Chillax: Lowkey South Strand Vacations with Garden City Realty

by Kent Kimes for Garden City Realty

What is the goal of your vacation?

By its very definition, a vacation means to vacate your usual residence for an extended period of leisure, relaxation and recreation, a time to recharge your batteries away from the day-to-day grind.

Let us focus on the leisure and relaxation parts of that equation.

Every vacation does not have to be a high-flying adventure. In fact, you may want to lay low – maybe more so than usual since the country is still in a state of flux due to the pandemic and social distancing measures are still recommended by public health experts. 

Your Garden City Realty vacation rental is the perfect place to relax and get away from all of the hubbub. There are plenty of ways to unwind and still soak up the charm of the South Strand during your stay, without getting an overdose of adrenaline – or elbow-to-elbow crowds.

According to the Vrbo U.S. Trend Report 2021, 22 percent of potential travelers polled said “a vacation would improve mental health and act as self-care.”

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for chillaxing at the beach and nurturing your mental state. It’s okay, you’ve earned it.

SERENITY NOW

An upside of the pandemic is that more people have discovered, or rediscovered, nature, not only to soothe pent-up cabin fever symptoms, but also because outdoor spaces are deemed safer than indoors when it comes to transmission of COVID-19.

Luckily, the South Strand is blessed with not only one, but two, distinctive beachfront South Carolina State Parks that offer plenty of opportunities for communing with nature.

On the southern edge of Myrtle Beach proper is the aptly named Myrtle Beach State Park nestled among a maritime forest boasting nature trails, ocean views, educational programming and surf fishing. It’s a great spot for shell and shark tooth hunters as well.

The park’s website suggests escaping “the busy Grand Strand and enjoy a walk on the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail through the beautiful maritime forest.”

Further south, down on the Waccamaw Neck, is a nature-lover’s paradise, Huntington Beach State Park, with wide-open beach vistas, a freshwater lake that you’re sure to spot alligators lounging in, nature trails and boardwalks, and educational programming. It is one of the top bird-watching sites on the East Coast (more than 300 species have been spotted here), a great spot to also surf fish, and the park’s crown jewel is Atalaya Castle, the Moorish style former winter home of philanthropist/artist Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington that is open for exploration.

Both parks open at 6 a.m. daily, so going early is recommended as you can kick off your day of solitude and peace by watching a breath-taking Atlantic sunrise before the crowds arrive.

TIP:  Skip the admission booth and purchase your park admission online: https://scparkstore.com/collections/park-admission.

Across U.S. 17 from Huntington Beach State Park is the Huntington’s’ other local legacy – Brookgreen Gardens, a more than 9,000-acre attraction that melds art, history and nature. The site features vast botanical gardens, the largest collection of American figurative sculptures in the country spread throughout the outdoor gardens and indoor gallery spaces, Lowcountry history tours, and Lowcountry Zoo.

Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, SC, USA

With so much to see and do, your tickets are good for seven consecutive days.

TIP: There is an extra charge for the Creek Excursion ($10 for adults, $6 for children) and the popular trek sells out quickly, so it is best to purchase these tickets as soon as you are on site.

Also along this same U.S. 17 corridor from Murrells Inlet to Pawleys Island, there’s an 18-mile paved multi-use trail paralleling the highway known locally as Bike the Neck, a favorite leisurely ride for cyclists. It is flat and easy terrain that will make you feel like you’re pedaling through a remote forest rather than next to a busy roadway, but it’s important to note that not all of the path is contiguously connected and some portions of it traverse share-the-road routes.

Load up your bike rack and bring your two-wheelers for fulfilling the recreation component of your South Strand vacation. If you don’t have the cargo space, local bike rentals are available close to the South Strand, including Inlet Bike RentalsWoody’s Beach Rentals, and Seaside Scooters & Bikes.

TIP: Recommended parking areas for accessing the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway include Morse Park Landing in Murrells Inlet, the north parking lot at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort, and for a fee ($5 for adults, $3 for ages 6-15) at the aforementioned Huntington Beach State Park, which will also give you access for riding trails inside the park.

INTROSPECTION

For many people, beach time means book time – there is nothing like soaking up the sun and escaping into a murder mystery, steamy romance, or the latest tome on leadership.

Many Garden City Realty vacation rental properties provide a small selection of books and magazines, but you may want to bring your own, especially if there is a title you’ve been itching to dive into.

Need help selecting a good beach book? Good Housekeeping recently compiled its top 20 beach reads for 2021: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g3585/summer-reading/.

The Surfside Beach public library, part of the Horry County library system, boasts a large collection of physical books and e-books, as well as streaming movies and music. Non-residents can obtain Horry County library cards for $10, which are valid for six months. Click here for library card requirements.

In addition, there are plenty of bookstores nearby, from the big box Books-a-Million at Inlet Square Mall and Barnes & Noble at The Market Common, to independent mom-and-pops such as Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island and The Book Worm on S.C. 707  near the Burgess community.

Crossword puzzle books and word search-style brain teasers also provide relaxation while exercising your mind.

The benefits of reading are well known when it comes to mental stimulation, but exposure to visual art also creates positive brain waves, according to research. A somewhat hidden gem, the Franklin G. Burroughs -Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum on the south end of Myrtle Beach near Springmaid Resort (now DoubleTree Resort), boasts 11 galleries of visual art, from paintings to ceramics to photography, video and other mediums. The museum also features kid-friendly educational programming.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and closed Sundays and Mondays. The best part: admission is free.

Check out the museum’s virtual exhibitions tours: https://myrtlebeachartmuseum.org/virtual-museum/virtual-exhibit-tours/

TIP: If you are spending a flexcation at your Garden City Realty vacation rental where some of your time must be spent working remotely or your kids are attending virtual classrooms, the Burroughs-Chapin Museum’s website offers downloadable art gallery backgrounds for your Zoom meetings.  

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Many homeowners in Garden City Realty’s vacation rental program provide board games, cards, puzzles and video game consoles for their guests. However, if you have a particular family favorite game, bring it – and plan a tournament. Who will get bragging rights for being the ultimate Monopoly mogul for the week? Who can assemble a 1,000-piece puzzle the fastest? Who will win the World Series of Uno?

Take the games outdoors.

Throwing footballs, baseballs and Frisbees on the beach are simple leisure activities that get the heart pumping and can be enjoyed with a minimum of two people. 

Short of bringing your own beach volleyball set-up, here are some simple beach game options that require a minimal investment:

  • Paddle ball
  • Horseshoes
  • Kite flying
  • Tic tac toe (draw your over-sized grid in the sand with a stick, large shell or beach shovel)
  • Bocce ball
  • Sand bucket relay races
  • Sandcastle sculpting
  • Frisbee golf

Read Garden City Realty’s guide to games you can play at the beach for additional activities and a how-to-play guide.

TIP: Again, if you don’t have the cargo space to haul the game gear, Woody’s Beach Rentals located in the Garden City Beach business district has bocce ball sets and cornhole boards that are great for setting up and playing on the beach. Click here for rates and reservations.

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