Which is better, Myrtle Beach or Wilmington?
Both destinations see a fair number of crowds, especially during the 4th of July. However, Myrtle Beach is the more touristy destination due to its beaches and party atmosphere.
Wilmington, on the other hand, is a tamer destination, overall. From its nightlife and beach ambiance, Wilmington offers a more relaxing vibe for tourists. And even though it can get touristy on some occasions, it’s nothing quite like the scene at Myrtle Beach.
One thing to note about Wilmington though is it’s also a college town. This means you’ll find younger crowds here when it comes to nightlife entertainment.
So, in the battle of beach towns, which destination triumphs? It mostly boils down to each destination’s attractions. Apart from nightlife, what does each offer to tourists, be it families, couples, or solo travelers?
You’ll learn all that and more below.
For the young and old, Myrtle Beach has several points of interest to keep travelers entertained. Its beaches with its warm, temperate waters are Myrtle Beach’s main highlight, especially from May to September.
Apart from its beaches, Myrtle Beach has plenty to intrigue tourists, such as golf, shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Most of all, it has a lot to offer family vacationers.
Fun fact: Myrtle Beach is part of the Grand Strand, which is a 60-mile (97 km) stretch of white, sandy beaches. It extends from South Carolina all the way to Pawley’s Island.
But as far as sun and sand go, there’s a good reason why Myrtle Beach sees so many tourists annually.
For starters, did you know it’s also the seaside golf capital of the world? Golf enthusiasts and even beginner golfers will surely enjoy their time at Myrtle Beach.
It also has the largest Ferris wheel on the entire East Coast, known as the SkyWheel. Marsh Walk and Broadway at the Beach are also top Myrtle Beach attractions. Both areas feature unique shops, tons of restaurants, live bands, sea aquariums, and a theater.
For nature enthusiasts and those in need of a peaceful vacation, you’ll love Marsh Walk. Market Commons is another great choice for its ponds, jogging trails, and nature parks. During the weekends, Market Commons attracts thousands for its famous farmer’s market.
Finally, don’t miss the towns Surfside, Socastee, and Murrells. What do all these places have in common? Seafood. Or rather, consistently delicious fresh catches of the day.
There’s no doubt Myrtle Beach’s party vibes and beaches are what put it on the map for vacationers. But aside from all that, golfing, shopping, and seafood are what have convinced many to come back for a quick stop.
What Makes Myrtle Beach Unique?
Great for Families
You might have heard, for the most part, that Myrtle Beach is a great place if you’re looking for party vibes.
But that’s not the whole truth.
Indeed, Myrtle Beach can feel touristy at times. However, its wide variety of amusement shops and attractions also makes it perfect for a family vacation.
For starters, Myrtle Beach Ocean Boulevard offers beach shops and a lot of entertainment for teens and older adults. Not to mention, you have nearby access to the beach here, along with a ton of beachside restaurants. So, if you wanted to take a break in between your afternoon activities, Ocean Boulevard is one of the best spots to do so.
Family Kingdom Amusement Park also has something for everyone in the family. Along Ocean Boulevard, there’s also Splashes Waterpark, perfect for the whole family to enjoy and spend time with the little ones.
Looking for more family-friendly activities in Myrtle Beach? Take your pick. You can visit the state parks, Huntington Beach State Park and Myrtle Beach State Park. Both are perfect if your family loves camping, and it’s also just as fun even if you spend the day in either state park.
Prefer a more active trip? Go mini-golfing at any of the 14 available mini-golf courses all over Myrtle Beach. Here are a few to help you get started:
- Jurassic Golf
- Aloha Mini Golf
- Jungle Safari Golf
- Atlanticus Minotaur Golf
- Hawaiian Village Miniature Golf
There’s also go-karting at Broadway Grand Prix and rock climbing for even more family-friendly activities. Don’t miss Myrtle Beach’s iconic SkyWheel (the largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast)! You’ll get panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s definitely a must-do for the whole family.
