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Driving to Myrtle Beach: A Family Road Trip from New York
A Myrtle Beach Vacation Road Trip
Driving to Myrtle Beach from Western New York is a challenge with young children. We have two small boys, ages four and six, and decided to take the 14 hour trek to spend some time in the sun and the sand over Spring Break. Myrtle Beach is located in the northern portion of South Carolina, and has an average high temperature of 76° Fahrenheit in April. We live in a snow belt near Lake Erie, so the long drive was well worth the warm temperatures in the south!
A Beautiful Drive to Myrtle BeachClick thumbnail to view full-size
Preparations for Our Drive to Myrtle Beach
Two weeks before our long road trip, we took the car in for a general inspection and oil change. We also had our snow tires removed and the regular tires placed back on the car. In a way, removing the snow tires felt like the beginning of our vacation! We also contacted a kennel and secured a spot for our Golden Retriever, who would not be accompanying us on vacation.
With two young boys, I packed a travel case filled with various toys and activities for the drive down. I packaged the toys in 2-gallon sized ziplock bags, with each bag designed to last for approximately 1 hour of road time. This system worked very well for my six year old, who was delighted by the sticker mosaics, invisible ink books, and other small toys. My four year old, however, has a short attention span. To keep him occupied, we supplied lollipops and kept the DVD player running with his favorite movies and cartoons. We also brought the boys’ blankets, which were frequently used during the trip.
We woke at 4:00am on the day of the trip, and were on the road by 5:00am.
The Big Walker Mountain Tunnel in Virginia
Our Road Trip to Myrtle Beach
Leaving early in the morning was a very good decision. We managed to arrive in Morgantown, West Virginia by 9:00am. Morgantown has plenty of restaurants, and we stopped by a McDonald’s for breakfast. The weather was great, so the boys were able to play on the playground while we ordered food. We were back on the road by 9:20am, and the drive was extremely pleasant as the Redbud trees were in full bloom, along with the wild Dogwoods.
There are two options for meeting up with the I-77 in West Virginia – we could drive through Charleston, WV or we could take the US-19 and bypass the city. We opted to take the US-19, and were very pleased with our decision. The US-19 goes through rugged mountain territory, with spectacular views. This highway also goes over the New River Gorge Bridge, which is the world’s third longest steel single span bridge. There is a National Park Service Visitor’s Center, which has boardwalks and viewing platforms of the bridge. This is an excellent spot to get out of the car and stretch your legs – we didn’t stop by this spot on the way down to Myrtle Beach, but we did stop on the way back home.
Our boys were delighted when we approached the East River Tunnel in West Virginia, and then the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel in Virginia. The final tunnel emerges in Virginia, and we were quite pleased to be in Virginia by lunch time. Our lunch stop was very short, and we were back on the road again. The I-77 offers amazing views as the highway descends the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia into North Carolina – even our four year old gasped with delight at the amazing view from the side of the mountain.
We kept hoping the boys would fall asleep at some point during the trip, but as we traveled through North Carolina, we realized that the kids were wide awake and showed no signs of napping. The DVD player was a lifesaver at this point of the trip – we were still about 5 hours from our destination as we traveled east through North Carolina. We passed Pilot Mountain, which was a welcome landmark: seeing Pilot Mountain meant that we were starting to get close to the end of our journey! Pilot Mountain is a single, stony mountain top. This location also has a visitor’s center, but we did not stop because we wanted to get to our hotel!
We reached the South Carolina border at around 6:30pm, and my six year old finally fell asleep in the car. My four year old, however, was wide awake and was quite verbal about his displeasure at the length of the road trip! We turned into the hotel parking lot at 7:30pm. Even though the kids were tired, they insisted that we take a walk on the beach – hearing the rush of the waves and feeling the warm sand beneath our feet made the long drive worth it!
