Science has proven that our brain chemistry changes for the better when we’re exposed to even just a photograph of nature. The profound benefits to our emotional and physical health are even more evident when we take the time to immerse ourselves in the natural world. The more serene and beautiful, the more we benefit. So on this staycation, consider the abundant opportunities to get outside afforded by living along the Grand Strand.
Our connection to nature is enhanced and taken to the next level when we spend our time outdoors with an equine friend. Here are just a few of the stables and groups that offer horseback riding and tours.
Inlet Point Plantation
Enjoy a one-hour horseback ride on Waties Island, an uninhabited oceanfront barrier island near Little River. For ages seven and up, the ride (one of many tour offerings) is among the most popular Inlet Point Plantation activities. Oceanfront sunset rides, pony rides for children five and under, and many more opportunities await. inletpointplantation.com; (843) 249-2989
First-timers, old pros, youngsters and seniors are all welcome at Wampee Stables in North Myrtle Beach. Their inland trails run through parts of owner Debbie Parker’s ancestral family farm that dates back more than a century. Ride for 1.5 hours through the wildflowers and among the natural beauty found at the farm. wampeestables.com; (843) 241-8768
Horseback Riding of Myrtle Beach
With rides and locales that change with the seasons, Horseback Riding of Myrtle Beach has been offering guided, affordable trips around Horry County for almost 15 years. A Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner, the family-owned-and-run operation offers oceanfront tours in the winter and rural countryside tours through October 1. myrtlebeachhorserides.com; (843) 997-1876
Walking through ancient maritime forests among centuries-old cypress and live oak trees with coastal flora and fauna along every step is only part of what you’ll witness when hiking along the Grand Strand. Whether trekking within one of our two area state parks, numerous wildlife preserves, or even along the shoreline with the waves dancing at your feet, there’s a hike for every ability waiting for you. Don’t forget that because of our rather flat topography, you won’t even break a sweat (unless you want to).
North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex
150 Citizens Circle, Little River
Enjoy three miles of easy trails throughout this 350-acre park within sprawling meadows through the shaded woods or alongside a 25-acre lake. nmbpark.com
Vereen Memorial Gardens
2250 SC 179, Little River
Some three miles of nature trails on 115 acres wind through lush salt marshes, across boardwalks and bridges, and to the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway. Picnic shelters, restrooms and even a small playground have helped make this hidden gem popular among locals in the know.
Blessed with two area state parks, Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, anyone wishing to put a couple of miles on the ol’ pedometer will find few places as beautiful to enjoy the natural abundance that lies hidden just steps off of U.S. 17. Both parks have extensive, well-maintained trails and nature centers to help you identify and be on the lookout for the sometimes-mysterious creatures (Huntington Beach’s alligators) and exotic plant and bird life thriving here along the Grand Strand. southcarolinaparks.com
The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade
Oceanfront Myrtle Beach, 14th Avenue North to Second Avenue North
While maybe not containing all the natural wonder of more remote and secluded hiking locations, people watchers and oceanfront lovers will enjoy the 1.2-mile Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. With unparalleled views of the ocean and plenty of carnival-like activity on the boardwalk itself, getting in the thick of it can make for a fun endeavor while also encouraging good exercise (plus no snakes or mosquitos!).
For decades, from Calabash to Georgetown, hardworking entrepreneurs have been offering eco-tours, which generally focus on some sort of dolphin watching, sunset cruising, river kayaking, creek and inlet paddleboarding, and other, sometimes highly immersive, trips to restore the soul. Unlike fishing charters, these eco-tours offer a chance to revel in the beauty that surrounds us year-round and that we sometimes forget is there.
Blue Wave Adventures
Crazy Sister Marina, Murrells Inlet Waterfront
From early morning through early evening, Blue Wave Adventures thrills young and old alike with guided dolphin watch trips around Murrells Inlet and out through the jetties into the great Atlantic Ocean. Aboard new custom-built 42-foot aluminum vessels piloted by experienced captains and crew, these trips are fun, safe and provide a great opportunity to get close to these magnificent mammals. bluewaveadventures.com; (843) 651-3676
Island Picnic Cruise
750 Front St., Georgetown
The ultimate barrier island getaway, ride through Winyah Bay out of Historic Georgetown to Cedar Island, where you’ll disembark and enjoy shelling, a picnic lunch, and all the beachcombing you might desire. You’ll travel through dolphin feeding areas and quiet enclaves where alligators sun and seabirds islandpicniccruise.com; (843) 344-4275
Hurricane Fleet Dolphin Tour
Calabash, N.C., Waterfront
A two-hour tour led by an onboard naturalist quickly takes you from the historic Calabash waterfront out into the nearby Atlantic Ocean for unparalleled dolphin viewing. With multiple excursions nearly every afternoon, at one point the dolphin cruise boat follows the Hurricane Fleet shrimp boat, where dolphins love to congregate and feed on the leftovers. hurricanefleet.com; (843) 249-3571
Moore Farms Botanical Garden
The name Darla Moore should be familiar to you. The self-made S.C. billionaire investor who came from humble roots on a nearby tobacco and soybean farm went on to become an economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has given away more than $100 million to various entities around South Carolina, and especially in her hometown of Lake City. In 2002, she founded the botanical garden and farm as a nod to her ancestral croplands. Today, it’s open to school groups, by appointment and on many annual event days scheduled throughout the year. Quiet walking paths, guided tours and more await the visitor at this nearby treasure. moorefarmsbg.org; (843) 210-7582
Blessed with mostly flat land, biking along the Grand Strand combines fresh air with a little fun and exercise along a variety of trails from ridiculously easy to rather challenging. In the past decade, area municipalities, along with Horry and Georgetown counties, have made great effort to add bike lanes along popular drives and bike trails where hardy souls go off-road.
The Hulk (Horry County Bike & Run Park)
150 Frontage Road, B-2 (off River Oaks Drive in Carolina Forest)
Perhaps the most well-known of the off-road trails in the region, The Hulk is a 6-mile, multi-use loop rated “moderate” in difficulty. Mostly shaded, this trail through the woods and along the Intracoastal Waterway has maximized every sandy but solid-packed dune and hill it could find. As easy or challenging as riders wish to push themselves, it’s kid and (leashed) dog-friendly, features banked corners, and is well maintained.
PHOTOS (2) BY JODY MACKENZIE AND TORY KALLMAN