Two of the other best family-friendly highlights in Myrtle Beach include:
- Barefoot Landing
- Ripley’s Aquarium located on Broadway at the Beach
What’s in Barefoot Landing? Think of it as a one-stop shop for dining, family entertainment, and waterfront shopping. Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s and Crooked Hammock Brewery are fantastic kid-friendly restaurants.
Speaking of kid-friendly, Myrtle Beach is home to several amazing ice cream shops. These include Kirk’s Ice Cream Parlor, Peaches Corner, and Original Painter’s Home Ice Cream.
Now, if you’re traveling with older teens, you have plenty of options:
- Murrels Inlet
- Surfside Area
- Pawley’s Island
- Broadway at the Beach
The area of surfside is where you’ll find the quieter beaches of Myrtle Beach. Not to mention, it’s ideal for travelers in need of a more peaceful ambiance. A place that’s further from the livelier or touristy areas.
While in Surfside, be sure to try restaurants like Bus 17 and visit Garden beach. There, you’ll find several restaurants, including an arcade to keep kids entertained.
As for Murrels Inlet, Pawley’s Island, and Litchfield, these areas are better suited for older kids and adults.
Perfect if You’re Looking for a Livelier Vacation
Thinking dance floor vibes? That’s partly the reason why Myrtle Beach is highly regarded as a lively place to vacation.
To give you the whole picture, it’s actually a mix of groovy tunes and a whole lot of live entertainment.
But first, for the party animals, you’ll have an epic blast at Myrtle Beach’s nightlife scene. And for first-timers, no place holds a better reputation for its nightlife scene than Broadway at the Beach.
Think of it as an avenue with bars, clubs, and restaurants all within walking distance. In other words, it’s the best area in Myrtle Beach to go bar-hopping and explore. And take note. Beer and tequila shots aren’t the only things you’ll find here.
Aside from the several restaurants, you can even head to the theater for a more casual laid-back evening. And once you’re ready to get the party started, Wet Willie’s bar is as good a place as any.
Beer, cocktails, and 20 different daiquiri flavors to try. For something more booze-infused and free sampling, head to Fat Tuesday. The name has something to do with the drinks it serves, particularly one of the fattest Everclear-soaked gummy bears.
Even better, Fat Tuesday is popular in the entire Grand Strand for making the strongest and slushiest cocktails.
In need of other nightlife options?
For beer aficionados, trying a beer sampler is a must at Liberty Brewery and Grill. For the romantic types looking for a picturesque marina view, Murrells Inlet is perfect. As for rooftop bar options, Riptydz and Tin Roof are your best options. And finally, those in the mood for soul-stirring blues should definitely check out the House of Blues.
But if it’s thumping music that calls to you the most, here are a few top picks of the night:
- The Bowery
- 3001 Nightlife
- Malibu’s Surf Bar
- Duck’s Beach Club
- Fat Harold’s Beach Club
- Spanish Galleon Night Club
- The Pier at Garden City Beach
- The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill
After you’ve spent your nights partying on several dance floors, don’t forget the check out the shows. Myrtle Beach is also a destination famous for its many live entertainment shows. From aerobatic performances and variety shows to live comedy and even open mic nights.
The most highly-rated show in Myrtle Beach is Carolina Opry. And get this, it was Myrtle Beach’s first-ever theater. Plus, Carolina Opry had won several exclusive awards, like the Governor’s Cup and Most Outstanding Attraction. Every year, Carolina Opry is voted as the #1 theater show.
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to check out these shows too:
- Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show
- Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Last but not least, you’ll find more shows and live performances at the following venues:
- GTS Theatre
- Comedy Cabana
- Alabama Theatre
- Legends in Concert
In Myrtle Beach, seafood isn’t simply what it’s popular for. The facts are that Myrtle Beach is known as the seafood capital of South Carolina. And boy is the seafood out of this world. From lobster tails and crab omelets to freshly caught Pacific Coast salmon.
