is known for its laid-back Lowcountry lifestyle, but the crowds create a different atmosphere at this hot spot on the waterfront. A dozen restaurants and bars line the Marshwalk and crowds stroll from place to place feeding their faces and dancing outdoors to live music. Many restaurants convert into bars after hours and host local bands on their back patio decks. Grab a cold drink and a cozy spot in a hammock and enjoy the show.
Find your Getaway
* Carolina Paddle Company: If it seems like humans have taken over every square inch of dry land, why not hit the water? This outfitter offers a wide selection of backwater tours in canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Explore the Waccamaw River and other tidal creeks and inlets along the Strand for a great escape. Tours include the salt marshes of the Lowcountry and the hidden waterways of the inland areas.
* Huntington Beach State Park: Located in Murrells Inlet just across from Brookgreen Gardens, this state park offers lots of room for isolation and relaxation. Take a walk down the spacious beachfront to find an empty spot, or hike or bike down the nature trails to surround yourself in nature. Bring a surf rod and stroll down to the jetty, which marks the mouth of Murrells Inlet, and catch fish you would normally need a boat to reach.
* Inlet Point Plantation Stables: It's illegal to ride horses on the beach during the summer months in Myrtle Beach, and almost everywhere on the Strand. But this horseback riding outfitter has access to a private bridge that allows riders to take a horseback tour of Waites Island on the North Strand. There's no more relaxing way to spend the day than riding horseback on the beach, especially on an undeveloped island. Located on the Carolina border, Inlet Point Plantation offers a variety of tours through different terrain but all involve getting away from the two-legged creatures that inhabit Myrtle Beach.