I took my 4 and 7 year olds, by myself, to pitch a tent in one of the six rustic camping sites at Huntington Beach State Park the first week that school was out. And had it not been so incredibly hot at night, we would have stayed the entire 4 nights I booked so easily online. Booking two months in advance, I hemmed and hawed over the dates for a couple of days, so I saw the campground filling up quickly online, underestimating its popularity. To me, this was a very good omen of the park's quality.
HB state park has over 200 tent or RV sites near the showers/bathrooms which were in need of updating desperately. It also has 6 rustic tent sites that have no water or electricity hookups, but there is a water spigot at the entrance to the tent sites. They are not too far back into the woods, and amongst incredible old trees with huge limbs that can be used as supports for tarps, hanging wet tents, bathing suits, or towels, and stringing up lines for hanging food away from the gangs of racoons that rove at night.
The park also has tons of fun, twisty paths to the beach, which was completely uncrowded for it being the first week of summer vacation. The campers respected the quiet hours at night, picked up after themselves, and obeyed the leash laws for the most part. We really loved the fact that we could hear the waves at night from the tent site and not really other people. Unfortunately, there wasn't any breeze in the canopy of trees and we were uncomfortably hot at night. Maybe a fan in the tent would've been good. The mosquitos were aplenty and could have been extremely bad as far as feasting on us, but I sprayed us from head to toe with bug spray when we were in the tree canopy, and I also armed us with OFF! Mosquito repellent fans. They actually kept us bite-free our entire trip. The tent sites felt very private, buffered by the trees and not that close to each other. We were able to get wood for our fires at the campground store, which is stocked with just about everything you would need on a camping trip, and fun stuff too.
The employees were very kind and patient, and reassuring to my children that alligators could not sneak into the camp sites at night. It did rain the first night and we made the mistake of leaving our Rubbermaid box of food outside, but not wedged under the picnic table bench that was provided at each tent site. There is a sign on top of the table instructing how to thwart raccoons' attempts at getting into your stuff, but the sign was worn and hard to read. I would like to mention also that the site was clear of trash when we arrived to set up. Okay, so that evening, the raccoons came and made lots of noise, which lost me much sleep. It didn't help that the neighbor's dogs were barking at the wildlife for most of the night. No matter how high I hung our trash in the trees, they seemed to be very interested in it, and left a huge mess for me the next morning, so I suggest a plastic bin for your trash as well as your food, or take it to the dump center before bed. Oh, and the paths to the tent sites are lined with sand, so be prepared to carry everything in your arms unless you have a cart with nice, fat tires. The website for making reservations has fabulous pictures of each site, and distances that you'll walk to get to them from the entrance. It's not that far.
Now the park also has a wonderful nature education center, and a cool, long boardwalk that goes impressively far out into the saltmarsh. What I didn't expect was that portions of the boardwalk were underwater due to the heavy rains. The kids were freaked out at first, then captivated that they could be walking along where alligators might be swimming. The side rails along the boardwalk would've kept any from coming onto the walkway, but we were walking in water that was a foot deep, out into the marsh. We saw lots of cool birds and people looking for alligators, but didn't see any ourselves.
There are other attractions to keep you busy there. I did want to take a tour of the Brookgreen Gardens located across the street (busy highway actually) from the park entrance. The campground store has a stack of coupons for $2 off admission to the gardens, so stop there first. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time at the beach, and the kids didn't seem interested in walking around in the heat, looking at statuary. There was the Atalaya castle that we didn't venture into, but could peek at from a main parking lot. There are biking trails and hiking trails to traverse. As for eats, there were two major grocery stores in the area, less than 10 minutes away and plenty of restaurants to choose from. We tried to eat at our campsite for that authentic "fending for ourselves" feel. And with the heavy grill that lowers over the firepit at our site, we were able to make fires to heat up a few frozen dinners. Parking was easy, and I felt secure as this campground was full of families, rangers, campground hosts, and the gates are locked at night. If you get back to the park too late and are locked out at night, they do supply you with a special code to enter at the gate to get back in.
So all in all, I felt that the campground was well kept - except for the small bathrooms (only two stalls and two showers in the bathhouse near us), well organized, easy to navigate, easy to reserve online, and had a good family vibe. I've been to Myrtle Beach many times, and on our way back north, even stopped for a trip to the Ripley's Aquarium, but I'd easily drive an extra 30 minutes past Myrtle to this quieter, more subdued beach town that hosts people who'd rather be in the great outdoors than in the crowded clubs, bars, and shopping malls. I definitely feel as though my kids and I had a good experience there and plan to return in the fall when the nights aren't so hot. The park rangers assured me that the crowds are mighty thin by Septmember.