As we took the Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry south, we intended to continue following the coast, which meant that Myrtle Beach would be the next logical stop. As we entered South Carolina and ticked off the 6th state on our trip, we began seeing more and more surf and beachwear shops and extravagant mini-golf places. (Ah, to think what my sister and I would have given back in the day to have played mini-golf in a fabricated jungle on the side of a volcano that erupted orange-colored water!)
When we reached Myrtle Beach, we headed over to the KOA to book a campsite. This KOA was beautiful. A gigantic, shiny, silver crab held up the yellow KOA sign out front, and just beyond the main office, lounge chairs were set up in front of a cute building decorated with colorful wooden buoys. But it was also expensive (almost twice as expensive as all the other KOAs we’ve visited), and it was right off the main road and didn’t have trails for hiking with the dogs. I looked at a map and saw some state parks in the area, and we decided to give one of them a try.
Myrtle Beach State Park was nearby, but further away from all of the hustle and bustle, in a large green patch on the map, was Huntington Beach State Park. We thought it would be more our speed and decided to try it out.
The campground at Huntington Beach State Park had large sites nicely spaced from each other. As George got the water and electric hooked up, I took the dogs for a walk and almost immediately found a trail leading off into the woods. The sandy trail was lined with grey arching trees and wound around in the woods before coming to a little waterway between the woods and the ocean. Ducks swam in water sparkling with orange late-day sun in front of a backdrop of white sand dunes and blue ocean. I knew that the sun would be setting soon, so I turned around so we could get back to the camper and go for a sunset walk on the beach.
It seemed like there was no one else on the beach that evening besides us and some sandpipers. The weather was brisk and chilly, but the beach was wide and beautiful, and we walked until the sky was deep orange and our way back would be dark.
I couldn’t wait to return the next morning with our fat bikes (which are equipped with extra wide tires that are perfect for sand) to ride on the beach.
The sunset walk felt wonderful and exhilarating, but I regretted it a bit that night when a little post-nasal drip that I had turned into a bad cough. I spent hours awake clearing my throat and coughing. At some point in the middle of the night, I actually got up and microwaved some water for tea, which helped me get some sleep for a bit. Of course, in our tiny space, this meant that George and the dogs were kept up all night, too, and no one was in any condition for a bike ride the next morning.
We did walk around the park and onto the beach again before we left. The park is home to Atalaya, the historic winter home of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. It was an interesting mix of opulence, utilitarianism and artistic design. From the outside, it actually looked like a prison, but from the front gate, it looked quite grand.
When we walked on the beach again, Loki and Pip enjoyed playing in the sand and surf. Loki even went digging for buried treasure!
We loved this beautiful and well maintained park so much that we probably would have stayed longer if I had been feeling better. There was a bird sanctuary that I really wanted to visit, and I would have loved to explore more of the trails. It was definitely more of the kind of experience we’re looking to have than the resort campground in Myrtle Beach would have been.
Even the park’s campground facilities were excellent. The grassy area encircled by campsites and containing the bathhouse was shaded with big, beautiful oak trees. The bathhouses themselves had been renovated recently and were some of the nicest that we’ve used on the trip.
I hated to leave this park, as it had so much to offer, but we had this feeling that we needed to move south and chase warmer weather. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do much bike riding or hiking if I had more nights of coughing. So we departed Huntington Beach State Park thankful that we had chosen it over the flashier, more expensive campground option. It’s definitely going on my “would like to visit again” list.