Travel through Time on the North Myrtle Beach History Trail

Waccamaw Indian
Waccamaw Indian - Credit USFWS
Few places on the Atlantic Coast of the "land of the free, home of the brave" are richer in meaningful history than South Carolina and the North Myrtle Beach area. I invite you to join me for a dive into the local history of the North Myrtle Beach area. Let’s travel through time to meet the brave people whose deeds, resilience and persistence against all odds made this place the great vacation destination and wonderful place to live it is today.

North Myrtle Beach lies on an area the Winyah and Waccamaw Indians used to call "the Land", or "Chicora" in their native language. Chicora was one of several Carolina Siouan territories subject to their king, Datha of Duahe.  Long before the European settlements, North Myrtle Beach has been part of the Indian trail, the route from the northern states to Charleston and Savannah.

The Spaniards from Hispaniola, led by Lucas Vasques de Ayllón, founded the first colony in North America somewhere in the area in 1526. Among the settlers were two Dominican friars, Fr. Antonio de Montesinos and Fr. Anthony de Cervantes, who led the very first Catholic mass in what today is the United States of America. The settlement lasted only three months of winter before being abandoned in early 1527 due to scarcity of supplies, hunger, disease, and troubles with the local natives. Ayllón himself gave his last breath in the arms of one of the Dominican friars. The 150 survivors left on two vessels to return to Hispaniola, but one sunk on the way; the other made it back.

North Myrtle Beach experienced better times after English settlers established in the area. By 1705, large scale rice cultivation formed the foundation of the Carolina lowland economy. Blessed with long growing seasons, the indigo plantations in the Cherry Grove beach area were more economically viable than cotton or rice plantations in the 18th Century. The goods traded across the ocean soon became an attractive target for scores of pirates, of which Blackbeard was the most daring, crafty and frightful. Edward Teach (Blackbeard’s real name) got his nickname because of his coal-black beard which he twisted and tied into tails. Teach captured a French merchant vessel, renamed her, equipped her with 40 guns and adopted his fearful pirate name.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Blackbeard and his 40-guns ship Queen Anne's Revenge, one of the most formidable pirate ships ever, terrified the Atlantic between the years of 1716 and 1718, a period known as the "Golden Age of Piracy." Blackbeard emphasized the importance of image and made sure he looked like a devil who had stepped right out of hell. He used to put slow burning fuses in his hair and beard and strap a few pistols on his chest. Most of the ships he attacked surrendered without even putting up a fight. After a daring blockade of the entire port of Charleston, Blackbeard was eventually hunted down and killed on Nov. 22, 1718, in a glorious fight.

George Washington's Goodwill Tour Schedule
The Goodwill Tour Schedule written by George Washington himself
He was engaged by two ships sent to find him and since most of his crew was on shore, he fought with just a handful of people along his side. He died bravely--killed by 5 gunshots and 20 sword cuts. Since 1997, archaeologists have been excavating the Queen Anne's Revenge, run aground on a sandbar in 1718 near Beaufort, NC. Blackbeard's sword is among their latest finds, presented here by National Geographic.

George Washington’s goodwill tour of 1791 passed through the North Myrtle Beach area. At that time, the Waccamaw Neck was a long, inaccessible area without a major port. It was the last part of the road between Boston and Savannah to be served by stagecoach. On April 27 at 12:30 p.m., Washington entered the state crossing the northern border of South Carolina near Little River, riding his overhauled, handsome white coach decorated with designs of the four seasons and bearing the Washington coat of arms. The old road was lined with forests of tall, stately trees, spreads of pine needles mixed with a low ground cover and patches of sand.  He followed the King’s Highway to near the ocean at Myrtle Beach from which point he traveled along the Grand Strand south to Surfside Beach.

Until the 1900s, when the railroad connected inland towns to the ocean, the beaches of Horry County were virtually uninhabited due to the county's geographical inaccessibility and poor economy. The Intracoastal Waterway opened the area further in 1936.

Cherry Grove Fishing Pier
I caught mine at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier
Cherry Grove Pier is a popular landmark of Cherry Grove Beach. It was built early in the 1950s. Hurricane Hugo destroyed the pier in 1989, but the ambitious reconstruction plans added a two-story observation deck. Ten years later, the pier was damaged again by Hurricane Floyd and yet again the observation deck has been rebuilt, to last to this very day. The new pier brought good luck to many fishermen who cast their lines from the wooden deck into the generous waters washing the pillars. It became a tradition for people to take a picture with their catch in front of the "I caught mine at the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier" sign.

