Posted October 21, 2017
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*see our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
After the hurricane, we needed some beach time.
Myrtle Beach State Park Campground stands out in sharp contrast to its surroundings. It seems impossible, this tiny seaside oasis situated on tooth’s edge of the voracious commercial strip of roadside attractions, high rise hotels, and tourist condos known as The Boulevard.
Yet, by some miracle of Nature, an abundance of trusting wildlife shelter within these two emancipated miles of undeveloped protected coastline – it’s precious dunes intact, it’s bodacious live oaks unmolested.
Apparently – at least for the immediate present – locals and visitors may have their cake and eat it too, The Boulevard and The Wilderness. It’s like walking inside a Potthast painting that’s inside a Bosch painting. It’s like Dystopia and Utopia in the fight of the century,“Go ahead, knock this fake King Kong off my shoulder. I dare ya.”
And, hey, don’t blame this on Rednecks! My ancestral bonafides are highly Redneck on both sides and figuring in that my mama sorta dated Elvis, makes me almost Redneck royalty. Me and mine know what tacky is and where it belongs and any self-respecting red neck would take umbrage that Ty-D-Bowl blue water spews from every fake whale orifice, pirate ship, and waterfall on the putt-putt golf courses of Myrtle Beach. It looks like a hot toxic mess. That Southern Living Magazine reviewers always manage to skip over that part should clue-in the city council to call a serious come-to-Jesus redevelopment meeting.
As we drove down the boulevard “the crazy” kept going and on, and just when we started talking about turning around and trying Ocracoke, or Hilton Head or just to forget the beach and go back to Asheville, the chaos…
… was swallowed by the trees. We turned off the highway and were instantly swept into a land of enchantment. Myrtle Beach State Park is easily the best thing going in Horry County. This must be one of the most beautiful park entrances in America.
Speaking of crazy and chaos, we arrived on the 12th of September – the day after Hurricane Irma landed in Myrtle Beach. We drove in from Cary, North Carolina where we waited out the storm in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. The night before that, the good folks at Grove Winery – a Harvest Host destination in Gibsonville – gave us refuge. While there, Jim went online and picked the perfect campsite at MBSP.
As we drove in, we noted how the streets had already been cleared of storm debris – but the campsites were strewn with tree limbs and detritus. We worked for about two hours clearing our site. The next day a clean-up crew arrived. Oh well …
Most individual sites at MBSP are spacious, set back from the road, and separated by oaks, wax myrtles, hollies, poplars, magnolias, and shrubs. We chose site #295, the last loop. There are 336 spaces. Most are back-in with a few pull-throughs. There are no first-come-first-serve sites, so all can be reserved online ahead of time.
Even at capacity, the campground had a quiet, easy-going and private atmosphere. Some campers complained of air traffic noise, but as former residents of Coronado Island, we barely noticed.
This is a busy state park, popular with the locals who buy annual passes. The off-season, post-Labor Day weather suited us during the morning hours, but afternoons could get hot and buggy.
We chose to camp here without full-hookups, just electricity, and water (no sewer) for $38 a night. Sites with sewer are $10 more. When camping without sewer, we use the park showers. The showers were as expected – the basics. The facility was outdated but recently tiled. The water was hot and most days the bathrooms were cleaned according to schedule. Laundry facilities are adequate. The WiFi was useless at MBSP, but the Verizon cell signal was strong.
… and, every night before we lay down our heads to sleep, the Munch tree, faithfully, carried on.
And, another visitor, the woodpecker – a frequent flyer-over – stopped by one lovely day for brunch and to model for our new Nikon CoolPix B500 camera.
The camp culture was all good vibes. We met Pat while walking Pico. Pat is a dog-lover, a builder of trailers, a philosopher, a knife sharpener – the kind of guy who knows everything about you by examining your knives – a true renaissance man.
The beach was only a five-minute walk from our campsite. And nearly every day the red flag was out due to storm surge from the next hurricane … Maria? Jose? We’ve lost track.
Early morning beach walks became routine. Myrtle Beach State Park and much of the Grand Strand is gloriously uncrowded after Labor Day when dogs, on leash, are allowed.
The park offers plenty of outdoor activities, nature walks, camping, cabin rentals, beaches free of high-rise condominiums and hotels. The fishing and sightseeing pier, known as one of the best since it opened in 1992, is free with park admission.
There is also a boardwalk for strolling along the dunes and plenty of clean bathrooms.
Each tide changed the character, shape, and texture of the beach. Some days the surface was scattered with shells, other days a blanket of soft sand, another day tide pools with small fish …
A mysterious shore, with many moods…
… and architecture.
I couldn’t pull my eyes or my camera away from that majestic pier …
… or the sea oats, or the sand, so gentle on the feet.
After two hours of wet sand walking, we were ready for a big ol’ homemade brunch.
Occasionally, we rode our bikes on the designated bike paths into town for a bite. Tupelo Honey Cafe in The Market Common had a great breakfast on weekends and a dog-friendly patio. They also have a great Happy Hour on weekdays.
And, right next door to Tupelo, Jim picked up a new addition to his Tommy Bahama collection.
One visit to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk was enough and being with friends made it special.
One afternoon we rode our bikes way off the beaten path to New South Brewing – the only brewery we could find in Myrtle Beach. New South had an IPA that suited our growler just fine, but the atmosphere was a bit rough and beer-jointy with no comfortable seating or dog-friendly atmosphere, and only a “Fair Food” truck. Also, they closed at 5 PM. What’s that about? The owner/brewer explained that the liquor laws are not an encouragement to expand his business for walk-in clients.
So is that how it is, Myrtle Beach? … Ty-D-Bowl, yea. Craft breweries, nay?
I suppose I should just give in and accept it. Myrtle Beach is like a religion. It is what it is. In fact, the few times we left the park it felt like expulsion from paradise – and when we went back in, baptism.
Truth is, our two-week maximum stay ended way too soon. I don’t know if it’s fascination or unfinished business, but we’ll be back …
|Our “BAMBI” rating system for Public and Private campgrounds and resorts explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!