Spanning the coast of South Carolina and the greater Grand Strand, you’ll find the open waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Brimming with life and adventure, the waters here are the life force of the area producing fresh seafood, nurturing wildlife, and creating a route for vessels traveling inland.
If you want to connect with nature while staying at a North Myrtle Beach vacation home, you’ve come to the right place. The Intracoastal Waterway runs right along its shores. From the abundant sea life to the critters that roam the banks, you will surely catch a glimpse of the local wildlife along these waters.
You can cast a line, set off on a boat ride, or dine along banks and enjoy scenic waterway views. You’ll find plenty of ways to experience the waters here. To help you narrow your search, we’ve created this handy guide to exploring the Intracoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach.
What is the Intracoastal Waterway?
The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile long stretch of waterway that spans the length of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. It begins in Massachusetts and continues down all the way to the southern tip of Florida, where it wraps around to the Gulf Coast, ending in Brownsville, Texas.
This network of waterways comprises natural and man-made waters, including inlets, rivers, bays, sounds, and canals. It was created to provide a safe route for boats, allowing them to avoid the risks of traveling on the dangerous waters of the open Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to providing safe passage for ships and other water vessels, the creation of the Intracoastal Waterway resulted in a coastal water trail of stunning scenic landscapes. This, and the abundant wildlife that inhabit the ICW, make it a haven for conservationists and nature enthusiasts.
What Can You See and Do on the Intercoastal Waterway?
One of the most popular ways to navigate North Myrtle Beach’s section of the Intracoastal Waterway is via kayak. Traveling by kayak lets you experience the various ecosystems and their abundant wildlife firsthand. You can explore serene marshlands while birdwatching or reel in a fresh catch from your boat as you fish in the waterway.
Kayaking is a water sport that all skill and ability levels can enjoy. You’ll find several local outfitters offering both kayak rentals and guided tours in NMB.
- Kokopelli’s Surf Camp: Offers kayak tours and rentals in the North Myrtle Beach area. You can book several different tours to explore the water views or rent your own kayak to explore at your own pace.
- J&L Kayaks: Located just north of North Myrtle Beach in Little River, SC. You’ll also find several tour options here, including a fun crabbing adventure and kayak rentals.
Cast a Line
The Intracoastal Waterway is rife with diverse fish species, making it a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. You can cast a line and reel in anything from flounder to sheepshead to trout from the shore or off the local fishing pier. Fishing charters are also available in the area for deep sea fishing experiences.
- Little River Fleet: Located in NMB, it offers head boat fishing, bottom fishing, gulf stream fishing, and private charters. They also have a 3,500 sq ft retail facility where you can grab some gear for your trip.
- Reel Action Fishing Charters: They offer inshore and offshore fishing charters.
- Cherry Grove Fishing Pier: This pier has been home to many record-breaking catches!
Rent a Boat
One of the best ways to explore the Intracoastal Waterway at your own pace is to experience it by boat. Whether you have your own boat or choose to rent one, this is the perfect way to captain your own itinerary for the day! Exploring by boat also allows you to visit some of the small islands you’ll find throughout the ICW. You’ll find a few places to launch a boat in North Myrtle.
Explore the Intracoastal Waterway with a pontoon rental from Myrtle Beach Watersports and explore the channels of the ICW at your leisure. If launching your own boat, you’ll find two public boat launches in NMB. Johnny Causey Landing and Peter Vought Boat Ramp both offer two launching lanes and 40-45 boat trailer spots each.
Along the shores of the ICW, you’ll find plenty of seafood-themed waterside eateries to dock your boat at and grab a bite. The Greg Norman Australian Grille in Barefoot Landing offers a dock for boaters. Filet’s Waterfront, located by the swing bridge in NMB, also offers boat docking.
Guided Dolphin Tours & Wildlife Spotting
The area surrounding the Intracoastal Waterway is brimming with life. From the dolphins playing in the surf to the birds that frequent the marsh, you’ll glimpse wildlife everywhere. Lots of coastal species call this area home, including deer, wild turkeys, turtles, snakes, alligators, osprey, and bald eagles inhabit this waterway.
You can hike along a nature trail near the waterway to glimpse some native inhabitants or spot a dolphin from your seat on a local dolphin tour. North Myrtle Beach has two local outfitters that offer dolphin-watching excursions. You can choose from a jet ski dolphin watch trip with Action Water Sportz or a speed boat trip with Myrtle Beach Watersports.
Just north of Heritage Shores Nature Preserve, accessible by boat or horseback, you’ll find Waites Island. Inlet Point Plantation offers horseback riding tours to this barrier island, brimming with wildlife and scenic beauty.
The Best Viewpoints on the Intracoastal Waterway
Even if you don’t want to spend a day on the waters of the ICW, you’ll find lots of places in the area where you can enjoy the view.
1. Barefoot Landing
Barefoot Landing is a popular destination lining the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway. This large complex offers visitors plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Additionally, it features a boardwalk that offers incredible views of the waterway and surrounding marshlands.
Several of the restaurants in the area offer waterfront dining allowing you to enjoy the ICW alongside a good meal and glass of wine.
2. Cherry Grove Oceanfront Park
Located just off Ocean Boulevard on 22nd Avenue North, you’ll find Cherry Grove Oceanfront Park. This small park is a hidden gem and often less crowded than other beach accesses in North Myrtle Beach.
This park has restrooms, a small picnic area with a gazebo, and swings and benches. You’ll also find a scenic pier extending into the ICW, offering a panoramic view of the water and surrounding wildlife.
3. Vereen Memorial Gardens
The Vereen Memorial Gardens is a nature preserve along the Intracoastal Waterway. This 100-acre preserve is a serene sanctuary for the local wildlife that is abundant here. Offering breathtaking views of the marshes and the waterway, these historic gardens are ideal for quiet contemplation.
A network of walking trails and boardwalks span the grounds making it the perfect place for an afternoon walk. Along the trails, you’ll encounter wooden porch swings, a fishing pier, and a quaint waterside gazebo. Admission to the park is free, making a budget-friendly opportunity to enjoy the ICW.
4. LuLu’s North Myrtle Beach
You can enjoy stunning waterway views and a delicious meal at Lulu’s in North Myrtle Beach. This popular waterfront restaurant offers delicious coastal cuisine like seafood gumbo and fish tacos. You can also enjoy some live music with your meal when you visit in the evenings.
In addition to dining on the outdoor deck, Lulu’s offers several other ways to enjoy the Intracoastal Waterway. They offer a beach with beach volleyball and ropes courses above the beach. If you want an air-conditioned experience, be sure to check out their arcade.
5. Heritage Shores Nature Preserve
Heritage Shores Nature Preserve is an oceanfront protected area with over seven acres of walking paths along which you can travel through marches and forests. You’ll find fishing piers and observation decks perfect for bird-watching.
This park offers free admission year-round and convenient amenities, including picnic shelters, restrooms, and parking. You’ll find the park beside the neighboring Cherry Grove Beach Park, which also offers a boat ramp.
Enjoy the Dynamic Intracoastal Waterway
The Intracoastal Waterway in North Myrtle Beach is the true gem of the native coastline. From the boats trailing the shores to the undeveloped wilderness areas throughout the banks to the abundant wildlife that thrives in and around its waters, the ICW is living artwork and a life force for the area. The best way to experience the coastal Carolinas’s incredible Intracoastal Waterway is by booking one of our rental properties with access to the ICW. Filter your search by property view to see some of our oceanfront and waterway view options!