Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, may be best known for its beautiful beaches and family-friendly attractions, but it also boasts a rich and fascinating history. From its early days as a humble fishing village to its transformation into a world-class tourist destination, Myrtle Beach has a story worth telling. Dive into the past and explore the area’s museums, landmarks, and historical sites in this comprehensive guide to Myrtle Beach’s history.
1. Horry County Museum
The Horry County Museum, located in the historic Burroughs School building in downtown Conway, offers a comprehensive overview of Myrtle Beach and Horry County’s history. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from Native American history to the region’s agricultural heritage and military history. Visitors can explore displays on early settlers, historic photographs, and artifacts from the region’s past. The museum also features a freshwater aquarium showcasing local aquatic life and a working replica of a gristmill. A visit to the Horry County Museum is an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of Myrtle Beach’s rich history and culture.
2. Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center
The Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center, housed in a restored 1932 school building, offers a unique glimpse into the African American educational experience during the era of segregation. This historic site features exhibits on the school’s history, showcasing photographs, artifacts, and oral histories from former students and teachers. The center also hosts community events, workshops, and educational programs to promote understanding and appreciation for African American history and culture in the Myrtle Beach area. A visit to the Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center is both an educational and enlightening experience.
3. The South Carolina Hall of Fame
Located within the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the South Carolina Hall of Fame celebrates the lives and accomplishments of notable South Carolinians. The Hall of Fame features exhibits on inductees from various fields, including politics, sports, arts, and entertainment. Notable inductees with ties to Myrtle Beach and Horry County include General James F. Byrnes, Vanna White, and Darius Rucker. A visit to the South Carolina Hall of Fame is an excellent opportunity to learn about the people who have helped shape the state’s history and culture, including many who have contributed to the growth and development of Myrtle Beach.
4. Atalaya Castle
Nestled within Huntington Beach State Park, Atalaya Castle is a historic home and National Historic Landmark that once served as the winter residence of industrialist and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington and his wife, the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. The Spanish-style castle, built in the 1930s, features 30 rooms, including living quarters, studios, and servants’ quarters. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the castle, learn about the lives of the Huntingtons, and view Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures displayed throughout the grounds. Don’t forget to explore the surrounding state park, which offers pristine beaches, nature trails, and birdwatching opportunities.
5. Brookgreen Gardens
Brookgreen Gardens, a 9,100-acre property located just south of Murrells Inlet, is a must-visit destination for art, history, and nature enthusiasts. Established in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, Brookgreen Gardens is home to the largest collection of American figurative sculpture in the country, with over 2,000 pieces displayed throughout the beautifully landscaped grounds. In addition to the stunning sculpture gardens, Brookgreen Gardens also features several historic sites, including the remains of four former rice plantations and the Lowcountry Center, which offers exhibits on the region’s history and culture. Visitors can explore the gardens via guided tours or at their own pace, and special events are held throughout the year, including the popular Nights of a Thousand Candles, a holiday light display that transforms the gardens into a magical wonderland.
6. The Kaminski House Museum
Located in the historic district of Georgetown, just a short drive south of Myrtle Beach, the Kaminski House Museum is a beautifully preserved 18th-century home that offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Built in 1769, the house has been meticulously restored and features period furnishings, artwork, and artifacts that provide insight into the lives of the home’s former residents. Guided tours of the Kaminski House Museum offer fascinating stories about the families who lived there and the history of Georgetown, a charming coastal town that predates Myrtle Beach by several decades.
7. The Rice Museum
Also located in Georgetown, the Rice Museum is dedicated to the history of South Carolina’s once-thriving rice industry. Housed in the historic Old Market Building and the adjacent Kaminski Hardware Building, the museum features exhibits on the cultivation and processing of rice, as well as the role of enslaved African Americans in the industry. Visitors can view artifacts, maps, and dioramas depicting life on the rice plantations, as well as a short film about the history of rice cultivation in the area. The museum also offers guided tours of the nearby Prince George Winyah Church, which boasts a rich history dating back to the early 18th century.
