Only a short distance south of Paradise Resort is another sort of paradise at Myrtle Beach State Park. Featuring 312 acres of pristine South Carolina coastline, Myrtle Beach State Park provides Grand Strand visitors with the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area before it was developed.
South Carolina's oldest state park preserves the white-sand beaches and dunes, the maritime forests with native flora and fauna, and the coastal wetlands that make this stretch of oceanfront special. Built to provide recreational opportunities and easy access to the Atlantic Ocean, Myrtle Beach State Park offers a wide range of activities, such as hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking and unique educational programs.
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, Myrtle Beach State Park is minimalist in its manmade structures by design. Much of the park remains untouched except for the trails and bridges that cut through the dense woodlands and wetlands. Visitors can hike through the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail and see a variety of native trees and plants. If you are alert you can spot some colorful wildlife along the way, like otters, rare birds, crabs and turtles.
Of course, the most sought-after creatures are the ones swimming just offshore, and Myrtle Beach State Park presents guests with great opportunities to hook a big one. The state park pier provides everything you need for a day of fishing, including easy access to deeper waters at the end of the wooden walkway. A tackle shop has bait, equipment rental, licenses and even some inside information about what fish are running. Anglers can catch flounder, king mackerel, whiting, trout, spots, Spanish mackerel, drum and blues, depending upon the season, and crabbing from the pier is also a popular activity. You can even get an ice cream cone for those days when the fish aren't biting.
For a bigger meal, guests can check out the oceanfront picnic shelters that are available to visitors. After a busy day at the beach, visitors can enjoy a seaside feast in one of the shelters and take a break from the beach at the nearby playground area. The campground also offers some comfortable places to relax and enjoy the great outdoors, and the nature and education center has programs for learning about this unique environment. Go on a scavenger hunt of the park and search for items that call the state park home, or take a tour of the park and learn about animals, plants, wetlands and other interesting subjects. Most programs last an average of 1 to 2 hours and the cost is free with regular park admission.
The fall schedule is out and Myrtle Beach State Park has a nice selection of educational programs that include “What Dwells in a Shell?”, “Reptile Rap” and “What Animals Will A-Pier?” Enjoy these hands-on, interactive experiences with nature and learn a little something while you are at it. A series of after-summer beach sweeps are planned for this fall, beginning Saturday, Sept. 19. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., followed by a free lunch for volunteers. Park admission is free for those who arrive before 9 a.m.
The highlight of the autumn season is the Take a Kid Fishing Day and Camping Ex-Pier-ience Night on Saturday, Oct. 17, where rangers take children on a guided all-day fishing excursion on the end of the pier and families can camp out on the pier at night. All bait, gear and licenses are provided for the education-oriented fishing trip, and activities are scheduled to keep campers entertained for the sleepover.
Myrtle Beach State Park is open from sunrise to sunset during the offseason. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 3 and under. For more information, visit www.southcarolinaparks.com/myrtlebeach.