Garden City Realty’s Guide to Touring the South Strand

In 1941, the founders of the International Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism defined tourism as “the sum of the phenomena and relationships arising from the travel and stay of non-residents, insofar as they do not lead to permanent residence and are not connected with any earning activity.”

In 2022, we say, “huh?”

We think it’s pretty safe to assume without such scientific analysis that the general populace knows what tourism is, and most have even been considered a tourist a time or two in their lives we’d venture to say.

That being said, the root meaning of the word tourist is basically “someone who tours.”

So on your next stay at one of Garden City Realty’s fabulously fun and family-friendly vacation rental properties, why not become a true-to-the-definition tourist and see the South Strand from a different perspective by enjoying a professional tour operation? 

We’ve rounded up suggestions for the landlubbers, grubhubbers, seafarers and adventurers in your party.

Please click through the following links for more specific information and details on each suggestion.

Happy touring!

BY SEA, INLET OR RIVER

The South Strand’s main attraction is that big ol’ cup of soup known as the Atlantic Ocean. And with it comes an abundance of aquatic life that fascinates, thrills and sometimes terrifies us. 

Get an up close and personal look at the Atlantic’s most-intriguing and friendliest creatures with Blue Wave Adventures’ Tursi-Ops Dolphin Watch tours that run from Crazy Sister Marina on the Murrells Inlet waterfront. 

The tour allows you to get so close to the dolphins in their natural environment you may be able to hear them communicating with each other. The Tursi-Ops is a custom-built boat that features individual seating and offers 360-degree views of the dolphins. 

In addition to the thrill of the adventure, “this trip also emphasized the ecology, wildlife and beauty of the coast” according to an excerpt from the website. 

Admission is $31 for adults, $25 for ages 3-12. For more information and to book tours go to: https://crazysistermarina.com/activities/cruises/dolphin-watch/

Blue Wave Adventures also offers a dolphin tour for smaller groups also departing from Crazy Sister Marina on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. This hour-and-a-half trip is aboard the Osprey, a 30-foot RAVI vessel featuring seating much closer to the water and is a more physical experience – in fact, the operators suggest you should be physically fit to go on this adventure. In addition to dolphins, you’ll see sharks, rays, turtles and other sea critters.

Booking fees are $45 for adults, $39 for ages 3-12. More information can be found via the previous link. Unfortunately, children younger than 3 and expectant mothers are not allowed on either tour.

If ocean waves aren’t your thing, maybe a relaxed river tour is more your speed?

See the South Strand from an entirely different angle on the waters of the Waccamaw, Black and Great Pee Dee rivers.

Departing from Wacca Wache Marina in Murrells Inlet, Plantation River Tours offers guided trips aboard the Waccamaw Lady and Waccamaw Cooter Airboat.

The Waccamaw Lady Plantation River Tour is  “a 2 to 2-1/2 hour river cruise along the historic Waccamaw River and plantations,” according to its website description. “Along the ride you will see rice plantations, trunk gates, slave cabins, moss-laden oak trees, alligators, eagles and osprey. Your narrator will be a local historian, educating you on the history, mystery and legends of the rice plantations.” Tickets are $38 for adults, $25 for ages 12 and younger.

The Waccamaw Lady is also utilized for sunset cruises which can accommodate up to 35 people. The evening tour is a one hour excursion of the Waccamaw River and patrons can bring aboard small coolers. Tickets are $30 adults, $20 ages 6-12, and free for tots 5 and younger.

For a change of pace, try a Waccamaw Airboat Tour. It’s the type of boat you always see on explorations of swamps and backwater, like the Florida Everglades, featuring a large fan/propeller on the back. This tour lasts about an hour and plies the waters of the Waccamaw, Pee Dee and Black rivers. “The pristine surroundings offer up close encounters with some of nature’s most awe-inspiring creatures, from native alligators to regal ospreys. Meander through backwaters framed by moss-laden oak and cypress trees for an experience no other tour can provide,” reads an excerpt from the tour operator’s website. Tickets are $45 for adults, and $35 for kiddos 12 and younger.

For more information and/or to book these river tours, go to: https://www.plantationrivertours.com/our-tours/#airboattours

Another river exploration option starts a little further upstream, but is still within the confines of the South Strand. Waccamaw River Tours operates out of the area near Socastee’s Enterprise Landing and is adjacent to the Waccatee Zoo, and as such, the zoological attraction’s animals are part of the tour’s attraction.  “Be greeted by roaming peacocks and gaze upon exotic animals such as bison, zebra, fallow deer, emus, and sheep on the drive to and from our docks at the back of the Waccatee Zoo,” the tour’s website boasts.

This operation’s main offerings focus on the natural beauty of the Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway and these streams’ ecosystems and inhabitants.

The Nature & Wildlife Boat Tour is an hour-and-a-half narrated excursion where patrons learn about the history of the rivers, and are treated to views of osprey nests, along with egrets, herons, ducks, turtles, and maybe even alligators. Tickets are $31.95 for adults, $18,95 for ages 13 and younger.

For the shutterbugs in your crew, Waccamaw River Tours offers its Osprey Photography Boat Tour, where you’ll get “up close and personal for some great pictures/viewing of these family-oriented birds in their natural habitat,” according to the tour’s website. “It is a photographer and wildlife lover’s dream, whether you are a bird watcher or amateur/professional photographer.” As mentioned previously, the osprey make their nests along the river near the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, a federally-protected area untouched by development. Space is limited to 15 passengers on this tour so that photogs can move around and have room to position for the best shots.

