Saturday, May 14, 2016

U-hauling in Myrtle Beach State Park

Uhaul CT-13 Fiberglass Camper at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina
We finally got a break to take our first camping trip of the year last weekend. We headed out to Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina as our accommodations for a weekend family reunion with extended family (my mom was born and raised on a farm in the area before the tourism boom). The last time we were in Myrtle Beach we camped at Huntington Beach State Park which is on the far south end. Huntington Beach SP tends to be a bit quieter and there's less traffic. Myrtle Beach SP is just south of Springmaid Pier and the south end of Ocean Blvd (known by locals as The Boulevard).

Uhaul CT-13 Fiberglass Camper at campsite at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina
South of Myrtle Beach SP is most of the private owned campground resorts (aka RV parking lots). Many of them offer water parks and other amenities but since we're more of a camping family than an large RV (read condo on wheels) family just looking for a parking spot, we of course headed to the state park. The campground is very shady and has a surprising 300 or so sites for tents to RVs scattered through ~6 different loops. We stayed in site 23 and loved it. Here's where having a small camper is awesome. Site 23 is technically a tent site, but I called ahead and spoke to a ranger and told them the size of our camper and they gave me the ok to book it. It's basically the first site in the campground which means it's the closes to the beach access path. There's not a site right next to or behind it. It's very private/quiet and totally surrounded by trees/shrubs. It also has 2 perfectly spaced trees for hanging a hammock. So that's why I wanted that site. Another site we liked when we were there was site 82. It seemed quiet and a bit deep, was across the street from a small bath house and next to a little path to a playground where the kids went every day.  So if we go back, those would be my top two sites (uh-oh I let the secret out!). The 2 bath houses we used were in great shape and regularly maintained. There is a camp store open daily from 8am-9:30pm if you need something without leaving the park. The campground is not a long walk from the beach and it's located on the northern end of the park's beach.

Myrtle Beach State Park Pier
The park has it's own pier that is free to access. There are fee's if you want to fish/crab from the pier though. There is a store at the beach side of the pier also for souvenirs and bait and pay the fees for fishing. All of the hosts and park staff we interacted with were very nice. The beach is beautiful and there were not many people there when we went out in the morning. The state park does have day use access (fee per person for those not camping) to the beach so it does get busier on the weekends as the day goes on.

Totally Turtles Day at Myrtle Beach State Park
As you know if you've read this blog for a while, I'm a big fan of supporting the state parks in any state and I love to take my children camping there. One of the benefits to a state park over an RV resort, is the educational programs and activities.Unknown to us until we got there, that Saturday was a huge event with the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol targeted towards kids. The day's events ranged from educational talks, to looking for turtles from the pier, to arts and crafts. The kids favorite event was the life of a sea turtle obstacle course on the beach. At the end they got a "test tube" with information about their sea turtle's DNA and how many times it had nested and how many eggs it laid each time. The DNA project is interesting. I thought it was the most exciting and well thought out event I had seen. The kids had a blast! Many thanks to the NMBSTP for putting on an engaging day.

Now there are two things to be aware of when you are planning to stay at MBSP. The first is that the Myrtle Beach Airport is just northwest of the campground and they tend to land planes from the east. So there's a bit of air traffic which may not be something you're used to. We were there Friday till Monday and I'd gotten used to it by then. It does make for an incredible site for the kids on the beach to see the jets coming in for a landing. But MYR only has a single runway so they are limited to how many flights they can run each day. For those who may not be familiar with the area and are history buffs, the airport and Market Commons area to the south of it used to be Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. (My grandfather was stationed there when my Dad was in high school which is how my parents met.)

The second thing to be aware of is mentioned in tiny print on the home page of the state park:
Due to heavy visitation on Saturdays and Sundays, expect long lines when entering the park, especially from 11am to 4pm.  We appreciate your patience in advance! 
And by long lines they mean it will take you 30-45 mins to get into the park (and that's on a Sunday in early May!). Yes, we ran into that problem on Sunday at ~1pm. We spent the morning hanging out with my cousin and his kids at their beach house and came back to the camper to get ready for a dinner with the big family. Had to wait 30-45 mins in a long line to get into the park. The problem?  There's not a separate entrance for campers. So you have to go through the same entrance as all the day use folks. I'm sorry MBSP, I do love your place but that's a very poor design decision. You should provide a second entrance for campers. The main entrance is off business hwy 17 near the south end of the park and winds it's way towards the middle of the beach where the pier is. I don't understand why there's not an entrance/exit on the north end for campers since the campground is on the north end. 

In the end, it's a beautiful park and I think that during the week it's probably not as bad on the entry issues. I know that they can't control air traffic, but they really do need to setup a separate entrance for campers. That is something they can control. While the entrance on Sunday afternoon was a pain, overall we enjoyed our time and the turtle event was a huge success from what I saw.