Making a splash at local pool-side bars

Swim on up and drink on down at locals-friendly poolside bars

August 1, 2012 

There is no denying, we live in the South. Summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees and the humidity can make the world a hazy mess with air thick enough to taste. When it gets too overbearing, nothing beats a cool pool and an icy drink. How many times have you been sitting in your car, at a stand-still in tourist traffic in the last few months and yearned to be floating around in a pool with a daiquiri straw hanging out of your mouth? It feels unbearably out of reach.

Here on the Grand Strand, during the productive season of our vacation destination, the locals get pushed aside and trodden on, for the sake of summer revenue. Where is our relief from the unforgiving, burning orb above our heads?

Our area bars, hotels and resorts realize the plight of us, the locals. Hey, they’re locals too. These establishments have begun to invite us to discover their poolside parties and festivities. But where and when, you ask?

Team Surge hit the smoldering blacktop to search out some places where you can beat the heat – be it a swim-up pool bar where you can get your single-on or a laidback place to enjoy a frozen drink and vicariously soak-up an afternoon vacation or a restaurant where you can take a dip in a pool between dinner and dessert. We give you, the loyal locals, directions and fodder for plan-making on how to get in on delicious drinks, delectable eats, Hawaiian shows, magicians and so much more.

Splash along with us as we work our way from the south of the Strand to the north, making a list of some happening places for you to…swim on up and drink on down.

Mako’s Oceanfront Bar & Grill , 2101 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach

The Scene | In its 4th season, Mako’s is defined by the shark theme – you would think the décor would be an albatross around the neck with the active shark season we’ve had. But Mako’s is thriving by offering a laidback, beach bum atmosphere for tourists and locals alike. The place bustles with young people, middle-aged couples, and groups of twenty-somethings.

Bar Manager Kait Nizolak is in her third year with Mako’s. She says, “I live like 45 minutes away. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it.” Everyone is laughing, including the employees. When a waitress is finished with her shift, she gives hugs before she leaves. There doesn’t seem to be much pretense.

The deck on the bar overlooks the pool and the beach. The bar is out on the deck and there are plenty of seats and tables, inside and out. They even have a middle tier between the bar and the pool with a couple rows of picnic tables.

The Shelf | The bar has an extensive list of frozen and on-the-rocks drinks ranging from $5 to $8. Happy Hour is 4 – 7 p.m. and features $2 domestic beer and $4 daiquiris, 50-cent wings and $4 specials on select appetizers.

But the bell of the bar is Mako’s Fishbowl. The Fishbowl is equal to three drinks and costs $20 the first time. But keep the bowl, bring it back and fill it up anytime for $10. When we ask what the most popular fish bowl filler is, Nizolak responds, “The Walk the Plank but probably because it’s on top of the menu. People usually work their way down.”

The Plate | Mako’s serves breakfast until 11 a.m. and with lunch and dinner options, it’s a pretty extensive menu - appetizers ($3 - $18), sandwiches ($7 - $10), wraps ($8), a kids menu ($4 - $5), quesadillas ($6 - $9), burgers ($8 - $11), pizza ($12 - $15) and entrees which include all sorts of seafood, crab legs and ribs ($13 - $20). Nizolak tells us some of the favorites are “The wraps, the wings, the burgers, which are fresh, and the seafood which is all hand-battered.”

There’s also a two-pound Jaws Burger which is topped with fries, bacon, chili, a fried egg, onion, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, American, Swiss, cheddar and nacho cheese. The burger will cost you $25 but you get a free T-shirt for merely trying to eat it and if you get it all down in a half-hour, it’s free. They’ve only had four people finish it. Nizolak says, “Most people give up way before the half-hour, but we make five or six a week.”

The Amenities | Mako’s has a huge pool and a kiddy pool on the deck. There’s also two hot tubs and a pool inside. There’s also a stage on the pool deck for a family-friendly deejay everyday from 1– 5 p.m. with Karaoke and a cocktail server. Friday and Saturday nights from 5–10, there’s live acoustic performers and small bands on Mako’s oceanfront deck. During the football season, the place also has the NFL Package and plenty of TVs.

