A shallow guide will tell you Ocean City and Myrtle Beach are the same. But if there’s one difference to be pointed out early on, it’s that Myrtle Beach has more activities.
In other words, there’s more to do for vacationers around Myrtle Beach. That being said, getting around is easier in Ocean City. Because it’s relatively smaller, you can take the bus or simply walk from one place to the other in Ocean City.
Now, these differences aren’t what’s crucial in deciding which destination is better for you. In this guide, you’ll learn precisely what each destination offers. And above all, whether Myrtle Beach or Ocean City fits your definition of a beach jaunt.
Ocean City is all about beachside fun mixed in with the laid-back atmosphere of seafront dining. And as one of the largest beach destinations in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s not hard to see why.
Laid-back folks will love it in Ocean City. And so will younger teens looking for a solid nightlife experience. What’s more, families will find it easy to get around. And not via car but via bus or even walking.
Throughout the years, Ocean City has received several awards. From its legendary boardwalk down to its beaches. Here are some worth mentioning:
- #1 Family Resort on the East Coast
- 3rd best boardwalk in the US by Travel Channel
- 4th cleanest beach in the world by All American City 2001
- White Marlin Capitol of the World as rated by Parents and Family Fun Magazine
Compared to Myrtle Beach, Ocean City offers a similar vibe. Think Myrtle Beach but on a smaller scale. And because it’s smaller, you can tour and explore Ocean City much easier overall.
Many have also praised Ocean City for its clean and wide beaches. Put it this way. You’ll often see special trucks at night cleaning and vacuuming the beaches.
While Ocean City doesn’t offer the same golfing experience as Myrtle Beach, it has a few more draws. And these include the all-you-can-eat seafood buffets and one of the highest-rated bars, Seacrets Jamaica USA.
Overall, Ocean City is often seen as a mellower, tamer beach destination than Myrtle Beach. But that doesn’t mean it’s a boring place to visit. Whether it’s your first time or coming back to visit, here are some experiences that will make your trip worth it.
What Makes Ocean City Unique?
Eat, Shop, Stroll, and Relax at the Ocean City Boardwalk
The Ocean City Boardwalk of Ocean City is like the Eiffel Tower of Paris. This famous boardwalk that 4 million vacationers visit every year stretches for 3 miles (4.8 km). For many, this is the place to be, and quite frankly, could even sum up most of your vacation.
Lined with restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops, there’s always something to do on this boardwalk. For kids, they can spend their time at the amusement parks and arcades, or bike around the entire area.
History buffs will enjoy the Life-Saving Station Museum. Established by the federal government, the museum is rich with nautical history, along with relics.
Trimper’s Rides and Amusement Park calls to all travelers, young and old. There are dozens of thrilling rides in this amusement park, perfect to spend the whole afternoon in.
Don’t miss the two of the best restaurants in the area too. Brass Balls Saloon and Harrison’s Harbor Watch Restaurant are well known for their seafood selections and seafront views. Whether it’s a plate of crab cakes, shrimp, or oysters, you’re guaranteed a palate-satisfying dish.
Now, who could forget the legendary Thrasher’s French Fries. In Ocean City, Marylanders enjoy their fries in a unique way: with vinegar instead of ketchup. How good is it? Well, people actually drive to Ocean City to taste Thrasher’s fries.
For those who are looking to party, Ocean City Boardwalk is home to Seacrets Jamaica USA. As one of America’s finest nightclubs, Seacrets Jamaica USA can fit 5,000 people comfortably. Anyone looking for a merry time will undoubtedly find it here. There’s live music, great food, and a crowd that helps keep the atmosphere lively and vibrant.
Miles of Soft-Sand Beaches to Lounge In
It’s a common notion to believe that popular beach destinations get crowded during peak season. But not in Ocean City. Even during peak season, you can still find a comfortable beach spot to relax and lounge on.
If you prefer a more thrilling water adventure, there’s canoeing, kayaking, surfing, and fishing. Of course, with miles of beaches to choose from, Ocean City Beach isn’t your only option.
About 17 minutes away is Fenwick Island State Park. This beach is perfect for families, serenity seekers, and just about any traveler in need of peaceful shorelines.
