If you’re looking for the best state parks in South Carolina, you are in the right place! My favorite of the many beautiful state parks in SC, include Table Rock State Park, Hunting Island State Park, and Hurtle Beach State Park.
What makes a great state park? Well, there’s natural beauty of course, but also the amenities. Is there a lake? Is it for swimming? Fishing? Should you bring your boat? Are there cooking, camping facilities, to stay a little longer? Or is there just an insanely awesome playground that the kids will adore?
There’s so much variation in what great state parks have to offer, so whether you’re planning a day trip or a vacation, consider this your South Carolina state park bucket list!
By the way, if you’re planning to visit South Carolina in the fall, be sure to check out my definitive list of the best places to experience fall in South Carolina!
10 Best State Parks in South Carolina
Table Rock State Park
Table Rock State Park is truly one of the best state parks to visit in South Carolina. While it’s spectacular year-round, I recommend visiting in summer to enjoy swimming in either (or both!) of the two lakes.
The 3,000+ acre park also has some basic camping facilities, if you’re planning an overnight or weekend visit. There are also some tough but fantastic hiking trails, so don’t forget to pack your walking shoes!
Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown here is Table Rock Mountain itself. Whether you’re looking at it from afar, or soaking in the view from the mountain, you simply cannot lose. Table Rock is truly one of the finest South Carolina parks.
Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island is the most popular state park in South Carolina, and it’s easy to see why.
Encompassing marshland, lagoon, and five glorious miles of beach, Hunting Island receives over a million visitors every year!
Featuring a historic lighthouse (with 167 steps to the top!) that was rebuilt after being ruined in the Civil War.
With 100 campsites all with access to electricity, water, and showering facilities, it’s a great spot to spend the weekend (noting there is a two night minimum for campsite bookings).
Different parks of the park may be affected by safety closures so definitely check before you visit, especially if there’s something you’re particularly interested in doing!
Myrtle Beach State Park
Myrtle Beach State Park is one of the best and most popular parks in South Carolina, and it’s easy to see why. The clue is in the name! This oceanfront park sprawls across more than 300 acres of gorgeous coastline, including a whole mile of beach.
Combining a beautiful beach with camping facilities, a fishing jetty, and delightful picnic areas, Myrtle Beach is a great spot for a family getaway. There’s even a nature center!
My favorite fact about Myrtle Beach State Park is that it was the first state park in South Carolina to open to the public! Definitely a great one for your South Carolina state parks bucket list!
May Forest State Park
If you’re looking for a day trip or weekend getaway from Charleston, May Forest State Park is a perfect option that’s just a 15-minute drive away!
Picturesque May Forest State Park, while not as large as other parks (it’s 23 acres), has a bundle of great attractions, including charming moss-draped trees, a gorgeous chapel from the late 19th century, and a delightful gazebo by the water.
For the very best of Charleston SC state parks, May Forest is where it’s at. Sit and soak in the stunning view of Charleston harbor. Bring a picnic and enjoy a perfect day out in Charleston! It’s glorious.
Oconee State Park
Oconee State Park is a hugely popular South Carolina state park. It’s situated high, on a plateau in the foothills of the wondrous Blue Ridge.
Spanning nearly 1200 acres, Oconee State Park is ideal for family getaways, with fun activities like square dancing scheduled in the summer, as well as festivities for the Fourth of July and other holidays. Accommodation includes camping and fairly basic cabins.
For the more adventurous there’s also some fantastic hikes, and the park serves as the head of the Foothills Trail, a 77 mile wilderness hike along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.
Oconee offers the very best state park hikes in South Carolina, and for that, I adore it.
Sesquicentennial State Park
Sesquicentennial State Park, known locally as Sesqui, is one of the best parks in South Carolina. Just a short drive from Columbia, Sesquicentennial State Park has loads to offer including a gorgeous, huge lake (fishing is allowed!), with picnic facilities and walking trails.
If you’re a swimmer, there’s a great little swimming beach. There’s also basic camping facilities available, and a retreat centre with dormitory accommodation for up to 30 visitors. Grab your friends!
But! My favourite thing about Sesqui is that it’s home to a two-storey log cabin built in the 1700s!
If you’re looking for one of the best state parks near Columbia SC, Sesquicentennial State Park is waiting for you. Unmissable!
Woods Bay State Park
Woods Bay State Park is a nature lover’s paradise, with more than 100 species of birds calling the park home, as well as more than 75 mammal species.
The park itself is very diverse, including marsh land, sand hills, a shrub bog (cool!) and oak hickory forest.
An almost-1200-foot boardwalk over cypress-tupelo swamp is my personal highlight, you’ll want to bring your camera!
Among the great hiking trails there’s also a great kayaking trail, with kayaks available for hire.
Anyone keen on geology will also be happy to stop here, as Woods Bay is a great example of a Carolina bay, which are egg-shaped impressions that look swampy but are dry!
Barnwell State Park
Barnwell State Park is one of the best South Carolina state parks. While it’s not as well known or busy as some of the bigger parks (it’s just over 300 acres), this is a reason I love it.
Day use facilities include a swimming beach, hiking trails and bike trails! Accommodation includes 25 campsites and five delicious cosy cabins.
BUT! Most of all, Barnwell State Park is known as being a great spot for fishing, with crappie, bream, catfish and bass in large populations across three lakes within the park.
If you’re looking for a lower key but absolutely delightful South Carolina state park, Barnwell is just the ticket!
Hickory Knob State Resort Park
There’s so much on offer at Hickory Knob State Resort Park, it’s hard to pack it all in, but let’s go! There’s a restaurant, 18 hole golf course, skeet shoot range, archery range, tennis courts, and a motel!
Despite all this, the park itself is tucked away and the vibes are super serene.
There’s also the usual state park features, like cabins, camping sites, hiking (and biking!) trails, and a swimming beach. Bring your bike! Bring your tennis racquet! Bring your swimming gear! Bring all of it.
Spanning just over 1000 acres, Hickory Knob State Resort Park is not your typical state park in South Carolina, it’s the only resort park! But I love it, and so will you!
Chester State Park
Last but absolutely not least, Chester State Park is top-notch, with heaps to offer including a beautiful 160 acre lake for swimming, boating and fishing!
Then there’s the 1.3 mile Caney Fork Creek Nature Trail which follows along the shore of the lake. There’s also a gorgeous footbridge OVER the lake! It’s such a great spot.
Other recreational facilities include disc golf, picnic shelters, archery, and bike trails.
Accommodation includes basic camping, and cabins. It’s a truly wonderful place to settle back among the pine forest and enjoy just… being.
For the scenery, for the activities, for the vibes, Chester really is one of the best state parks in SC.