Last Updated on March 29, 2016 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
In an effort to “love the one you’re with” or in this case, to love the place you live, we have made it a point to look beyond all of the pavement, neon lights, and massive hotels, and to instead find hidden outdoor gems here in the Grand Strand area. Because South Carolina truly does have its own unique beauty, and it would be a shame to not appreciate it. So until I run out of places to share, once a week I’ll be featuring another adventure on this new “Myrtle Beach Outdoor Adventures” series. If you have any suggestions for places we should visit, please let me know. Thanks for reading!
Ever since we moved to Myrtle Beach last June and began to express our desire to find more trails, people kept suggesting we visit Vereen Memorial Gardens. Vereen Memorial Gardens is a bit of a stretch when referring to the Grand Strand area, as it nearly touches the North Carolina border. For this reason, and a nearly 45 minute drive with traffic away, we kept putting off our visit. Which we would eventually discover to be a shame, because this beautiful park is absolutely worth the drive from Myrtle Beach to Little River, SC.
Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens consists of 115 acres of coastal forest, tidal marsh, and intracoastal waterfront. It is a part of the Horry County Park System, and therefore is free to the public to visit and enjoy. The Vereen Gardens is a small portion of a 400 acre plantation that has been in the Vereen family since colonial days. In 1972, Jack Vereen deeded the property to the Horry County Historical Commission. The Gardens include the historic Vereen Family Cemetery, which features Revolutionary war graves.
The park also includes two dirt walking/running trails that meet up near the waterfront, and are connected via a system of numerous wooden bridges and walkways. Along the route are numerous educational stops with plaques describing things such as the history of the area, the vegetation, and wildlife.
ADVENTURE REPORT CARD:
(for those who don’t want to read the long winded experience…)
Adrenaline Rating: 3/10 Brace yourself: there are HILLS here! We aren’t talking mountains or anything, but enough that we came around the corner on a trail and I exclaimed “OH MY GOSH, LOOK AT THAT DOWNHILL!” This is pretty huge for us coastal South Carolina dwellers. I mean, our local marathon tops out at 19 feet of elevation change. The trails are wide and straight, allowing for some pretty fast trail running, if you want. Other than that, this is actually a very peaceful park, with plenty of places to stop, take a seat, and absorb the amazing scenery.
Athletic Ability: All levels. If you park right off of the street next to the front gate and C.B. Berry recreation center, you can run or hike a few miles down to the water. However, if walking long distances isn’t your thing, you can drive all of the way down to the picnic area and lower parking lot right near the water, cutting the time on your feet significantly.
Runability: (because this matters to my family) 8/10 The trails themselves are VERY flat and wide, with only the occasional small rock or root. The reason I didn’t give them a 10 however is because there isn’t a lot of distance to the trails (various sites estimate everything from 2-3 miles total. I didn’t bring my GPS.) For an outing with the little ones, 2+ miles is more than enough. But if you are trying to get any sort of long distance training in, you’ll be running A LOT of loops.
In the Elements: 10/10. You are outside. The only exceptions here are the slightly covered picnic areas or the port-a-potties.
Kid Friendly: 10/10. The trails are incredibly easy, wide, and therefore easy for kids to use. Dare I say I’d even take an off road jogging stroller out there, if my kids were smaller. But what’s more, Vereen Memorial Gardens has gone out of their way to make this park kid friendly. There is a kiosk behind the center that features a kid friendly trail map, as well as a handful of various pamphlets about nature, animals, etc. that are geared for kids. Lastly, the picnic area contains a swing set, to burn off a little post lunch energy.
Having never been to Vereen Gardens, nor having looked into it much further than an address for my GPS, we opted to park in the very first parking lot by the C.B. Berry recreation center, unaware that we could continue to drive further down the road through the gates towards a larger parking lot. This would prove to be a good thing, however, as it set us up for our very first trail.
The day was overcast, but rain free, so we decided to go on a little adventure. After gathering all of our gear, I gave the kids the typical pre-trail run speech: don’t get too far out of my sight, and remember to follow the trail blazes. Thankfully, the trail we started on was very well marked, and no one got lost.
It’s very fun exploring a place you’ve never been to before, as you truly have no idea what will be around the next corner. This particular trail (we took the red one, shown in the awesome kids map below) dipped in and out of the woods, backing right up to a quiet neighborhood subdivision. It felt a little strange marching past people’s backyards, but eventually the trail curved to the left and dove deeper into the woods.
Every quarter of a mile or so there would be a sign describing some sort of animal or plant life found on the grounds. Nothing too exotic, but entertaining for the kids none the less.
Eventually our trail led us to the waterfront and a series of wooden bridges and walkways. Birds of all types were aplenty…and this is also where we started to run into other park goers who had parked at the lower lot. Here you had multiple options to leave the trail and head right down to the waterfront. The shoreline was pretty mucky, but covered in seashells. Not swimmable (in fact, I think there might have been “no swimming” signs. But for the kids, there were plenty of rocks and shells to throw at the water. It’s a proven fact that kids love to throw rocks. Ask any one of them.
The series of walkways eventually led us to the lower parking lot, picnic area, and much to my kids excitement…a swing set.
After a silly swing session, we turned around and headed back up the trail to the car. Kain (7) took over the GoPro, and made the most hilarious video including one epic trail fall, however I can’t get the thing to upload. Blogger problems. Got the car, drove back down to the picnic area (again, we went into this one blindly) and had a wonderful picnic lunch before heading home.
Vereen Memorial Historical Gardens isn’t a “busy” park in the sense of a number of added things to see or do (play structures, art, educational features, etc.) but it is a beautiful slice of land quietly hidden amongst the busy Grand Strand area. If you are looking for a serene place to simply escape to for a few hours, walk or run, or simply do some bird watching, this is a perfect location to visit.
IF YOU GO:
– Bring water. I don’t recall seeing a water fountain at the picnic area, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. Better to be safe than sorry.
-Go early. Though the trails were nearly empty, the lower waterfront/boardwalk area of Vereen Gardens appeared to be a very popular among the walking/retiree crowd. The parking lot was completely full by 11:00 am.
-Pack a lunch. The coastal marsh view is uninterrupted and gorgeous. Absolutely worth a picnic.
For more information, follow the HCPR Vereen Memorial Gardens Facebook page.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.