Morning coffee on an oceanfront balcony, writing names in the sand, dreamy beach sunsets, candlelit dinners, the soothing sound of the surf at bedtime-this is the stuff of romantic Myrtle Beach getaways. Escaping with your sweetie to the Grand Strand is a surefire way to fan that spark into a fully-involved bonfire. With so many activities framed against the backdrop of the great Atlantic and adjoining waterways, romance is a given whether you're taking a relationship to the next level, honeymooning, "baby-mooning" or celebrating years of togetherness.
Accommodations that invite lovers to cozy up are a must, and you'll find no shortage of options in the Myrtle Beach area. Among the standouts is the majestic North Beach Plantation, located on the southernmost end of North Myrtle Beach. This sprawling resort features 337 plush condominiums with commanding ocean views, indoor and outdoor pools, a swim-up bar and multiple hot tubs. Dining for two is a specialty at the property's award-winning restaurant, 21 Main. A couple's massage at the onsite Cinzia Spa will set the mood for a relaxing weekend with the one you love.
Another visually stunning property with impressive amenities is the Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes, located on the north end of Myrtle Beach. You'll think you've landed in the tropics as you and yours stroll the lush grounds appointed with sparkling blue pools, an oceanfront restaurant and bar and a world-class spa. Each of the 400 rooms and villas are richly appointed with fine furnishings and linens. Make your pool time special by reserving a cabana and using the poolside service to keep your drinks refreshed. A gorgeous expanse of beach for moonlight walks completes this South Carolina paradise.
While your love knows no boundaries, the same might not hold true for your wallet. Don't sweat it-you're in Myrtle Beach and that means there's a romantic getaway for every budget. For example, plenty of couples have been lucky in love at the affordable Serendipity Inn; a small, but quaint Myrtle Beach bed and breakfast nestled just 300-yards from the ocean. Rooms in this Spanish-style establishment are tastefully decorated and appointed with antiques to reflect historical eras. You'll want to spend time in the pretty courtyard where there's a pool, hot tub and a fire pit for cool nights. A large continental breakfast is served each day. Opt to enjoy it in your room for special mornings together.
If you're longing for quality time together at a somewhat slower pace, the fishing village of Murrells Inlet can deliver. Reserve a spacious king suite at Inlet Sports Lodge, a small boutique resort brimming with character, comfort and convenience. Amenities include pillowtop beds, massaging shower jets and tastefully appointed kitchenettes for those midnight snacks. Dine in style at the on-site restaurant, Bliss, explore the salt marshes by boat or mosey over to the Marshwalk for great views of the inlet and nightly entertainment.
A bit further south, channel your inner Rhett and Scarlett with a stay at one of the area's historical properties. Mansfield Plantation, a circa 1718 estate spanning the banks of the Black River in Georgetown, is one such option. This antebellum rice plantation offers bed and breakfast at its three guest houses, all a short walk from the elegant main house where you'll have access to the library and gourmet kitchen. Take lingering walks through the landscaped grounds, enjoy a bike ride or go boating. Best of all, your perfect day begins with an authentic Lowcountry plantation breakfast. After that you can create a little history of your own.
Dining for Duos
No matter where you stay along the Grand Strand, there are plenty of places to order up great food while stirring up some romance. Restaurants near North Myrtle Beach notable for intimate settings include the always hip SeaBlue, where "South Beach meets Myrtle Beach," and just a bit north in Little River, The Parson's Table, where fine cuisine is served against the backdrop of stained glass windows and other accoutrements sourced from old Southern farm houses and churches.
In the north end of Myrtle Beach, you'll find the eclectic Collector's Café & Gallery, consistently named best "first date" destination by locals. Dine on fine Mediterranean fare in an art gallery atmosphere or have dessert and a cappuccino in its intimate Euro-style coffee house. If you've got amore on your mind, share it over a steak or pasta dinner with a bottle of fine wine at Lombardo's, renowned for its excellent Italian cuisine and romantic ambiance. Speaking of sharing, there are few dining experiences more intimate than sitting side by side and dipping into a common pot of bubbling fondue. The Melting Pot caters to couples; so feel free to sit close, do some eye-gazing and feed each other chocolate dipped strawberries.
For fresh seafood and pasta dishes in a Romanesque atmosphere, take a table at Villa Romana. The food is authentically prepared from recipes passed down through generations. A tableside serenade from the restaurant's talented house accordion player sets the mood for an evening of romance. Note for lovers: A special menu is offered for Valentine's Day, so keep that in mind if you're a snowbird.