Locals Love | Locals are more than encouraged and for a bar attached to a resort, it gets a lot of locals. Nizolak tells us that there’s a pack of some regulars known as “The Fishbowl Friday Girls,” who bring their fishbowls for refills every Friday night.

Mako’s is privately owned and operated, but in partnership with The Reef Resort, they open their pools and entertainment to all locals coming to enjoy the bar and grill. Nizolak says, “We get locals. We get the guests of this hotel and other hotels too. Sometimes they’ll hear the music from the deejay and come up from the beach.”

Bathroom Access | There is a one-person bathroom in the restaurant area to change into/out of your bathing suits and there is another bathroom down by the pools.

Parking | Patrons of Mako’s are free to use The Reef Resort’s parking, just as long as you don’t leave it overnight.

Hours | 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Contact | 808-6256, www.reefmyrtlebeach.com, www.facebook.com/makosoceanfront

Tipsy Turtle at Landmark Resort, 1501 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach

The Scene | Tipsy Turtle is the new terrapin in town. It has inside and outdoor seating. With its Tiki masks and surfboards on the walls, it screams beachy. The inside tables look like wooden Djembe drums. The crowd is mostly tourists and they come and go. The pool deck is vast and bustling with activity as people trudge up from the beach and bounce around the pools.

It is a definite hotel crowd but they accept all comers. The Director of Marketing for Vacation Myrtle Beach, Matt Klugman describes the Tipsy Turtle as, “a laid back spot for parents to have a drink by the pool while the kids are playing or for younger adult groups to have a good time relaxing by the beach.”

The Shelf | The big daddy drink of the Tipsy Turtle is the Voodoo Bucket – a 32-ounce souvenir bucket of Cruzan Coconut, Banana, Mango and Pineapple rums mixed with cranberry, orange and pineapple juice and served over ice topped with Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum. The Voodoo Bucket is $15.

The bar also offers a nice selection of smaller frozen and iced drinks, including daiquiris, specialty lemonades, island margaritas and coladas. These drinks are $7 for iced and $7.50 for frozen.

The Plate | If you need something to soak up the Voodoo Juice, The Landmark Resort also has Shark Bites Grill which has your typical bar-foods. Or for the sweet-tooth, The Sugar Shak offers frozen yogurt and various candy treats. The items on these quick-eat menus range from $3 to $8.

The Amenities | The Tipsy Turtle keeps it clean with a family-oriented deejay party on Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m. And what’s a party without a magician? Mondays and Thursdays, Magician and illusionist Carl Michael performs two one-hour shows at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Stick around for last call on Wednesday nights as things heat up with Chief Kamu’s Fire and Hula Show at 9 p.m.

Locals Love | The Thirsty Turtle, the resort’s restaurants and all the shows and parties are open to anyone with a thirst. But the pools are off limits…so you’re forced to pool hop, but don’t tell anyone we said that.

Bathroom Access | It’s right around the corner from the bar.

Parking | Again locals get no love, forced to park in the beach accesses on either side of the building and across the street. But it’s not a bad walk. Plus, Landmark has that really cool skywalk across Ocean Boulevard, just in case you park across the street and someone has to carry you back to your car.

Hours | 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Contact | 448-9441, www.landmarkresort.com, www.facebook.com/landmarkresort

Mixx at Hotel Blue - 705 S. Ocean Blvd Myrtle Beach

The Scene | Mixx at Hotel Blue features a Las Vegas-style swim-up bar open to locals. It is also the home of Therapy Oceanfront Pool Party on Sunday afternoons. Matt Klugman from Vacation Myrtle Beach also represents Hotel Blue. He says, “Therapy generally brings in a younger adult crowd with a really high energy, though we see both the young and older adult crowd.”

We found that to be true. The crowd is littered with young, beautiful girls and buff guys doing shots, flirting in the pools. But there’s also a significant sect of the over-40 set, enjoying the pools with drinks in their hands. The chairs are the shallow lip of the pool, filled with a diorama of different ages of both genders. There are a few families playing in the pools but it doesn’t hamper the party. Everyone seems to be having a great time, including the balconies filled with gentlemen spectators.

