In search of more beautiful outdoor destinations close to home, we stumbled across the Cheraw State Park in South Carolina. The park makes a great day trip from Columbia or Charlotte, but with its own cabins and campground, it’s a relaxing spot to enjoy a weekend.
In addition to the usual park facilities, Cheraw has one very unique feature. Its own top rated golf course!
History Of Cheraw State Park
Though Myrtle Beach was the first South Carolina state park to open (1936), Cheraw was the first park to have designated land back in 1934.
Today Cheraw State Park encompasses 7361 acres. However, the first 700 of those acres were donated by the children of the town of Cheraw who saved pennies to make the purchase. Isn’t that an adorable start?
It took Company 445 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) four years to build several structures and the dam that formed Lake Juniper, a key feature of the park. By 1942, permanent facilities for daytime activities, two camp sites, and cabins were in place. Many of these buildings are still used today.
If you’re interested in the CCC or the development of Cheraw State Park, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History has a fascinating paper with pictures on the CCC in SC from 1933 –1942.
What To Do At Cheraw State Park
Getting out and enjoying the lake is why everyone loves Cheraw State Park.
Just behind the Visitor Center is a small beach where swimming is permitted Memorial Day to Labor Day.
In season, the park rents kayaks, canoes, even stand up paddle boards. They also rent fishing boats for really reasonable prices ($30/day 2021).
You can fish on the lake, and the park even participates in the Tackler Loaner Program where you can borrow everything you need. However, fishing does require a SC fishing license.
If you do rent or bring a kayak, be sure to head south to the far side of the lake to enjoy the park’s famous cypress trees. There’s a small patch out by the island just south of the camping area, but the far south side of the lake has a heap. Just be sure you have the energy to paddle back, it’s quite the way.
Walking, Hiking, Biking
Take a stroll along the park’s photogenic boardwalk. The 1/2-mile trail leads from the Visitor Center near the parking area, all the way over to the campground.
Just before getting to the campground the path crosses over a bridge above the dam. In summer, tons of children play in the water at the bottom of the dam.
The other hiking trail is on the far end of the park, on Cheraw State Park Road but near Hwy 1. Turkey Oak Trail is a 4.5-mile loop trail, with an inner 2-mile loop if you want to cut the hike short. The trail goes through the marsh, so in summer you need bug spray.
Note: At time of writing (winter 2021) Turkey Oak Trail was closed, so be sure to check with the park for reopening.
Just across Hwy 1, on Auction Barn Road, are roughly 9-miles of mountain biking trails.
Golfing At Cheraw State Park
If you’re a keen golfer, then the state park’s golf course should be high on your list. Built to feel like a golf course from the early 1900’s, the course is set entirely within the beauty of the park. Gently rolling slopes, pristine scenery and mostly par 4/par 5 holes make the course a local favorite. Not to mention the very reasonable fees.
Where To Stay For Cheraw State Park
In the park of course!
The park has several cabins for rent. They require a minimum of a two night stay, but their location and reasonable cost make them an ideal option. Unfortunately, every one else thinks so too, so they sell out pretty fast, especially on weekends.
Another option is camping within the park. There’s about 17 sites with power and water, with 5 rustic camping spots. They also require a two night minimum stay.
Though restrained pets are allowed in the park, pets are not allowed in the lodging areas.
Outside the park there are not many options close-by; however, the Fairfield Inn in neighboring Hartsville has very good ratings.
Cheraw State Park
100 State Park Rd,
Cheraw, SC 29520
The park is free to visit.