For all the lobster and shrimp fans out there, Myrtle Beach is one city for the books when it comes to food.
And one of the best places to grab your seafood cravings? Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk. For the whole family to enjoy, don’t miss Lobster House’s all-you-can-eat buffet!
Now, if you don’t fancy seafood as much, don’t worry. There’s always a classic, juicy steak served at local favorites Aspen Grille and Sea Captain’s House.
And guess what. Myrtle Beach also has a lot of restaurants that serve sushi. Some even stay open till midnight, so for late-night umami cravings, you won’t have any problems.
So you have sushi, steak, and seafood. What else is on the menu of Myrtle Beach’s dining options? Plenty.
Head to Maryland Fried Chicken for a good ol’ American classic fried chicken and appetizing dishes. Love Mexican food? La Poblanita Restaurant serves one of the best tacos in the city.
Itching for food that tastes like home? Big Mike’s Soul Food’s menu caters specifically to guests looking for a “comfort food” experience. Think meatloaf, turkey wings, and even candied yams. Yamato is also a Japanese steak house restaurant you can’t miss.
If you’re still in the mood for dessert or something sweet, Johnny D’s Waffles serves excellent waffles. And before you know it, you’d probably start thinking about what to have for breakfast the next day.
Well, you’re in luck. Because you’ve got a broad selection to choose from. 10/Fold Biscuits, Croissants Bakery & Bistro, and Harry’s Breakfast Pancakes are places you can’t go wrong with. Similarly, Boardwalk Coffee House and Hot Stacks Café are Tripadvisor recommendations.
All in all, Myrtle Beach offers plenty of dining options that cater to a wide range of travelers. Whether it’s seafood, sushi, soul food, pancakes, biscuits, or a plain old sloppy burger.
A 360-Degree Shopping Experience
For shopaholics, not-so-serious shoppers, and shoppers in between, Myrtle Beach offers a good find for all.
Trinkets, gift shops, clothes, souvenirs, you name it. Even beauty shops, bookstores, and upscale apparel are abundant here. Now, what exactly are your options? Here are the best places if you’re after some retail therapy:
- Tanger Outlets
- Barefoot Landing
- The Market Common
- Broadway at the Beach
What’s worth mentioning is the open-air shopping experience at The Market Common. Not only will you find diverse shops here, but also tons of restaurants and a play area for kids. Plus, there are walkways here perfect for admiring the view and taking an evening stroll.
Shopping at Myrtle Beach wouldn’t be complete without visiting the nation’s largest gift shop. And that’s Gay Dolphin Gift Cove.
Spanning 2,415.5 sq meters (26,000 sq ft), this legendary gift shop has it all. Sea shells, shark teeth, decorations, home décor, whoopee cushions. Almost every kind of gift you can think of, you’ll find it at Gay Dolphin Gift Cove.
Overall, Myrtle Beach offers shopping opportunities for everyone. And sometimes, even a little retail therapy can go a long way in making your vacation memorable.
In contrast to the lively destination that Myrtle Beach is, Wilmington is quieter, more peaceful, and overall, charming. Not that Wilmington isn’t lively in itself. The place still draws in a lot of young crowds looking to have a blast of evening fun.
But at the same time, Wilmington’s overall atmosphere leans more toward lighthearted vibes. For the most part, Wilmington is a place full of history, from buildings and sites to museums and churches.
In fact, the haunted history at Wilmington is one of the city’s main highlights and most popular tours. While the local tour guides will try and spook a few guests with haunted tales, it’s only meant to add more liveliness overall.
What else is there to do in Wilmington apart from its rich history? There are beaches, coastal tours, and several indoor recreational activities. Travelers looking for something more outdoorsy will enjoy the hiking trails at Wilmington too.
And if your definition of “active vacation” means having a party, well…
There are a few bars and clubs in the area that offer more than just mellow vibes. The city’s festive spirit just might surprise you. Even if it’s not as wild as the Spring Break party style you had in mind.