The Shelf | The drinks range between $7 and $8. Mixx specializes in the frozen and fruity drinks. One favorite is the Lava Flow which is a drink made with rum and a blend of Pina Colada and strawberry flavors. Another cool feature of Mixx is the Ski Shot. It’s a plank of wood with four slots cut out that fits four shot glasses – ensuring everyone does the shot at the same time and nobody can chicken-out in the middle without spilling their drink down their chest.

The Plate | Hotel Blue keeps it poolside with the grill. It’s a cookout providing burgers, hot dogs and a few other bar-foods. And if you need to sober up a bit after the party, Café Blue serves Starbuck’s coffees and pastries. All of Hotel Blue’s options range between $4 and $6.

The Amenities | There is a whirlpool on the pool deck.  On Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., they offer deejays spinning tunes pool-side. “Therapy deejays typically play in club environments, so the atmosphere is definitely more lively than anything else you’ll find on the oceanfront in Myrtle Beach,” says Klugman.

For you high-rollers looking to impress or throw a private party, Mixx offers VIP Cabanas starting at $300. This includes two bottles of liquor. For $400, you can get a VIP Cabana with two premium bottles of booze, such as Grey Goose Vodka or Patron Tequila.

Locals Love | The Therapy Party is a free-for-all on the pool deck. Unfortunately, the rest of the week you have to keep it dry. Mixx is open for locals to come drink it down but you can’t swim-up to do it. But who’s going to tell if you tip well?

Bathroom Access | In case you don’t come suited-up or to keep the pools pee-free, there’s a bathroom for changing or unloading purposes a mere 75 feet away.

Parking | Again, the Sunday Therapy Party allows you to park in the hotel parking lot but the rest of the week you are subjugated to public access parking on either side that are a hop and a skip away.

Hours | 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Contact | 448-4304, www.hotelbluemb.com, www.facebook.com/HotelBlueTherapy

Ailsa’s Pub, 1500 Legends Rd., Myrtle Beach (off U.S. 501)

The Scene | It’s about three miles from U.S. 501 down Legends Drive to Ailsa’s Pub but it feels like forever into the middle of nowhere. It’s kind of surreal – a Scottish pub smack in a golf community in the sticks. At 8 p.m. on a Saturday, there’s a few guys strewn around watching the Olympics on the big screens. Walking out to the back deck, there’s a wall-size mural of Ailsa Craig Island in Scotland. Sadly, the pool and hot tub lay empty, but it is sprinkling rain.

Tricia Jordon, Pub Manager, and Trey Bell, Executive Chef, took time to show us around. There’s a festive and fun nature floating around the place. Jordan says, “It’s all wide open. We’re up for providing anything for our customers within the structure of the law.”

The Shelf | Jordon adamantly tells us that they don’t serve frozen drinks. Ailsa sets itself apart by offering diverse sipping whiskeys. The pub specializes in Scotch and bourbon. Scotch shots vary in price from $8 to $20 for a shot of Middleton Blend. Bourbon ranges from $5 to $30 for Pappy Van Winkle. For those of you that enjoy a cigar while drinking your Scotch, there’s a humidor behind the bar and cigars range from $7 to $14. But luckily, cigar smokers have to take it outside because it’s a no-smoking pub.

The pub does run a 4-7 p.m. Happy Hour with $2 domestic beers, including Yuengling, and $3 well liquors. Bell has also been known to experiment with blending shots with various desserts.

The Plate | Jordon and Bell get excited over the menu options. Jordon says, “People expect bar food, they’re surprised when we show them our menu.” Bell explains that every entrée is “constructed.” Bell calls Ailsa a “Gastropub” – A pub that serves high-end pub food. Bell says, “It’s definitely geared toward men.”

The menu is a balanced affair of starters for $8 to $18, sandwiches for $10 to $13 and Pub Plates for $13 to $20. There are a few “Market Prices” on the menu. Bell and Jordan both agree Crab Cakes ($12) are a standout on the starters and the Pork Osso Bucco ($20) is a stellar entrée.

