What's In Surfside Beach, South Carolina

Welcome to the Town of Surfside Beach
Welcome to the Town of Surfside Beach | Source

Surfside Beach, South Carolina

I basically grew up at the beach. The coastal area of North Carolina, anyway. My parents are both from New Bern, NC and I spent many summers there with grand parents, uncles and aunts visiting the beach and generally living the coastal lifestyle. It's in my blood. I need it, I need to be near it and experience it to recharge and rejuvinate myself. Despite my love for the beach I do not need to live there year round. I live in the beautiful mountains near Asheville, NC and am forced to journey in order to satisfy my need for the beach and all it has to offer.

NC is a wide state, as anyone who has driven across can attest to. The closest NC beach to Asheville is around 6 1/2 to 7 hours away. The closest beach to Asheville is probably Folly Beach, SC, or one of the other beaches near Charleston. To get there it's just a quick zip down I-26 to Charleston and then on to the sunny, sandy spot of your choice. I like Folly Beach for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that Folly Beach is just fun. This trip, when we were looking for a room, I discovered an amazing deal at the Surfside Beach Resort in Surfiside, South Carolina and decided to stay there.

After a little investigation I soon found out that Surfside is part of the Grand Strand and very close to Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is a great place for fun and food, has a lot to offer families and has an awesome beach but it just was not the scene I was looking for on this trip. My girlfriend and I were taking our first trip of the season and I wanted a little more low key atmoshphere than what Myrtle Beach has going on. Surfside is on the southern end of the strand, between Myrtle Beach and Murrells Inlet. The town is a small beach community along the coast highway reminiscent of Atlantic and Carolina Beach back home in North Carolina.

The town is situated between Highway 17 and the Atlantic Ocean, about 30 minutes south of Myrtle. The area is full of quaint little cottages, some new condos and only one high-rise which happened to be where we were staying. There are a few bars and restaurants within a block of our hotel and what must have been the oldest beach wear store I have ever seen. The beach itself was very clean with plenty of room. At low tide the beach was at least 50 yards wide.

View of the pier from our new room

Having the balcony was a big plus.  The pier was right outside, we had a great view.
Having the balcony was a big plus. The pier was right outside, we had a great view. | Source

Surf side in Surfside

We stayed in the Surfside Beach Resort and Hotel. What a great spot. It is right on the beach with a fantastic ocean front and view. It is wedged in between the Surfside Beach Pier and the local beach side bar. I really couldn't have asked for anything better. It's not a five star resort hotel but it is a very nice place to stay and well worth the money. Did I mention we got a great deal through one of the online searches and were able to stay an entire extra day with the savings we made? Well, we did. Not to mention that the staff was very helpful when we wanted to change rooms. The first room we got did not have a balcony and after a quick discussion we decided it was worth asking about. They did in fact have a balcony room available and were quick to let us move and without any additional charges. The value of the balcony quickly became clear that evening as we were winding down from being on the beach and getting ready for dinner. It was a spectacular spot to sit and enjoy a nice cocktail and each others company. The view was truly amazing, with the ocean, pier and the local community all in sight.

River City Grill

The River City Grill is part of the Divine Restaurant Group.  It turns out they owned about half of the restaurants we ate in during this trip.
The River City Grill is part of the Divine Restaurant Group. It turns out they owned about half of the restaurants we ate in during this trip. | Source

Murrell's Inlet Waterfront

The waterfront at Murrell's Inlet is fantastic! It is definately worth going for the evening.
The waterfront at Murrell's Inlet is fantastic! It is definitely worth going for the evening. | Source

Murrell's Inlet at night

We took this picture from a walkway that extends out into the marsh.  What a great view.
We took this picture from a walkway that extends out into the marsh. What a great view. | Source

The Seafood Diet

We were fortunate enough to be able to sample a few of the menus in Surfside and Murrell's Inlet. We ate breakfast in the room but ventured out into the world later to search for more suitable vacation dining experiences. For lunch hot dogs on the pier was a good choice. The pier house includes an ice cream parlor and a hot dog counter. Right next to the pier, across the parking lot from us, is the Rivercity Cafe. We thought being right where it was it would be the perfect place for a good seafood dinner. It turns out River City Cafe is a great place for a hamburger and does a pretty good job of it. The menu included a great selection of specialty burgers and other sandwiches and was very reasonably priced.

Across the street from the hotel and pier we found Bubba's Fish Shack. Bubba's is owned by the Devine Restaurant Group, just like River City Cafe, and is their answer to fried seafood. The menu included the full variety of steamed and fried seafood you would expect to find at the beach. I had the fried shrimp and my companion had the steamed shrimp. We were both very happy with what we were served. The shrimp were large, well seasoned and well cooked, perfect with a cold beer.

Speaking of beer, there isn't much to choose from in the restaurants. Despite the growing micro-brew scene South Carolina still likes its domestics. I found a good selection in the grocery store but only one bar we went to had anything besides the domestic selection.

Murrell's Inlet is a few miles south of Surfside Beach and is billed as the Seafood Capital of South Carolina. Murrell's Inlet is situated on the sound side of the waterway and has an awesome waterfront area where you will find about a half dozen restaurants. We had appetizers at one place and dinner at another with stunning views from both.

Fishing in Surfside

I enjoy fishing and practice the art whenever I can. I fish in fresh or salt water for any thing that will bite. I support local fisheries and licensing. I was pleased to find out that a visitor license to fish in South Carolina was only $11 for 2 weeks. After that the usual rates apply, so much for bait, so much for new rigs, ice for the cooler and beer.

