Long before Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, became a vacation destination filled with high-rise hotels, five-star restaurants and top-shelf shopping, the Grand Strand was already a natural paradise for outdoorsmen and seafarers. The 60-mile stretch of Carolina coastline offers hidden treasurers off the beaten path that you have to see to believe.
With miles of coastal estuaries, maritime forests, wetlands and woodlands, the Myrtle Beach area's natural beauty is on full display – if you know where to find it. By taking a guided tour off the beaten path, guests at Long Bay Resort can gain a true appreciation for a side of the Grand Strand not many visitors get to explore. With the off-season ahead, guests can experience seclusion, mild fall weather and discounted rates on these top five Myrtle Beach-area ecotours:
* Dolphin Cruises: Here's your chance to get up close and personal with our aquatic mammal cousins. Several outfitters offer trips out to sea to encounter pods of dolphins passing through area waters. Watch them swim, feed and splash as a cohesive unit. Although there's no guarantee of spotting dolphins, most outfitters have a successful track record, and many even offer a free second trip if you happen to strike out on the first one. Blue Wave Adventures and Voyager Dolphin Cruises are two of the top dolphin-watching charters on the Strand. Be sure to bring a good camera for some incredible photos to remember the experience.
* Fishing Trips: For those who prefer to catch a big one rather than look at one, fishing charter boats offer anglers the opportunity to go off the coast to find the whoppers. From hard-fighting trophy catches like swordfish and king mackerel to deep-water monsters like grouper and tuna, local fishing charters can take you out to the Gulf Stream – the superhighway for big fish – for a full day of angling. Half-day trips stay closer to the shore but still yield some nice sea bass, flounder and other saltwater species. Those with seasickness can stick to the Intracoastal Waterway. The Hurricane Fleet and Captain Dick's are two of the more popular charter operations in the area.
* Horseback Riding: Riding horseback through the surf and on the beach sand is something that belongs on everyone's bucket list, and the Grand Strand is a great place to put a check mark by that romance-novel scene. Although horseback riding on the beach is banned by the City of Myrtle Beach, there are some areas of the Strand where it's allowed during the off-season. The most popular spot to saddle up is Inlet Point Plantation Stables in North Myrtle Beach, where patrons can pick a pony to ride down the beach and across the inlet to Waties Island. Other trips include trails to the Intracoastal Waterway and around the meadows that surround the stables. Horseback Riding of Myrtle Beach also offers off-season beach trips and rides in a more rural setting.
* Kayak/Paddleboarding Tours: Few activities are more relaxing and tranquil than going for a paddle through the backwaters of the Grand Strand. Whether you prefer to sit in a kayak or stand on a paddleboard, the ability to silently slip into a natural setting allows paddlers to take in the undisturbed scenery, where waterfowl and birds of prey patrol the swamps and marshes, and otters splash and play in the lakes and creeks. Both activities are relatively easy for beginners, and there are several local outfitters with experienced guides who can show you the ropes and lead you to some of the most spectacular scenery on the Strand. Glass Bottom Kayak Tours offers trips to Waties Island and the Waccamaw River, and Kokopelli Paddleboard & Kayak Tours is popular for ocean adventures.
* Zip Line/Ropes Courses: Channel your inner Tarzan by swinging through the trees and zipping through the forest. The growing trend of ropes courses and zip lines has inundated the Strand in recent years, with several new venues to choose from. The most popular and most eco-friendly is Go Ape Treetop Adventure at the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex. Patrons go through a brief safety lesson before taking on the obstacles high above the canopy of a maritime forest. The grand finale is a zip line that crosses a 50-acre lake. Other area ropes courses and zip lines include Radical Ropes, Soar + Explore and and Myrtle Beach Zipline Adventures, which overlooks the ocean in the downtown district.
After enjoying the natural beauty of the Grand Strand on a local ecotour, head back to Long Bay Resort for a little man-made relaxation in the hot tub or on your oceanfront balcony. It’s the perfect way to end the perfect day in Myrtle Beach.