If you are headed to the coast of South Carolina and looking for an ideal stopping point to break up the trip, Cheraw State Park is a fabulous spot for a picnic and an hour or two of kayaking. Persuaded by friends, I recently made the detour to Cheraw while driving from Charlotte to Pawleys Island, South Carolina.
Roughly an hour and a half southeast of Charlotte, and 2+ hours northwest of Myrtle Beach, this 7361 acre park offers a fabulous setting to explore cypress wetlands via kayak or canoe for only $3 an hour. While paddling around Lake Juniper, we saw wild osprey as we weaved in and out of the ethereal cypress trees and discovered some remote campsites that would be perfect for a fall weekend. Nearby fishermen reeled in catfish and bass and golfers made their way around the lakeside 18 hole golf course. The park also includes budget-friendly campsites and cabins for those looking to spend more than the afternoon. After seeing the flat, sandy hiking trails, I just might have to come back this fall with a hoofed friend in tow to explore the 15 miles of horse trails that connect to Sandhills State Forest.
The town of Cheraw is truly a charming piece of small town America, with a historic district boasting dozens of restored, antebellum homes, many of which were used by Sherman and his troops as they passed through the area. You will see pillared houses with overflowing gardens, gracious porches and white picket fences. The town is rich in history, having seen its fair share of involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Ironically, Cheraw was a stopping point for key players of both sides in both wars, hosting military greats such as Major McArthur, General Nathanael Greene, General William J. Hardee and General Sherman. Cheraw is also the birthplace of jazz giant Dizzie Gillespie.
Although I visited comfortably in June, April is a great time to visit and attend the Cheraw Spring Festival or The Taste of Cheraw, which offer several free activities and tasty treats. Pop in to Raw Town Coffee for your caffeine fix or dine with locals at Bill's BBQ. You will be glad you took the time to check out this unexpected South Carolina gem and it will make your drive to the coast a lot more fun!