By Carrie Dow
During the pandemic, we escaped shutdown with a socially distanced vacation to a tried-and-true destination: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. With travel restrictions lifted, you can too!
When COVID-19 canceled our 2020 Caribbean vacation, we searched for something closer to home – somewhere familiar, had COVID guidelines in place and only one gas tank away from our Charlotte, North Carolina, home.
The Sheraton Broadway Plantation Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, checked those boxes. We had stayed here before and thoroughly enjoyed taking spins around the lazy river at the resort’s Splash Cove water park. Knowing this location had large two- and three-bedroom villas with full kitchens and laundry was a huge plus. With all these amenities, we wouldn’t need to go out much, except to the beach of course. We packed up our vehicle with everything we had in our refrigerator and pantry, even taking our Keurig coffee machine so we could avoid Starbucks. Along with our work laptops, a kayak, and some fishing poles, we had everything for a pandemic-safe beach vacation.
We love the wide swaths of sand along The Grand Strand with sand pipers dodging the waves. This beach is ideal for social distancing. On the north side we found the public parking lots mostly empty. However, the beach itself wasn’t empty at all. People were everywhere – sunbathing, fishing, swimming, lounging, Frisbee throwing, dog walking – yet no one came close to anyone. November weather was breezy, but still warm with bright sunshine making things like hats and umbrellas necessary.
We spent our first beach morning in low-rise chairs with books to keep us company. We dipped our toes into the water and thought it too chilly to swim, but that didn’t stop a group of children nearby from jumping and playing in the waves. To stay warm, we sipped coffee from our travel mugs. As both the sun and temperature rose, we traded coffee for cans of soda and sparkling water from a small cooler. The day was uneventful yet wonderfully memorable.
Using the resort’s Wi-Fi, we searched for outdoor dining options and noticed Independent Republic Brewing Company had a large beer garden overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. We enjoyed cheesesteak sandwiches and Carolina caviar (a side dish of black-eyed peas and sweet corn) while sampling a flight of the brewery’s beers. Every few minutes boats of all sizes would motor past.
We asked our server about kayaking on the Intracoastal Waterway. He suggested putting in at the Cherry Grove boat ramp near Heritage Shores Nature Preserve in North Myrtle Beach. We headed there the following morning. A few people fished on the dock as we paddled away from the boat ramp. The wind whipped us around House Creek’s main channel, so we paddled into the calm of the surrounding tall-grass marsh, which was filled with a variety of birds. We occasionally spooked cormorants, great egrets and great blue herons out of the grass as we paddled. With the tide going out on our return to the ramp, we watched oyster reefs emerge spitting water from their shells.
Our next daytime outing was Top Golf Myrtle Beach, one of the few activity centers open to the public during our stay and only a 10-minute walk from the resort. We booked a mid-morning session online when rates are lowest and had the third-floor bay all to ourselves for an hour and a half. Although the weather was cool and cloudy, the bays had heaters to keep us comfortable.
On our first visit to Myrtle Beach, we chartered a fishing boat from Reel Action Fishing Charters in North Myrtle Beach and decided to use them again. They use Carolina Skiff boats that only hold a maximum of five people (adults and children) or only four adults, perfect for a private day on the water. They also provide a variety of bait for the various waterways they fish whether it’s the brackish water of the Little River for trout or bass or out in the Atlantic Ocean for red fish and flounder. The morning was extremely cold as we made our way to the Little River’s north channel with Captain Josh, but the thrill of catching and releasing a few trout warmed us right up.
We spent our final day back on the beach where even the dolphins kept their social distance in the ocean as the morning sun sparkled on the waves. With coffee mugs in hand, we sipped with satisfaction that we were able to have this pandemic vacation. While we still hope to travel the world when it reopens, it’s good to know Myrtle Beach is nearby.
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you might not feel comfortable jumping on a plane right now. A road trip to Myrtle Beach is nearby, fun, and safe for everyone.
Note: COVID guidelines were accurate as of August 2021, but you are encouraged to call properties to find out the most up-to-date information
COVID guidelines at Sheraton Broadway Plantation include enhanced cleaning throughout the resort and adjustments to the lobby and common areas to allow for six feet of distance. Masks are required in all indoor common/public areas of the resort. All resort activities are open except fitness classes, kids club (to-go crafts are available for purchase), and Splash Cove kids’ pool. No water tubes will be provided by the resort. Guests must bring their own small flotation devices for the pool and lazy river. Sports courts and gas barbecue grills are open, but guests must bring their own equipment. Towel exchange service has been discontinued and instead pool towels are available in all villas, which guests can launder themselves.
All activities for Myrtle Beach including the Sky Wheel and Broadway at the Beach entertainment center are open. The county mask mandate has been lifted, but guests are encouraged to wear masks if businesses request it and to reserve restaurants and activities online to avoid lines.
(Go Magazine Fall 2021)
(Photos: Carrie Dow)