Walter Maxwell's world record tiger shark
Walter Maxwell's world record tiger shark
On June 15, 1964, Walter Maxwell caught a 1,780-pound, world record tiger shark. The Guinness Book record lasted for 40 years, until a bigger shark was caught off the coast of Australia, which was only 5- pounds, 11-ounces heavier. You can read more about Walter Maxwell's amazing perseverance and the three days it took him to catch the shark on Grand Strand Magazine's website, and you can see pictures of other people's catch on the Cherry Grove Pier's website.

In 1968, Cherry Grove Beach merged with Windy Hill Beach, Ocean Drive Beach, and Crescent Beach to form the city of North Myrtle Beach, ready to build its own unique identity and path toward future!

Shag Dance in North Myrtle Beach
Shag Dance in North Myrtle Beach
Many believe North Myrtle Beach to be the birth place of Shag, adopted as the official state dance of South Carolina in 1984. The roots of shag can be found in the '40s in the unconditional adoption of the R&B music by the vivacious white teenagers dancing frantically in the clubs around the Myrtle Beach area. The youngsters played the music on jukeboxes and danced on the rhythms of the black music banned from being aired by the mainstream radio stations of the '40s South. Soon, they started dancing on the beach; thus, molding the Shag, a dance meant for people holding a beer in one hand and their darling in the other.

Barefoot Landing is a true North Myrtle Beach landmark, a large shopping complex consisting of several divided sections of stores and attractions located on filled land over top of Louis Lake, next to the Intracoastal Waterway. The shopping complex, started originally in 1972 as The Village of Barefoot Traders, consisted of only 15 stores. The Barefoot Landing as we know it today opened in 1988, soon becoming one of South Carolina's most impressive tourist destinations. Currently, Barefoot Landing includes more than 100 stores, restaurants and attractions. On March 1, 2013, Burroughs & Chapin bought Barefoot Landing, paying $43 million for the 64-acre complex, according to the Register of Deeds office of Horry County. The complex has since witnessed a facelift and improvements, including the replacement of some of the aging boards in the wooden walkways. The Barefoot Landing area of North Myrtle Beach also hosts the House of Blues, the Alabama Theatre, the Alligator Adventure, and a golf resort.

North Myrtle Beach Historical Museum
If you are looking for more information to immerse even deeper in local history, stop by the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum located at 799 2nd Avenue North, North Myrtle Beach or visit their website. As mentioned on the website, "the Museum promotes a strong sense of community pride and fosters an appreciation for our place in the region's rich history."

The city has witnessed great development and sustained growth over the last few years, with numerous facilities built for its growing number of residents, like the modern Aquatic and Fitness Center and the newly built public library. Today, North Myrtle Beach is a popular family tourist attraction for vacationers from around the country and Canada. A state-of-the-art 145-acre park and sports complex has recently opened to encourage sports-tourism, featuring 6 ball fields, 8 regulation soccer/lacrosse fields, 3 playgrounds, walking trails, concession stands, picnic shelters, a 25-acre lake for water-related activities, and a 2,000-seat amphitheater. North Myrtle Beach is poised for continued growth, with many available commercial and residential sites across the waterway. The future looks bright for North Myrtle Beach!
North Myrtle Beach today
North Myrtle Beach today

A Visit to Historical Georgetown, South Carolina

While on vacation in North Myrtle Beach, I broke routine and took my family to Georgetown on a quick escape from the bustle foot traffic and craziness of a crowded weekend. There's no denying, tradition and tumultuous history is at the heart of Georgetown, a small time-honored town at the southern end of the Grand Strand. Located only 38 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Georgetown is a special historical landmark, the third oldest city and the second largest seaport of South Carolina which some call mini Charleston.
Georgetown - Street Restaurants

My family and I enjoyed the laid-back delights of the walkable historic part of Georgetown. The district is a place where art galleries, antique boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, and mom-and-pop stores still make it a go-to destination for those who savor village charm. Locals are friendly,  and each of them extol the joys of living in Georgetown.
Georgetown - Store front

Georgetown - street chairs

I am truly impressed by how the community has rallied with invigorated energy to revive and preserve Georgetown's history and its landmarks. A mere few years ago, the historical downtown looked deserted, with old buildings looking run down, a dusted grey spot on the parchment of time. The area is now colorful, elegant, filled with welcoming people greeting visitors with large smiles and renewed hopes. Historical downtown Georgetown is not about business anymore, it is about tradition, rich history and proud preservation.
Georgetown - Restaurant