Now, what about vacationers looking for something more laid-back or quiet? You’ll be happy to know the city is full of laid-back experiences. Plus, a killer scenic riverfront view.
It’s safe to say that Wilmington hits the spot if it’s an easygoing vacation you’re after. From casual hikes to scenic boat cruises and riverside strolls.
That being said, don’t hold back on all the things you can do throughout the city. Explore its beaches, do a walking tour, and enjoy the city’s gastronomic cuisine. That’s also one more quality of Wilmington worth adding to the list of reasons why it’s worth visiting.
But just what exactly is the cuisine in Wilmington? Just how “active” of a vacation is Wilmington in regards to outdoor activities? And what other attractions does the city offer aside from its historical sites? The answers to all those questions can be found in the next sections.
What Makes Wilmington Unique?
It goes without saying that Wilmington feels like a dream for history buffs. Historical sites are found all over Wilmington. Almost as if you could compare its sheer number of sites to the indomitable stretch of fast-food chains.
Even Wilmington’s River District has a historic charm to it. And its buildings show a pretty good example of that fact.
But if you’re looking for the actual century-old kind of history, you’ll easily find one without a map or guide. For starters, there’s Old Wilmington – a place that depicts what Wilmington was like during the Civil War. You can choose from several walking tours available in the area. However, three of the most popular include:
- Oakdale Cemetery Walking Tour
- Historic Downtown Walking Tour
- Haunted Cotton Exchange Walking Tour
Once you’ve taken a walking trip back to the past, make your way to Wilmington’s many historic homes. One of which is the Burgin-Wright House and Gardens. The residence, built in the 1770s, is popular for its Colonial-style gardens. But even more intriguing than its landscape is its rare collectibles.
Featuring 18th– and 19th-century antiques, the house is quite a historical & cultural marvel. For something more panoramic and bursting with history, visit the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. Also known as the site where the largest land and water battle during the Civil War happened.
Interested? The site offers more than just a view. You can take the scenic trail here along a path of oak trees that provide decent shade. In the end, you’ll get to see the fort remains.
Ever wonder how the upper class in society lived in Wilmington centuries ago? Well, the Latimer House Museum has 600+ memorabilia to showcase that wealth.
And then you still have the Railroad Museum and Poplar Grove Plantation. At this point, you’re only scratching the surface of Wilmington’s historical sites. And don’t forget the famous Ghost Walk and Haunted Pub Crawl. Or the North Carolina Battleship.
Altogether, there’s no doubt you’ll learn a thing or two in Wilmington that they didn’t tell you in history class. And for kids who are still on their way to their first historical lesson? It’s an opportune place to buff up their North Carolina history.
An Indoor Playground of Recreational Activities
Wilmington is a city of indoor recreational activities in abundance. No – it’s not just indoor golf. Think laser tag, nerf parks, arcades, bowling, escape rooms, rock climbing, etc.
And here’s an indoor activity that’s quite unique in Wilmington: axe throwing. For the record, there are players that take this indoor sport seriously. Just look up any member of the World Axe Throwing League.
That aside, you can enjoy this indoor activity at Axes & Allies located at 1122 Third Street. Moving on from unique recreational activities, there are also laser tag and nerf parks perfect for families and friends.
After all, who can say no to an all-out Nerf war with alleys and corners to make it all the more thrilling? Plus, the bullets don’t even hurt, so why not go all out, right?
For families or those traveling with friends, escape rooms are pretty much memorable vacation highlights. Whether it’s solving puzzles together or simply trying to beat the record, it’s fun the whole way. Not to mention, it’s a wholesome activity that allows everyone to bond.
You might’ve heard some say that Wilmington is too “relaxing” of a city. But in truth, the city’s indoor recreational activities alone stir up a lot of adrenaline even in outdoor junkies. And the best part is, there are still a bunch of water sports activities around the city.