This tour starts in April and is also 1.5 hours. Admission is $29.95.

Book a Waccamaw River Tour adventure here.

BY HISTORY & NATURE

History and nature are the focus of a variety of tours offered at noted 9,100-acre botanical/sculpture garden/wildlife preserve Brookgreen Gardens located between the South Strand communities of Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island.

These include a few land-based tours along with a creek excursion, and each carries additional ticket charges on top of the regular 7-day admission price to the attraction. 

Still, these treks won’t break the bank, with tickets ranging from $4-$15.

Offering a rare opportunity to explore the graveyards at Brookgreen, the two-hour Silent Cities Cemetery Tours delve into long ago burial customs of African and European origin. You’ll travel by vehicle during part of the trek, but it does involve almost a mile of walking, through wooded areas, and over dirt paths and roads (so wear comfortable shoes).

Silent Cities departs at noon and 2:30 p.m. daily from Feb. 12 through April 1.

Tickets are $15, available here.

Running March through November, Brookgreen’s The Creek Excursion takes you on a 45-minute cruise aboard a 48-foot pontoon boat through historic marshy rice fields where African slaves harvested South Carolin’s No. 1 cash crop. 

Tickets are $6 for children and $10 for adults – but are not available online, rather they must be purchased at the Lowcountry Center Auditorium and Gardener’s Cottage Information Center.

The Creek Excursion runs at 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

Both running April through November, Brookgreen has two more land-based tours:

  • The Oaks Excursion, which lasts roughly 1.3 hours, takes visitors on a mini-bus ride through the site of the Alston family’s Oaks Plantation and slave village, and a preserved long leaf pine forest. This tour is scheduled at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. Tickets are $4 for children, $8 for adults and available on-site at the Keepsakes gift shop.
  • Boasting panoramic views of the Waccamaw River from one of the area’s highest bluffs, The Trekker Excursion travels over rough terrain as patrons get to see and learn about live oaks, a historic rice mill chimney, a Civil War earthen fort site, and more. The tour is approximately 50 minutes and runs daily at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $4 for children, $8 for adults, available at the Wall Lowcountry Center. 

For more information, go to https://www.brookgreen.org/low-country-history.

BY LAND (AGAIN)

Channel your inner Paul Blart, Mall Cop with a two-hour Segway tour of one of the South Strand’s jewels: Huntington Beach State Park just south of Murrells Inlet. The guided tour explores the 2,500-acre ocean-front park and environmental education center, and a chance to see loggerhead turtles, alligators, wild birds and more wildlife than you can shake a mall security guard’s nightstick at. 

The tour includes a Segway training session and is best suited for small groups of up to eight. 

The tour’s departure and return point is at the park’s visitor center parking area. It’s $67 per person, and the tours run at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

To find and reserve a tour, click here.

After your Segway tour, you should try to stick around for a docent-guided Atalaya Tour, the open-air moorish-style winter home of Anna and Archer Huntington, who owned the land where the park is now as well as where Brookgreen Gardens is. 

The tours run from noon-1 p.m. on Saturdays from March 6 through May 31, and from 2-3 p.m. Monday through Friday during that same time span.

There is no additional charge for the tour.

For more information, go to https://southcarolinaparks.com/huntington-beach.

BY AIR

The South Strand is known mostly as a drive-to destination, but if you want to get an aerial view of your Garden City Realty vacation rental, hop aboard an OceanFront Helicopters tour, which includes a Garden City Tour and Inlet Tour among its offerings.

Being on the southside has its advantages when it comes to this helicopter tour operator’s routes, according to the company’s website, which states, “for those looking to spend a little more time in the air, our southbound tours are perfect for those nature lovers who want to see undisturbed coastline and marine wildlife.”

Described as “an extended south-bound tour with views of local wildlife and coastal marshlands,” The Garden City Tour is $59.99 per person. Billing itself as “The ultimate nature lover’s tour,” the Inlet Tour is $129.99 per person.

Book your flights here.

Oceanfront Helicopters is located at 3000 South Kings Highway, right in front of the Myrtle Beach International Airport runway.

BY TABLE

There’s no better way for a tourist to feel like a local than to get a taste of the local cuisine served at the kind of places that locals frequent.

If you’re like many of us, choosing a place to dine out can be a maddening game of, “where do you want to go? I don’t know, where do you want to go?”

Carolina Food Tours has taken decision-making out of the equation and offers curated tours of eateries in the South Strand communities of Murrells Inlet, Pawleys Island and Georgetown.

A seafood lover’s dream, the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk Afternoon Food Tour starts at 3 p.m. and lasts roughly two-and-a-half hours. In addition to chowing down, the tour offers interesting facts about the Inlet, and about the seafood that’s harvested here – in addition to the beauty and wildlife of the marsh.

The tour is $85 per person. For more information or to book slots, go to: https://www.carolinafoodtours.com/murrells-inlet/marshwalk-afternoon-food-tour/

Meanwhile, combining cuisine with history, the popular Taste of Historic Georgetown Tour starts at 11 a.m. and also lasts two-and-a-half hours in the riverfront port city. “Learn about the rich history of Georgetown, as we walk the Harborwalk and dine at three or four different restaurants along the way,” says the tour’s website.

This tour is also $85 per person, and for more information or to book, go to: https://www.carolinafoodtours.com/georgetown/historic-georgetown-tour/

At publication time, the Pawleys Island tours were not available.

Written by Kent Kimes for Garden City Realty

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