Myrtle Beach (pronounced murr-tul) is a coastal resort city in Horry County, South Carolina, United States. It is the de facto hub of both the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area and the Grand Strand, a complex of beach towns and barrier islands stretching from Little River to Georgetown, South Carolina.
Arising from a getaway for lumber workers from Conway, Myrtle Beach has rapidly developed into a major tourist destination in the Southeastern United States. As of 2006, the metro area had an estimated population of 299,353.
The first settlers along Long Bay arrived in the late 17th century, attempting to extend the plantation system outward towards the ocean . Records are sparse from this period, with most of the recorded history pieced together from old land grants. They were met with mixed results, producing unremarkable quantities of indigo and tobacco. The coast's soil was sandy and most of the crops yields were of an inferior quality.
Prior to the American Revolution, the area along the future Grand Strand was essentially uninhabited. Several families received land grants along the coast, including most notably the Withers: John, Richard, William and Mary. They received an area around present-day Myrtle Swash, at the time known as Wither's Swash or the 8-Mile Swash. Another grant was given to James Minor, a barrier island named Minor Island, now Waties Island, off of the coast near Little River.
Mary Wither's gravestone at Prince George Winyah Episcopal church speaks to the remoteness of the former Strand: "She gave up the pleasures of Society and retired to Long Bay, where she resided a great part of her life devoted to the welfare of her children.
As America reached independence, Horry County remained essentially unchanged, and the coast remained barren. George Washington scouted out the Southern states during his term, traveling down the King's Highway. He stayed the night at Windy Hill and was led across Wither's Swash to Georgetown by Jeremiah Vereen.
The Withers family remained one of the few settlers around Myrtle Beach for the next half-century. In 1822, a strong hurricane swept the house of R. F. Withers into the ocean, drowning 18 people inside. The tragedy made the Withers family decide to abandon their plots along the coast, and the area, left unattended, began to return to forest.
Following the Civil War, most of the abandoned land along the ocean was purchased by the Conway Lumber Company, now New South Lumber. The company built the Conway & Seashore Railroad to move chopped timber from the coast inland. A "Withers" post office was established at the site of the old Swash.
After the railroad was finished, employees of the lumber and railroad company would take train flatcars down to the beach on their weekends off, in essence becoming the first Grand Strand tourists . The area where the railroad ended was nicknamed "New Town", contrasting it with the "Old Town", or Conway.
At the turn of the 19th century, Burroughs envisioned turning New Town into a tourist destination, a coastal town rivaling the northern beaches like Coney Island. Burroughs passed away in 1897, but his sons completed the railroad's expansion to the beach and opened the Seaside Inn in 1901, to house new visitors .
Founded in 1938, a contest was held to name the town and Burroughs' wife suggested honoring the locally abundant shrub, the wax myrtle. So the town was named Myrtle Beach. It continued to grow for the next couple of decades, and in 1957, it finally incorporated. In 1940, Myrtle Beach Municipal Airport was built, and Kings Highway was finally paved, giving Myrtle Beach its first primary highway.
It is situated mainly between the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway on the west and the Atlantic Ocean (Long Bay) on the East, although building west of the waterway is rapidly increasing. Much of the area between the coast and the waterway is a slightly elevated sandbar or dune area. West of the waterway the land is mostly pine forest with a normal high water table, in which developers dredge ponds and use the soil to create elevated areas for better drainage around buildings. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.8 square miles (43.5 km²), of which, 16.8 square miles (43.5 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.12%) is water.
Myrtle Beach is the largest principal city of the Myrtle Beach-Conway-Georgetown CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach metropolitan area (Horry County) and the Georgetown micropolitan area (Georgetown County), which had a combined population of 273,405 at the 2000 census.
As of the census of 2000, there were 22,759 people, 10,413 households, and 5,414 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,356.3 people per square mile (523.7/km²). There were 14,658 housing units at an average density of 873.5/sq mi (337.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.16% White, 12.76% African-American, 0.42% Native American, 1.28% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 2.37% from other races, and 1.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.67% of the population.
