Are you looking for a South Carolina vacation but want to avoid the crowds at Myrtle Beach and Charleston? Head to the shores of Lake Murray, just north of Columbia, South Carolina. You’ll get all the scenery and water activities that the popular coastal cities enjoy but with fewer crowds and lower prices.
Stay Near the Lake
There are ample budget-friendly hotels along Interstate 26, all of which are within a short drive of Lake Murray. The Hampton Inn Columbia I-26 Harbison offers families modern and spacious rooms, a free breakfast in the morning, and an indoor pool. A shopping complex featuring restaurants and popular chain stores is found near the hotel. Towing your own boat?
This hotel has free oversize parking.
Another affordable option along I-26 is the Wingate by Wyndham – Columbia Harbison. Previous guests of this hotel praise the friendly staff and the food at the free breakfast. You can also prepare simple snacks with the in-room microwaves and mini-fridges.
If you’re looking to leave the city behind, camp at the Billy Dreher State Park. Both tent sites and private cabins are available.
Sail, Ski and Float
With 650 feet of shoreline, Lake Murray is massive. With so much space, there is room for every kind of water sport available: sailing, motor boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet skis, paddle boards, and more. There are over 31 marinas and rental shops for tourists traveling without their own gear.
Looking to float out in the open? Try renting a pontoon or bowrider from one of the rental companies such as Better Boating. Alternately, relax and let someone else do the work on a sailing cruise with Lanier Sailing Academy. If you prefer to get the adrenaline pumping, several marinas will rent jet skis or water ski boats.
If you have your own boat, Jakes Landing is one of the closest marinas to the budget-friendly Columbia hotels along I-26. This marina offers boat launching, water slips, gas, and a boat shop.
Fish for Bass
Lake Murray is a popular fishing hole as well as the host of the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup. With sparkling clean water, you can safely eat what you catch. If you’re new to fishing or not able to bring you own equipment, there are year-round fishing charters that will lead the way to the biggest catches.
Lounge on the Beaches
There are a few beaches and parks available around the lake for tourists who prefer to stay close to shore. The SCEG Park and Swimming Beach, accessible from I-20, offers picnic tables, a public swimming area, and restrooms. Another option, Dreher Island State Recreation Area, offers lake access for both swimmers and boaters.
This stunning South Carolina lake is one of the state’s best kept secrets. While other tourists fight for a small swatch of sand at Myrtle Beach, you’ll have plenty of room (and your own boat!) at Murray Lake. What are you waiting for? Fly into Columbia Metropolitan Airport, rent a car, and follow I-26 to your Lake Murray vacation.
A former journalist, Tammy Banfield is a freelance travel writer who loves scouring the web for the best travel experiences. Tammy has written about more than 2,000 hotels and has traveled extensively throughout Canada and the United States.