Outer Banks vs. Myrtle Beach

When planning your next getaway, the choice between the serene Outer Banks (OBX) and the lively Myrtle Beach might seem like a toss-up. Both destinations offer miles of beautiful beaches, unique attractions, and memorable experiences for every type of traveler.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic escape, a family adventure, or a pet-friendly vacation, we’ve got you covered. This guide will delve into the natural beauty, activities, and accommodations of both locales, with a gentle nod to why the Outer Banks might just be the perfect choice for your next vacation.

Natural Beauty and Scenery

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, famed for its untouched natural beauty and historical significance. Couples can stroll hand in hand through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, while families can explore the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the highest natural sand dune system in the Eastern United States. The pet-friendly beaches here offer miles of exploration for you and your furry friends, making it a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Myrtle Beach

In contrast, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is known for its 60 miles of golden sand beaches, complemented by a bustling boardwalk filled with arcades, souvenir stands, and restaurants. The skyline, dotted with Ferris wheels and water parks, offers a more commercial backdrop, ideal for those who prefer their beach experience with a side of vibrant nightlife and entertainment.

Activities and Attractions

For Couples

  • Outer Banks: Discover the romantic charm of the Outer Banks with a visit to the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse, where you can share a kiss at the top overlooking the Atlantic. End your day with a private sunset cruise, navigating the tranquil waters as the sky paints a picture perfect moment.
  • Myrtle Beach: Dance the night away after enjoying a candlelit dinner at one of Myrtle Beach’s upscale restaurants, or catch a live show at the Alabama Theatre for a night of entertainment and laughter.

For Families

  • Outer Banks: Take a journey back in time at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, where the dream of flight became a reality. The Outer Banks also offers kayaking adventures through maritime forests and shallow coastal waters, perfect for wildlife spotting with the kids.
  • Myrtle Beach: Families will love the adrenaline-pumping rides at Family Kingdom Amusement Park or splashing around in one of the many water parks. Myrtle Beach’s mini-golf courses also offer a fun challenge for all ages.

Pet-Friendly Options

  • Outer Banks: With pet-friendly beaches and numerous accommodations that welcome furry members of the family, the Outer Banks is a paradise for pet owners. Enjoy the freedom of leash-less beaches in designated areas, where your pets can play to their heart’s content.
  • Myrtle Beach: While Myrtle Beach has some restrictions on pets on the beach during peak times, there are several dog parks and pet-friendly areas for your companion to enjoy, ensuring no one is left behind on your family vacation.

Dining and Nightlife

Outer Banks

The culinary scene in the Outer Banks caters to a variety of tastes, with a special emphasis on fresh, local seafood. Couples can enjoy intimate dining experiences with stunning ocean views, while families will appreciate the multitude of kid-friendly restaurants serving everything from gourmet burgers to delicious pizzas. For the pet owners, there are several outdoor dining options where pets are more than welcome. As for nightlife, the Outer Banks offers laid-back bars and live music venues that are perfect for unwinding after a day of adventure, providing a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is a hub of culinary diversity, offering an array of dining options from fast food to fine dining, with flavors from around the globe. The nightlife in Myrtle Beach is vibrant and varied, with beachfront bars, nightclubs, and live theater shows catering to every preference. Families can enjoy themed restaurants that offer entertainment along with meals, ensuring a fun dining experience for all ages.

Getting to Your Vacation: Outer Banks vs. Myrtle Beach

When planning a vacation, understanding how to get to your destination is as important as knowing what you’ll do once you arrive. Both the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach are accessible by a combination of air and road travel, with options varying by convenience, budget, and starting location.

Getting to the Outer Banks

Air Travel

  • Norfolk International Airport (ORF): Located about 82 miles north of the northernmost Outer Banks, it’s the closest major airport, offering a variety of domestic flights.
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU): Situated approximately 200 miles west of the Outer Banks, this airport provides access to both domestic and international flights, serving as a good option for those coming from farther away.
  • Local Airstrips: For more direct access, the Outer Banks has several smaller airstrips like Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, suitable for private or charter flights.

Getting to Myrtle Beach

Air Travel

  • Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR): The most convenient option for flying directly into Myrtle Beach, offering a range of domestic flights and some international connections during peak seasons.
  • Wilmington International Airport (ILM): Located about 70 miles north of Myrtle Beach, it’s an alternative for travelers, with domestic flights available.
  • Local Airstrips: Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach caters to private and charter flights for those looking for direct access to the northern part of Myrtle Beach.

Drive Times from Major Cities

  • Raleigh, NC: Approximately 3 to 4 hours, making it a relatively quick getaway for North Carolinians.
  • Charlotte, NC: Around 3.5 to 4.5 hours.
  • Norfolk, VA: About 5.5 to 6.5 hours.
  • Washington, DC: Roughly 7 to 8 hours, for those seeking a beach vacation away from the capital.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Approximately 8 to 9 hours, a manageable day’s drive for a longer vacation.


Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is known for its remote beauty, but it’s easily accessible by car from major cities on the East Coast. Once on the islands, the scenic Highway 12 connects the various communities, making it easy to explore the entire area. Rental services, including cars, bikes, and golf carts, offer convenient options for families and pet owners to navigate the islands. The slower pace of life here ensures that your vacation is as relaxing as it is memorable.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is conveniently located and easily accessible by car and air, with its own international airport offering direct flights from multiple locations. The city’s layout makes it easy to get around, with plenty of parking and public transportation options, including buses and trolleys. For visitors looking for convenience and accessibility, Myrtle Beach provides an easy-to-navigate vacation spot.

Cost of Vacation: Myrtle Beach vs. Outer Banks

Vacationing in either the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach can fit a range of budgets, but there are differences worth noting.

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks offers a wide variety of accommodation options, from luxury rentals to more budget-friendly choices. Dining and activities can also be tailored to suit your budget, with plenty of free natural attractions and affordable rental equipment for beach fun. The overall cost can be quite reasonable, especially when taking advantage of off-peak season rates, making it an attractive option for those seeking value without compromising on the quality of their experience.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is known for its affordability, with numerous budget-friendly accommodations and attractions. The plethora of dining options also means you can eat well on a budget. However, some of the more popular tourist attractions and peak season accommodations can drive up expenses. Myrtle Beach offers various discount cards and coupons, which can help save on attractions and dining.

Myrtle Beach vs. Outer Banks Finale

Choosing between the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach for your vacation depends on what you’re looking for in a getaway. If you desire a vacation where natural beauty, peacefulness, and a slower pace of life are prioritized, the Outer Banks offers an unparalleled experience. It’s a place where couples can find romance, families can make lifelong memories, and pets can roam freely on sandy beaches.

The Outer Banks invites you to step away from the everyday and discover a stretch of coastline where history, nature, and hospitality blend seamlessly. From the majestic lighthouses to the wild horses of Corolla, each day promises a new adventure without the crowds of more commercialized beach destinations.

Myrtle Beach, with its vibrant nightlife, plethora of attractions, and budget-friendly options, offers a different kind of charm, suitable for those seeking entertainment and convenience within steps of their accommodation.

For those yearning for a vacation that balances relaxation with adventure, and where every member of the family, pets included, can find joy, the Outer Banks beckons. Start planning your escape to this jewel of the Atlantic Coast, where the waves whisper the history of America’s first explorers and the stars light up unspoiled night skies.