Like with the shots, Bell gets creative with his desserts. He makes homemade ice cream early and when it’s gone it’s gone. His most popular flavor so far has been Double Chocolate Bourbon topped with Bailey’s whip cream and Lover’s Knots made from frying raw pastry into a sweet knot covered in cinnamon – a bowl cost $3.

Bell, who took over as the Executive Chef about two months ago, explains his philosophy of experimentation, “We have enough rope to play around with and we haven’t been tugged back yet.”

The Amenities | Besides the pool, there’s a hot tub, corn-hole games, a cauldron-shaped fire-pit, plenty of TVs inside and outside. Bell tells us they have the capabilities to do, “Wine tastings, beer tastings, bourbon tastings.”

Locals Love | The pub welcomes all locals to come and enjoy all the amenities. But so far, they haven’t had many. It’s mostly been residents of the Legends’ community and golfers. Jordon and Bell both seem to have an eagerness about trying new things to bring the locals to their remote spot. Jordon says, “We’d love to cater more to locals but they just don’t know about us yet.”

Bathroom Access | Right inside, they even supply towels in case you forget to bring yours.

Parking | There’s plenty of parking wherever you want. No worries about tickets and towing – meter maids and tow-trucks don’t come out this far.

Hours | 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Contact | 236-5530, www.legendsgolf.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Ailsa-Pub

Ocean Annie’s, 9550 Shore Drive, Myrtle Beach.

The Scene | Some people might say Ocean Annie’s is the grande dame of beach/pool bars on the Strand, and they wouldn’t be far off. This bar was one of the first to market itself as one catering to the general public as well as guests at the Sands Ocean Club, where it’s located. Ocean Annie’s has been around more than 20 years (certain writers for Surge might be, er, able to confirm this fact because they visited during college…cough, cough), and its signature atmosphere has never really changed, which is a good thing. The large central bar is surrounded by seating on three different levels of decks, each covered with dozens of tables and chairs, some tables with umbrellas. A large stage hosts the almost constant live entertainment, which is offered March through November, weather permitting, but of course summer is the busiest time. No matter where you stand at this bar, you get a view of the beach, and the huge adjacent swimming pool is open to the public, although you’ll have to compete with Ocean Club guests to enjoy the water. When the weather is good, you will have to battle crowds on the deck because this place attracts many people who are just walking by and attracted by the band (and the possibility of finding a drink, a dip and a bathroom!)

The crowd? Don’t worry if you don’t have a gym-ready body…you’ll find all kinds and all types of bodies sporting everything from bikinis to muumuus crowded onto Annie’s deck. The crowd tends to be slightly older – late ‘20s and early ‘30s on up, with plenty of frisky shaggers running around in season. College students are in the mix too, but that’s not the signature draw. The people watching on a recent Saturday was remarkable…especially fun is watching people try to dance to the live band after a few pitchers of margaritas in the hot sun. This summer, Dawn and the Southside Band and Roadside Assistance are the featured acts, both offer up a good selection of old and new hits. Roadside Assistance throws a lot of new country into the mix.

The Shelf | Annie’s has a limited beer selection…Natural Light and LandShark (beginning at $3.25), but a full selection of frozen drinks, regular bar drinks and shots. Check out its version of Long Island Iced Tea known as “Annie’s Tea,” which is $5.50 by the drink or $21 by the pitcher (lots of folks go for pitchers at this place.)

The Plate | Ocean Annie’s itself doesn’t serve food, but burgers and sandwiches galore are available at the nearby onsite location of River City Café, and other dining is available at the Sands Ocean Club. Food, however, is not the main attraction at Ocean Annie’s. As mentioned above, the pool, the sun and the drinks are more important.

The Amenities | Everybody has access to the large adjacent pool. Annie’s, as mentioned above, has plenty of space for seating and, when possible, dancing. Many locals also show up to enjoy the weekly fireworks display at 9 p.m. Wednesdays. There are showers available for those walking up from the beach who want to get rid of the excess sand before they party.

Locals Love | Annie’s is fully open to locals.

Bathroom Access | Bathrooms located onsite.