Head north and just about 18 minutes from Ocean City Beach sits Maryland Beach. The sandy shorefront here is bigger than what you’d find in Ocean City Beach. This means there’s enough room for kids to build sandcastles and play on the shore without the worry of crowds. Nearby, there’s also a boardwalk full of family-friendly and nightlife options.
Prefer a beach that’s a lot closer? There’s no beach nearer Ocean City than Assateague Island National Seashore. It’s only 14 minutes away and one of the best beach spots for swimming. During the off-season, you can go horseback riding around the area. In fact, Assateague is well-known for its wild horses.
If you’re after beach time + retail therapy, Bethany Beach hits the spot. Only 28 minutes away from Ocean City, Bethany Beach is also ideal for short weekend beach trips. The boardwalk in the area offers several shops and tax-free options.
Finally, Breezy Point Beach and Rocky Gap State Park feature get-away-from-it-all vibes. From Ocean City, it’s about three to four hours via car. But, the trip is worth it. Plus, it’s better suited for vacationers looking for a more adventurous day trip.
Rocky Gap State Park boasts the bluest waters in the state. Whereas Breezy Point Beach is a popular spot for camping and RV-ing.
Looking for something the whole family can do? Frontier Town sits at the top of family-friendly activities in Ocean City and is famous for camping.
Not only is Frontier Town an award-winning camping experience, but it’s also home to 600+ campsites! Truth be told and according to hundreds of reviews, Frontier Town is one of the nicest places to be. Whether that’s for families traveling with kids or just about any traveler who enjoys camping.
So, what’s in store for campers heading to Frontier Town? A lot. Water parks & slides, zip-lining, kayaking, a Wild Wild West theme park, and an 18-hole mini golf course.
Make no mistake, Frontier Town is a place you should visit with the intention of camping overnight. Because after all, a camping experience is part of the fun you’ll have as a family.
A Haven for Family-Friendly Activities
Ocean City has beaches, and it also has an abundance of family-friendly activities. A good place to start? Paradise Watersports. This unforgettable place is ideally suited for families seeking an adrenaline rush type of activity.
Imagine parasailing over the wild horses, sea turtles, dolphins, and more, of Assateague Island. In fact, you’ll even get a good bird’s-eye view of the entire Maryland. But if you prefer something more action-packed, hop on any of the Sea-Doo jet skis, known for being super fast.
Sea Rocket Adventures offers parasailing, jet skiing, and much more. For the whole family to do and suitable for all ages, here are a few suggestions:
- Sailing tours
- Banana boat rides
- Waterslides and water trampolines
If you need a break from the beach and want a change of pace, head to the Carousel Ice Skating Rink. There’s a live ice show every night at 6:30 pm. But before that, feel free to skate away!
Finally, don’t miss Baja Amusements for its go-karting race tracks. Feeling competitive? Try out any of the eight tracks and race with friends or family to your competitive spirit’s desire. From here, you might also want to try Escapomania.
Escape rooms have become a popular activity among groups of friends and families. In Ocean City, you can choose between beginner and advanced courses. Those who truly want to put their skills to the test should go for the Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Similarly, the Fallout Bunker is just as challenging.
Myrtle Beach takes the spotlight when it comes to vacationers in need of soaking in sun and sand. Widely known for its beaches, the city is blessed with soft sand, clear waters, and a long coastline. 60 miles (97 km), to be more exact.
What does that mean for vacationers? Put simply, you have a ton of beach options around the area.
Some are lively that they call party vacationers, while others are perfect if you’re looking for beach adventure or watersports activities. And lastly, there are a few if you’re in need of a beach that’s more romantic or secluded.
But to tell you the truth, Myrtle Beach’s attractions extend far beyond its beaches. Think shopping, golf, gastronomy, and dozens more attractions from water parks to historical sites.
Not sure where to start? Here’s everything you should know about Myrtle Beach and why it’s worth visiting.
What Makes Myrtle Beach Unique?
60 Miles of Sun and Sand to Choose From
Waterfront hangout? How about parasailing, jet skiing, and surfing all in one day? Or do you prefer sipping a cocktail on a beach bed with an ocean breeze to cool you down?
Whatever beach activity or adventure you’re looking for, Myrtle Beach has it. And here are some of the best ones worth mentioning:
No other beach says “kid-friendly” and “safe to swim in” than Surfside Beach. Not only is the water shallow for a safe swim, but there are also lifeguards constantly patrolling the area.
