Those glorious cool days of winter are upon us. Makes you want to curl up with a good book by the beach.
That's right, the beach. With summer a happy memory, the South Carolina coast is virtually all yours to enjoy whether you're looking to snuggle up in a beach chair with the latest best seller or take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline. And with the crowds gone, you won't have any trouble making dinner reservations at the most popular restaurants.
But that's just for starters. Along with mild winter temperatures, the season offers South Carolina visitors lots of other special perks.
Here are 5 reasons to take a winter beach vacation in South Carolina.
1. Horseback riding on the beach. From Nov. 1 through Feb. 28, Horseback Riding of Myrtle Beach offers seaside rides along the coastline of Myrtle Beach and Garden City Beach. You don't need any experience to mount up for this fun outdoor adventure. The horses are well trained and easy to manage. If you have a little experience in the saddle, you can even trot them through the water. Call 843.997.1876 for more information.
2. Bird watching. Catch the avian show at Huntington Beach State Park, a favorite stopover for thousands of migratory birds each year. With its diversity of habitats, the 2,500-acre park draws some 300 species of birds, including hawks, cranes, waterfowl, bald eagles, woodpeckers, swifts and even the curious-looking roseate spoonbill. Wintertime yields some of the best sightings of the year. You can pick up a bird checklist at the park's Education Center. Be sure to ask about any birding programs being offered while you're in town.
3. Daytime dog walking on the beach. Dogs are welcome to run free on most beaches any time of the day from Oct. 1 through March 31, so long as they're under voice control. It's the only time of the year they don't have to be on a leash. So if your dog is a fetch-aholic, be sure to pack a Frisbee or tennis ball, along with bags to properly dispose of their poop. Check locally for details.
4. Oyster season. The delectable saltwater mollusks are in season September through April-or as is commonly told, the months with an "R" in them. Restaurants offering fresh, local seafood are sure to have several oyster specials on the menu. Enjoy them roasted over an open fire or floating on a half-shell. Anyway you shuck ‘em, they're delicious.
5. Shop ‘til you drop. You'll find everything on your Christmas list at the unique seaside shopping centers and villages found along the South Carolina coast. While you're browsing the chic boutiques and specialty stores, you'll have the opportunity to take in the lush Lowcountry landscape and spectacular views of the water. Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head have large outlet centers, and there's nothing better than meandering through the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops, Hilton Head's Shelter Cove Town Centre or down Charleston's King Street.