Fishing Villages, Former Rice Plantations Part of Myrtle Beach's Rich History

Even the most ardent golfer, beach bum, angler and thrill-seeker can only take so much of the same old same old on their Grand Strand getaway without wanting a little taste of the local culture. Behind the neon lights and high-rise hotels is a hidden history of the South Carolina coast that tells another side of the Myrtle Beach area. From the colonial-era rice and indigo plantations in the Lowcountry, such as Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown, to the coastline along the Carolina border where Blackbeard and other pirates patrolled the waters, the Grand Strand has a unique past that's worth checking out while you're in town. Best of all is the region's natural history, which is highlighted at displays like Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. And leave it to Myrtle Beach to offer a historical site even the kids will love at the Pavilion Nostalgia Park, a mini-sized amusement park that features the actual rides and exhibits that once graced the defunct Pavilion oceanfront park for more than a half-century. The Horry County Museum in the county seat of Conway provides a more traditional history lesson of the area and the South Carolina Hall of Fame in Myrtle Beach offers the unique human history of the Palmetto State.


Located on the first floor of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, this display features portraits and exhibits of famous South Carolina historical figures, including eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a Nobel prize winner. John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, Apollo astronaut Charles M. Duke, Robert Mills and Dizzy Gillespie are just some of the personalities featured here. Other interesting members include Ronald McNair, the nation's first African-American astronaut who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy and controversial baseball figure "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, who was banned from the majors following his involvement in the Black Sox scandal.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Even historians and natives will gain a new appreciation for the Palmetto State at the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

Terry's expert tip: While you're here, check out the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for other interesting displays and the adjoining Sheraton Hotel.

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This 18th century rice plantation serves as a relic to a different time in the area's rich history. The old plantation home was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a prominent figure in South Carolina history. The beautiful main house and out buildings are nestled on the North Santee River where it flows into the historic port of Georgetown. Tours are available during regular business hours year round, and by appointment for large groups or special occasions. The on-site Tea House is a great place for a refreshing drink and light lunch.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Hopsewee Plantation offers a rare glimpse into the 1700s plantation life in early America. Much of the property is the same as it was then.

Terry's expert tip: Be sure to wear or bring boots or sneakers if you want to take a hike on one of the many trails on the scenic property. It can get a little muddy by the river.

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One of the first acts of early European settlers to the area was to construct a church similar to those from their Anglican roots, and they spared no expense in carving this masterpiece out of the South Carolina swamplands. Constructed around 1750, builders used the bricks and stones taken from British ships for ballast to create this church that has stood the test of time, war and hurricanes. Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church has quite an interesting history. In fact, the cemetery behind the church is one of the oldest in South Carolina, with one marker dating back to 1767.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church serves as a shining example of colonial American architecture and European religious influences in North America.

Terry's expert tip: Special services are still held during religious holidays and other events.

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The historic port city of Georgetown offers a treasure trove of pre-Revolutionary War homes and plantations, but none hold the historical significance and preservation of the Kaminski House. Once belonging to one of the first families to settle the South Carolina coast, the Kaminskis willed this 1760's sea captain's home to the city of Georgetown for use as a museum. Filled with priceless antiques, this enormous estate also features observation deck that overlooks the North Santee River, presumably to watch for the father's ship coming to port. Pick up a souvenir from the gift shop located in the old butler's quarters.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Kaminiski House holds a special place in the area's colonial and nautical history. Antique-lovers will get a kick out of it too.

Terry's expert tip: Note that the museum is closed on Sunday.

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Learn about the rich history of the Grand Strand area from its humble beginnings as a logging and railroad town to one of the top tourism destinations in the world. Displays feature old photographs and documents that tell the story of how early settlers made a hard-scramble living off the land before making the transition to a tourism-based economy. But this Conway-based museum features much more than human history. The natural history of the region is fascinating for its unique bays and wide range of wildlife, which includes displays of bears, alligators and other creatures. The museum also offers changing exhibits of local, regional and national significance.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: In an area lacking in historical preservation, the Horry County Museum is surprisingly informative and entertaining attraction.

Terry's expert tip: Ask about a free scavenger hunt for the kids to keep them engaged and interested in the displays.