The area dynamics are incredible, considering its population of only 9,000 people stretched over only 7.2 square miles. Georgetown has experienced many ups and downs that triggered economic diversity, dwindling away from the rice culture of the past to lumber export, to the world's largest Kraft paper mill in 1942, to commercial fishing and tourism.
Georgetown - boats

Georgetown - tourism and boats

In its long and colorful history, the city has seen many changes. Georgetown is the probable site of the first European settlement in North America in 1526. The city was officially founded in 1729 and bears the name of King George II of Great Britain. According to the city's official website: "Georgetown played an active role in the American Revolution by sending Thomas Lynch, Sr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr. to the Continental Congress where the younger was a signer of the Declaration of Independence."
Georgetown - the tower

If you decide to enjoy your summer vacation on the Grand Strand, book your oceanfront condo with Thomas Beach Vacations and take your family to Georgetown's historical downtown and  travel back to glorious times of courageous beginnings, endurance, and victorious come-backs.
Georgetown - historical site

Meet Your Movie Legends and Feel Star Struck at the Hollywood Wax Museum of Myrtle Beach

Have you ever dreamed of meeting face-to-face the star of your favorite movie? I have nurtured this desire for years, always wondering how tall he or she really is; what it really was like to be next to him or her in one of the most memorable movie scenes Hollywood impressed me with. My dream came (almost) true during my latest trip to Myrtle Beach! Oh, don't let me get ahead of myself, so let's start from the beginning...

It was a bright, hot summer day, on Hwy 17 in Myrtle Beach. I stopped at a traffic light next to the Myrtle Waves water park when my son spotted it. "Daaad, look! It's huge!" My son's face lit up, with his wide eyes glued to an almost natural replica of the all-mighty Kink Kong hanging on a side of the Empire State Building. My heart almost stopped! The giant ape was truly enormous, strong and mad, its paws tightly gripped on the building, looking for the blonde, Ann.

With almost automated moves, I turned the car into the parking lot, which triggered loud cheers from both my son and wife. I got out of the car and there it was, the Hollywood Wax Museum of Myrtle Beach, a refreshing view after a few hours on the road. I had read about this landmark before I hit the road for my annual family beach vacation. In a short time, it has become a Myrtle Beach landmark and highlight of Broadway at the Beach. We bought the tickets and started our journey in a world of glamour and talent, beauty, entertainment, and show business. We stepped into the Hollywood Wax Museum of Myrtle Beach.

The first steps inside the museum took us back in space and time. A few exhibits down the way, I felt my heart beating faster when I found myself in a variation replica of the famous Java Dreams painting, by Chris Consani. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Humphrey Bogart were waiting patiently, while Elvis Presley served from behind the bar. "Sweet tea for me, maestro," I felt like shouting.

Clint Eastwood gave me chills. "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig." I shared the Man with No Name's quote from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" with my son, impressed by how natural and alive his wax statue is.

I never thought I would question the gifts I give my wife, but I had to glance at her earrings after we run into Audrey Hepburn sitting quietly at a table in a beautiful and elegant scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Looking at her, I remembered her famous quote:  " You could always tell what kind of a person a man thinks you are by the earrings he gives you." I have never been cheap with the gifts I made to my sweetheart so I felt good about it!

Right around the corner, I run into John Wayne! Marion Mitchell Morrison by his real name, John Wayne's figure was impressive to say the least. The wax statue perfectly reflects the enduring American icon's rugged masculinity and demeanor. I truly felt honored to sit next to the statue of the actor named 13th among the Greatest Male Screen Legends of All Time by the American Film Institute.

One of the great screen actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age, Elizabeth Taylor is charmingly represented in a colorful Egyptian scene from Cleopatra. My wife and I are still endlessly fascinated by the glamour and beauty of the woman who embodied the idea of feminine beauty in America.

We ended our tour with a "Roar," when we run into the charming Katy Perry's wax statue. Vibrant and lively, Katy invited us onto the dance floor to enjoy the music and the sparkling mirror reflections of a concert-like ambiance. We spent a few minutes dancing, jumping and laughing before we said good bye to Katy, who stared at us goodbye with her beautiful smile.

There is so much more to see and admire at the Wax Museum of Myrtle Beach. I did not want to disclose all the wonderful surprises you can enjoy while visiting the museum. If you spend your vacation in the Myrtle Beach area, we invite you to visit the Wax Museum of Myrtle Beach and spend time face-to-face with icons of the silver screen, recreated so faithfully that you'd swear they were alive.