From Alligators to Safaris: Discover the Natural Side of Myrtle Beach

There’s more to Myrtle Beach than boardwalk amusement parks. From gardens to quiet beaches to wildlife, these family-friendly natural attractions in the Grand Strand are always worth a visit.

When you think of Myrtle Beach, you may envision amusement parks, boardwalk arcades and endless beach chairs lined up along the ocean. But when you go off the beaten path, you’ll discover a different side to the Grand Strand that is more natural, peaceful and beautiful.

While living in Charleston, South Carolina, my family would take day trips to Myrtle Beach once or twice a year to enjoy everything from shopping to amusements. But we especially enjoyed exploring the natural attractions beyond the classic beach fare — and these are our perennial favorites.

Brookgreen Gardens

If you want a true picture of the beauty of South Carolina Lowcountry, stroll through Brookgreen Gardens, which is one of the most beautiful gardens in the south. This National Historic Landmark was once home to antebellum rice plantations. Now, it’s a veritable garden paradise filled with 9,000 acres of Mother Nature’s southern creations.

Stroll through the majestic Live Oak Allee, where 250-year-old trees were planted in the early 1700s. Or wander around with the kids in the magical butterfly garden nearby. There’s even a sculptural garden filled with more than 2,000 works of art — the largest collection of American figurative sculpture in the U.S.

The gardens also have their own zoo, which USA Today picked as a top zoo to see baby animals, because of the many baby alligators born there. Other animals include eagles, deer, river otters, owls and horses, all of which are native to South Carolina.

Quick Tip:

Brookgreen Gardens is particularly marvelous during the spring months, when colorful azaleas are in full bloom.

Alligator Adventure

For more reptile fun, head to Alligator Adventure. While you’ll probably spot plenty of alligators in the Myrtle Beach area, Alligator Adventure educates visitors about these ancient creatures and gives you the thrilling opportunity to see them up close.

Throughout the summer, my family and I love watching the alligator feedings. They often jump out of the water and snap their jaws around their meal, which makes for quite an exciting show. During the cooler months, when the animals don’t eat, you can attend a lecture to learn about them and get the chance to touch a live alligator. In addition to alligators, visitors can see snakes, crocodiles and even kangaroos.

The park is located at Barefoot Landing, which is also a popular shopping center. You’ll find plenty more to do after you’ve had your fill of alligators, including the Alabama Theatre and House of Blues.

Myrtle Beach Safari

Another favorite for animal lovers is T.I.G.E.R.S. Myrtle Beach Safari, also located at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. Yes, there’s a safari in Myrtle Beach!

Here you’ll find a 50-acre property with more than 130 animals, including 60 big cats like a liger (the world’s largest big cat). Visitors can take a three-hour guided walking safari to see animals like Bubbles, a 9,000-pound elephant. You can even interact with some of the animals, including petting tiger cubs.

Huntington Beach State Park

For a truly quiet and natural stop along the Grand Strand, make time for Huntington Beach State Park. Located on the southern side of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet, this state park offers three miles of beach, space for camping and plentiful bird watching.

Home to more than 300 bird species, the park is known as one of the best birding spots in the Southeast. Keep an eye out for other wildlife, as well — we often spotted alligators, sea turtles and minks. You’ll find ample spots for fishing, along with hiking and biking trails. Plus, the park is dog-friendly, if Fido wants to come along. While you’re there, you can also visit the former home of Anna Hyatt Huntington, philanthropist, sculptor and the park’s namesake, which is now a National Historic Landmark.

Quick Tip:

Myrtle Beach can be quite hot during the summer; visit during the spring and fall to enjoy more temperate weather.

Where to Stay:
Marriott’s OceanWatch at Grande Dunes