The New River Gorge Bridge
The Return Trip: Leaving Myrtle Beach
The return trip from Myrtle Beach was much more difficult than the initial drive down. Since our GPS system didn’t recognize many of the newer roads in South Carolina, we had to write down directions from our computer. The atlas we own was as out of date as our GPS system, so we were very glad to have brought the laptop. Our drive home was also complicated by an unforeseen illness: my six year old son woke up with severe vomiting in the middle of the night.
It was at this point I was glad we were driving home rather than flying – I doubt we would have made any flight time with my son’s illness. We had eaten at a buffet the day before our trip home, and we believe he had food poisoning since he ate a food item the rest of us didn’t eat. A middle-of-the night trip to a big box store was required for a large bowl, which was unfortunately used frequently for the trip home. We also had to do a lot of laundry and were up nearly the entire night before starting our 14 hour drive home. Fortunately, our little guy was feeling better by the time we hit the West Virginia border, and we stopped at the New River Gorge Visitor Center to get some fresh air.
We hit traffic in the northern portion of West Virginia, as construction season had begun and the right lane was closed. This added another hour to our drive time. We left Myrtle Beach at 7:00am and arrived home at 10:30pm. Our total drive time was 15.5 hours, which isn’t bad considering the number of stops we had to make with an ill child and the traffic jam we encountered in West Virginia.
The New River Gorge Bridge
Paths to South Carolina: A Poll
Which route do you take to get to Myrtle Beach?
Directions to Myrtle Beach
There are several ways to get to Myrtle Beach from the Buffalo, New York area. One option is to drive through Ohio and down the I-77. This route is longer than the others, but is fairly direct. Another way to get to the beach is by driving east through Washington, D.C. and down the I-95. This is the shortest route, and the one our GPS system wanted us to take. Unfortunately, the congested traffic in the D.C. area makes the drive much longer than it should be. The best way to get to Myrtle Beach from Buffalo, however, is by taking the I-79 through Pittsburgh and connecting to the I-77 in West Virginia.
I highly recommend printing out directions for the trip to Myrtle Beach and the return trip, especially if your GPS system is older than a year or so. The highways in the South Carolina area are under construction and our GPS system did not recognize many of the roads we traveled on!
The route we took is as follows:
We took the I-90 West toward Erie, Pennsylvania.
This connects to the I-79 South, toward Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The I-79 crosses into West Virginia and will go through Morgantown, WV.
We then opted to take the US-19 South (Exit 57 toward Summerville/Beckley). This route goes through beautiful countryside, and has the added benefit of crossing the New River Gorge Bridge. It also bypasses the city of Charleston, West Virginia. The US-19 does have a toll for part of the drive – in 2012, the cost was $0.40 to drive this portion of the road.
The US-19 merges onto the I-77 South/I-64 East. After about six miles, we took Exit 40 on the I-77 South toward Bluefield, Virginia. This portion of the drive also has a toll: in 2012, the cost of the toll was $2.00. There are two long tunnels going through the mountains at this portion of the drive: the Big Walker Mountain tunnel and the East River Mountain Tunnel.
In North Carolina, we merged onto the I-74 East (Exit 101) toward Winston-Salem. The I-74 turns into the US-52 South.
From the US-52, we took the I-40 East/US-421 South toward Kernersville (Exit 109A). Stay on the left and take Exit 212A onto the US-421 South toward Asheboro. We then took Exit 96 to merge onto US-220 South.
The rest of the trip will vary, depending on the location of your particular hotel. Remember that North Myrtle Beach is a distinct city from Myrtle Beach, and has its own zip code. There is no direct route/highway to the city of Myrtle Beach at this time, though the I-74 is currently under construction to provide direct access to the Myrtle Beach area. We took the US-1 (crossing into South Carolina) to the SC-38 South, then the US-501 South into the Myrtle Beach area. The drive can seem very tedious at this point, as you travel on city roads and contend with stoplights and a circuitous path to your destination.
Myrtle Beach Map
The city of Myrtle Beach is located along the northern coast of South Carolina.
North Myrtle Beach, SC is a distinct city from Myrtle Beach, and has its own zip code.