Cycling at South Carolina's Myrtle Beach is two-wheel travel at its beachy best. Just south of Myrtle Beach proper, the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway punctuates the area's natural scenery with spots to savor fresh cooking and local art and architecture. Much of the paved path is closed to vehicular traffic, and it generally runs through wooded public land. Even in the heat of summer, we often make our way here from our home in Oak Island, N.C., to ride the shady trail.
The Waccamaw Neck Bikeway is a work in progress -- once completed it will lead to just north of Georgetown, a 20-mile ride -- but shorter segments are already open for riders. Our favorite ride is a 16-mile out-and-back trip along that features the longest and best stretch of trail. This route runs north about 8 miles from the town of Pawleys Island, near the planned community of Litchfield by the Sea, to the fishing village of Murrells Inlet.
We picked up beach cruisers and pedaled out to explore the trail, stopping at our favorite places along the way. Including lunch, the ride took about 6 hours; you could cycle it in less time, but you might not be able to take in the beauty of the historic houses and gardens, marshes, dunes and beaches. Follow along with us in the slideshow below.
Beach Cruiser Ride: Myrtle Beach
We rented two purple three-speed beach cruisers at Cyclopedia, about 30 minutes from the busy heart of Myrtle Beach. We’ve always found the staff there friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. They’re also trail insiders, so we stop there just to see what’s going on along the route even when we’re using our own bikes.
After gearing up, we grabbed a couple of just-picked South Carolina peaches at the Piggly Wiggly next door. There are restaurants along the route, but we always stop at this grocery to load up on snacks. The mostly tree-shaded trail has a number of great picnic spots, including Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach State Park and the waterfront at Murrells Inlet.
From the Piggly Wiggly, we cycled about 3 miles through the beachy waterfront community of Litchfield by the Sea. After half a mile on the bike trail proper, which runs parallel to busy US 17, we took a detour through the quiet neighborhood of North Litchfield. We turned right on Boyle Road for half a mile, passing Flagg Pond on the left (watch for alligators), turned left on Lakeshore Drive for another half-mile and took a left on Trace Drive for a third of a mile to rejoin the path. There are no bike route signs in North Litchfield -- we did stop to ask a friendly neighbor if we were on the right track, but it was less complicated than it sounds and a nice alternative to riding along the highway.
We arrived at Brookgreen Gardens, directly across US 17 from the bikeway. It’s a must-see on the trail and is accessible to riders in both directions. We typically choose to explore either Brookgreen Gardens or Huntington Beach State Park on the way up and catch the other one on our way back, which breaks up the ride nicely.
Brookgreen Gardens was founded as an outdoor museum in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington -- who also built Atalaya, a historic mansion in Huntington Beach State Park. On our previous Brookgreen visits we’ve explored the outdoor sculptures, various nature trails, creek cruises and the Lowcountry Zoo. For this ride, thanks to an early start, we simply sat in the shade among the garden’s staggering collection of more than 1400 sculptures before continuing the ride. If you’re like us, you’ll want to return -- the $14 admission is good for seven consecutive days.
After resting our legs, we rode a quarter-mile up the bikeway to Huntington Beach State Park, one of our favorite parks in the South Carolina State Parks system. We enjoyed a peaceful and relatively shady ride into the park itself, which has an education center, a wide beach, changing facilities for swimmers, a nature trail and boardwalks, an excellent gift shop and our next stop: castle-like Atalaya. Exploring the park added about 2 more miles to our 16-mile round-trip ride.
Built in a Moorish style like much of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, Atalaya in Huntington Beach State Park is well worth the additional $2 to the park’s $5 entry fee. “Atalaya” is Spanish for watchtower, which is a major element of the building’s architecture. While there, we learned that Archer Huntington was the son of transportation magnate Collis P. Huntington and that his wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, was a renowned sculptor. They purchased Brookgreen and three adjacent plantations as a winter home and studio for Anna’s sculpture. The shady self-guided tour took us through many of the mansion’s now-abandoned rooms.
Back on our bikes after Atalaya, it was another 4 miles to Murrells Inlet, with 2 miles on the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway dedicated bike path and about 2 miles on the relatively wide shoulder of US 17 Business. About 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach, the small fishing village has a variety of waterfront restaurants and bars. At the suggestion of the folks at Cyclopedia, we stopped at Drunken Jack’s, a favorite among locals and veteran visitors. Along with what seemed like gallons of iced tea, we split an in-season soft shell crab sandwich and a salad topped with fresh local shrimp.
After refueling at Drunken Jack’s we spent some time wandering around the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk, one of our favorite places in the Myrtle Beach area. The waterfront boardwalk is a good place to watch boats come and go, plus it has shops, restaurants and several picture-worthy sculptures depicting local life. When Lynn came across this pensive man, he couldn’t resist.
As we took our time seeing the sights on the way up, our return ride was a straight shot back to Pawleys Island. We couldn’t wait to get to Louis’s at Sanford’s for a cold beverage and some of the best Lowcountry cooking in South Carolina. The menu features dishes from legendary South Carolina chef Louis Osteen, including smoked meats, creative local seafood and famed creamy shrimp and grits. After 16 miles of cycling, solid Southern food was just what we needed.