There is a fishing pier in Surfside. A real, old fashioned pier made of pylons that look like over sized telephone poles. The deck of the pier moving in time with the rythms of the sea and coated in a fine layer of salt and scales. The pier hosts a small cafe, a tackle and gift shop and is open 7 days a week. The cost of fishing from the pier varies according to how you are fishing but are very reasonable.

I was super excited to get down to the beach and do some fishing. I went over to the pier the first day to check into what I needed and was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to need a SC visitors license and a pier pass but found out the pier pass is all you need because it includes a limited fishing permit. I did my fishing on the second day of our trip and had a good time, although I only caught one pinfish. Others around me were having better luck, catching a few whiting and flounders.

The sharks were the highlight of my fishing experience. We watched 5 and 6 foot long black tip sharps swim up and down the length of the pier, waiting to catch any unsuspecting anglers scraps. At one point some dolphins swam in and chased the sharks away. they soon came back once the playful porpoises left the scene. At one point a kid down the pier from me hooked two fish at once. For those unfamiliar with bottom fishing in the ocean most rigs include more than one hook, two being fairly standard. With this in mind it is easy to see how it is possible to catch two fish at once. So, as we all watched this kid reel in his impressive two fish catch a couple of sharks showed their interest. Two of them circled the fish for a moment and then one of them snatched a fish right off the hook! It was such a National Geographic moment!

Harrelson's Seafood Market

Crab Cake Lady crabcakes can be found at Harrelson's Seafood Market
Crab Cake Lady crabcakes can be found at Harrelson's Seafood Market | Source

Fresh Fish at Harrelson's Fish Market

Local fishermen bring in their catch daily at Harrelson's Fish Market in Murrell's Inlet
Local fishermen bring in their catch daily at Harrelson's Fish Market in Murrell's Inlet | Source

MMMMM Crab Cakes....

yum......!!!
yum......!!! | Source

Trigger Fish, Clams and Crabcake Lady Crabcakes!

I was hoping to catch some fish to bring home and cook but had to settle on buying from the market. This in itself turned into one of our most memorable experiences of the trip. Ironically, we had seen an episode of Samantha Browns Great Weekends before going on our trip that featured Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area. Part of her weekend included a day trip down to Murrell's Inlet, the "Seafood Capital of South Carolina", where she met the Crabcake Lady. Her real name is An, she is a transplanted native originating from Viet Nam. After settling in Murrell's Inlet she began crabbing and making crabcakes and has grown to some fame in the process. So, the point is, we sought out her crabcakes and found them in a little old seafood market called Harrelson's Seafood Market.

The market itself is just like the ones I remember from my childhood. Concrete floor and walls with the smell of today's catch strong in the air. The walls were decorated with the typical ocean side d├ęcor of nets, fishing supplies and delicious things to cook with your seafood. The staff was very friendly and told us all about An, who was not there, and Samantha Browns visit. We bought some crabcakes (two each and I wish we had bought more!), deviled crabs, local clams and some grey triggerfish to take home for our welcome back dinner.

The Crabcake Lady, Believe the Hype

We ate our crabcakes for the appetizer. After unwrapping and then reading the ingredient list I wasn't expecting too much but boy was I surprised. These are the best crab cakes I have ever had and I have had a lot. She makes them with very few ingredients but I think the most important one is saltine crackers. Instead of breadcrumbs or other binders she relies on crackers and I think that makes all the difference. If you are going to Murrell's Inlet you have to get one of these crabcakes.

I love trigger fish. It is my favorite fish of all time. I know this is saying a lot but it is. The filets are firm and meaty with a perfectly flaky texture that has the flavor of shellfish. Trigger fish are one of those fishes that likes to eat barnacles, corral and other types of shellfish. The succulent diet these fish thrive on gives them a distinctly buttery and shellfish-y taste. A little of Chef Paul's Blackened Redfish Magic and a hot skillet is all this fish needs. Yummy!

The clams became one of our side dishes. I steamed them with garlic, lemon and herbs and them cooked them into some cous cous. Wow! The briny clams cooked perfectly into the cous cous which was even better the next day. Along with deviled crabs and some roasted corn our vacation victory dinner was complete.


Skee Ball at the Garden City Arcade

I forgot how much fun Skee Ball is!
I forgot how much fun Skee Ball is! | Source

Things to do near Surfside

Of course you could head north and check out all the fun things to do in Myrtle Beach but it is not necessary. There is plenty to do right around Surfside Beach. There is a water sports rental just down the beach from the hotel. They rent jet skis and have banana boat rides and para-sailing. A few blocks inland from the waterfront you will find numerous miniature golf courses, bars and shopping. Heading south a little, about 2 miles, you will find Garden City. This is another ocean front community with its own hotels, restaurants and a pavilion!

We spent one evening in Garden City and had a great time. We had the best meal of our trip at the Conch Cafe and had a blast at the pavilion. What we found was an old-school beach pavilion filled with fun games like pin-ball and skee ball. Across the street from the arcade is a little go-cart track, a bull riding machine and a small ferris wheel. This place was super fun.

Surfside Beach, South Carolina

show route and directions
A markerShoreline Water Sports -
409 S Ocean Blvd, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

Shoreline Watersports - source for parasailing, jet skis and banana but rentals.

B markerSurfside Pier -
11 N Ocean Blvd, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

C markerCharleston Cafe -
815 Surfside Dr, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

D markerBubba's Fish Shack -
16 S Ocean Blvd, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

E markerCalifornia Dreaming Restaurant -
2657 Beaver Run Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

F markerRiver City Cafe -
11 N Seaside Dr, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, USA
[get directions]

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