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Located south of Garden City, the fishing village of Murrells Inlet along South Carolina’s Hammock Coast is where vacationers go to sink their toes into the sand and escape the crowds at the busier beaches north in Myrtle Beach and south in Charleston. Murrells Inlet is rich in nature, both above the ocean’s surface and below it. In fall and winter, harvesting oysters is a popular pastime, when the waters recede at low tide and expose the oyster beds. Murrell’s Inlet also boasts the impressive Brookgreen Gardens and neighboring coastal preserve, Huntington Beach State Park.
Right across from the MarshWalk boardwalk is a spectacle to behold: Goat Island, where goats are enlisted April through November to help maintain the island’s vegetation (you can view them from across the way along the boardwalk). Just down the coast from Murrells Inlet is the four-mile-long barrier isle Pawleys Island, a favorite town of vacationers thanks to its laid-back vibe, dramatic windswept dunes, and lively crabbing dock.
The closest airport to Murrells Inlet is Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR), 13 miles away. Though it’s a smaller airport, MYR does offer nonstop service to several U.S. cities, although some routes are only seasonal. Murrells Island is also conveniently close to two larger airports along the coast: Wilmington International Airport (ILM), 95 miles away, and Charleston International Airport (CHS), 88 miles away. Although Coast RTA buses do service the Hammock Coast, you’ll still want to rent a car to hit all of the best spots. Once you’re situated at your vacation rental, you can also rent a bicycle to get around locally.
South Carolina enjoys dreamy spring weather from March to May and mild, sunny every September to November. For the beach lover looking for some solitude, fall is the best time to go, when crowds significantly thin out. Given that Murrells Inlet is praised for its seafood, it would be a shame not to visit during shellfish season, which runs October through May. Summers can be humid, but the coastal breeze helps temper the heat. Keep in mind, though, that the Atlantic’s hurricane season is June through November, with August and September often the biggest months for storms. If you’re an arts lover, you might want to plan your trip to coincide with the annual Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival in Huntington Beach State Park in September.
Murrells Inlet draws visitors from surrounding towns who want to check out the legacy of Brookgreen Gardens in person. Founded in 1931, this 9,127-acre botanical garden contains 250-year-old live oak trees, butterfly gardens, and 2,000 figurative sculptures created by more than 400 artists.
Dog-friendly Huntington Beach is a magnet for families, sun worshipers, and anyone who wants to try their luck at bird-watching among the 300 species can be seen in the state park. The park has a notable historic landmark: the Moorish-style Atalaya Castle, which was built during the Great Depression and served as the winter home of New York philanthropists Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, who also founded nearby Brookgreen Gardens.
A half-mile wooden boardwalk, the MarshWalk showcases the beauty of the natural saltwater estuary it’s built upon; you’ll spy birds of all kinds and, at low tide, plenty of oyster beds. MarshWalk is also a dining and entertainment district with several waterfront restaurants and indoor and outdoor venues playing live music.