8. The Hopsewee Plantation
The Hopsewee Plantation, located along the banks of the North Santee River, is a beautifully preserved 18th-century rice plantation that once belonged to the family of Thomas Lynch Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Today, the plantation is a National Historic Landmark and offers guided tours of the main house, as well as the original slave cabins and surrounding grounds. Visitors can learn about the history of the plantation, the lives of the people who lived and worked there, and the role of rice cultivation in South Carolina’s history. The on-site River Oak Cottage Tea Room offers a delightful setting for a traditional Southern tea service, complete with a variety of teas, sandwiches, and sweets.
9. The L.W. Paul Living History Farm
The L.W. Paul Living History Farm, located in Conway, offers visitors the unique opportunity to experience life on a small Horry County farm during the early 20th century. The farm features a farmhouse, tobacco barn, blacksmith shop, and various outbuildings, all authentically furnished and equipped with period tools and equipment. Costumed interpreters demonstrate traditional farming techniques, such as plowing with mules, cultivating crops, and processing tobacco. Visitors can also participate in hands-on activities, like grinding cornmeal or churning butter, and learn about the history of farming in Horry County. The L.W. Paul Living History Farm provides an engaging and interactive experience for visitors of all ages, and admission is free.
10. The North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum
The North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum, located in the heart of North Myrtle Beach, is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the area’s coastal communities. The museum features exhibits on local history, culture, and natural history, including displays on the region’s Native American heritage, early European settlers, and the development of the local tourism industry. The museum also offers special exhibits, events, and educational programs throughout the year, providing an engaging experience for visitors of all ages. A visit to the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum is an excellent way to learn about the history and culture of this beloved beach destination.
11. Vereen Memorial Gardens
Vereen Memorial Gardens, located just north of North Myrtle Beach in Little River, is a hidden gem offering a unique combination of natural beauty, history, and recreation. The 115-acre park features several miles of nature trails that wind through maritime forests, salt marshes, and along the Intracoastal Waterway. In addition to its scenic beauty, Vereen Memorial Gardens also boasts a rich history, with several historic sites within the park, including a family cemetery dating back to the 18th century and the remnants of a former plantation. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful hike or picnic in the park while taking in the stunning views and absorbing the area’s history.
12. Conway’s Historic Riverwalk
Conway’s Historic Riverwalk, located along the Waccamaw River in downtown Conway, is a picturesque waterfront promenade that offers a lovely setting for a leisurely stroll or bike ride. Lined with moss-draped oak trees, the Riverwalk is dotted with historical markers detailing the history of the area, from Native American settlements to the founding of the city by European settlers. The Riverwalk is also home to several historic landmarks, including the Waccamaw Memorial Bridge and the Conway City Hall, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A visit to Conway’s Historic Riverwalk is an excellent way to enjoy the natural beauty and history of this charming riverside town.
13. The Gullah O’oman Shop & Gullah Museum
The Gullah O’oman Shop & Gullah Museum, located in the heart of Georgetown, is a unique cultural destination that celebrates the history and heritage of the Gullah people, descendants of enslaved Africans who have lived in the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia for generations. The museum features exhibits on Gullah history, culture, and art, including artifacts, photographs, and artwork created by Gullah artists. Visitors can also browse the Gullah O’oman Shop, which offers a wide variety of Gullah-inspired gifts, artwork, and handmade crafts. A visit to the Gullah O’oman Shop & Gullah Museum is an excellent opportunity to learn about this unique and vibrant community and their contributions to the history and culture of the Myrtle Beach area.
Myrtle Beach’s rich history is waiting to be discovered by those willing to explore its museums, landmarks, and historical sites. From the early Native American inhabitants to the development of the thriving tourism industry, the story of Myrtle Beach is a fascinating tale that reflects the resilience and ingenuity of the people who have called this beautiful coastal region home. So, the next time you find yourself in Myrtle Beach, take a break from the beach and immerse yourself in the area’s history—you may be surprised by the intriguing stories and captivating places you’ll encounter. Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the region’s past, these museums, landmarks, and historical sites offer an enriching and engaging experience that will enhance your appreciation for Myrtle Beach and its unique heritage.