Once you've had your fill of roller coasters, fireworks shows and water parks, experience a slice of nature during your Grand Strand vacation with a visit to Myrtle Beach State Park.
Located on the south end of the Myrtle Beach city limits, South Carolina's oldest and most visited state park offers a tranquil alternative to all the manmade attractions in town. Nestled on a 312-acre stretch of oceanfront property that includes an old-growth maritime forest and pristine beaches, Myrtle Beach State Park provides a small sample of what the Carolina coastline looked like long before it was developed and settled.
Featuring a diverse terrain of woodlands and wetlands and an abundance of wildlife, both aquatic and land-dwelling, Myrtle Beach State Park offers a variety of activities for everyone in the family. A nature center serves as an educational display highlighting native flora and fauna in a classroom-style setting, where special presentations and seminars are held on a daily basis.
But the real fun can be found in the great outdoors. Hiking trails take guests through a densely wooded forest filled with unique plants and animals, swamplands and a small pond. The trailhead ends at the beach, where visitors can relax in the sun, play in the surf and look for shells along a secluded stretch of sand where there is little competition. Covered picnic shelters are available for taking a nice, shady lunch break.
The Myrtle Beach State Park Fishing Pier offers a great opportunity for anglers to get farther out over the ocean where the bigger fish swim. The bait and tackle shop provide fishing gear, equipment, licenses and fishing tips. Find out which species of fish are running and what they are biting, then choose the appropriate bait to catch bass, drum, flounder, bluefish, king and Spanish mackerel and many more.
The pier is also a popular site for many of the field trips hosted by the state park. Fishing, cast-netting, crabbing and seining are among the many activities overseen by park rangers, as well as events highlight such native creatures as loggerhead sea turtles, blue crabs and birds of prey. The nature retreats and pier access are free with paid park admission, although there are some small fees for activities that require materials.
The state park also has a campground and cabin rentals, although the location near the end of the Myrtle Beach International Airport runway makes it difficult to feel like you have completely escaped modern civilization. Still, the state park is a great place to get back to nature and experience a different side of Myrtle Beach.
For outdoors enthusiasts looking for a more opportunities to interact with nature, be sure to visit Huntington Beach State Park in nearby Murrells Inlet. Featuring 2,500 acres of Lowcountry wilderness and undeveloped beachfront, this state park offers more room to roam and even more activities to try. Go for a kayak ride through the salt marsh, explore a replica of a Spanish castle called Atalaya, and see alligators sunning on the shoreline along the causeway.
Huntington Beach State Park also has a nature center and a small pier on the marsh where guests can learn more about native species. Rustic and RV camping, a country store, public showers and bathrooms, and hiking and biking trails are among the many facilities that make this state park a popular spot for nature lovers. The south end of the park is located at the mouth of Murrells Inlet, and a rock jetty is a great place to catch some big ones swimming in and out of the bay.
Admission to both state parks is $4 per person and the gates are open from sunrise to sunset every day. For more information, visit www.scstateparks.com.