Beach Conditions & Laws
The City of Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront is both clean and safe, thanks to ongoing investments by the city. Our 10 miles of beach fronting the Atlantic Ocean are our most precious and important natural resource! The beach and ocean are why we live here and why millions of people choose to vacation here every year. The following information will help provide peace of mind as you enjoy the sun, sand and surf in Myrtle Beach.
BEACH FLAG SYSTEM & PUBLIC SAFETY
Myrtle Beach has a specific set of beach flags to let beach-goers know about water conditions. Pictured here is a sign showing the flag system. These flags will fly from lifeguard stands to alert of any potential dangers.
As indicated, a double red flag means the water is closed to the public; no swimming is allowed. A single red flag indicates hazardous conditions, such as strong waves or currents. Medium hazards are indicated by a yellow flag, while a green flag shows that conditions are generally good. A blue flag indicates dangerous marine life, such as a high number of jellyfish.
You’ll notice both Police and Fire Department personnel on the beach. During peak season, three EMS crews are available on the beach, seven days a week, to provide first aid and assist with any water-related emergencies. The Police Department's Beach Patrol also has officers working on the beach. The lifeguard services, through a franchise agreement with the city, provide watchful eyes and are ready to assist beachgoers and swimmers. Finally, the city has a dedicated beach coordinator to look after and monitor the oceanfront, the sand dunes and the public accesses. To learn more about beach safety, including laws and regulations, download the city's Safety Tips and Beach Regulations brochure.
STORMWATER MANAGEMENT & WATER QUALITY
Did you know… That the City of Myrtle Beach has invested more than $74.2 million in stormwater management projects citywide in the past 23 years? From 1995 to 2018, the city completed nearly 100 drainage, flooding and water quality projects. The work included four deepwater ocean outfalls at a cost of $37.5 million and dozens of regional and neighborhood stormwater management projects.
What is stormwater? Stormwater originates during rain events and flows across impervious surfaces and into drainage facilities. Ultimately, the rainfall travels either to the Atlantic Ocean or the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway. Common impervious surfaces include roadways, parking surfaces, buildings and driveways.
Why is stormwater management so important? Stormwater can pick up pollutants as it flows across impervious surfaces. To reduce bacteria levels in the naturally occurring stormwater runoff process, the city added deepwater ocean outfalls. These deepwater outfalls carry the stormwater runoff more than 1,000 feet off shore, beyond the breakers, where the ocean quickly absorbs it. The city currently has four deepwater outfalls in place, which allowed for the removal of dozens of drainage pipes from the beach, significantly improving the overall ocean water quality.
To learn more about how the city's stormwater management plan positively affects local water quality, click here. To see the city's strategic 10-year stormwater management master plan and list of future projects, click here.
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control monitors beach water quality from May 1 through October 1. Both the state and the city test the ocean waters at least twice a week during swimming season. To see SCDHEC’s Beach Access and Water Quality GIS Guide, visit https://gis.dhec.sc.gov/beachaccess/.
BEACH LAWS & REGULATIONS
- Alcohol is NOT allowed on the beach.
- Glass containers and bottles are NOT allowed on the beach.
- It is illegal to disturb or damage the dunes, the sand fencing or the sea grass oats. Stay on the boardwalks and marked paths!
- Aquatic activity (swimming, surfing, etc.) is not allowed within 75 yards of a pier.
- Metal detecting is allowed on the public beach, but NOT in the dunes, the street ends or any other public property.
- Littering is illegal. Please use trash and recycling containers provided.
- It is illegal to discharge, sell, store or possess fireworks within the city, including the beach. Fireworks displays by pyrotechnic professionals may be approved if permitted and supervised.
- All fires are prohibited on the beach, including barbecues and bonfires.
- Commercial activity is prohibited on the public beach. Non-commercial weddings (where no one is being paid) are allowed without a permit. Commercial weddings are not allowed.
- From May 1 through Labor Day, dogs are allowed on the beach only before 10:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. From the day after Labor Day to April 30 each year, dogs are allowed on the beach at any time of day. (Note: At all times, dogs must be on a leash seven feet or shorter, and you must pick up and properly dispose of droppings.)
- Dogs and bicycles are allowed on the boardwalk only between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. from May 1 through Labor Day. From the day after Labor Day through April 30 each year, dogs and bicycles are allowed on the boardwalk at any time. (Note: At all times, dogs must be on a leash seven feet or shorter, and you must pick up and properly dispose of droppings.)
- From Memorial Day through Labor Day, only circular umbrellas, up to seven-and-a-half feet in diameter, are allowed. From the day after Labor Day until Memorial Day, tents and canopies up to 12-by-12 square feet are allowed. Umbrellas must be in line with or behind the lifeguards' line of umbrellas or landward of the mean high tide line. Tents and canopies, when allowed, must be 10 feet behind the established umbrella line.
- Items may not be set up on the beach before 8:00 a.m. and must be removed from the beach by 7:00 p.m. daily.
- "Thong" style bathing suits are not allowed on the beach or in public.
- Violations of these ordinances are misdemeanors, subject to a fine of up to $500 and/or 30 days in jail, upon conviction. For more information, download our Beach Safety brochure.