Hello, Horry County!
South Carolina's Horry County may not be the most populous in the state, but it is geographically the largest, and is home to one of the state's most popular regions. Every year, more than 20 million visitors make their way to Horry County's Myrtle Beach area, and the Grand Strand. Visitors come not only for the sandy shores but also for the food, the golf and the wonderful entertainment.
Even though Horry County isn't the the most populous in SC, it does take the No. 4 spot. In addition to the millions of visitors, there are over 350,000 people who consider Horry County their permanent residence.
You might find it tempting to plant your roots here as well. If so, you wouldn't be the only one. By some estimates, Horry County will grow to more than 600,000 residents by 2035.
Plantations and War Heroes
Hundreds of years ago, several Native American tribes considered the area that is now Horry County home. The groups included the Waccamaw, the Siran and the Pee Dee. Many of the tribes spoke Siouan languages.
When European settlers arrived in the 1600s, they discovered that the land in this region was good for farming. Many established plantations. Rice and indigo were the most common crops.
Although the plantations were productive, the region remained largely isolated from other colonial settlements. Swampy wetlands served as a natural boundary. The watery geography also made the area an ideal refuge for pirates to hang out. In fact, the famous pirate Blackbeard was known to stalk this region.
Despite the swamps and the pirates, this portion of the South Carolina colony did eventually become more organized. In 1682, it became part of the newly formed Craven County. Over the years, the arrangement of local jurisdictions switched a few times. This portion of the colony belonged to at least four different districts from 1722 to 1769. They included Prince George Winyah Parish, Prince Frederick Parish, All Saints Parish and Georgetown District.
After the Revolutionary War, local boundaries began to take their modern form. In 1785, today's Horry County borders were drawn. Surprisingly, though, it still wasn't yet called Horry County. Rather, it was Kingston County.
The Horry name came in 1801. First, it was Horry District. The switch to Horry County came in 1868. It's a French name chosen in honor of Peter Horry. Although you wouldn't know it by looking at the word, locals would tell you that they pronounce it "OH-ree," or "ORR-ee," with a silent "h."
Peter Horry was born in South Carolina in the mid-1700s. His family had been French Huguenots. Horry was a farmer who gained military prominence as a lieutenant colonel during the Revolutionary War. He continued his military service as a member of the South Carolina Militia. There, he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He also served in state government as a member of both the House and Senate of South Carolina.
Part of the Grand Strand
Along the Atlantic Coast, there's a strip of land that forms an inward arc. It's a region known as "The Grand Strand." It includes three counties: a small portion of North Carolina's Brunswick County is on the north, South Carolina's Georgetown County is on the southern end, and Horry County sits right in the middle.
If you picture South Carolina as an upside-down triangle, Horry County would be in the far eastern corner. The county itself is also shaped like a triangle. The Atlantic coast runs along the southeastern edge of the county. On the northeastern side sits North Carolina. The western border, which backs up to other South Carolina counties, is formed by the Lumber River, which flows into the Little Pee Dee River.
The Grand Strand, of which Horry County is the most significant, boasts 60 miles of beaches to explore. They're divided into four main areas. Going north to south, they are North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach in Horry County and Pawleys Island in Georgetown County. The city of Myrtle Beach is the largest urban area in the county. Not only do the beach communities sit along the oceanfront, but the Intracoastal Waterway runs through them as well.
Despite the lure of the sand and surf, life in Horry County isn't all about the beaches. Conway, the county seat, sits further inland. The Waccamaw River runs through Conway and winds its way through the eastern side of the county. Suburban communities, especially the 10,000+ acre Carolina Forest, with homes and businesses fill in the space between Conway and the Atlantic coast.
The northern and western sections of the county are primarily rural. The largest communities in that area are Aynor and Loris, but they're each significantly smaller than Conway and Myrtle Beach.
When you spend time in Horry County, you may hear residents refer to areas of the county by names like Socastee and Dog Bluff. Those are holdovers from when the county was divided into townships in 1869. Many of the names are still in use today. For example, Little River, famous for its annual Blue Crab Festival, is the name of the community at the eastern tip of South Carolina.
Booming Population Numbers
The city of Conway in Horry County has undergone major population shifts in recent years. As of 2019, the population was around 26,000 people. Although small, the city seems to be growing every day. From 2010 to 2020, the population increased by 52%.
