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There are more than 1,700 restaurants on the Grand Strand, but the best dining atmosphere might be found outside — not on one of the many oceanfront patios or rooftop bars in the Myrtle Beach area, but in the great outdoors. If you really want to beat the crowds and enjoy a private dining experience close to nature, here are five secret hideaways where you can spread out the picnic blanket:
Beach: OK, so this one isn't so secret. Lots of folks like to put out a spread on the beach, but there are some beaches that are more secluded than others. Fortunately for Ocean Reef guests, there are two great ones within walking distance. Just a few blocks to the north and south are stretches of coastline without oceanfront hotels. Although the beaches open to the public, the crowds are much smaller from 77th to 82nd Avenue North and 60th to 68th Avenue North. Pack a picnic basket and take a short hike in either direction until you find an isolated span of sand. If you find that the beach is too windy, or if you like your sandwich without the "sand," there are beach accesses with benches that can double as picnic tables.
Bird Island: You don't have to have a boat to reach this remote locale just over the North Carolina border, but it helps. Situated near the mouth of the Intracoastal Waterway, this 1,200-acre preserve features towering sand dunes, scenic salt marshes and some of the most secluded beaches on the Grand Strand. You can drive to Sunset Beach and hike or bike to Bird Island, which lives up to its name with a variety of shorebirds making their homes in the preserve. Pitch a blanket in the afternoon shade of the dunes and watch the sunset. For hopeless romantics, there is a mysterious mailbox on the beach where visitors share their thoughts in letters and leave them for strangers.
Huntington Beach State Park: For a similarly natural experience on the South Strand, this 350-acre park in Murrells Inlet offers a diverse environment to explore without a lot of company. The unique Lowcountry landscape includes beautiful beaches, swamps and salt marshes, and maritime forests. There are picnic shelters available on a first come, first served basis, but the best spot to enjoy a romantic picnic is in the courtyard of Atalaya Castle, a Spanish-style structure that overlooks the ocean. Open for self-guided tours, visitors can check out the lovely gardens in the courtyard and spread a blanket beneath the shade of palmetto trees.
Market Common: This bustling urban shopping village might seem like a hard place to escape the crowds, but not if you know where to go. Located across from the rows of townhomes, boutiques and restaurants is Grand Park, a sprawling green space that has hiking and biking trails around a large lake, playgrounds for the kids, and picnic shelters for a little lunch in the shade. If you want to combine a day of shopping with a romantic picnic in the afternoon, there are plenty of places to disappear from the popular spots and find a quiet retreat for two.
Myrtle Beach State Park: Located just across from Market Common on the south side of Myrtle Beach is South Carolina's first state park. Situated on a small stretch of beach surrounded by woodlands and wetlands, Myrtle Beach State Park offers a natural oasis from manmade development. Take a hike down the Sculptured Oak Trail all the way to the beach, where picnic shelters are available. There are also oceanfront shelters and picnic tables located throughout the park, so you can find the most secluded spot away from the main parking area.
After an enjoyable day in the great outdoors, head back to the even greater indoors at Ocean Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach. Featuring contemporary and comfortable accommodations and first-class amenities, like our indoor and outdoor pools and on-site restaurants, Ocean Reef is the perfect way to end your perfect day.