Surfside Beach’s white stretch of sand calls to all families and young kids looking for a playful afternoon. Of course, any beach lover, couple, and seniors are all welcome to spend the day in Surfside.
And don’t miss their to-die-for cheesesteak sandwiches either.
Garden City Beach
Garden City Beach is serenity + sightseeing + chilling all packed into a 5-mile (8 km) sandy shore. Popular activities on this beach include crabbing, fishing, and relaxing. Because Myrtle Beach is so lively, it’s almost hard to believe anything else nearby offers peaceful vibes.
And that’s where Garden City Beach comes in. It’s an ideal spot for vacationers in need of some downtime. If you love to fish, this is your spot too. You can easily buy bait and fishing gear in the area at an affordable price.
Should you consider visiting with family, there’s an arcade to keep kids entertained too. While all that’s happening, feel free to relax and revel in the beach pleasures of Garden City.
There’s a certain charm to Litchfield Beach, apart from the upscale, lavish resorts/condos surrounding it. Similar to Garden City Beach, there’s a good chance of finding a tranquil experience at Litchfield Beach.
Although, your best chances are probably during the summer when there aren’t too many vacationers. As popular as Litchfield Beach is, it’s not overly crowded, so it’s safe to visit even together with family.
For active travelers, Litchfield is one of the best spots for surfing. Along with kayaking and fishing. The only downside with Litchfield Beach is parking. But don’t let that stop you from experiencing this beach’s warm waters and soft sand. Not to mention, it’s been known to many for its excellent photo opportunities.
Surely, it’s not something you want to miss, right?
North Myrtle Beach
At a glance, North Myrtle Beach appears to be a party hub. Mostly because of the several beach clubs and bars lined up all in one spot. But at the same time, the Ferris Wheel and roller coaster also tell you it may be worth checking out.
And as soon as you feel the sand in between your toes, that’s when you realize it’s a laid-back beach after all.
To tell you the truth, North Myrtle Beach is all of the above. It has an amusement park, beach clubs & bars, and a comfortable beach escape vibe to it. Not to mention, you’ll also find several great restaurants around the area.
You could spend one to two days in North Myrtle Beach exploring everything it has to offer. Prefer to just hang back and chill? Save it for day one. Visiting with family? Stop by Pavilion Amusement Park to indulge in its several attractions.
Visiting North Myrtle Beach on a Friday night? Don’t miss the energy and festive vibes over at its many clubs.
All in all, Myrtle Beach is home to several beaches sure to satisfy anyone’s beach vacation needs. But if these don’t convince you, well, you’ll always have Myrtle Beach. Which is often regarded as “America’s favorite beach.”
Entertaining Activities at Nearly Every Corner
Myrtle Beach is rarely ever a dry destination. Almost every day feels like you’ve boarded the fun bus for entertainment. And no, it’s not just hitting up nightclubs and staying up till the wee hours of the morning.
Myrtle Beach has something for every traveler in the entertainment scene. Whether it’s to party, learn new things, or catch a spellbinding show.
Fat Tuesdays and Broadway at the Beach are some pretty excellent places if you’re looking for nightlife. But if it’s an educational yet entertaining experience you’re after, the city’s top two picks are:
- Ripley’s Aquarium
WonderWorks is an amusement park that tickles your bones but will leave your mind in awe. This famous park capitalizes on “edu-tainment,” which is a mix of both science education and entertainment.
Around this amusement park are six Wonder Zones, all with their own set of themes to keep you amused. There’s also a laser tag arena, an indoor ropes course, and a 6D simulator ride.
Once you’ve had your fill of edutainment, be sure to check out Ripley’s Aquarium. There are penguin meets, stingray experiences, and glass-bottom boat adventures. Altogether, Ripley’s Aquarium is a fun-filled under-the-sea journey for the whole family.
Now, hold on just a minute. Because there’s still more entertainment up Myrtle Beach’s sleeves.
Catch one of the most highly-rated shows in the world: Carolina Opry. Then, make your way to Alabama Theatre, GTS Theater, and Legends in Concert for even more entertaining shows. Plus, did you know Myrtle Beach hosts 600+ art events every year? There are even art activities for kids to do.
