No matter where you're visiting in South Carolina, you're within a short drive of a state park. Set along rivers and lakes, in the mountains and maritime forests, on beaches and saltwater marshes, these beautifully preserved recreational areas are the gateway to outdoor adventure and family fun.
This week, I'm starting a series on South Carolina's state parks to introduce you to some of my favorites. First up is Oconee State Park located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a small upstate town called Mountain Rest.
I love this park for its simple pleasures - easy-to-walk nature trails, lakes for fishing, swimming and canoeing, a playground, picnic shelters and carpet golf. It's the kind of old fashioned entertainment families enjoyed before there were big-screen TVs and Nintendo Wii.
I visited the park earlier this month and found one family playing ball in a field and another taking an afternoon walk around the lake. Three fathers and their daughters were puttering around on the miniature golf course. A couple was paddling a boat in the lake.
They could have been scenes from Normal Rockwell paintings. Healthy, wholesome good times. It's the kind of family vacation kids remember their whole lives.
And it doesn't have to break your bank. It costs just $1.50 to play 18 holes of carpet golf. Canoe rentals and non motorized fishing boats are $20 a day, $10 for half a day. Pedal boats rent for $5 an hour.
The 20-acre lake offers more opportunities to carouse with your kids. It features a swimming area with low and high diving boards to show off your best cannonball. Where else can you find diving boards these days?
Nestled on a high plateau among tall pines and hardwoods, the 1,165-acre park features 19 historic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The rustic structures have been updated and come with basic kitchen wares and linens. Campsites, with picnic tables, fire rings and individual water and electric hookups, also are available. Most of the cabins and some of the campsites overlook mountain lakes.