There is a charming eclectic and southern community that sits 10 minutes from both beautiful Myrtle Beach and historic Conway. Carolina Forest is NOT your typical “bedroom community.” There is nothing sleepy about what residents and visitors alike can do. Within the twenty five square miles of trees, ponds, trails and a nature preserve there is much going on. Nature and city live cooperatively and peacefully with one another. Driving into my community I am surrounded by natural beauty as well as all the conveniences I could imagine.
My hubby, Coastie, and I have been coming to the beach since 1968. For many years there was literally nothing between Conway and Myrtle Beach. Carolina Forest was just that – a forest. We filled our car with gas in Conway in case there were no gas stations still open when we arrived late at the beach. Basketville and a fireworks shop were the only major businesses dotting Highway 501. In the ‘90’s the area took off and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2007 we decided that our retirement home would be in Carolina Forest, and we are delighted with our decision.
Long time/part time resident, Beatriz Trama, recalls picking out her lot in The Farm in 2004. There were very few houses but she said there was something natural and beautiful about the area that made her decide to build her future retirement home west of the Intracoastal Waterway. She is amazed at the growth and amenities available each trip she makes from Long Island, New York, and is looking forward to finally moving here permanently next year. “I can stay in Carolina Forest to do everything I need to do. I love Myrtle Beach, but during the busy season it is nice to be able to move around without congested roads and so much traffic.”
Another perk for growing families is the neighborhood schools set throughout the community – and these schools are strongly supported by local businesses. We have a state of the art library and recreation center with a multitude of activities for everyone. I love walking into one of several local grocery stores and seeing school-sponsored food drives going on. Local restaurants and businesses are always willing to step up and contribute to school fundraisers and events.
Ocean Bay Elementary teacher, Karen Howle, and her husband, bought Budget Blinds in 2003. They had vacationed at Myrtle Beach for years and relocated from Florence. They decided that Carolina Forest was the perfect place to raise their three boys. As an educator, she was impressed with the area schools. Karen began as a volunteer, and then substitute teacher, at several of the schools before joining the staff at Ocean Bay Elementary twelve years ago. She said that parental and community support are both key to her joy as an educator.
There is such a wide range of ages living here. With apartments, condos, townhouses and single family homes, we are lucky to share this bucolic setting with young and old. Although, I don’t see anyone old around here! All ages are out riding bikes, walking, and swimming in the many neighborhood pools. There are yearly and seasonal events that everyone can participate in. Everyone in The Farm, my neighborhood, comes out when Santa (the local fire department) rides around each December wishing everyone a happy holiday. The sound of the Mister Softee tune reminds me of the ice cream truck I remember as a child. Late at night the mosquito truck will quietly hum down the streets to help rid us of those skeeters that interfere with our outdoor activities.
In 2003 Traci Sumter moved here as a news reporter. Her husband was a Myrtle Beach native. She said that in her position she has met so many people and learned a lot about the area. “I was right in the middle of everything!” When they started a family, the community atmosphere and amenities Carolina Forest had to offer appealed to them, and so they bought their home here.
John Sumter, Traci’s son, attended Carolina Forest schools and will be a sophomore at the Scholars Academy this fall. Easy access to the academy makes it easier to commute. He said that he has earned a Black Belt in karate, taken piano and swimming lessons all while living here. He shared that for a teen, “living in Carolina Forest is never boring. It’s a mix between the fun of a city while also being a tight knit community.” That’s high praise coming from an active teen.
Susan Kenny said she moved to Carolina Forest in 2012 because of the amenities available for her two active and growing boys, Liam and Lucas. Having tennis and basketball courts along with lakes to fish in were a major plus. She said she also got “more bang for her buck” just minutes away from the beach. It was the best of both worlds.
Social media keeps Carolina Forest connected. Modern technology does have advantages. Residents have a virtual year round yard sale happening all the time. Each of the many neighborhoods can share events as well as personal recommendations for services and opportunities. A few years ago, I had a positive experience with this service. Our two dogs, aka the Baldwin sisters, decided to break through our backyard fence and chase a young bunny. I immediately asked for help through our Next Door app. Residents posted sightings and pictures until I was finally able to locate them. Lost cats and dogs are posted and for the most part find their way back home. I love my neighbors!
I think that most people living in Carolina Forest are drawn here because of the natural setting and, as my grandson says, “critters.” Where else can you look out your window and see mama bear and her cubs frolicking down the street? Or Mr. and Mrs. Fox with two little pups headed into the woods by the landmark water tower? Turtles, ducks, geese and rabbits trust us enough to raise their young here.
One of my goals is to try and live as LOCAL as I can. Living in Carolina Forest makes that easy and fun. Getting to know the people who own and operate the business establishments is enjoyable. I get my hair done at Carolina Hair Salon. Stacy does wonders with my silver strands. The salon is quick to support anything local, and I appreciate that. There is a local pharmacy, several small restaurants, a vet, and other businesses in the Food Lion/River Oaks shopping center that I frequent. There are several shopping centers with easy access throughout Carolina Forest.
One local business that I frequent quite often is Coastal Postal. Matt and Kate McGuire are the owners. Two years ago they were living in San Diego and wanted to move to the east coast to be closer to family. During their job search they found the ad for a shipping store. Kate said, “It looked like a great place and we took the risk and went for it!” They love living in the same community as the business. Their son attends preschool at a local church.
Matt said he likes getting to know the other owners in the shopping area where his store is located. “We share information and support one another as much as we can.” Coastal Postal also supports local artisans. Their crafts can be purchased in the store. There is also a FREE LIBRARY for adults. I love to take in books and pick out a few to take home. Matt and Kate also support Freedom Readers with a free library for kids in the store. A Thomas the Train table welcomes little ones who visit with family. It’s a fun place to just hang out. People are in and out with a constant banter of conversation.
If you live in Carolina Forest or watch local weather, you know Ed Piotrowski, Chief Meteorologist for WPDE 15, Ed’s work is local folklore around here – especially during hurricane season. He has calmly gotten us through many major storms since he arrived at the beach in 1994. The three most notable were Floyd (1999), Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). Ed has put out a memo that no storms are allowed to visit us this year. I hope his influence covers Carolina Forest and all of the Grand Strand. When asked about his home, Ed told me, “Carolina Forest is in the center of everything, but far enough away that you don’t feel closed in. We can go grocery shopping, to doctor’s appointments and eat at great restaurants within ten minutes of our home.” Ed’s parents live with them, and they feel like they are on permanent vacation. He also shared that the people of Carolina Forest are an important part of why it’s such a delightful place to live. I agree.
Carolina Forest Boulevard and River Oaks Drive are getting busier. International Drive has been extended making it easier to drive to Conway. More homes and businesses are being built which gives residents more options as well as challenges. Our community is like many that face growing pains. I’m banking that the sense of community and deep appreciation for living in a natural setting will prevail. Community and critters love Carolina Forest!