South Carolina has many wonderful state parks and most of them are off the beaten path in the prettiest locations. But one of my favorites is Hickory Knob State Resort Park, (864) -391-2450, 1591 Resort Drive, McCormick.
I know that state parks are supposed to be where people go to connect with nature and all that, but I really like modern conveniences, and this park has that in spades. I imagine that it's what summer camp or those mountain resorts in the northeast (think the movie "Dirty Dancing") used to be like.
The park has 18 one-bedroom cabins, more than 70 lodge rooms, 44 campsites and a restaurant. But the kicker for me is the golf course. It's beautiful and fairly inexpensive by resort standards ($15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends; carts are $13 per person).
The park is situated on Strom Thurmond Lake and offers a wide range of water activities including canoeing and kayaking as well as fishing.
A very cool lodging option for visitors to Hickory Knob is the Gillebeau House, an 18th-century cabin that was home to French Huguenots and donated to the state in the 1980s by the family that had owned it for generations.
The house has the rustic feel of a 200-year-old cabin, but comes with some modern comforts, such as electricity, air conditioning and, of course, cable television and Internet access.
An addition to the original house is a kitchen and dining area that is like living in an antique shop. A fully electric stove is shaped like a wood-burning cooker from your grandmother's house, and the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen displays a wonderful collection of pots, pans and cooking gadgets from the past 200 years.
The cabin has a loft with a very low ceiling that likely would be comfortable only for those who are shorter than 5 feet tall. The upstairs and the downstairs bedrooms each have a full, modern bath.
The cabin's piece of perfection is the ample screened porch with picnic table, swing and rockers. This is a great place to keep your bikes.
The cabin is located along one of the park's three nature trails at the intersection that takes you to the main kayak rental location along the lake. The pool and restaurant are a short walk or bike ride away.
Hickory Knob offers a full resort experience at a fraction of resort prices. Lodge rooms go for $50 a night during the week and up to $140 on the weekends. Cabins range from $70-100 a night, and the Gillebeau House is about $150 a night in season.
It also might be subject to a weeklong rental restriction, but if you are traveling on short notice, it's worth a call to the park to see whether it is available for shorter-term rentals. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It's open 24 hours a day, and the office is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is free.