“Is this Cherry Grove or North Myrtle?”.
“Wait, Windy Hill is still North Myrtle Beach, right?”
As vacation experts here on the Grand Strand of South Carolina, we hear these questions several times a day from travelers. While our region gets over 19 million visitors per year, many do not realize that North Myrtle Beach is made up of 4 official beaches, 1 un-official beach, and includes a small town with a storied past.
North Myrtle Beach was first incorporated in 1968 and has blossomed into a family-friendly, slower-paced vacation haven throughout the years. One of the main reasons why North Myrtle Beach has so much personality and popularity is the diversity of its beaches. They are (officially), starting from the north: Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive, Crescent Beach, and Windy Hill. Unofficially, there’s a small section between Cherry Grove and Ocean Drive called “Tilghman Beach”. There’s also Atlantic Beach, a small town between Crescent Beach and Windy Hill. In 1968, residents of all the small towns voted to consolidate into one large city. Each area has their own rich history and vibe. Here’s what you need to know:
Cherry Grove Beach finds its roots as early as 1735, when John Morrall received a land grant of 453 acres. A plantation was developed called “Cherry Grove”, aptly named for the abundance of cherry trees in the area. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, loggers and farmers came from the western part of Horry County to fish and relax by the beach. These early vacationers loved to camp, harvest shellfish, catch spots, croakers and mullets, and go swimming in the warm waters. As Cherry Grove grew through the decades, it became the ideal spot on the Grand Strand to relax, fish, and to get away from the crowds. Still, today with many beautiful resorts and vacation rental homes, it is a wonderful spot where travelers and locals go to get away from it all. There’s so much natural beauty including the point at 63rd ave where you can skip along the sandbars, fish, and enjoy fantastic views of Bird Island, right across the way from House Creek.
Cherry grove is of course, home to the historic Cherry Grove Pier, where the world record tiger shark was caught in 1964. The fantastic fishing continues today and millions have enjoyed a relaxing stroll down the pier, taking in the revitalizing ocean breeze. Cherry Grove is also home to Boulineau’s, Platt’s, and the Atlantis Pancake House, which have all enriched vacationers and locals for decades. What’s really cool about Cherry Grove is that after you pass Sea Mountain Highway, heading north, there are no commercial buildings. You’ll only find beach houses and condos, which allow folks to truly unwind at the end of a long day enjoying the attractions of the Grand Strand. Cherry Grove is also my personal favorite, as a local. At least once a week, I enjoy walking in the surf, looking for shark teeth and letting my cares drift away with the tide.
Tilghman Beach finds its roots in 1948, when Charles Tilghman of Marion County developed a large tract of land. This land is nestled between Cherry Grove and The Ocean Drive area and has become an upscale reserve of gorgeous multi-level beach homes. You’ll find no condos or high rises here! Tilghman Beach isn’t an officially recognized beach, like the others here, but is an important area, nonetheless. There’s public parking where you can access the uncrowded beach, which is perfect for finding uncommon and rare shells, shark teeth, and peace of mind.
Ocean Drive Beach:
The “O.D.” has perhaps the most unique vibe of any of any of NMB’s beaches. This is because of the boom this wonderful beach received due to a trend that swept the Mid-Atlantic: Beach Music. Beach music finds its roots in Motown and has been the perfect accoutrement to the potential of friendship, love, romance, and summer fun at the beach. From beach music comes the “Shag”, a popular dance that’s easy to do and has produced great memories and friendships for decades. Read more about the history of The Shag HERE. Millions have flocked to O.D. to enjoy the yearly Shag festivals, such as the Spring Safari, Fall Migration, and DJ Throwdown. Ocean Drive has two great features, Main St. and “The Horseshoe”. When you stroll down Main St. in North Myrtle you’ll get a fantastic mix of today and yesteryear. With fun and lively beach clubs like Duck’s and Fat Harold’s you’re sure to hear tunes that put you in a vacation state-of-mind. There’s great live music at Pirate’s Cove and be sure to enjoy the many restaurants like Hoskins, Melt, and Duffy St. At the end of Ocean Drive, where Main St. meets the ocean, you’ll find The Horseshoe – where you can take in live concerts on the permanent stage or make use of public facilities. The Ocean Drive area is also home to the famous O.D. Arcade, famous for dancing, great food, pool tables, and games. No matter your age or where you come from, Ocean Drive has something for you!
Crescent Beach is located between Ocean Drive and Windy hill and is such a great mix of the old and new in the NMB area. Beautiful resorts, like Seaside Resort share the landscape with quiet residential areas, making Crescent Beach another great option for travelers looking to enjoy relaxation or quality family time. The Crescent Beach area along HWY 17 has some great restaurants and the legendary Azalea Sands Golf Club. You can’t go wrong when you stay in Crescent Beach!
Atlantic Beach has a very interesting history, being the only black-owned beach in the U.S. It is not a very large area, being only 4 blocks wide and Ocean Drive does not go through Atlantic Beach, so if you want to visit, you’ll have to enter via Hwy 17. It finds its roots during segregation, when blacks were not allowed to visit other beaches. Atlantic Beach thrived during this time and became a great center for music. Famous musicians such as Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Spinners, Chubby Checker, and even Marvin Gaye would stay in Atlantic Beach after performing elsewhere on the Grand Strand. They would also perform in Atlantic Beach, which brought blacks and whites together and helped to overcome differences. Today, Atlantic Beach is home to the famous Bike Fest rally, also called Black Bike Week. During this time 350,000 bikers visit the Grand Strand and Atlantic Beach is the epicenter of this great Memorial Day Weekend tradition.
Windy Hill is a very popular section of the beach because of the diverse and plentiful attractions, shopping, and restaurants. Home to Barefoot Landing, just about every visitor to NMB makes their way to Windy Hill. Windy Hill was started from a land grant in 1737 to William Gause. He helped develop the land and built an inn on White Point Swash, which is not easy to get to these days! It lies just south of Briarcliffe Acres and behind the land belonging to the Meher Spiritual Center. George Washington stayed at this Inn and was quoted as saying (while on a sand dune) “This is a windy hill!”, from which the area gets its name. The White Point Swash area was a perfect hiding spot for pirates during the golden age of Carolina piracy. Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet even used this spot to evade British pirate hunters. Windy Hill has modern resorts, but very few beach houses. The residential area is large and serves as a barrier to busy Hwy 17 in the crowded summer months.
I hope this helps to enrich your next trip to North Myrtle Beach and if you are interested in more history of the area, I’d like to recommend the NMB Area Historical Museum. Featuring paintings, books, artifacts, and more regarding history and culture from NMB and its surrounding area, the museum is a great and quick stop on your next vacation.
Enjoy North Myrtle and be part of THIS historical era, the time of great family vacations and fun!
Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.