Parking | This is one of the only problems. You’re on your own. Sands Ocean Club has a parking garage but it’s technically available only to guests with a pass unless you can charm one of the resort workers. Locals are left to their own devices to find parking nearby along Shore Drive. It helps if you know somebody who owns one of the nearby condos or beach houses across the street.

Hours | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Contact | 1-888-266-4375 (888-ANNIES5) or www.oceanannies.com

Breeze’s Beach Bar at Beach Cove Resort, 4800 South Ocean Blvd., North Myrtle Beach.

The Scene | Expect to be immersed in an oceanfront and poolside oasis of sorts that blocks out the rest of the world when you hit Breeze’s. The bar has a good view of the ocean, with tables and chairs facing directly on the beach, and also sits in the middle of the bustling crowds that come and go around Beach Cove’s four outdoor pools. You can sit at tables with umbrellas, take your drinks to a set of loungers, or gather on stools around the bar, which is especially fun when well-known, locals-friendly bartender Kenny Taylor is holding court. Plenty of locals make Breeze’s a regular stop. You’ll find yourself enjoying your drinks alongside Beach Cove guests of all ages, from all over the place. No matter what time of day (or night) it is, everybody seems in a perpetually good mood…but when you see the view that’s available, you won’t be surprised.

The Shelf | The bar offers a wide selection of domestic and foreign beers, frozen drinks starting at around $7 and house drinks that average about $6. Happy hour is nightly from 5-7. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask Taylor to whip up his signature “Ocean Potion.” He keeps this drink’s exact ingredients secret, but it’s worth a try.

The Plate | Breeze’s food is served from the bar’s own grill. Choose from a selection of standard grill food including hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, pizzas, and chicken fingers. Prices range from $4-$8.

The Amenities | Pool lovers (and pool hoppers) will fall in love with Beach Cove’s four outdoor pools (always crowded), three whirlpools, and a huge lazy river. Like most resorts, the facilities are supposed to be for guests only, but again, pool-hopping happens regularly. Breeze’s itself features live entertainment from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday-Monday. There’s a disc jockey spinning a selection of old-school favorites and new hits on Friday and Sunday, and a singer on Saturday and Monday. Thursday is luau night, with food from 6-8 p.m. and Hawaiian-style entertainment beginning at 9 p.m.

Locals Love | Locals are more than welcome at the bar. Kenny Taylor and the other bartenders are friendly and ready to serve no matter where the customer comes from.

Bathroom Access | Restrooms are a short walk around the corner from the bar.

Parking | Parking is available either at nearby public beach accesses or in the parking garage. (Technically, this is supposed to be for guests, but workers will tell you that locals don’t get towed.) On a recent Sunday afternoon, Weekly Surge had no problem finding a space in the garage, although it can be challenging to find your way back to the beach access.

Hours | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

Contact: 918-8000; www.beachcove.com/amenities/breezes-beach-bar-and-grill/

Fishtails Beach Bar at Bay Watch Resort, 2701 S. Ocean Boulevard, North Myrtle Beach.

The Scene | Fishtails is located at the far southern corner of the expansive oceanfront Bay Watch property. Customers can sit at the long covered bar area and get to know the incredibly friendly staff, or sit at tables and chairs scattered around a large deck. Many tables have umbrellas and there are also seats facing out directly on the ocean. There’s easy access from the beach. Customers around the bar on any given day range in age from 20-something couples to senior citizens, but everybody is friendly and locals are welcomed with open arms. Here’s a tip: if you’re originally from Pittsburgh or the Western Pennsylvania area, some of the bartenders are from that area and a huge number of Bay Watch patrons are too, so if you’re on your own maybe you can strike up a conversation about the upcoming Steelers season.

The Shelf | Fishtails offers a good range of draft and bottled domestic and foreign beers, wine, a huge assortment of liquor drinks and shots, and, of course, frozen daiquiris. They also have their own frozen masterpieces, including the popular Frozen Alligator, which is Malibu Island Melon rum, melon liqueur and pina colada mix. Happy hour is 4-7 p.m. daily.

