by Soo Kim, The Telegraph, December 15, 2017
Despite a year of falling visitor numbers following the election of president Donald Trump, one tiny patch of US soil has yet to lose its tourist appeal, according to Google.
The search engine this week unveiled its annual ranking of the most searched-for destinations. Las Vegas took the top spot, followed by Barcelona - so far, so unsurprising. But third placed might come as a shock - to British observers, at least.
South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach, the search engine reports, is more in demand than Paris, London, Venice and New York, to name a few, despite being a sleepy seaside town with just 30,000 residents.
That's because, despite its diminuitive size, it attracts around 15 million visitors a year (nearly double the number that Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Tokyo receive, according to the Global Destinations City Index). But we'd wager plenty of Britons have never heard of it. Indeed, most of those Google searches came from the US, and only 100,000 of its annual visitors are from overseas.
So allow us to explain the appeals of this well-kept secret.
1. The beaches are incredible
The clue’s in the name but Myrtle Beach overlooks 60 miles of pristine sand. It also basks in around 2,800 hours of sun a year (one of Britain's sunniest spots, Sussex, gets just 1,750). Temperatures peak at an average of 28C in July, while they hover between 14C and 16C during its short and mild winters.
2. It’s got class
Bikini thongs, and other swimming gear showing any part of the buttocks, are banned in all public areas of Myrtle Beach, including beaches. This “thong ordinance” has been in effect since the Nineties.
3. You can bag a bargain
Myrtle Beach is less crowded and more affordable than some of the more well-known seaside spots along the east coast, from Miami and Fort Lauderdale in the south to further north in New York, where there’s the celebrity haven of The Hamptons.
4. It's easy to reach
Myrtle Beach has its own international airport, with flights to New York, Boston, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Chicago and Toronto, among others.
5. Seafood fans will love it
Known as the state’s seafood capital, Myrtle Beach offers an array of places offering the freshest seafood, from beach shacks to fine dining. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, run by American TV chef, is the top related search topic in Myrtle Beach, according to Google.
6. So too will golfers
The town is a golfer’s paradise, with a remarkable 100 championship golf courses within reach, designed by a host of famed golf course ‘starchitects’, including Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones.
7. There are amusements galore
In a similar vein to Brighton in the UK, and New York's Coney Island, Myrtle Beach is home to various fairground attractions including the SkyWheel, towering 200 feet over the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, and the Family Kingdom amusement park, which boast 38 thrilling rides.
8. And plenty for lovers of culture
Myrtle Beach's cultural calendar offers a year-round schedule of activities, from arts and craft expos, including 600 fine art events, to light installations, candle-lit gardens and a Great Christmas Light Show. The annual display features more than two million lights along a 1.5-mile drive through the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex.
The town is also home to a number of historical museums and art galleries, including beautifully landscaped gardens such as the Brookgreen Gardens which showcase more than 900 works from 300 of America’s greatest sculpture artists.