All in all, there’s no doubt Myrtle Beach is well-known for its liveliness. From its club-jamming parties to its entertaining parks & shows, the city is wide awake even at night.
Shopping That Caters to All Travelers
Ready for a shopping spree? Myrtle Beach boasts shopping centers left and right. From high-end retail goods to designer jewelry and the largest gift shop you’ll ever see.
Your best options include the following:
- Tanger Outlets
- Barefoot Landing
- The Market Common
- Broadway at the Beach
Each area offers a treasure trove of shops and boutiques sure to spike any shopaholic’s retail therapy needs. What’s in store, you might ask?
At Tanger Outlets, expect flea markets, factory outlet stores, boutique shops, and shopping malls. However, the highlight of this area is really the Tanger Outlet Store. There, you’ll find several brands with massive discounts. Some worth mentioning include:
“Gap, Levis, Coach, Sperry, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Nike Factory Store, Kate Spade New York”
And hundreds more. So, if you’re planning to visit Tanger Outlet Store, be prepared to spend the entire day here. And of course, don’t expect to leave without buying a few items. There’s no doubt you’ll find something here. Even travelers who don’t shop often will love it in Tanger Outlet Store.
At Barefoot Landing, most of the shops here are either retail or unique boutiques. What’s more, think of Barefoot Landing as a place for affluent shopping. Things like upscale shoes, apparel, and accessories are common finds here. Even designer sunglasses like Prada and Ray-Ban are also found in Barefoot Landing.
In addition, what’s most appealing about Barefoot Landing are its specialty shops. For instance, one of the stores, Olive Shoppe sells specialty vinegar, olive oils, and olive mixes.
Another brand, Spice & Tea Exchange, sells a wide variety of spices and handcrafted seasonings. Along with sugars, loose-leaf teas, and salts. The store sells more than 85 different seasonings. Love to cook? This is definitely your shop.
Other interesting brands to check out here include MyCup, It’Sugar, Illusions, and Kentucky Mist Distillery. MyCup sells insulated drinkware for virtually every drink. Be it coffee, tea, outdoor/indoor beverages, dinner beverages, and more.
Kentucky Mist Distillery offers unique moonshines mixed with flavored vodka. That’s something you won’t find elsewhere.
Overall, Barefoot Landing is a place for interesting and unique finds. And it’s also one of your best options to find excellent shopping opportunities.
The Market Common
Similar to Barefoot Landing, The Market Common offers similar shopping opportunities. But it does have a few home décor shops with items where you just may be tempted to buy them all.
Plus, there’s a Barnes and Noble here, so for avid book readers, don’t miss The Market Common! Other great finds in this shopping district include:
“Lingerie, Pet items, Sunglasses, Sportswear, Garden products, Travel accessories, Handmade chocolates, Apparel, jewelry, footwear, Home furnishings and décor”
Broadway at the Beach
Broadway at the Beach isn’t just a place for shopping. It also features restaurants, attractions, theaters, and bars.
For first-time visitors, Broadway at the Beach is the first place you should check out. Mainly because you have access to so much in one area. It’s almost like the Disneyland of Myrtle Beach. Only that every section isn’t just rollercoasters and rides. There’s something for everyone at Broadway at the Beach.
Whether you’re here to eat, relax, shop, drink, party, or watch an epic show. This also means it’s perfect for families traveling with kids. On Broadway at the Beach, there are 80 shops alone. And that doesn’t include its 25 attractions, 20+ restaurants, cafes, bars, and theaters.
Need a place to shop, chill, eat, and party at the same time? Broadway at the Beach without a doubt.
Dining Selections Aplenty
Partying and beach lounging are often common facts you’ll hear about Myrtle Beach. What’s most surprising and what many fail to mention is its culinary scene.
While not exactly a Michelin-star standard, where Myrtle Beach shines in the culinary scene is variety. Now, you might be thinking of seafood palapas and buffets, right?
But that’s barely scratching the gastronomy you’ll find in this South Carolinian city. There are Italian restos, barbecue shacks, pizza parlors, and Mexican eateries. Even vegetarian & gluten-free options.
Here’s a restaurant sure to please your tastebuds: The Melting Pot Myrtle Beach. It’s not specific to a certain cuisine, but it does offer something unique. And that’s fondue. The Melting Pot features large stainless-steel pots of fondue, made with broth, cheese, and chocolate.
