By Guest Blogger Amanda Motsinger
Are you a Myrtle Beach regular? Or even a Myrtle Beach sometimes-er? If you visit Myrtle Beach at all then there are two huge treasures that you need to know about (but may have never visited). They are Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington State Park!
My family relocated to Myrtle Beach from Winston Salem last summer. We were Myrtle Beach vacationers for 15+ years before that but had never been to either state park. Now that we live here, we are at one of the parks weekly and for good reason! Here are the top things we love to do and take our visitors to do there.
Myrtle Beach State Park
This park is just south of the Myrtle Beach Airport and the Market Common area. It’s a 312-acre maritime forest with campsites, trails, a nature center, a pier, a playground, gift shops, and one mile of undisturbed beach.
Why Go & What To Do
If you’re not staying oceanfront on your vacation and want beach access, then using the state park is an excellent idea. (It’s what most locals do.) The park does get very full during peak season and particularly on the weekends so try to get there early or you risk being turned away.
Nature Center. Another reason to come here is the nature center and the cool programs they offer. The Nature Center is a rustic building that houses a large classroom (used for weekly programs) and a small interactive exhibit space. There are several tanks with small fish, crabs, snakes, and other common sea creatures. There is lots of educational material about protecting the beach habitat and the types of flora and fauna you’ll see on the SC coast.
Trails. Now it’s time to hit the trails! Access them right across the road from the Nature Center. You’ll see the main trailhead with the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail sign. If your kids are older then print off one of the self-guided tour find-it sheets to add to the experience.
These trails are all short and they intersect at various points so you shouldn’t get lost. Take the Sculptured Oak in, walk out to the pond via the Pond Trail (very short), then follow the Sculptured Oak all the way to the end. You’ll be down by the beach access parking lot then. Walk down the parking lot/tree line to find the Yaupon Trail. Take that back to the main trailhead and you’ve just made a loop. The whole thing can be covered in less than an hour even with little legs in tow.
Other Features. The pier and the playground are also worth visiting when on the property.
Huntington Beach State Park
The Grand Strand’s other state park is down south in Murrells Inlet. Huntington Beach State Park is huge at 2500 acres and boasting 3 miles of undisturbed beach, 173 campsites, a playground, a nature center, trails, boardwalks, and even a castle!
Why Go & What To Do
Finding things to do here is not hard. The better question is what to prioritize, aside from the beach.
Nature Center & Trails/Boardwalks. The Nature Center was recently rebuilt after a fire. It features a touch tank, info on birding (very big in this park), shell collecting, interactive displays, and an area for educational programs. For trails, you can pick the Sandpiper Trail which is an easy 2-mile walk through coastal forests to a saltwater pond viewing area.
For something less time-consuming just hit up the boardwalks over the saltwater marsh and freshwater ponds. Those are accessible from the Causeway parking or Nature Center parking lots. Gators and dozens of species of bird are easy to spot from any of these boardwalks and there are educational placards along the way.
Atalaya Castle. While you’re here you simply must check out Atalaya Castle. Seriously, don’t leave without at least walking over there! There is an additional fee of $2 per person to get in but it’s worth it for the history and insight into this park. Guided tours are available at certain times but maps and placards make a self-guided tour pretty informational also.
And if you have some spare time then shoot across Highway 17 to Brookgreen Gardens. This is the other part of Huntington’s huge estate and my absolute favorite spot in the entire Grand Strand.
Next time you’re in the area, please budget some time to check out the natural and historical side of the area for these Myrtle Beach treasures. These two state parks are just the beginning!
Where to go for more “live like a local” Myrtle Beach content…
Shortly after our move to the area, I founded a parent resource site, much like Triad Moms on Main. It’s called Moms of Myrtle and I write about all the under-the-radar things that the locals love (and tourists should also enjoy)!
Check out our full posts on Myrtle Beach State Park, Huntington Beach State Park, Brookgreen Gardens, and more at our website. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram too. We’ll keep you plugged in on the Myrtle Beach happenings so you can jump right into the fun the next time you’re at the coast!
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