Beach in Fenwick Island, Delaware

A great beach vacation requires much more than sunny skies and gorgeous beaches. Sure, beautiful beaches with smooth sand and crisp water are wonderful, but what really makes a great beach vacation are those destinations that offer more outside the beach.

The following destinations all offer beautiful beaches, in addition to many recreational, cultural, and entertainment attractions. You will never run out of things to do when planning a trip to any of these beach cities. Best of all, each destination is surprisingly affordable given the many free or low cost activities in the region. Enjoy the list and be sure to add some of your favorite destinations in the comments below!

Myrtle Beach

A view of the boardwalk and beach from Myrtle Beach's SkyWheel

South Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With over 60 miles of continuous world-class beachfront (known as The Grand Strand), South Carolina is an easy pick for a fun-filled summer vacation.

Myrtle Beach, one of the best places to vacation on The Grand Strand, and also one of the most popular beach destinations in the US (with over 19 million visitors per year), offers plenty of activities and lodging options for every budget and personality.

Smooth sand at beautiful Myrtle Beach

Beautiful sandy beaches, gorgeous waterfront resorts, and tons of activities (you will see the billboards as you arrive advertising Myrtle Beach as a destination with “over a million things to do”). You will soon find that this slogan rings true as there are more than enough activities and attractions to incorporate into your itinerary.

One of the best attractions is the new-ish (built in 2010) 1.2 mile oceanfront boardwalk. The boardwalk is perfect for a morning walk or bike ride (watch the signs as biking is only permitted during various times of the day). Along the boardwalk, you will find a handful of waterfront restaurants and unique shops.

The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina boardwalk

While strolling along the boardwalk, you must stop for a ride on the 187 foot high SkyWheel, one of the tallest in the US. The views as you circle around in the enclosed gondola are nothing short of amazing. Check out a few of the beautiful panoramic views you will experience during your ride. As you can see, there is no better place to photograph the beautiful coast. A small price to pay for such an amazing experience!

Beach and boardwalk views from Myrtle Beach's Skywheel

There are so many things to do in Myrtle Beach that you wouldn’t possibly be able to cram everything into a single trip. Whether you are seeking a laid-back, lazy beach vacation or an entertaining summer trip, you are bound to have a memorable time. The beaches here are not only stunning, but also diverse, offering opportunities both for relaxation and recreation.

If you are looking to relax…

*Take a morning stroll along the beach. Enjoy a beautiful sunrise walk minus the noisy afternoon crowds. Take advantage of the cooler temps and gorgeous coastal scenery. If you arrive early enough, you may even catch a glimpse of a dolphin swimming along.

A gorgeous sunrise in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

*Take a walk down Pier 14. A walk down this scenic pier will allow you to enjoy some of the best views of the beach and boardwalk. You can also visit the Pier 14 Restaurant for a great seafood lunch/dinner in a pretty waterfront setting.

A view of Pier 14 from the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel

*Enjoy a seafood dinner at one of the many waterfront dining options. Sea Captains House and Ocean Front Bar and Grille both offer outdoor seating with fabulous views.

If you are looking more for an upbeat atmosphere…

*Check out Broadway at the Beach, the best shopping and dining destination in Myrtle Beach. Here, you will find all the familiar themed tourist restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe, Senor Frogs, and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. You will also find a selection of shops, bars, and attractions.

The must-see attraction (if you only have time for one) is Ripley’s Aquarium, “South Carolina’s most visited attraction.” The highlight here is the amazing 300+ foot tunnel that you walk underneath as you view the sharks and other marine life swimming up above you. A really cool experience!

Ripley's Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Shark tunnel at Ripley's Aquarium, Myrtle Beach

*Plan an evening at a unique show. Myrtle Beach offers no shortage of interesting entertainment options. There is always something going on no matter what time of the year you visit. The Carolina Opry, Legends in Concert, Medieval Times, and Pirates Voyage Dinner Adventure, are just a handful of the current shows available. A show is the perfect nighttime activity after a full day spent at the beach. Take some time to relax and recover from all that time spent in the sun!

Other interesting activities to add to your itinerary: dolphin and sunset cruises, Myrtle Waves Water Park, mini-golf (there are dozens of options), water sports (parasailing, kayaking), and scenic helicopter rides, just to name a few.

Where to stay: Myrtle Beach offers plenty of lodging options for any budget, ranging in price from $50-80 for your basic 2 star motel/hotel to several hundred for the luxury resorts. A great mid range option is Island Vista Resort, a luxury all suite resort located directly on the beach. Amenities include: indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, spa services, and an excellent waterfront restaurant called The Cypress Room.