When the great outdoors is calling, it’s likely a South Carolina State Park you’re hearing
From the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge Mountains, South Carolina’s diverse landscapes have been attracting generations of travelers. Couples, families and small groups have enjoyed a wealth of outdoor experiences in state park settings that feature a wide variety of camping, cabin and lodging options. Here are just a few to pique your interest.
OCONEE STATE PARK
The definitive, relaxing mountain getaway features fishing and canoe rentals on a lake with a swimming hole, several nature trails for hiking and the Foot Hills Trail, the southern trail head on the Blue Ridge Escarpment. The Palmetto Connector Trail is a hike to the historic Oconee Station and the Station Cove Falls. In the winter months, there is trout fishing at Cabin Lake, one of two lakes in the park, while the spring has the picturesque laurel in bloom. There will be bluegrass music and square dancing on Fridays f rom Memorial Day through Labor Day.
One of the 16 state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), there are rustic cabins with upgrades available to rent. There are also lake-view cabins and others in a more secluded wooded area. The main campground’s individual campsites have electrical and water hookups. A tent camping area with tent pads and centralized water is just off the main campground. All campgrounds are conveniently located near restrooms and hot water showers.
KEOWEE-TOXAWAY STATE PARK
Marvelous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains have earned this park a designation as one of South Carolina’s pretty places. Natural Bridge Trail is a moderately strenuous, 1.3-mile loop. A pleasant place to connect with the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills, the trail features a rock natural bridge over Poe Creek. Raven Rock Trail is also moderately strenuous, but with a 4.4-mile loop. Both trails offer splendid spring wildflower photo opportunities. Canoe/kayak access to Lake Keowee is convenient in the park, while motorized boat access is about five miles away from the park entrance. Access to Lake Keowee for fishing is just a half-mile trail. Swimming is permitted in the lake.
There are 10 paved RV sites that will accommodate units up to 40 feet in total length with individual water and electric hook up. Bigger vehicles will have trouble navigating the campground road. Check with the park directly for any concerns. There’s trailside camping at three designated sites on the shore of Lake Keowee. One primitive group area is available on the lake’s shore with a minimum of six campers and a maximum of 25. A completely furnished lodge with all basic amenities, including two fireplaces, sleeps 10 and overlooks the lake with a private dock.
CHERAW STATE PARK
Located in the Midlands area, Cheraw offers something for just about everyone. The Cheraw State Park golf course year after year has been voted by Golf Digest as one of the “Best Places to Play.” There’s plenty of fishing in the park’s Lake Juniper, the headwaters to a cypress swamp. Motorized boats with more than a 10 horsepower engine are not permitted. Boats are available to rent as are rods and reels which are available for loan. With more than 100 identified birds attracted to Cheraw’s Sandhills/Longleaf ecosystem the park is a birdwatchers paradise.
Nine historic CCC cabins are fully furnished with all the amenities. All are one-bedroom cabins accommodating four guests. One cabin is a four-bedroom that sleeps six to eight people. There are 17 standard RV sites with electric and water convenient to showers and restrooms and five designated rustic tent campsites. There is a primitive group area and boat-in camping on the north side of Lake Juniper.
HICKORY KNOB STATE PARK RESORT
Located on the Strom Lake Reservoir’s wooded shoreline, this full-service golf resort and remote state park is ideal for family getaways, reunions, retreats or meetings. Tom Jackson designed the picturesque championship 18-hole golf course with a putting green and driving range. Club rentals Huntington Beach State Park are available. Other recreational options are skeet shooting, archery, fresh water fishing, biking and hiking trails, boating and swimming.
Located about 125 yards from the lake, 16 fully furnished cabins will accommodate up to four people. The restored historic French Huguenot Guillebeau House has two bedrooms accommodating up to four people. The lodge has 70 motel-style rooms sleeping two to four people, many with a lake view. The Barrack hosts groups up to 10 people with four bedrooms. The Hickory Knob Restaurant menu features breakfast, sandwiches and burgers, appetizers, dinner entrees, children’s menu and family meals.
HUNTING ISLAND STATE PARK
It’s easy to understand why Hunting Island is South Carolina’s most popular state park with more than a million visitors annually. First, there’s the landscape, with five miles of beautiful beaches and thousands of acres of maritime forest and marsh, an ocean inlet and saltwater lagoon. Take it all in from 130 feet above ground in South Carolina’s only publicly accessible lighthouse. There’s surf, pier and fresh water fishing. Hunting Island participates in the Tackle Loaner Program. There is a full list of options to experience, including swimming, biking, hiking, bird watching, boating and paddling. A St. Phillips Island tour and Dolphin Watch tour are also available.
There is only one cabin available at Hunting Island State Park. The two bedroom cabin sleeps six comes with linens and basic cooking utensils. There are 102 camping sites near the ocean with electric and water accommodating RVs up to 40 feet and others up to 28 feet. All are conveniently located to hot showers and restrooms. A primitive group camping area is available for organized groups up to 100.
HUNTINGTON BEACH STATE PARK
Located between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, this 2,500-acre state park has so much to offer. Known as a premier surf fishing spot with three miles of wide sandy beaches, the park is equally well known as a top East Coast birdwatching destination. There’s also a history and arts story to tell. The remains of Atalaya, the Moorish-style winter home of philanthropist archer and sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, were left to the park and adjacent Brookgreen Gardens. A docent, or self-guided audio tour, is available. The juried Atalaya Arts Festival is held annually in September. The Coastal Exploration Program with a naturalist is popular among visitors.
Tent and RV camping are both available at Huntington Beach. There are 107 standard sites with electric and water and 66 sites full hook-up sites with sewer included. There are six rustic tent sites that include tent pads and water. Tent campers can also use the sites with electric and water. There are also six primitive group areas for organized groups. Each site has nearby restroom facilities and can accommodate 25 people.
South Carolina’s 47 state parks each offer exceptional experiences and accommodations. Find the one that’s perfect for you by visiting online at southcarolinaparks.com.
by Dave Bodle