"The Seafood Capital of the South"-that's where you'll be when you visit the historic fishing hamlet of Murrells Inlet. Markets and restaurants serving up seafood fresh from the boat line the waterway. It is also home of the Marshwalk, a public promenade that runs along a strip of lively eateries and bars. Come to relax, listen to live music and dine on some of the best seafood on the Grand Strand. For amazing water views, innovative cuisine and creative sushi, try The Wicked Tuna.
Further south in Pawleys Island, make sweet talk while dining in the candlelit garden of the Frank's Outback. Or check out the chic Bistro 217, where the cuisine and its presentation are raised to an art form. If you're visiting historic Georgetown, Alfresco Bistro regularly lures in the lovers with its small, cozy dining room and a dreamy menu of Italian-inspired dishes.
Just for Fun
Let's start from the top. "Wine down" with a visit to La Belle Amie Vineyard in Little River, where you can sample private labels, enjoy live music and sip a glass of wine while relaxing in homey porch rockers. In North Myrtle Beach, stroll the specialty shops at Barefoot Landing for a special trinket to give your honey, then snag tickets to a concert at the House of Blues. Or, end a perfect day with a romantic sunset cruise aboard the Barefoot Princess Riverboat that departs each evening from Barefoot Landing Marina. Live it up like local couples do-grab your partner and check out Fat Harold's Beach Club, where you can get a fast, free lesson in the state dance, the Shag. You'll learn enough to hit the dance floor afterward as a duo. Don't be nervous-the more experienced shaggers are a welcoming bunch who want you to experience fun, South Carolina style. But for the ultimate in outdoor romance, saddle up for a horseback ride to Sunset Island, courtesy of Inlet Point Plantation in North Myrtle Beach. Your destination is a private stretch of shoreline-the perfect backdrop for proposals and other declarations of love.
Myrtle Beach's north end is home to the Carolina Opry, a thrilling compendium of shows featuring music, dance, comedy and lights that will energize your night. If you want to share chills as well as thrills, soar over the ocean with your significant other on a couples parasailing adventure from Myrtle Beach Watersports. Or, take your love even higher with a helicopter tour of the coast, courtesy of Helicopter Adventures. Keep the theme going with late-night cocktails at Rooftop21, Myrtle Beach's only open-air rooftop bar and lounge. For exciting nightlife action, experience Broadway at the Beach's Celebrity Square, where you can bounce between an array of dance clubs, sports bars and game rooms into the wee hours of the morning.
Want to get your hearts really thumping? Then head to the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach and take a turn on the SkyWheel. Tuck yourselves into an enclosed, climate-controlled gondola and bask in a breathtaking panoramic view of the area. It's a dazzling venue for popping the big question or exchanging wedding vows. For a more laid-back evening, seek out Fresh Brewed Coffee House in the heart of downtown Myrtle Beach. This local artists' haunt is known for its java as well as its open mic nights featuring live music, poetry and more. Surprise your sweetheart and recite a love poem in his or her honor.
If you're an outdoorsy kind of couple, head to the South Strand, an area rich with gorgeous waterways to explore by boat. But if you want to up the romance factor, sign on for the Sunset-Full Moon Kayak Tour offered by Surf the Earth in Pawleys Island. Nestle into your two-seat kayak and follow your naturalist guide for a two-hour nighttime excursion through the hauntingly beautiful salt marshes that define this section of the Grand Strand. Don't forget your favorite beverage so you can drift and toast the moon.
You can also see hidden areas of the Grand Strand via the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, a trail that runs from Murrells Inlet to Huntington Beach State Park; or by taking the North Litchfield Bike Path, which leads to Brookgreen Gardens. Bring your own bikes or rent a pair from outlets such as Cyclopedia in Pawleys Island. Do park them for a while to enjoy the natural wonders of both Huntington and Brookgreen; a bring-along picnic is optional but recommended.
If you and your love share an interest in art and culture, you can find both in quaint Georgetown. Bring your favorite bottle of wine to The Carefree Canvas, a sip-and-paint art studio where you can turn a blank canvas into a personal souvenir of your romantic Myrtle Beach getaway. Or do something decidedly old-fashioned-plan a date night at the The Strand Theater and Cinema, a vintage 1940s box office theater with an Art Moderne façade and original marquee. Depending on the season, you can take in a play or "indie flick," foreign film or documentary. But don't miss the show-keep the hanky panky to a minimum when the lights go down.