There were 10,413 households out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.0% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.79.
In the city the population was spread out with 18.0% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 103.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,498, and the median income for a family was $43,900. Males had a median income of $26,039 versus $22,473 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,214. About 7.6% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.1% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over
The area hosts the annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon, a track and field event in February featuring a Friday night 5K and a Saturday half-marathon, marathon, and relay. Marathon day draws the limit of 6,000 runners annually (2,500 full, 3,500 half) and results usually in an unusual dawn as the race starts before dawn (6:30 AM) in order to finish by 2:30 PM.
The area is home to many golf courses and mini golf courses which are located along the beach and further inland. Myrtle Beach has been called the "Golf Capital of the World" because of the 120 golf courses located there, the record 4.2 million rounds played, and many miniature golf courses. The majority of the area's golf courses are open to the public.
The area is also served by several weekly papers, including The Weekly Surge, the Myrtle Beach Herald, and the Horry Independent.
The entire area of Horry County is served by a single public school system, Horry County Schools, and the Myrtle Beach area is dotted with private schools of various sizes and motifs.
The first major route into the Myrtle Beach area, U.S. Route 17, ran from the North Carolina border to the Myrtle Beach area and turned west and north into Conway. The road was named in 1933, and US 17 was extended into South Carolina a year later. The road from Myrtle Beach to Conway was later renamed US 501 in a complicated route that roughly followed the current Broadway Street, Highway 15, Seaboard Street, Robert Grissom Parkway, Highway 544, and Business US 501.
By 1950, the current route of US 501 was created, in a more direct path from Aynor, South Carolina, through Conway, into Myrtle Beach proper. The road was widened to 4-lanes in stages westward from Myrtle Beach from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s to alleviate growing traffic congestion, with little development initially occurring along the new road. A wider fixed-span bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway was built in 1962, ushering in new and ongoing development west of the Waterway.
In 1975, the first phase of a bypass for US 17 (designated South Carolina Highway 317) was opened, allowing traffic to bypass King's Highway to the west from the northern city limits to US 501. Once the southern phase was completed from US-501 to Murrells Inlet in 1981, the road was redesignated as mainline US-17, with King's Highway becoming "US-17 Business".
Within the last decade, new roads have been created to ease congestion caused by the yearly influx of visitors. Most of these roads follow the Metro Loop Road Plan, organized in 1997 to better the traffic flow of Myrtle Beach. Some of the roads included have either been funded through RIDE I funding or through the City of Myrtle Beach.
RIDE II plans include the third phase of the Carolina Bays Parkway, a graded separation of Farrow Parkway and US 17 Bypass at the back gate of the former Air Force base, and many other projects. The county is currently debating where to allocate the $400 million generated through a proposed 1-cent sales tax. Other road projects in Horry County, including some in Aynor and Conway, will be included when voted upon.
The Myrtle Beach area is also served by the Myrtle Beach International Airport, located on the south side of town. The airport opened in 1976, and has served the Myrtle Beach area continuously. Hooters Air began operating out of Myrtle Beach in early 2003, only to be closed in early 2006 due to rising airline prices and the airline industry as a whole. DayJet serves 12 South Eastern cities with nonstop flights, and major airlines provide national and international service. There are also vestiges of the old Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.There is also a Omniflight helicopter base in Myrtle Beach that flies in surrounding areas throughout the Grand Strand.
Myrtle Beach is served by a single rail line which essentially runs parallel to Hwy 501 from Conway ending in downtown Myrtle Beach. The tracks are owned by Horry County, but were leased in 2000 to the Carolina Southern Railroad (CSRR) which operates on the line as the Waccamaw Coastline Railroad. Carolina Southern Railroad is a shortline rail operator running on less than 100 miles of rail at a maximum speed of 10 mph. It transports mostly freight brought to it from national rail operators like CSX. The company makes just one scheduled delivery per month into the City of Myrtle Beach.
| title = City of Myrtle Beach
| work = Geographic Names Information System
| publisher = USGS| accessdate = 2008-05-07 }}