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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina

Everything you need to know about the fishing pier, campground, picnic shelters, and horseback riding at Myrtle Beach State Park.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

Located on these road trip routes:

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In the distance, I could see high rise hotels stretching as far as the horizon. Thousands of people clamored for a small patch of sand while hundreds more bobbed in the waves. The Grand Strand is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country and tends to get overcrowded. But not the one mile stretch of undeveloped maritime forest at Myrtle Beach State Park.

I think Myrtle Beach State Park is the best hidden natural gem along the Grand Strand. The pristine maritime forest is located between luxury hotels and RV resorts and is almost hidden from notice. A small sign on Kings Highway marks the entrance, but if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it.

I’ve enjoyed countless adventures and gorgeous evenings in this state park. It’s one of my favorites along the South Carolina coast. After many years of visiting, I decided to write this travel guide to help you discover Myrtle Beach State Park.

READ MORE: Why You Need to Visit the Six Coastal State Parks of South Carolina

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The boardwalk at Myrtle Beach State Park stretches from the fishing pier to the end of the oceanfront parking lot near one of the picnic shelters, winding along the sand dunes.

Myrtle Beach State Park

Myrtle Beach features almost five miles of oceanfront hotels along the pristine beaches of the Grand Strand. At the southern end of that long chain is a one mile stretch of undeveloped maritime forest protected by Myrtle Beach State Park.

The 312-acre oceanfront state park opened in 1936, the first of the South Carolina state parks system. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the park has one of the largest campgrounds of any state park in the state and one of the most popular in Myrtle Beach. Along with a fishing pier, oceanfront picnic shelters, and public beach accesses, this park is one of the best in the state.

The Ultimate Outsider stamp is located at the admission booth, park office, ranger station, the gift shop at the pier, and the nature center.

4401 South Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC | 843-238-5325 | southcarolinaparks.com/myrtle-beach

Insider Tip

Summer months, especially on the weekends, are a hectic time for Myrtle Beach State Park. The park limits the number of vehicles in the park at a time to prevent a lack of parking spaces and overcrowding. This can lead to long lines and wait times of up to an hour for entrance into the park.

My recommendation is to visit the park early in the morning on weekends or preferably anytime during the week. If you are park guest and want to explore the area, plan to arrive back at the park in the late evening to avoid sitting in line.

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The Myrtle Beach State Park fishing pier is one of just nine along the Grand Strand, but it’s one of the most popular because of the seclusion and size.

Fishing Pier

The Myrtle Beach State Park fishing pier is the only fishing pier on the Atlantic Ocean in a South Carolina state park. The wide, wooden pier is a fantastic place to spend a day fishing, watching wildlife, or going for a scenic walk.

The fishing pier is located right in the middle of the park. The gift shop is a great place to pick up fishing supplies, ice cream, drinks, and snacks. The wide pier offers ample room for people fishing and sightseeing to share the same space.

The end of the pier has a small covered shelter. It’s an excellent place to spend an hour or two watching the wildlife. Occasionally, dolphins will swim past the end of the pier. During the spring and autumn months, it is entirely possible to see migrating whales near the pier.

READ MORE: The 9 Piers Along the Grand Strand From North Myrtle Beach to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

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Public Beach Access

During the summer months, the locals flood Myrtle Beach State Park for access to the public beach. Whenever you decide to visit, the one mile stretch of beach at the state park is guaranteed to be the least crowded.

Swimming, of course, is allowed. During the peak tourism season, Horry County lifeguards are stationed north of the fishing pier. South of the fishing pier, there are four public beach accesses with parking along the sea dunes.

Four restroom facilities are located near the public beach accesses and an additional facility at the fishing pier gift shop.

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Five of the picnic shelters are located within sight of the ocean, while two others are further back. In lieu of a shelter, there are plenty of picnic tables scattered around the park.

Picnic Shelters

One of the best amenities at Myrtle Beach State Park is the massive covered picnic shelters. Of course, the shelters must be reserved in advance, and the state park website suggests at least a two-week notice. But if you roll into the park two hours before sunset and one of the shelters is unoccupied, it’s perfectly fine to sit back with a book and enjoy a peaceful evening.