The Plate | Fishtails shares a menu with the nearby indoor Sandtrap Sports Bar and Grill. You can get everything from appetizers such as spicy “Flip Flop Shrimp” ($7.95) to chicken tenders ($6.95) and crab dip ($7.95). Tasty pizza is available: six-inch personal pizzas are $6 for cheese, $6.50 for one topping, or you can grab 16-inch jumbo pizzas ranging from $12 for cheese to $15.75 for the supreme. The menu also includes a large assortment of salads, wraps and sandwiches with prices ranging $6-$8.25, so you can get your eat on without breaking the bank.

The Amenities | Fishtails is directly adjacent to the Bay Watch’s huge selection of swimming pools. There’s a little something here for everyone ranging from three outdoor pools to four kiddie pools, whirlpools and both indoor and outdoor lazy rivers. There’s also a large number of loungers available if you want to work on your tan while enjoying your drink from Fishtails. Pools and lounges, however, are supposed to be for Bay Watch guests, so you will have to engage in the time-honored local art of “resort pool hopping.” (One of those local traditions that is kind of like the crazy relative everybody knows about but doesn’t like to mention.) Seriously, on a recent Saturday afternoon the pool area was so crammed with guests of all ages that it would be hard to tell if a local decided to take a dip. Fishtails also frequently offers live music each afternoon on a small stage adjacent to the bar. The recent schedule was from 4-7 p.m. but that can change depending on the weather or the performer.

Locals Love | Fishtails has a large and devoted locals following that mixes in well with the generally friendly guests who also patronize the bar. You’ll be welcomed and receive a 15 percent locals discount.

Bathroom Access | Restrooms are adjacent to the bar area; there also are indoor restrooms in the Sand Trap.

Parking | Plenty of public parking is available right next to the Bay Watch.

Hours | 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Contact | 361-2113 or www.fishtailsbeachbar.com.

St. Clements Beach Bar and Grill, 202 70th Avenue North oceanfront, Myrtle Beach.

The Scene | Nestled behind the St. Clements condominium building at 70th Ave. North and Ocean Boulevard, St. Clement Beach Bar and Grill s is a semi-hidden beach bar gem that’s been around since 1988. The bar is small and intimate with seating on stools around the bar, tables and chairs scattered around under the nearby roof and also on the nearby deck for sun lovers. TVs show the sports event of the moment or whatever patrons would like to view. There’s a small adjacent pool that’s not as expansive or fancy as what some of the larger resorts offer, but who’s arguing on a hot day? Intimate and friendly atmosphere is the key thing here.

The Shelf | St. Clements offers five domestic beers, premium wine for $3.50, and any mixed drink you can think of with premium brand liquors $6 and top shelf items for $6.50. Since it’s a beach bar and there is no better beach drink than a daiquiri, a variety of flavored frozen daiquiris can be yours for $6.50. Happy hour is 4-8 p.m., and all beer and liquor drinks are discounted by $1.

The Plate | St. Clements has its own oceanfront café offering a large range of bar-friendly food that won’t be hard to eat while you’re also juggling the sun tan oil and your drink. Appetizers range from French fries and onion rings for $3 to $4 cheese fries and $5 buffalo wings and chicken fingers. (There’s also a house salad and cole slaw with pickle for folks looking for the healthy stuff). Meals are quick, delicious and reasonably priced, ranging from hamburgers and cheeseburgers to an excellent flounder filet sandwich and a grilled chicken salad. Prices range from $4-$6.50, and you can get each sandwich as a basket with French fries and onion rings, slaw and a pickle for an added $3. Takeout meals are also available.

The Amenities | St. Clements offers a wide variety of live music acts during the summer months.

Locals Love | St. Clements has long been a favorite of Grand Strand locals and why not? Locals who come off the beach or walk up from the Boulevard are welcomed with open arms by owner/operator Luke Goude and his staff, and any given day happy hour sees as many local regulars as guests.

Bathroom Access | Restrooms are right around the corner from the bar area.

Parking | City parking is available at the nearby public beach access.

Hours | 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

Contact: 449-1112, www.properattire2000.com/stClements.htm, www.facebook.com/pages/St-Clements-Beach-Bar-Grill

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