Much of the growth is fueled by retirees moving into the area. In fact, more than one-quarter of Conway's population is 65 and up. Throughout the county, that demographic accounts for nearly 17% of the population.
Horry County is about 61% white and 36% Black. Around 1% of the population is Asian. Also, approximately 0.6% is Native American, and the Waccamaw Indian People have tribal grounds near Aynor.
Agriculture and Tourism
With more than 20 million visitors a year, it's no surprise that tourism plays a major role in the economy of Horry County. According to some estimates, tourism contributes about 7 billion dollars to the Grand Strand economy each year.
Within the Grand Strand region, there are more than 70 golf courses and more than 30 miniature golf courses. Visitors can enjoy live entertainment at seven different theaters, shop at around 300 outlet stores, and take their pick of more than 1,800 full-service restaurants. Plus, there are over 150,000 rooms throughout the region in which visitors can stay during their trip. Around 1.3 million people board planes at Myrtle Beach International Airport each year, and another 1.3 million people disembark there.
Although tourism is seasonal, it creates year-round work. Around 80% of Horry County's tourism and hospitality jobs are full-time positions that are maintained throughout the year.
Plantations contributed to the early development of South Carolina, and agriculture is still an important facet of the Horry County economy. Crops grown in the county include corn, soybeans and tobacco. Hogs are the most common variety of livestock. Logging was another early industry that's still important to the modern economy of Horry County.
Coastal Carolina University is located in Conway. The school's doors first opened in 1954. Today, it's estimated that CCU's statewide economic impact is $1.5 million each day. Orientation Weekend alone brings over $750,000 into the community every year.
What to Do in Horry County
The beaches are some of the biggest draws in Horry County. You can sunbathe on the white sand or take up an oceanfront game of volleyball. For those who want easy access to the waves, lodging near the beach is plentiful.
Myrtle Beach's Boardwalk is a 1.2-mile walkway that features boutiques, eateries and gorgeous ocean views. Along the Boardwalk, you can hop on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, which is the tallest attraction of its kind along the East Coast. From there, you'll be treated to an unbeatable perspective of the sea and the city.
There are other waterways to explore in Horry County as well. The Waccamaw River is a prime example. You can enjoy it by taking a stroll along the Conway Riverwalk. You'll go under the Waccamaw River Memorial Bridge, which is listed in the National Historic Register. From the Riverwalk, you can access Riverfront Park and the Conway City Marina. Don't miss the seasonal festivals held along the Riverwalk, such as the Christmas Boat Parade and summer's annual Riverfest. Also, be sure to visit the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, home to over 22,000 acres of protected lands. Here you'll find freshwater tidal marshes, forested wetlands, longleaf pine forests, and a wide range of flora and fauna, including black bears, red-cockaded woodpeckers and swallow-tailed kites.
If you're a sports fan, be sure to catch a game of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at TicketReturn.Com Field. You could also visit the area for a youth athletic tournament at the John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center. Of course, one of the top sports activities in Horry County is golf! Myrtle Beach is considered one of the best areas in the country for golf enthusiasts. As noted above, there are over 70 private and public golf courses in Horry County, making it a golfing mecca with one course every 16 square miles. With so many options available for golfers, you never have to worry about getting a tee time, regardless the time of year.
If you're looking for some adventure off the sand, there are dozens of options, including Myrtle Beach Safari, Wonderworks Amusement Park, the Hollywood Wax Museum, multiple water parks and Grand Prix race tracks, an Alligator Adventure, and parasailing up and down the coastline.
You can treat yourself to other fun and excitement while exploring Horry County. Your entire family might enjoy the thrills of a dinner show, a concert at the House of Blues, a show at Alabama Theatre, the Carolina Opry, Pirates Adventure, Medieval Times or Legends in Concert, or you could check out Ripley's Aquarium or another of the area's intriguing museums. Retail districts like the two Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing make this county a shopper's paradise.
And whatever else you do in Horry County, don't miss the food! Seafood options, including fish, crab and scallops, abound. You'll also find can't-miss steaks and cocktails in the Myrtle Beach area as well as cozy spots with mouthwatering breakfast menus to start your day off right.