Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camping at South Carolina State Parks

Swansea, SC
We love to camp.  I'm not talking tents and cast iron pans over the fire here and I know some of you would say, "That's not camping!"  Our reason for camping is less about giving up all modern conveniences and more about an affordable way for a family of 6 to vacation.  We have a camper we purchased 5 years ago.  It's nothing fancy, no slide-out, but it has beds for everyone, a toilet and shower, so it works for us.  We try to take a couple mini-vacations each year camping at some of the state parks here in South Carolina.  (Check out for more info).  I thought I'd tell you about some we've visited and what we thought of them.

Myrtle Beach
Our first camping trip to a SC State Park was at the Myrtle Beach State Park in 2008.  We had an enjoyable stay.  Features of this park we liked: one of the few state parks with sewer; lots of trees, which means very shady (a plus in the summer, not so much in the winter); 3 playgrounds, one within the park and one right on the edge; easy access to the beach though it was a little bit of a trek; a nice pier and walking trail;  a laundry facility located within the park; numerous bathhouses; an education program that our children thoroughly enjoyed (it's always a plus as home schoolers when a vacation day turns into a school day!) wi-fi (though we don't spend much time on the computer, it is nice to have if you want to google things to do or directions); located close to the city of Myrtle Beach if you want to take advantage of any of its attractions.  Features of this park we didn't like: pricey; the beach was not the best; the bathhouse closest to our site was quite run down;  though the beach was easy to access, it was quite a trek, part of which was uphill (not the easiest with little kids and no buggy).
Our Rating: 3 stars.  We've only returned once when we had an event to attend in Myrtle Beach.  We would probably not return for a beach vacation due to the beach.

Boardwalk to/from the beach
Next up was Huntington Beach State ParkFeatures we liked: easy beach access with showers right at the end of the boardwalk; boardwalk to and from beach; nice beach with tidal pools, great for little ones; historic building on site; nice area for bike riding and viewing wildlife.  Features we didn't like: no sewer; no laundry facility (and one of our kids got sick and puked all over the bedding); no playground;  we were attacked by yellow jackets walking back from the bathhouse; little trees, not a lot of shade in some places.  Our Rating: 3 stars.  We've returned once and are planning on returning again this year.  The nice beach and close proximity to our home (2 hours) outweighs the cons when we are looking for a beach vacation close to home.

Edisto Beach State Park is the closest park, with camping, to our home.  Features we liked: on the beach; playground; close to a family friend (we could walk to see her).  Features we didn't like: pricey; half the campground is down the road in the woods, I wouldn't want to spend that money and not be on the beach; our site flooded (it rained the entire time we were there); the beach itself is not a good swimming beach.  Our Rating: 3 stars.  Convenient to home but not worth the money.

On the trail at Sesqui
Each year we attend a convention in Columbia and for the past 2 years we have camped at Sesquicentennial State ParkFeatures we liked: reasonably priced; located close to our destination; woody and shaded; playground; nice hiking trails.  Features we didn't like: Some of the sites have a severe grade as half of the sites are located on the side of a hill; no sewer.  Our Rating: 4 stars.  We have stayed there twice and already have reservations to return this summer.  However, we would not go out of our way to stay there if it were not for our convention taking place in Columbia. 

Roasting Dogs at Poinsett
Poinsett State Park was a weekend getaway.  2 of our kids ended up sick on this vacation but we still had a great time.  Features we liked: very affordable; nice walking trail, feels like your in the mountains; roomy camp sites; woodsy, secluded environment.  Features we didn't like: it's literally in the middle of nowhere (not that we didn't like that, we just weren't prepared for it).  Our Rating: 4 stars.  We will definitely return.  We really liked this park but will make sure we have everything we need before we go!

Rolling down the hill at Givhan's Ferry
Givhan's Ferry State Park is just a hop and a skip from our house.  Features we liked: affordable; close to home; nice walking trail; woodsy, secluded environment; located on the Edisto River; playground; hill the kids (and adults) enjoyed rolling down.  Features we didn't like: I can't really think of anything.  No sewer but considering we would never stay more than a couple days, this is not an issue.  Again, this is one that is in the middle of nowhere, but we were prepared this time.  Our Rating: 4 stars.  We will definitely return when we just want to escape for a couple days.  We would never spend a week there, though.

View of the Edisto from Colleton
Colleton State Park was an anniversary get-away.  Just me, hubby and our oldest dog, Buddy.  There's not much to this park but we had a blast.  We did a Lowcountry Boil and steamed crab legs which were out of this world.  It rained the entire time and was cold (our anniversary is in December) but we couldn't have had a better time at a 5 star hotel.  'Nuff said.  Features we liked: affordable; close to home; on the river; nice walking trail; small, so it's not too busy; close to Walterboro.  Features we didn't like: no playground (if we were bringing the kids); not located in an area we would want to spend an extensive amount of time.  Our Rating: 2 stars (for the park, 5 stars for our stay there, we don't get away much!).  We probably will not go back as Givhan's Ferry is closer to our home and nicer, in our opinion.

Girls with Sally at Carowinds
Lastly, our most recent trip involved a stay at Andrew Jackson State Park, up near Rock Hill, on our recent Carowinds adventure.  Price was a big factor in choosing to stay here versus the Carowinds campground.  At only $15 a night, the money saved was worth the extra driving time.  Because we  spent a lot of time at Carowinds, we did not get to explore the park as much as we usually do, but here's what we thought about what we saw.  Features we liked: affordable; nice sized sites; on a lake; playground; walking trail (we didn't get to hike it); ducks that would come right up to you.  Features we didn't like: about 7 miles from the closest town (not a big deal).  Our Rating: 4 stars.  We would only make the trip up there if we were going to Carowinds.

Well, that's it for the SC State Parks.  We've also camped at Tybee Island, GA, St. Augustine, FL, and some other parks around SC.  Our favorite thus far is St. Augustine, but at 5 hours away and with gas prices as they are, we won't make it back there this year.
Tybee Island, GA

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