“This is the best layover ever,” says the Spirit Airlines flight attendant petting my dog at The Sheraton Hotel in Myrtle Beach during BlogPaws, an annual pet bloggers conference.
The hotel is crawling with furry friends; the Spirit employees staying here don’t seem to mind. One tells me he used to be a dog groomer.
Dogs invite conversation.
The Sheraton Myrtle Beach Hotel is not normally pet-friendly, and that might – unfortunately – be a reflection of Myrtle Beach in the summer.
Is Myrtle Beach Dog-friendly?
May, June and July is high season for South Carolina’s most visited destination, especially during ‘bike week’ when thousands of iron horse enthusiasts (and some actual bikers) rev their engines up and down Myrtle Beach’s downtown strip. These months also have the most dog restrictions.
From May to September in Myrtle Beach, dogs are only allowed on beaches before 10 am or after 6 pm – and they’re not permitted on the boardwalk at all. Fortunately, there are other parts of Myrtle Beach to explore – namely ‘Lowcountry,’ so called because it’s south of the main drag … and a lot more serene.
For example, Murrell’s Inlet – half way between Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk beach and Huntington Beach State Park – is the self-proclaimed seafood capital of South Carolina. Waterside restaurants serve product fresh from the fishing boats docked along inlet shores. Here, you’ll find the Marsh Walk – a boardwalk extending into the reed-filled watery coast. It’s dog friendly.
Many of the restaurant patios are not dog friendly, however. There’s a few exceptions including Graham’s and Marshview Seafood Kitchen and Bar where my dog Victor and I had no problem enjoying a fried shrimp po’boy with a draft beer and excellent ocean view.
At Marshview, there’s a comfortable waterside patio and outside walkway gets you there without going through the restaurant. A table by the railing provides a view of the water’s surface reflecting, and a place to tether the dog. I order at the outdoor bar then pick up food at the window – never leaving the dog’s sight. Victor likes that – he barks otherwise.
Victor also came with me to the bathroom. Outside access means never going into the building and violating food service codes. My kind of place.
Is Huntington Beach Dog-friendly?
Huntington Beach State Park is where you and your dog want to be – during the day, anyway. ‘Before 10 am and after 6 pm’ rules don’t apply here.
Huntington Beach State Park is a 20-minute drive from The Sheraton Hotel along Highway 17, the main thoroughfare in Myrtle Beach. Camp overnight or spend the day walking through trails or along the beach – for three miles. The dog (on a leash) can join you in the cool waves – a welcome reprieve from the beating sun. Thanks to a $5 park admission, it’s not over crowded.
Victor isn’t a water dog – and I don’t fancy a dip – so we walk this stretch for a short distance before the marshland called. The curving and less-travelled boardwalk extends over still inland waters popular with birdwatchers. It’s an easy dog walk. It’s also elevated above the alligators… another reason to keep the pup close.
The park closes at 10 pm in the summer and is miles away from touristy Myrtle Beach chaos.
Is Brookgreen Gardens Dog-friendly?
Near Huntington Beach State Park is a Myrtle Beach spot you’ve got to visit: Brookgreen Gardens.
Picture sprawling green grassland, stone walled gardens, cultivated flowerbeds and looming metal sculptured figures every 20 strides or so. This public garden and outdoor art park, established in 1931 by Archer and Anna Huntington, has its own small zoo of indigenous wild animals, butterfly conservatory and pontoon boat tour. Spend an afternoon here easily.
Can you bring the dog? Unfortunately, no.
Yes, the carved hedges and paths meandering between 2000 sculptures dotting the property seem ideal for strolling a leashed dog (check out Victor’s other art adventures), yet my dog wasn’t allowed. No dogs are allowed.
Yet Brookgreen was one place I had to see, so parking Victor was a priority.
Are there pet-sitters in Myrtle Beach?
Thanks to a recommendation from the Pet Gallery, a large independently-owned pet shop in Murrell’s Inlet, I set up an afternoon stay for my terrier cross at A Dog’s Way Inn, about three miles from Brookgreen Gardens.
A Dog’s Way offers boarding, grooming, agility, obedience training and doggie daycare – if you drop off before noon. Pick up has to be after 3pm, but that gave me a few hours (still short) at Brookgreen Gardens, and Victor a chance to run outside with a new buddy.
Of course, vaccination records and pre-arrangement is necessary.
Otherwise, Atlantic Pet Sitting is an ideal alternative.
Atlantic Pet Sitting was the official pet-sitters at the BlogPaws Conference and the reason I was able to visit Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach where you can ride a glass-bottom boat over the shark tank or take a photo with a mermaid. (No, I didn’t).
Chris Herath discovered a need for at-home pet sitting in Myrtle Beach after rescuing a stray coonhound named Coleman. So he started Atlantic Pet Sitting.
The company is focused on serving vacationing local residents through home visits (or overnight stays) ranging from in price from $25 to $70. However, Herath tells me, arranging babysitting at hotels for visitors of Myrtle Beach is possible – and a good option if you’ll only be gone for an hour or two.
So what do locals say about dogs in Myrtle Beach?
Arriving day one, I stumbled on Pet Gallery in Murrells Inlet minutes before the pet retailer was closing. Owner Judy Bauknight recommended a dog-friendly restaurant in Murrells Inlet and a pet boarder, and both worked out great.
But when I asked her what else is dog friendly in Myrtle Beach? She said, “You should go Charleston.”
Charleston, South Carolina. A different city. Ok. Maybe next trip.