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Travel just north of Myrtle Beach on Highway 17 into the Little River community and you'll see a sign for this 115-acre park and designated wildlife refuge. The trails and boardwalks extend into the salt marshes and pass by a Civil War cemetery and the old homestead of the Vereens, one of the area's founding families. The natural scenery is breath-taking, featuring beautiful salt marshes and small islands, with a gazebo overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway with the Little River waterfront in the distance. A wide observation deck extends into the waterway and allows for some excellent photo opportunities of birds and other wildlife. The view is great and the cost is free.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Vereen Gardens is a great escape from the neon lights to a more natural setting in just a short drive.

Terry's expert tip: Flower-lovers and bird-watchers can find a hidden gem in this garden, especially in the springtime.

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In 1718, King George II granted a barony (12,000 acres of land) here to John Lord Carteret, who remained the owner until 1730. Since then, the land has had various owners and uses, giving it quite an interesting pedigree. Today it's a 17,500 acre wildlife refuge used for college-level research. Criss-crossed by over 100 miles of dirt roads, the property is easy to get lost on, so the only way to see it is via a guided tour, a fascinating outing that appeals to both history and nature buffs. Located about 1 mile north of Georgetown and 35 miles south of Myrtle Beach.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Hobcaw Barony serves as the Grand Strand's closest connection to its colonial past. This place is loaded with history.

Terry's expert tip: Be sure to visit the on-site Tea House for a refreshing drink or snack in a lovely setting.

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Pavilion Nostalgia Park
Photo courtesy of Pavalion Nostalgia Park

History never looked so fun as a trip to the Pavilion Nostalgia Park, a smaller but memory-provoking version of the old Pavilion that served as the centerpiece of downtown Myrtle Beach for decades. Located at the popular Broadway at the Beach complex, this miniature theme park features rides that generations of visitors used to ride at the Pavilion, such as the century-old Herschell Spillman carousel that stands as a testament to another era. Other rides include the Pirate Ship, the Wave Swinger and the Caterpillar. There are also plenty of rides for younger children, like the Tea Cups and Kiddie Boat Ride. Other attractions include an arcade, carnival-style food and drinks and a miniature golf course.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Longtime visitors will get a thrill from seeing pieces of the old Pavilion, and young patrons will enjoy the thrill of the rides.

Terry's expert tip: Ride tickets are $2 from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and ticket bundles can be purchased online at a discounted rate.

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Located inside pristine Huntington Beach State Park, this grand home of Archer and Anna Huntington was built in 1931 in the style of the same-named Spanish castle/Moorish fort. Self-guided tours of the grounds are available daily and free of charge with park admission. Stroll the brick-lined hallways and enjoy the beach view from the iron-rod hurricane windows. The interior of the castle features a courtyard filled with wildflowers and palmetto trees, creating a lovely place for weddings and special events. The beach is only a short walk through the sand dunes and sea oats so visitors can explore while taking a break from a day on the beach.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Atalaya Castle is only one of many treasures at Huntington Beach State Park. Be sure to check out the beach, salt marshes and maritime forest.

Terry's expert tip: Pack a picnic basket and take a break from the beach for a spectacular lunch on a blanket in the castle's courtyard.

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Brookgreen Gardens
Photo courtesy of

The beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry is in full bloom at Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,100-acre property located about 15 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Visitors can stroll through the many sculptures, fountains and flowers and take a break in the shade of giant live oak trees that pre-date the U.S. Constitution. This former rice plantation also features boat rides through the marshes and a zoo featuring alligators, birds and other creatures native to South Carolina. A new butterfly pavilion exhibit allows visitors to get up close and personal with various species of butterflies. This is Lowcountry nature at its best.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: For sheer natural beauty, it's tough to find a prettier place and more pleasing taste of the Lowcountry than Brookgreen Gardens.

Terry's expert tip: Pack an extra roll of film or plenty of memory on your SIM card for Brookgreen Gardens, the perfect place for family portraits and artistic photography.

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Meet Terry Massey

It's no surprise that journalist Terry Massey is credited with creating the word 'stay-cation.'  He considers the past 18 years in Myrtle Beach a vacation.

He and his wife Stephanie were...  More About Terry