It all begins with a story of procrastination. Most of my stories do, procrastination or pure impulse. Never a carefully thought out and well timed plan. A few years back, one of our good friends posted a 50% off Black Friday deal on South Carolina State Park passports. I hadn’t heard of the pass at the time, despite having lived in Myrtle Beach for a combined ten years at the time. But the deal is: you buy the pass, and you have unlimited access to all of South Carolina’s State Parks, many of which do charge an entrance fee, for one full calendar year.
I thought to myself “hey, that’s an amazing deal, we should do this!”. But spoiler alert: we didn’t do it. Likely because I said “I’ll do that…later” and ultimately forgot.
Procrastination is my Achilles heel.
Anyway, the initial sale that I missed put the idea into my mind, and 6 months later (gold star level procrastination) we did finally purchase the South Carolina State Park Passport. Even at full price, it’s one of the greatest investments I’ve ever made. In fact, I’m pretty sure I declare to everyone and no one in particular “this is the best $75 I’ve ever spent!” every time we pull into a state park.
Let me explain further:
Seven (and a half) Reasons why the South Carolina State Park Passport is Worth Every Penny:
We Save Money
The South Carolina State Park Passport cost us $75. (There’s also an inland pass for $50, and a Passport Plus for $99). Normally, entrance to our local parks costs $5 per adult, and $3 per child, per day. For our little family, that’s $16 for a single trip to the beach. Needless to say, the first week we had the pass, we went to the beach five times. And just like that, it paid for itself.
Now I’m sure you’re thinking “but Heather, you live in Myrtle Beach! Can’t you just go to the regular beaches for free?” and the answer to that would be “No. Well, maybe It’s complicated.”. A few years ago the city decided to start charging for parking. Which I’m not going to complain about as a whole: paying to park in public places is nothing new. But I will complain about how ridiculously difficult it is to either get the parking pass kiosks to actually work, or spend 10 minutes calling the hotline to pay by phone. It’s much nicer to drive up to the gatehouse at a state park and be greeted by a smiling face.
And in my experience, they are always smiling.
Explore More of South Carolina
Our initial reason for buying the South Carolina State Park Passport was to be able to use our two local parks on a regular basis. However, when we bought the pass, the kind park employee also handed us an official guide book, where we discovered there are actually 47 South Carolina state parks. Who knew? Not us.
The South Carolina State Park Passport gets you – and everyone in your car – unlimited entry into all 47 parks across the state. Now, I’m a Vermonter trapped in the South trying to make the best of it. Or “love the one I’m with” if you will. Getting out there and exploring these places I didn’t even know existed has been an eye opening experience to how beautiful this state truly is. Turns out it’s more than Myrtle Beach t-shirt shops and buffet seafood restaurants. With each breathtaking mountain view or sweeping coastal plain, I whisper an apology to the state of South Carolina for all of the smack I’ve talked in the past.
Visit New Emergency Rooms!
Like the one time my kid lost 1/3 of his finger at Little Pee Dee State Park (for real, you can read that story HERE). Don’t worry, he ultimately ended up fine, and now jokes about “stumpy” (his finger) often. Making family memories, am I right?
Learn Something New
Education is way more fun through experiences – and outside of the classroom. (Sorry teachers, I love you and appreciate you, but I also love being outside). State parks are akin to sneaking cauliflower into your kids scrambled eggs…they don’t actually realize they are eating vegetables. Or in this case, realize they are getting an education.
Most of the South Carolina State Parks offer free educational programs throughout the year. The kids (and adults) get hands on experience, learning about the environment, wildlife, conservation, and even history. That’s a win for everyone involved.
Ultimate Outsider Challenge
I’m painfully competitive, to a fault. Everything is a competition, from board games to yoga class (I know, I know, it shouldn’t be.) South Carolina State Parks offers a cool program called the “Ultimate Outsider”. Each park has a stamp to collect in your State Parks guide. Once you collect all 47 Stamps, you submit it to a ranger. And then you win a t shirt, or something. I don’t even know, but I love a good challenge.
Except I keep forgetting to bring my book anywhere, so I’ve only collected two stamps. But the idea is awesome (note to self: plan more trips).
Get Away from the Crowds
Here in Myrtle Beach, the economy is built around tourism. Golf (standard and mini), restaurants, hotels, and of course: the beach. Therefore, in order for this town to survive, we need tourists. I have no problem with that. The beaches here are pretty, and I’m happy to share that with others.
Except I don’t really love a crowded beach.
I am going to sound like an ornery old lady for a minute (“get off my lawn!”).When I go to the beach, I like to relax, and be at one with nature. I don’t enjoy:
- Hearing the conversation of the person on a towel two feet from mine. I just want to listen to the ocean.
- Loud music that people insist on blasting through iPhones and portable speakers.
- Smelling cigarette and cigar smoke. It’s the beach, not a bar.
- Nearly getting hit in the head with a football from the pickup game the drunk college kids initiated
Screaming children don’t bother me, in fact, usually I bring my own. It’s the other things that make your place of relaxation less relaxing. The point is, living in a very busy tourist town warrants the need to “escape” every now and then, and I love that we have access to these less crowded park options.
State Parks are Good for Your Health
As soon as we turn off of the road and start driving into a State Park, I feel an immediate sense of relief. And I know it’s not just me: there’s endless scientific proof that exposure to the greenspace (i.e., undeveloped lands with natural vegetation) reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure (source).
Support Something you Love
I truly believe that nature belongs to everyone, and that nature should be free and accessible to everyone. I also fully believe in supporting the people who help preserve nature, and provide amazing places for us to enjoy nature. So it’s cool to be a part of the State Park family
So, if you’ve been wondering if you should invest in a South Carolina State Park Passport, the answer is a resounding YES. I hope you are able to enjoy your pass just as much as I do…minus the emergency rooms.