Why Are Tents Not Allowed at Myrtle Beach?

Myrtle Beach Sunshades

For a number of years, Myrtle Beach visitors, locals, and policymakers have been debating the beach regulations. This is relating to the types of beach tents, umbrellas, and canopies you can use on Grand Strand beaches.

In 2014, Horry County and its two largest municipalities – Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach signed the ordinances into law. These ordinances limit beach cover to those with a center pole up to 7’6″ in height and a circular shade up to 9 feet in diameter. Nevertheless, the amendments to the ordinance have included exceptions for families with small children and certain special events.

The county has implemented these regulations at all county-run beaches. This includes about 14 miles of oceanfront property, except Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Surfside Beach. Each of them has its own regulations regarding beach tents. 

Despite being extremely convenient for beach-goers and large families, beach tents are an impediment for emergency personnel. The fact is that tents are limiting their ability to navigate beaches in case of an emergency. 

To learn more about the county and local regulations, read our article on Myrtle Beach (and Horry County) tent rules, as they currently stand.

Table of Contents

Beach Tents: Handy and Family-friendly

Spending a day with your friends and family at the beach and staying overnight (if possible) is a necessary condiment of summer fun for many.  With the breeze in your hair and warm sand under your feet, you need to think about protecting yourself and your family from the potential risks,  such as exposure to direct sun during peak hours. Your kids also need a place to take a break (or nap) and eat.

This is why beach tens or pop-up tents have become so popular. Besides being perfect sunshades, they can also protect you from strong winds, bugs, and spectators. 

You may enjoy getting a tan, but your sunscreen may not be able to handle the sun, especially when it gets too hot. A beach tent provides a cool shade and is undoubtedly more comfortable than lying on a beach towel. It can protect you when the beach wind gets too strong and starts blowing a lot of sand with it. It can also prevent the sand from getting into your eyes.

Spending a day (or days) with your kids on a beach means there will be a lot of bags. An easily portable, durable, lightweight beach tent is a great place to keep all your belongings. But what happens when beach tents are no longer family-friendly shelters? What if they become a barrier to an EMS unit or other emergency responder to get to the beach and water in a timely manner?

Beach Tents Regulations

Among a variety of beach tents available, pop-up tents are the easiest to use. You can set them up in a manner of minutes to get an extra level of protection from the sun and strong winds. There’s also a certain level of privacy you can’t have with an umbrella. But is it legal?

Before you decide to spend a nice day (or days) on a beach, you need to find out whether the beach allows you to set up a tent or umbrella.

While most beaches don’t have specific restrictions regarding beach tents or canopies, there are some beaches that will not permit you to put them up. Putting up a tent on these beaches is illegal, while some of them allow only specific styles of beach shades (like a canopy or umbrella).

Therefore, we strongly recommend doing a bit of research before heading to a beach with a beach tent.

The regulations regarding the use of tents on the beach may be state- or city-specific and you can find a lot about such laws by visiting their websites. Alternatively, you can check with locals in a forum (like travel forums) to find the best answers and suggestions.

On most beaches, having your tent put up during the day will not be a problem. Nevertheless, if you are planning to spend a night at the beach and enjoy the night breeze and moonlight, it may be illegal. Hence, to avoid spoiling perfect beach time, you need to check the beach rules before you start setting up a tent at night. Providing a beach has no restrictions regarding beach tents, you need to find out if there are certain area restrictions.

Horry County Beach Tent Regulations

Horry County has put a ban on tents, tarps, pavilions, and cabanas at the beach while allowing round umbrellas that provide shade up to 7’6″ in diameter.

Families with infants and very small children are allowed to use a small blow-up/pop-up cabana. In terms of shades, you have to secure them, not tie, bind or connect them. Here’s a list of specific exemptions:

  • Kids and small children – the new amendment to the ordinance allows for small pop-up tents and blow-up cabanas.
  • Senior citizens – if you need to keep an elderly family member out of the sun and in the shade, you may use circular beach umbrellas up to 7’6″ feet in diameter. No four-cornered canopies.
  • Beach weddings – if you fancy a wedding on the beach, you may use a beach canopy providing you have a county special events permit.
  • Special events – for family reunions, gatherings, and other special events on the beach, you may use a canopy or larger tent, providing you submit the request as part of a special events permit. 

Myrtle Beach Tent Regulations

The use of large beach canopies is not allowed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, whereas the regulations are more relaxed after Labor Day and throughout the offseason. The city’s Beach Tents Page provides the following information: 

You are allowed to use umbrellas up to 7,5 feet in diameter, in line with or behind the established umbrella line. You are not allowed to use other shading devices. From the day after Labor Day until Memorial Day, you can use tents up to 12-by-12 feet square and less than nine feet tall. This is if you put them up behind the umbrella line and 10 feet apart.

In addition, you need to place your umbrellas and shading devices above the high-tide line. Otherwise, and especially if shading devices impede upon the established umbrella line, you need to move them landward of the line. This is mainly to say that these devices obstruct the view of the lifeguard’s area of responsibility. 

A tent on a beach

Shall any person place an umbrella or shading device as to impede the lifeguard’s view, access, or exit from the lifeguard stand, it shall be deemed unlawful. And you certainly don’t want that.

This is due to the issues pertaining to public safety. It means that the growing number of beach-goers in certain locations in the Myrtle Beach area disrupts the activities of EMS units and/or other emergency responders. A large number of tents may make it difficult for them to reach water in a timely manner. This is particularly important in emergency situations.

According to policymakers, the delay is very likely to grow in the future. 

North Myrtle Beach

The use of beach tents and canopies at North Myrtle Beach is not allowed from May 15 to September 15. The city’s Beach Laws Page cites: 

Umbrellas with a center pole up to 7 feet 6 inches in height and a circular shade up to 9 feet in diameter can be used from May 15 to September 15. It means no tarps, tents, pavilions, cabanas, sports-brellas, and similar devices. Or any material you mount on supports in the same period.

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach currently has no ordinance restricting the use of canopies and beach tents. However, you need to keep your beach umbrellas/shades at least 10 feet to the rear of the lifeguard stands, preferably parallel with the ocean strand. The information on the city’s beach web page indicates that the city currently does not intend to ban tents or umbrellas on the beach.

Logic Behind Restrictions

The above regulations have not been a hasty decision. The fact is that there were not so many tents on the shores a decade ago. With the new trend and an evident increase in the use of beach tents, the regulations seem to be in place. Especially when public safety is at stake.

Regardless of how the ordinances may impact the beach-goers’ comfort while on the beach, the city authorities needed a solution. A solution that would guarantee public safety and allow every visitor to enjoy the beaches. Without spoiling the fun. 

Policymakers hope all guests in the Myrtle Beach area can find adequate ways of protecting themselves from the sun and wind. They also explain that these rules positively affect the safety and enjoyment of each guest. Namely, the fact that tents can be found at peak times and locations significantly affects access and visibility to the water’s edge.

Thereby, public beach access and a safe, lifeguard-monitored environment have become a matter of highest priority. Because of this, tents are not allowed on some beaches and you need to get informed about this matter before you go on your next camping adventure. 

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