Once a Pirate Hideout, Charming Murrells Inlet, South Carolina is Today Known for Its Boating and Fishing Culture, Tasty Seafood, Natural Beauty and Low Key Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Below the National Average
On the northern South Carolina coast and once a pirate hideout, quiet Murrells Inlet (population 9,000) is a charming fishing village. It started out in the early-1700s when several Englishmen, including John Murrell, were awarded land grants and started indigo plantations. When the Civil War brought an end to the South's plantation era, Murrell's Inlet became home to recreational and commercial fishermen, which it still is today. Known as the "Seafood Capital of South Carolina," and just 10 miles south of touristy Myrtle Beach and the entertainment-rich Grand Strand, Murrells Inlet has so far managed to escape a lot of splashy commercial overdevelopment.
Residents are a mature bunch. In fact, 53% of them are age 45 or better. Thirty percent of them hold at least a four year college degree. Politics lean to the right, and racial diversity is minimal. The town has grown by 20% in the last decade, and the cost of living is 15% below the national average.
The median home price is $295,000, a 14% increase from a year ago, and real estate includes everything from manufactured homes to beautiful waterfront residences and condos with boat slips. There are several new subdivisions from Pulte, Lennar and Ryland Homes. Seasons is a 55+ community with single family homes. Apartments are not in great supply.
South Carolina is tax friendly when it comes to retirement. The state does not tax Social Security benefits, and residents age 65 or better may exclude up to $10,000 of all types of retirement income or up to $15,000 ($30,000 married) of all taxable income. Income above the $15,000 is taxed between 0% and 7%, depending on the amount. For people who are 65 or better and who have lived in their home for at least one year, the state offers a homestead exemption of $50,000 of the home's fair market value. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Murrells Inlet is .38%. The annual taxes on a $295,000 home are approximatley $1,120, without a homestead exemption. The combined sales rate is 7%.
The lifestyle here is leisurely and revolves around fishing and boating. As a result, most residents seem to love this town. It is also popular with naturalists, photographers and artists who revel in the scenic juxtaposition of seascapes, marshlands, cypress trees and hazy blue skies. Commercial fishing boats venture out in the early morning and return with catches of shrimp and flounder, mimicking the easy comings and goings of daily life here.
Numerous festivals add to Murrells Inlet's appeal. The annual Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival brings in more than 100 artists and large crowds for a celebration of food, music and art. The Lip-Rippin' Chilympics Chili Cook-Off is a competition with cash prizes, lots of spectators and lots of chili.
Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
Brookgreen Gardens is a nationally-recognized sculpture garden museum and zoo, and nearby Huntington State Park boasts pristine beaches and hiking trails. Wacca Wache Marina is on a stunning stretch of the Waccamaw River and is a popular stop for boaters traveling up and down the river. The Marshwalk is a mile long boardwalk overlooking a salt marsh teeming with egrets, osprey and pelicans.
And with a history of pirate visits, including one from the infamous Blackbeard, Murrells Inlet plays up the various ghosts said to be in residence around town. Golfers enjoy nine local courses, with another 90 or so in nearby Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area.
When it comes to dining, Murrells Inlet lives up to its nickname, with 30 or more restaurants serving seafood caught earlier in the day (although some eateries let diners catch their own dinners). Shopping is not world class, but most of the basics are here. Many residents shop at Broadway at the Beach or Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach.
Coast RTA runs shuttle buses up and down the coast and makes seven stops a day in Murrells Inlet, including at the hospital. A paratransit service is available, too.
Waccamaw Community Hospital, with 124 beds, is award-winning for patient safety excellence and patient experience excellence. It is accredited by the Joint Commission, and Medicare patients are accepted. Conway Medical Center is just 15 miles away and also accepts Medicare patients and is accredited by the Joint Commission. For military retirees, the nearest VA hospital is in Charleston, 75 miles away, but Myrtle Beach has a VA outpatient clinic.
The Bureau of Aging Services in Georgetown County offers programs for older adults (age 60+), including medical transportation, home delivered meals and home care services (light housekeeping, personal assistance, etc.). Murrells Inlet does not have a senior center, but neighboring Pawleys Island (15 miles away) has a center with limited services. Georgetown (20 miles away) has three centers with transportation provided to and from them.
Murrells Inlet does not have a public library, either, but the Georgetown Public Library System has a branch location in Pawyleys Island, and the bookmobile comes to Murrells Inlet every Thursday.
This area has summer high temperatures in the low 90s and winter temperatures in the 50s and 60s. On average, Murrells Inlet receives 54 inches of rain per year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, the town ranks below the national average. The sun shines 210 days of the year.
Retirement in Murrells Inlet has some drawbacks. Aside from no public library and no senior center, some infrastructure struggles to keep up with the recent growth. Hurricanes are a reality. Hugo, Fran, Floyd, Charley and Hanna have all come close. Matthew in 2016 caused some damage, as did Florence in 2018 and Dorian in 2019. Murrells Inlet is not a hotspot on the tourist map, but vacationers do wander into town during the summer and clog traffic. Some families have been here for generations, so fitting in can sometimes be a little difficult at first.
And yet, despite these problems, this low key coastal hamlet beckons, with its charming character, clean beaches and plentiful water recreation. The pirates are gone, but the retirees are here, and most of them seem very happy that they have landed in Murrells Inlet.
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