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Take time out to explore lesser-known locales on a Sunday (or any day) excursion
With so many distractions vying for our time, the lost art of the Sunday drive may seem doomed to the dusty pages of a bygone era—and that’s too bad. Though sporting events on the tube, kids’ soccer games and the chores relegated to the precious few hours of the weekend may loudly call to us, we recommend ignoring those voices, at least occasionally, and gassing up the family truckster for a spin around the ’hood.
While the Sunday drive, once a staple of the American family experience, has been largely ignored in the past few decades, spending a few hours reconnecting with family and friends while exploring the outer reaches of the community in which we live is time well spent.
These are not daytrips, which by name might imply a dedicated full day of travel to a specific destination, which is fine. But the Sunday drive, we contend, is something altogether different. You might have a vague sense of direction in mind or a favorite ice cream stop to consider. And you might not. Sometimes just getting in the car and driving on roads with which you’re not familiar is the way to go, or finally making stops at places you’ve been curious about for years. The point is, get up, get out and go explore!
Here’s a random sample Sunday drive, which took the better part of day, primarily to illustrate the variety of the less-traveled and less-explored outer reaches of the Grand Strand. While this was an all-day affair, your Sunday drive might only be an hour or two. Feel free to try out this trip as described, but exploring on your own is much more rewarding. So turn the radio up, roll down the windows, and happy trails to you!
Starting Point: Robert Grissom Parkway at S.C. 31 on ramp, headed north.
I’ve always enjoyed the scenic backcountry of Horry County as seen from S.C. 31. The highway is relatively new, in excellent condition and is completely devoid of billboards or high-rise condo-hotels. Along its northern leg you’ll pass by small blue ponds, brave turtles crossing the road, and even see the charred remnants of the wildfire that devastated parts of Barefoot Resort years ago. There’s a lot of information just outside your window. You’ll pass a mountain of stone in a rock quarry called “The Barefoot Pit.”
Exit at Robert Edge Parkway/North Myrtle Beach and turn left on S.C. 90. A few hundred yards west, turn right to stay on S.C. 90 E. headed toward Little River. This, by the way, is also a great shortcut or alternate route to the communities of the North Strand. Stop to explore neighborhood communities and developments. You may find that dream house you’ve been looking for. If your drive is on any day other than Sunday, stop by the La Belle Amie Vineyard and take a tour of the winery, browse the gift shop and enjoy the idyllic setting of this North Strand gem.
Continue on S.C. 90 through Nixon’s Crossroads, and stop for ice cream, coffee, donuts, or all the above at Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins at the junction of S.C. 90 and U.S. 17. Headed north you’ll pass by the historically important Parson’s Table restaurant, a converted church built in 1885. They’re not open on Sundays, but on any other day of the week you might consider an early bird dinner beginning at 4:30 p.m.
How many of us have traveled through Little River without stopping by its small, quirky waterfront district? Here you’ll find the Pirate’s Treasure House gift shop, friendly restaurants, seafood dives, watersports of every variety, fishing charters, riverboat gambling and salty old locals just hanging out; perfect for people watching.
Back out on U.S. 17, I continued north and detoured at the state line into Calabash, North Carolina. Don’t miss the small sign to Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens, where you must stop and explore. Driving in is like a walk in the woods. If you exit your car you will walk in the woods on well-maintained trails and beautiful boardwalks along marshes and creeks leading up to the Intracoastal Waterway. Pack a picnic lunch and find a beautiful spot to watch the birds and boats and take a restroom break. Clean facilities are here for your use, all at no charge.
N.C. 179 (Beach Drive SW) will take you into the small town of Calabash, where you might enjoy lunch or dinner along one of the Southeast’s oldest active fishing waterfronts. At Coleman’s Original Calabash I had a large portion of fried flounder with hushpuppies, coleslaw, and French fries for $6.50 while sitting with a stunning view of the wildlife and bustling marina just outside. Pack a cooler and ice so you can buy fresh fish and shrimp sold on the dock. Be sure to stop in Callahan’s of Calabash Nautical Gifts and St. Nick Nacks Christmas Shop for a celebratory sensory overload.
I could have continued north out of Calabash to Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle or even Southport, but this day it felt right to swing wide and head west-southwest. Without a map or the use of my always-available GPS, I wound my way on gut instinct off of U.S. 17 and, via S.C. 905, landed back on S.C. 90 headed toward Conway. Just after you pass under S.C. 22, take a side trip on Old State Hwy 90. It’s a short detour off and then back on the newer road and is a reminder of what once was. Consider a stop at the Peter Horry Wildlife Refuge along the way.
The drive to Conway on S.C. 90 is trip through Horry County’s past. Farms still dominate the landscape, along with wildlife viewing areas and boat ramps every five to ten miles. Once in historic Conway you’ll be tempted to park and perhaps stroll along the River Walk or through the Historic District, but since I’ve enjoyed those activities before and this is about driving, I’ll take in the view from my car and explore more of Horry and Georgetown counties than I’ve ever seen before. U.S. 701 offers an interesting drive and takes you through backwoods and countless small communities before hitting Georgetown. You’ll see everything from stately country homes, large commercial farms, old tobacco barns (’bacca barns), horse ranches and some poverty, too. It’s all a part of the Sunday drive experience.
Radd Dew Bar-B-Que Pit, on U.S. 701 just south of downtown Conway, has been an institution for generations and is open Thursday, Friday and Sunday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (but hours change frequently). It’s a great Sunday drive stop.
A detour down the Old Bucksville Road will take you by acres and acres of grapevines laden with the muscadine variety of grapes as a part of the Hyman Vineyard wine production facility. It’s not open to the public, but it’s worth a drive-by. You might wind your way back to U.S. 701 via Browns Chapel Avenue or Bucksville Drive, or simply do a U-turn—your Sunday drive, your choice.
I took the extreme Sunday drive all the way to Georgetown (around 30 miles) and passed by more farms, more backwater communities and made a few interesting stops. Much of the trip to Georgetown on U.S. 701 is not terribly remarkable, but that’s OK, because you’ll stumble across more gems such as the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge Visitor & Environmental Education Center near the Horry-Georgetown County line. Established in 1997, this center and its scenic vistas on the water and through the woods is worthy of a special trip because it’s not open on Sundays. (Its hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Boat tours are provided for a fee.
See what you can learn on a Sunday drive?
We’ve only just scratched the surface of all the highways, byways, hamlets, villages, and rural communities calling to us in our marvelous motorized machines. Never forget to take time for yourself and family—it’s as easy as “Sunday Morning.”