If you’re looking for something more lavish, posh, or romantic, you’ll find it at 42nd Street Bar and Grill. The restaurant prides itself in its chef-inspired creations, from the shrimp cocktail down to the beef wellington.
What about Italian? It doesn’t get any more obvious than seeing a sign that says, “Ciao Restaurant.” Widely popular for its seafood and classic Italian flavors, Ciao has been satisfying its customers for years. Be sure to order the Mozzarella Caprese. It’s everyone’s favorite appetizer.
Another interesting culinary find in Myrtle Beach? Mediterranean cuisine available at the Mediterranean Bistro. If you’re looking for more of a casual eatery to dine in, Mediterranean Bistro is one of the best.
For seafood lovers, head to Hook & Barrel for some fresh oysters. Or, you can try Pop Pop Pit’s BBQ for that barbecue, smoked craving. And of course, brisket with a side of coleslaw mac and cheese – a BBQ classic.
There’s still more around Myrtle Beach. Café Old Vienna for its excellent traditional German dishes. Carolina Pancake House for the American classic-style breakfast: pancakes/waffles with a cup of joe. Or even better, French Vanilla Iced Coffee. Sea Captain’s House for more seafood. Fire & Smoke for something more upscale – duck confit nachos and Lobster Cobbler.
Or better yet, why not go with Banditos Cantina. Mexican nachos, salsa, burritos, tacos, and of course, a margarita or IPA to pair. It’s just hard to say no to Mexican, right?
What Is Better – Ocean City or Myrtle Beach?
Now that you have a good idea of what each destination offers, here’s a summary to help you decide.
Myrtle Beach offers a lot more to do overall. From outdoor/water activities and entertainment to shopping and dining experiences. Myrtle Beach also has more accommodations, be it hotels or resorts. And without a doubt, you’ll find more golf courses in the city.
Ocean City offers fewer choices but there’s also one advantage to that. Getting around is super easy. In Myrtle Beach, you’re most likely to use your car every time you want to visit a new place. But in Ocean City, there’s barely a need for it. Unless of course, you want to take a day trip to a few beaches.
Plus, Ocean City is most famous for its award-winning boardwalk. The scenic views here are breathtaking. But most of all, everything can be found here. Be it shops, restaurants, attractions, relaxing services, and more.
That being said, the world-famous boardwalk might be better for families traveling with older kids. Younger kids always on the lookout for something fun to do may not find the boardwalk as enjoyable.
All in all, Myrtle Beach favors vacationers who prefer a destination that offers a lot of things to do. When it comes to shopping needs, Myrtle Beach is also the better choice. The same goes for accommodations with regard to variety and more options above all. Put simply, there’s more to see, do, dine, shop, and stay in at Myrtle Beach.
On the other hand, Ocean City is better if you’re looking for a vacation that’s more laid-back. There are still a lot of activities to do, but there is also only so much you can do in a day. However, family-friendly activities are abundant in Ocean City.
Most of all, if you’ve come to Ocean City, you’ve come to slow down. Or in other words, relax.
Also worth mentioning is the dining selection. Ocean City has a lot of restaurants and bars that are perfect for happy hour hunters. Myrtle Beach has bargain buffets, an extensive variety, and more budget-friendly choices.
Myrtle Beach vs. Ocean City Beach
When comparing beaches, it all depends on the quality and the sand & water conditions. Ocean City Beach is wider, meaning it’s less crowded. Some also say it has better waves so if you enjoy boogie boarding, this just might be your beach.
In addition, Ocean City Beach is said to be cleaner. The beaches close at 10 pm mainly to provide ample time for beach cleaning and sanitation.
This isn’t to say Myrtle Beach is dirty. It’s clean too, but it’s not what stands out. Generally, Myrtle Beach has more beaches and there are a few that are even more picturesque than Ocean City. Not to mention, Myrtle Beach’s waters are warmer, which can be a huge draw for some beach lovers.
At the end of the day, it mostly depends on what matters most to you. Myrtle Beach is said to offer more picturesque beaches and warmer waters. Ocean City Beach is said to be cleaner and less crowded, so finding a comfortable spot isn’t difficult.
That said, if you wanted to visit other beaches within the area, Ocean City has several less than 20 minutes away. In the case of Myrtle Beach, expect a longer travel time.