Myrtle Beach State Park, 312 acres on the shores of the Atlantic, preserves a small natural area standing in stark contrast to its highly developed, heavily commercialized surroundings.
What’s the draw?
Established in 1936, Myrtle Beach is one of the oldest state parks in the S.C. system, providing visitors with opportunities for fishing, swimming, hiking – and camping. The park is only 3 miles south of downtown Myrtle Beach, right off U.S. 17 Business.
Located directly on the ocean, the park’s top activities are, naturally, fishing and swimming. Anglers are likely to hook king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, trout, drum and flounder. Surf fishing is allowed everywhere on the beach except in the designated swimming area; individuals fishing from the shore are required to have a South Carolina saltwater fishing license. A wooden fishing pier is located near the center of the beach. No state fishing license is needed to fish from the pier; instead, there is a daily fee for using this facility.
Swimming is permitted everywhere along the mile-long beach, but the designated swimming area located north of the pier has the benefit of lifeguards on duty mid-May through mid-September.
Two short trails, both rated easy, afford the opportunity to spend a little time in the shade. Along the half-mile Sculptured Oak Nature Trail, you pass through a maritime forest – a vestige of what the Grand Strand woodlands once looked like: a forest of oaks, magnolias, poplars and wax myrtles. Many species of birds, amphibians and reptiles make their home in this small woodland, which has been named a Heritage Trust Site. The 0.4-mile Yaupon Nature Trail branches off from the Sculptured Oak Trail and runs slightly farther to the south. Both walks lead to the beach.
Bird watching and wildflower viewing are other popular pastimes. The park’s website provides a handy, print-at-home checklist of more than 200 species of birds that might be spotted at the beach.
In recent years, geocaching has become an engaging activity at the park.
The park has 300 standard campsites with electricity and water, plus 66 full-hookup sites with electricity, water and sewer. Restrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities are convenient to all sites. Additionally, the park has six regular cabins and six multi-bedroom cabin/villas for rent. The cabins have heating and air conditioning, are fully furnished – including a TV – and are supplied with basic cooking and eating utensils and bed and bath linens. The cabin/villas have even more amenities: screened porches with rocking chairs, fully equipped kitchens with microwaves, cable TV, and DVD players. No roughing it in these rentals! There are four two-bedroom, one three-bedroom and one four-bedroom cabins available.
Myrtle Beach State Park is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, March-November. Admission: $5; $3 for ages 6-15. Pier fishing: $5 per individual; $2.50 for ages 6-15; fishing rods can be rented for $7.50 per day. Certain park programs/activities incur additional fees. Standard campsites rent for $21-$42 in season; rates for full hookup sites run $31-$52. Cabins cost $65-$210 per night. Rates are discounted during the off-season. Pets are allowed in the park with certain restrictions: pets are prohibited in cabins and cabin areas; pets and bikes and are not allowed on the beach from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 1 through Labor Day. Pets must also be under physical restraint or kept on a leash not longer than 6 feet. Free WI-FI service is available in the campground area, at the pier gift shop and at the ranger station. The station offers limited grocery items, drinks, snacks, souvenirs and basic camping supplies, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. Info: 843-238-5325; www.southcarolinaparks.com.
Nearby: Myrtle Beach
In Myrtle Beach, five attractions bear the name Ripley’s: The Haunted Adventure, a fright-filled funhouse stalked by live actors; the 5-D Moving Theater, showing two animated adventure films; the Marvelous Mirror Maze, a labyrinth of mirrors and lights; the Aquarium, featuring sharks, sting rays, and jellyfish; and Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not Odditorium, a collection of the unusual gathered from around the world. Admission charged. Details: www.ripleys.com/myrtlebeach.
Brookgreen Gardens (www.brookgreen.org), in Murrells Inlet, S.C., is rated one of the Top 10 best public gardens in the country. Admission charged.
SkyWheel Myrtle Beach (www.myrtlebeachskywheel.com), on the boardwalk, is a 187-foot tall observation wheel with 42 glass-enclosed gondolas. Admission charged.
In Conway, S.C., Riverfest (www.conwayriverfest.com) is June 25; Myrtle Beach’s Beach, Boogie & BBQ Festival is Labor Day weekend.
Area info: www.myrtlebeach.com.