A Great Place to Recharge Your Life Batteries
If you’ve done some light research on Wilmington, this probably shouldn’t come as a shock to you. Because the truth of the matter is that Wilmington is chock-full of easygoing vibes.
Of course, there are certainly a few who prefer to visit the city to party till the break of dawn. However, festive dance clubs and bars only make up a small part of the entire Wilmington area.
All over the city, there are coastal scenic trails for a mix of tranquility and soft adventure. Airlie Gardens for a refreshing stroll to reconnect with nature. Scenic boat tours and yacht excursions if you’re looking for something more exclusive and romantic.
And the famous Riverwalk, a 2-mile (3.2 km) scenic walkway lined with shops and restaurants. The atmosphere, breeze, and view are all superb. No matter the time of the day, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Similarly, Riverfront Park is just as good a place as any to hang out and relax. In addition, this award-winning waterfront park has a huge amphitheater, along with a large plaza, playground, gardens, trails, and nature all around.
If you prefer a mix of entertainment, relaxation, and shopping, Mayfaire Town Center is your best pick. You’ll find 90+ shops and restaurants here. Think of it as a one-stop shop for shopping, food, relaxing/lounging, and entertainment.
Last but not least, Wilmington’s beaches are worth a mention. Although you only have 3 beach options, neither one is a bad choice. And any beach you choose to relax in will satisfy your me-time urges. These beaches include:
- Kure Beach
- Carolina Beach
- Wrightsville Beach
Bald Head Island is also a great day trip stop mostly popular for golfers and nature lovers. The best way to get to Bald Head Island is via ferry.
Tastebud Flavors That Will Intrigue You
And just when you thought Wilmington couldn’t get any more interesting. Believe it or not, the city boasts several crowd-pleasers when it comes to its culinary offerings. Both for the locals and tourists.
So, what fancies your palette? Spanish cuisine perhaps? Without a doubt, Savorez has been feeding gourmands with its big and bright Spanish-Latin flavors. From seafood dishes and tacos to vegan offerings like its vegan rellenos.
If you’re up for something of an eccentric blend of tastes, East Oceanfront will satisfy your appetite. The oceanfront garden-themed restaurant blends Asia, Mediterranean, California, and Mexican cuisines. All in one dish. Talk about umami flavors, right?
For those in the mood for Italian, no place serves a wood-fired pizza like Benny’s Bigtime Pizzeria. And while it’s famous for its pizzas, chef Vivian Howard adds a Southern spin to the cuisine. Make sure to order the southern fried chicken parm with hot honey.
You also have PinPoint Restaurant if you’re in the mood for upscale, fancy cuisine. PinPoint showcases true seafood bounty. What that means is only the most exquisite ingredients and dishes are served at PinPoint. According to many reviewers, the Cornmeal Crusted NC Catfish is to die for.
Speaking of to-die-for food, don’t leave Wilmington until you’ve tried its seafood dishes. Many of which are found all over. Some of these include Seabird, Steam Restaurant & Bar, Port Land Grille, and South Beach Grill.
Seaview Crab Company Kitchen, Dram Yard, manna ave. 123, and Cousins Deli are also hidden gems worth trying. All in all, Wilmington’s cuisine is beyond delicious. To a certain extent, it’s lustful. And one bite is all you need to convince you just how sinfully good the food tastes.
Which Is Better – Wilmington or Myrtle Beach?
Both Wilmington and Myrtle Beach are family-friendly vacations, no doubt. Plus both offer great beaches and culinary offerings.
When it comes to activities, both have plenty to offer vacationers as well. However, there is a major difference. Wilmington’s itinerary of activities leans more towards indoor fun and water sports like jet skiing, kayaking, etc.
Myrtle Beach also offers a ton of water sports activities but doesn’t have as much indoor recreation as Wilmington. That being said, it’s safe to say Wilmington is a better choice if you’re after more kid-friendly activities.
