Travel Review: Myrtle Beach State Park

We were looking to squeeze in one last camping trip before school started, and of course, I’m completely addicted to the beach. We’d already been to our usual haunt earlier this summer, so I decided to branch out and go somewhere new, while still getting to camp.

I’d always heard people talk about Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so I looked into the State Park. It was completely reasonable, with the option to choose my own campsite during reservations (as opposed to places that just assign you a spot and tell you what number it is when you check in); the total including any taxes and fees for three nights came to just at $111.00 and some change.

In true State Park fashion, there are plenty of regulations to keep up with, and they’re serious about the warning to keep your trash secure to avoid run-ins with raccoons. The entire campground area–and the day use locations, for that matter–had tons of trees separating each campsite and surrounding less desirable areas like the garbage dumpsters. I distinctly remember seeing a stand up placard at the main gate one night during our trip that said the campground was full, but the trees between each campsite afforded it a lot of privacy.

Typical campsite at the State Park. Lots of trees, but be prepared for sand.

Typical campsite at the State Park. Lots of trees, but be prepared for sand.

There were plenty of bathhouses scattered around the property, and plenty of garbage sites for campers to deposit their trash. As a nice added touch, each of the dumpster sites had two recycling bins as well, something you don’t always see from a State Park but should. We saw signs to a playground but never used it; it must have been halfway decent though, judging by the numbers of kids and parents who were always coming or going down the path. There was also a good-sized, fully stocked camp store that carried souvenirs and a few basic campground essentials, enough to tide you over if you’d forgotten something, at least until you wanted to make a trip into town.

Here’s one of the nicest features: the State Park is on the ocean, so it has its own beach. We never once left the park for the purpose of going to the beach. It has a long wooden pier out over the water with fishing and marine life watching available. If you choose to go to the beach north of the pier, there’s a life guard on duty. The beaches south of the pier were less crowded, but were not guarded. Each beach access walkway has benches and showers for getting rid of the sand, and for walking to and from the parking area along a sturdy surface.

The State Park has its own beach, and we never needed to leave the park to go elsewhere for a swim.

The State Park has its own beach, and we never needed to leave the park to go elsewhere for a swim.

Be warned that this is the Atlantic. I’ll admit we’re used to the white sand and gentle waves of the Gulf, so it was a little bit of a surprise to walk across sand that’s comprised of broken shells (it was cool, but rough on the feet…little ones might want those water shoes) and waves that will throw you down. There was a red flag warning the entire time we were there, but the waves offered just enough time between them to stand up, wipe the water out of your eyes, and get ready to get hit again. Sitting in the water and relaxing wasn’t feasible, but body surfing was a BLAST!

The coolest part was the turtles. At check-in, a park ranger told us that there had been a sea turtle hatching and that there would be an egg inventory on Friday. We were given the time and location, and when we arrived at the designated spot, some hundred or so people were already waiting to hear a ranger’s presentation on the work the state conservationists were doing with sea turtle preservation. While she spoke, members of the volunteer Sea Turtle Patrol began to uncover a nest that had recently hatched in order to count how many eggs had hatched and how many had been “duds.” In all, there were 138 eggs in the nest, and more than eighty had hatched! We got to see and feel a preserved hatchling that hadn’t survived, feel a “dud” egg, feel the shell remains of one that had hatched, and learn a lot about the work of the Turtle Patrol and the conservation program. It was a really, really great presentation but even the park staff can’t know when it will happen since it occurs after their patrol team indicates a nest has opened. All you can do is plan your trip during the hatch season and hope it lines up. The ranger did say the put the information on Facebook, but again, they only have a couple of days’ notice themselves.

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The only downside of the entire park is that it’s situated awfully close to an airport. From the beach, it was neat to watch very large commercial jets taking off overhead, as in, low enough that you could read the company logo on the plane and count the windows. It was less neat when a military jet was doing flyovers at the campground; they were low enough and loud enough that it would interrupt a cell phone conversation at my campsite, and I had to tell the person to simply hold on until the plane had passed. I don’t remember hearing any during the night, but I’m a heavy sleeper. Light sleepers will want some earplugs, a fan for background noise, or some other way of keeping the planes from waking you up.

As for the town of Myrtle Beach itself, there is a lot going on. There’s a great outlet mall (to appease our shopping teen), a ton of seafood buffet restaurants to choose from (to appease our crab leg fanatic other child), and an actual ocean-front boardwalk that was awesome for sightseeing, window shopping, people watching, and just enjoying the sunset. We’d never been to a beach town that had a real boardwalk, so this was a huge treat for the kids. Be sure to stop in at any of the major stores or visitors’ centers when you arrive and get the vacation guides/coupon books; the seafood restaurant where we ate the first night even asked us if we had a coupon, and when I showed her a book I’d picked up at a gas station she flipped right to the correct page and tore out a coupon worth five dollars off per person!

The boardwalk was actually really cool. We ate at a restaurant one night that sat right on the walkway, so we ate and talked while people watching and enjoying the waves.

The boardwalk was actually really cool. We ate at a restaurant one night that sat right on the walkway, so we ate and talked while people watching and enjoying the waves.

Overall, it was definitely worth the trip and a really great camping trip. Due to the distance it isn’t somewhere I’d just pop over for a couple of nights, but for somewhere as a total destination, it would be well worth a week-long trip.

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