There are nearly 150 public beach access points in the city, all marked with signs. Most are located off Ocean Boulevard and have parking and "shower towers" for cleaning up; few have restroom facilities. Parking can be scarce, but during summer the city allows metered parallel parking on Ocean Boulevard.
Because much of Myrtle Beach's coastline is dominated by high-rise hotels, there are plenty of places to get lunch or a cool drink without having to get back in your car. Many of these hotels also rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards. Some have nets set up for beach volleyball. For a quieter beach experience, look for beach access away from the high-rise hotels. The Strand's residential section between 30th and 48th Avenues North is a good bet.
Dogs, kayaks, and surfboards are limited on many beaches from May through September. Be sure to read the ordinances posted at each access point for details. Summer heat can be brutal, and the sand can scorch: don't step out of the hotel barefoot.
Garden City Beach. In Horry County's southernmost coastal town of the same name, this diverse landscape of beachfront along the Atlantic is backed by a causeway that crosses creeks and tributaries feeding into marinas and the southern village of Murrells Inlet. The coastline is a curious collection of a few high-rise hotels, older condo buildings, and cute, stilted beach houses. Beachfront disappears at high tide farther south—so much so that it slaps up against the pilings and sea wall. The Garden City Pier is a must for fishing (free), strolling, playing arcade games, or dancing to live music at the partially covered bar perched at the very end. Other beach activities include kayaking, Jet Skiing, kiteboarding, parasailing, banana-boat rides, and boogie boarding. Best for: sunrise; surfing; swimming; walking. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards (sometimes); parking (no fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Atlantic Ave. and S. Waccamaw Dr., Garden City Beach, South Carolina, 29576.
Myrtle Beach. The beachfront of the city of Myrtle Beach stretches from the Springmaid Pier at the south end up to 82nd Avenue North. That's a lot of real estate to choose from for your chair or blanket. Expect the entire length of this popular family beach to be busy from May to October with people fishing, boogie boarding, parasailing, surfing (only allowed after 5 pm), and sunbathing. In the off-season (November–February) you can take horseback rides on the beach. Restaurants and shops line the boardwalk section of 2nd to 14th Avenues. A beachfront trail of workout stations lines the north end. Note that an ordinance bans tents over 7½ feet in diameter from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Best for: partiers; sunrise; swimming; walking. Amenities: lifeguards (May–September; no lifeguards in residential section of 38th–48th Avenues North); parking (free at north-end beach access areas; metered on street along Ocean Boulevard; pay by day or hour at Pavilion Parking Garage at 8th Avenue North); showers; toilets; water sports. 32nd Ave. S to 82nd Ave. N, Central Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 29577.
Myrtle Beach State Park. This state-protected parcel of land has a mile-long beach, 350 campsites, picnic pavilions, hiking trails in the woods beyond the dunes, a fishing pier complete with an ice-cream shop, playgrounds, and a quaint boardwalk. There are year-round family or children's activities offered through the park, like crabbing and nature programs. Note that there are no lifeguards. Best for: sunrise; swimming; walking. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free with $5 admission to park); showers; toilets. 4401 S. Kings Hwy., South Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 29575. www.southcarolinaparks.com/myrtlebeach. $5.
Surfside Beach. Dubbed "the Family Beach," this small strand just south of Myrtle Beach offers up about 2 miles of white sand. Here, the hotel high-rises, bright lights, and big city of Myrtle Beach disappear, replaced by beach houses, cottages, and peaceful views. The centerpiece Surfside Pier is the site of most of the town's festivals, burger and fried fish joints, and a kickin' karaoke bar. Best for: solitude; sunrise; surfing; swimming; walking. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards (May–September); parking (lots with meters at 12 out of 36 beach access areas); showers; toilets. 17th Ave. N to Melody La., Surfside Beach, South Carolina, 29575.