In comparison, Myrtle Beach offers more entertainment and activities for adults and older teens. From live performances and shows to bars and clubs.
Now, what about attractions? Wilmington is a city rich with historical sites. Whereas Myrtle Beach is popular for its shopping experiences, golf, and entertaining live shows.
In the end, choosing between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach depends on your vacation preferences:
Wilmington fits travelers looking for an easygoing, laid-back vacation. The city has more kid-friendly activities. Along with innovative cuisines and an explosion of historical excursions. In addition, its many riverfront restaurants add an elegant and relaxing vibe for honeymooners.
If you’ve been meaning to travel as a way to recharge, Wilmington is the better destination. Alternatively, young teens will also enjoy the city’s nightlife scene.
Myrtle Beach is a lively city, so it’s perfect if you prefer more evening entertainment options. Along with a wider array of things to do. Whether it’s hitting the clubs, outdoor activities, or watching exciting live performances. It’s also great for families but has fewer kid-friendly activities compared to Wilmington.
When it comes to food, seafood is the dominant cuisine in Myrtle Beach. And most of all, this is a city full of shopping stores sure to satisfy your retail therapy needs. The nightlife is also more apparent in Myrtle Beach, offering plenty of options for the young and old.
Is Wilmington Beach Better Than Myrtle Beach?
It’s worth noting there is no Wilmington beach. Wilmington is a city home to three beaches: Kure, Carolina, and Wrightsville. All of Wilmington’s beaches are family-friendly. In addition, each comes with a good number of restaurants, coffee shops, and local bars.
Myrtle Beach is in a different class of its own. And on that note, has more to offer than Wilmington’s beaches. For starters, the area around Myrtle beach isn’t just sand and blue waters. It’s a theme park home to several of Myrtle Beach’s main attractions. These include the Carolina Opry Theater, Myrtle Beach Convention Center, and the iconic SkyWheel. At the Convention Center, there are a lot of fantastic restaurants and shops. Plus, several main attractions in Myrtle Beach are just close by.
Take note that this only refers to one beach in Myrtle Beach. The city offers several more options than Wilmington. A few worth mentioning include Garden City Beach, Litchfield Beach, and Myrtle Beach State Park.
Overall, Myrtle Beach is the far better choice when it comes to beaches. Not simply because of its wider variety, but also because of the many activities offered on each beach. Whether it’s a casual sunbathing session, water sports, or dining by the sea.
Is Myrtle Beach Near Wilmington?
Myrtle Beach is only roughly 78 miles (125.5 km) away from Wilmington. In fact, you can even drive from one city to the other. From Myrtle Beach, take Highway 17. The total driving time should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. The short driving time is one good reason that shows how near Myrtle Beach is to Wilmington.
Wilmington to Myrtle Beach
There are plenty of ways to get from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach. The most common is via car or bus, which only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes of travel time.
If you’re taking the bus, the most common option for travelers is the Greyhound Bus line. You can easily purchase bus tickets online. A ticket normally costs USD 16.
Other modes of transportation from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach include the train, ferry, or bicycle. If you take the train, the total travel time is 5x longer than taking a bus or car. Mainly because the train route from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach includes passing through Dillon.
On average, it takes about nine hours to reach Myrtle Beach from Wilmington via train. If you’re riding a bicycle, well… you’ll take the same route that cars and buses take. And on average, according to Google maps, it takes about 7 hours and 30 minutes.
Either way, the best way to get to Myrtle Beach from Wilmington is via car or bus.
Wilmington to Myrtle Beach by Boat
Taking the ferry or boat from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach takes about three hours. It’s not as popular of a choice compared to taking the bus. However, taking the boat is better for honeymooners and travelers looking for a more private mode of transport.
It’s also costlier but offers a grand scenic view that you don’t get riding a bus. You’ll have to charter a yacht or ferry and rent it for a few hours if you prefer this option. There are a few private charter options on Viator, and cost upwards of USD 750.