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Anyone who has driven I-95 between North and South Carolina for the last 50 years has seen the billboards touting the glories of South of the Border. As good French Canadians who frequently drove between Florida and Montreal during my childhood, my brother and I laughed at the puns on the signs and begged my parents to stop. So the question remained, is South of the Border worth visiting?
But with everyone taking more road trips, it was time to give this iconic American road attraction another chance. As a mature adult, what would I think of it, even allowing some of the current unusual circumstances? And anyone who has seen their billboards has to admit that their marketing campaign is on point!
Here is the low down on whether South of the Border is worth visiting:
What is South of the Border SC?
Located directly south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border on I-95, travelers along this north-south corridor will find this iconic roadside attraction.
The project started in 1949 as a simple beer stand when North Carolina counties were dry of alcoholic beverages. A few years later, the owner added a grill. A few years after that, the owner added hotel rooms to the project. Materials were delivered to “Schafer Project South of the North Carolina Border,” which shortened, became “South of the Border,” and the name stuck.
The 1960s saw South of the Border’s expansion into its current image and iconic roadside status. Interstate I-95 was built right next to it. The Mexican theme and Pedro were adopted as identifying symbols. Various attractions have varied over the years, depending on what works, including at one point go-karts!
Can you stay in South of the Border SC?
Absolutely! South of the Border offers two options for overnight stays: a motel and an RV campground.
The South of the Border Motor Inn is your traditional motel option. Guests can select from double rooms to double king suites, ideal for families, and each includes a mini-fridge. Each guest is offered a covered carport. Surprisingly, the motel also has a Pleasure Dome, featuring an indoor heated pool, sauna, and locker rooms. An outdoor pool is available during the summer.
Guests staying at the RV Campground can also enjoy the pool facilities at the motel. The campground offers plenty of large and extra-large spots for RVs. Besides providing laundry facilities, South of the Border is within walking distance, so a nice little break in driving! Plus, free WiFi!
What is there to do at South of the Border SC?
Pedro offers a mini town within South of the Border. You can stay, eat, and play here.
Eating at South of the Border:
Food options in South of the Border vary from fancy to moderate to affordable. Those wanting to treat themselves to steak or seafood should head over to the Peddler Steak House. If, like me, you’re looking for traditional Tex-Mex or American food options, go to The Sombrero Restaurant for a sit-down meal. Just want a quick bite or to eat and go? Pedro’s Hot Tamale will fit the bill where you can sit at a handful of outside picnic tables. And don’t forget to get your ice cream over at Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta afterward.
Shopping at South of the Border:
Are you looking for souvenirs, T-shirts, fireworks, and even Mexican knick-knacks? South of the Border has you covered. Find Myrtle Beach memorabilia, apparel, and beachwear, in case you forgot to buy some. Pedro’s Pura Vida also sells motocross accessories, in addition to activewear, making it a popular stop for bikers. You’ll find a bit of everything at one of the six Pedro shopping outlets.
Attractions at South of the Border:
South of the Border attractions change all the time. The most visible attraction from the road is the Sombrero Tower, a 200-ft. observation tower. Seen from miles away at night, the sign beckons weary travelers to stop. A mere $2 will get you to the top. Until recently, it held the title of the World’s Largest Sign.
An amusement park contains several child-exclusive rides. Adults can enjoy one of two 18-hole miniature golf courses, a great way to stretch your legs. Several arcades dot the landscape. A newer exhibit, Reptile Lagoon, provides an up-close-and-personal view of alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles. The displays are educational and instructive. So plenty to do on this stop!
Some of the empty buildings have been repurposed. For example, Blenheim Ginger Ale, a South Carolina local soda, is bottled here. Tours are not available to visitors.
Fill the tank at South of the Border:
This highway stop includes a Sunoco station in either direction. The Pantry attached to Sunoco West allows for quick fill-ups of bellies along the way. There’s even a pet walking area! There’s also a dedicated truck stop (called Porky’s Truck Stop) offering facilities for those who drive for work, not pleasure.
When is the best time to visit South of the Border SC?
Something is open at South of the Border 24/7. It is a roadside attraction, after all! But generally, business hours are more limited Sunday through Wednesday and during non-holiday or non-vacation periods.
For example, Pedro’s Hot Tamale, the 24-Hour quick bite place, is unfortunately closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from midnight to 7 am. Pedro’s Ice Cream Fiesta is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Likewise, the Amusement Park is closed Monday through Thursday. The Reptile Lagoon is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
In other words, the best time to visit South of the Border is when there is a lot of traffic on I-95 and the weekends when more attractions and restaurants are open.
Should you stop at South of the Border SC?
If you’re expecting a quirky, fun way to stretch your legs along I-95, then South of the Border is a good option at least once. Groups and families will especially appreciate all South of the Border offers. The kitschy atmosphere does not appeal to everyone, and at times it gets overcrowded. South of the Border has been updating their signage and facilities, something needed after 50 years as an iconic attraction along I-95.
If you choose to visit, save money by using your military, AARP, and Good Sams discounts.
Wondering whether to stop along the I-95 corridor? These posts might interest you:
- Visiting the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA
- Things to do in Wilson, NC
- Best Donuts in North Carolina
- Best Biscuits in North Carolina
Annick, The Common Traveler