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Myrtle Beach Offers Winter Boating, Fishing and Fun for the Whole Family
By Richard Martin

Life can get a little tough in Ohio come winter. Already there have been storms, fairly heavy snow, sleet, chill winds, cold, sullen days with temperatures little above freezing, and there are many more to come. Some Mid-America Boating readers head for Florida, and that's a great choice, especially if they travel into the southern part of the state, including Key West. But Florida is amazingly expensive, and worse, it swarms with both Americans and Canadians, so expect traffic jams daily in the more popular places, and high prices even for lunch.

For a few, their new winter mecca is a good deal further north. They go to Myrtle Beach each winter and stay a couple of weeks, a month, sometimes all winter, because the Beach has a lot going for it in the off-season. Lots of folk visit this South Carolina coastal city in spring, summer, and fall. They go to play golf at one or more of dozens of premier golf courses, and enjoy the nightlife after 18 holes or so. It's a lot like Florida then, busy, crowded, and expensive. But, go in the winter and Myrtle Beach is almost a ghost town.

If you're looking for warmer temperatures, this city will have them. Not Florida-type, but lots warmer most times than here. Some days might be cold, others shirtsleeve, and while it might snow once or twice, the snow disappears very shortly. Far better than the bitter, blustery weather found in Ohio. And prices can be great!

Many of the high rise, seaside motels will offer two rooms, an efficiency kitchen, two TVs, and a nice balcony overlooking the ocean for about $35 - 38, and you can negotiate a monthly rate that's substantially less. Get a room or efficiency apartment across Ocean Boulevard from the ocean and rates can fall to $20 - 25 a night, and even less for longer stays. Which is why some spend part of the winter here. And there's a lot to do, and very little traffic to interfere with the doing.

A favorite occupation of this writer is saltwater pier and surf fishing. Action can be a little slack in January and February if it's a cold winter and ocean temperatures plummet, but most times those who frequent such places as the Springmaid Pier in southern Myrtle Beach can catch whiting, sometimes sea trout and croaker, drum, blues, and small sharks. My usual battle plan is to have my wife drop me off at the pier a couple of hours before high tide, then she goes shopping and I fish, being picked up again about two hours after high tide. That makes us both happy.

Because fishing can be good, and shopping is ALWAYS good. She'll visit Barefoot At The Beach and browse through dozens of shops from The Endangered Species to Perfumania and California Leather to the Caddy Shack, and do it almost alone. So few shoppers are here during the day that clerks rush to welcome you and the same holds true at Barefoot Landing and the Wakomaw Pottery complex. Real bargains often enough, some good sales, and plenty of shops for browsing.

Barefoot At The Beach, incidentally, also has 14 restaurants, including the excellent Hard Rock Cafe with its unusual decor and fine steaks and The Key West Grill, which has its own first class menu, a nice multi-room cinema, and a minature golf course complete with fire breathing dragon. Among other things to see and do at Myrtle Beach in winter are the Ripley Aquarium, which just might be the very best in America with thousands of fish, some of them truly unusual, and a walk through lagoon where sharks and rays swim over your head and are sometimes so close that you can literally watch them eyeball to eyeball.

For outdoor folk there are long walks on the beach and seashell collecting while sea gulls wheel above and brown pelicans pass in stately lines just above the water, Brookgreen Gardens is just south of town with its beautiful statuary and spacious gardens, and right across the highway from Brookgreen lies Huntington Beach State Park with its miles of marsh and estuary, tall reeds waving in a sea breeze, and dozens of birds from great blue herons to egrets and sanderlings.

Food needn't even be mentioned to those who have visited here, but some of the Calabash restaurants are still open with their 120 item seafood menus, great places to OD on crab legs and fried oysters. And there are excellent Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, little homey spots with meatloaf and mashed potatoes, fast food places, just anything that might interest your taste buds.

It's a place worth investigating this winter. Low prices, good food, lots to do, and at least better temperatures than here. Check out the city on the web, get lists of what you'd like to see, then fly down or drive down, and spend some time. It sure beats what's waiting here over the next few months.

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