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Shelter #1 is probably the most awesome. Built in the 1930s by the CCC, the massive shelter features a wood-burning fireplace at one end, eight picnic tables, and over 1,200 square feet of covered space.

Five of the shelters are located along the beach within sight of the ocean. My favorite is Shelter #B3. It’s located at the end of a parking lot with a wide field beside it, and just a short walk to the beach access.

Although the picnic shelters need to be reserved in advance, long in advance, there are still plenty of options for spontaneous foodie outings. There are several picnic tables, some with grills, scattered throughout the park. And there are a number of tiny shelters just large enough to cover a single picnic table.

READ MORE: 12 Things to Do Out of the Water in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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The nature trails wind through a coastal maritime forest. This is what the Grand Strand looked like long before it was a grand strand of beach.

Nature Trails

The 0.5-mile Sculptured Oak Trail is a casual walk through the maritime forest in the state park. The trail shows what the coastal forest looked like decades ago before Myrtle Beach was established as a tourism destination. The trail begins at a parking area beside the Nature Center and ends near the beach on the park road.

The 0.4-mile Yaupon Trail branches off from the Sculptured Oak Trail, winds through the maritime forest, and ends near a picnic shelter further down the park. One of my favorite activities at the state park is to hike the Sculptured Oak Trail to the road, walk down the road to the Yaupon Trail, and hike that trail back to the parking area.

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These horseback riders began at Myrtle Beach State Park, rode along the beach as far as Pier 14 near the Myrtle Beach Skywheel, then headed south again.

Horseback Riding

One of the most surprising activities at Myrtle Beach State Park is horseback riding. However, horses are only allowed on the beach from the third Saturday in November until the last day of February each year.

Horseback riding on the beach has become an increasingly popular winter activity. Visitors will opt to stay at the state park’s campground and go horseback riding north on the beach about ten minutes through Myrtle Beach.

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Campground

With 278 campsites, the Myrtle Beach State Park campground is one of the largest in the South Carolina state park system. Because of the park’s location in the Grand Strand and beach access, it’s also one of the most popular campgrounds in the greater Myrtle Beach area. The campground is typically booked weeks, sometimes even months, in advance, but if you can get a weekend scheduled, it will be a fantastic adventure.

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140 of the campsites include electricity and water hookups, and the remaining 138 sites include full hookups with electricity, water, and sewer. The campsites are built around six loops. Each loop has easy access to shower and restroom facilities and trash collection.

READ MORE: 8 Things to Do at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC

My favorite part of the campground is the dense forest surrounding the campsites. Thick trees provide cooling shade in the summer months, and underbrush offers a natural screen from your neighbors. The beach is no more than a ten-minute walk, perfect for quick outings in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If you need supplies for your camping adventure, you have some options. The camp store in the state park has limited supplies, mostly canned goods and snack foods. If you need more food for complete meals, the Food Lion is across Kings Highway from the state park. A paved path winds through the forest from the campground to a traffic light with a pedestrian crossing. It’s quite safe and the only time you’d ever walk across four lanes of traffic without getting splatted.

Favorite Campsite at Myrtle Beach State Park

I don’t have a single favorite campsite, but rather a favorite area in the campground. The beginning of Circle 5 has some of the quietest, most secluded campsites. Even-numbered campsites from #176-198 don’t have any more campsites behind their sites, they’re only a few minutes from the beach, and they are far enough from Kings Highway to mostly avoid the traffic noise.

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National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

Cabins

One of the most sought-after amenities at Myrtle Beach State Park is the \ cabins. The six cabins are fully furnished, feature air conditioning, and come with linens and cooking equipment. Just a few hundred feet from the beach, the cabins are a great place to spend a few nights where you can fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.

Four of the cabins feature two bedrooms, one cabin has three bedrooms, and the final cabin has four bedrooms and is located in the campground. Each cabin has a small living area with old but comfortable furniture, a fully equipped kitchen for cooking meals, and a screened-in porch.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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