Ziplines taking Myrtle Beach tourism to new heights

The Myrtle Beach Adrenaline Adventure Course construction workers conducted trial runs in preparation for the pening of the six-line 600-foot course on the old pavilion site in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/The Sun News Photo, Steve Jessmore)

MYRTLE BEACH — Tourists to the Grand Strand this summer will zip around like never before.

Ziplines, the latest craze in the U.S. amusement industry where riders slide through the air dangling from a harness, are arriving along the Grand Strand, with two making their debuts in the past month and two more on the way.

Even the developers who are bringing ziplines to the Grand Strand aren’t sure what’s propelled an adventure that started amid a canopy of trees in the woods into the latest must-do activity for tourists at the beach and other destinations across the country. The ride was all the buzz late last year at the trade show for amusements sponsored by the International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions.

“Everybody wants to fly, I suppose,” said Shane Bull of Adrenaline Adventures, which opened a zipline at the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park last month and has a second one for Myrtle Beach in the works. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

Whatever has lifted ziplines to new heights, developers say Myrtle Beach is an ideal spot for them because of its family-centered tourism industry. Thrill-seekers along the Grand Strand wanting to try it will have more chances than ever this summer.

Three new ziplines will have opened along the Grand Strand by the time summer starts. Two on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach — one on the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park property and another at Family Kingdom Amusement Park — are open. A third is planned for Ocean Drive Pavilion Amusement Park in North Myrtle Beach, which is doubling its number of rides this summer and opens Memorial Day weekend.

A fourth zipline in the area, on the south end of Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, also is in the works, but won’t be ready in time for summer.

Despite the flurry of new ziplines, it’s not a new concept at the beach. Soar & Explore, part of WonderWorks at Broadway at the Beach, was the only zipline in the area when it opened two years ago, and business has grown every year since, said Robert Stinnett, general manager at WonderWorks.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “Each year we’ve gotten a little bit busier. As more start to open up, we seem to get more business.”

Each zipline along the Grand Strand is a bit different, operators say. The one at Family Kingdom, for example, is a twist on the traditional zipline, with riders sitting in a motorized chair that takes them 60 feet in the air. The 450-foot trek goes over the swash and runs parallel to Ocean Boulevard, traveling about 25 mph. Chris Trout, who opened the zipline at the amusement park, saw the Soaring Eagle at the IAAPA show in November and thought it’d be a good fit in Myrtle Beach because the ride appeals to the beach’s family tourists.

“It’s really a family-oriented fun ride,” Trout said. “It’s a new concept in ziplines.”

At Soar & Explore at Broadway at the Beach, riders are 50 feet in the air and travel across Lake Broadway. The zipline in North Myrtle Beach carries riders 180 feet.

Myrtle Beach Zipline Adventures on the former Pavilion lot in Myrtle Beach, which opened April 19, also have riders 50 feet in the air, propelling 600 feet between two towers at speeds up to 40 mph. The ride’s operator, Adrenaline Adventure Courses, plans to build another zipline near Springmaid Beach Resort on the south end of Ocean Boulevard, but it won’t be ready in time for summer, with construction expected to take between two and three months, Bull said, adding he didn’t know when that zipline would open.

Some ziplines are thrilling, others relaxing, operators said. Costs also vary from about $10 to $25.

“They are all a little different,” Trout said.

Zipline operators along the Grand Strand say there’s enough demand to support all of them.

“With 14 million people coming in, I don’t see why not,” Bull said.

Bull said visitors are putting a zipline ride on their to-do list before they even arrive at the beach, while Soar & Explore at Broadway at the Beach lures spontaneous thrill-seekers who happen to be strolling Broadway and see the ride, Stinnett said. The ride can appeal to almost every family member, from a child to Grandma, he said. Soar & Explore has had riders ranging from 6 to 86 years old, Stinnett said.

“It’s another amusement for families to do while they are here,” he said.

All the operators say the flurry of new ziplines isn’t too much, too quick, with enough demand from the beach’s tourists to keep them all busy — pointing to the numerous miniature golf courses along the Grand Strand that do well.

“And how many are full every night?” Bull said.