For hundreds of years, horseback was the only means of transportation in Coastal Carolina. Today, the coast still boasts some of the best trails, meadows, pastures and paddocks in the South.
Riding is a popular pastime for locals and visitors who enjoy meandering through former rice plantations, trotting on the beach and walking below majestic oaks on paths overlooking the marsh. Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island and St. Helena Island just outside of Beaufort are among the many areas offering equestrian centers and services.
It’s common to see riders along the Avenue of Oaks at Coffin Point, one of the prettiest spots on St. Helena Island. They’ve usually come from Camelot Farms, the largest public riding facility and training barn in northern Beaufort County. It has the only covered, lighted arena in the area, a 10-stall barn, outside jump arena, dressage arena and outside natural jump area.
The 60-acre farm also offers accommodations for overnight guests and their horses, lessons, trail rides, pony rides ($30 for 30 minutes), training and rehabilitation. Trail rides ($55 for one hour) are open to riders 8 and older and are limited to walking in the plantation. A two-hour excursion takes riders to St. Helena Sound and costs $75. Reservations are necessary for all rides, including pony rides.
Charlie and Katie Gunn went on a trail ride at Camelot Farms during their week-long stay in Beaufort this June.
“The scenery was beautiful, and I relaxed completely,” said Katie Gunn, of Utah.
Visitors to Hilton Head Island have the opportunity to ride in an equally picturesque setting – the serene Sea Pines Forest Preserve. Lawton Stables offers one-hour Western-style trail rides into the 606-acre nature reserve ($60, reservations required). Kids younger than 8 can take a pony ride ($10 for two laps around a ring) or visit the farm’s free barnyard petting zoo complete with goats, sheep, donkeys, pot-bellied pigs, a llama, a miniature pony, chickens and rabbits. “We vacation on Hilton Head every summer, and riding the ponies is what my daughter looks forward to the most,” said Suzanne Frisch, 42, of Denver.
In the Myrtle Beach area, Inlet Point Plantation is home to well-behaved horses and breathtaking views. A one-hour walking ride ($50 for ages 7 and older) takes riders through mostly shaded pecan groves, wooded trails and along parts of the Intracoastal Waterway. A two-hour ride ($100 for ages 10 and older) includes walking and trotting through the plantation across Dunn Sound to a private island beach.
Experienced riders who want to walk, trot and canter can combine the beach and plantation rides for a half-day of fun ($225). For children 10 and younger, the equestrian center offers hand-led pony rides through the plantation’s pecan groves for $35, (reservations required).
Christina Donavan, 27, of Columbia, had her first ride with Horseback Riding Myrtle Beach while on her honeymoon this April. “I was so scared, I didn’t think I could even get up there,” said Donovan, referring to her horse. “But I did, and I loved it.” From mid March through mid September, the Myrtle Beach horse center leads 90-minute rides on the equestrian trails of Myrtle Beach Nature Preserve ($55). In the winter, riders walk the coastline of Garden City Beach, Litchfield Beach or Myrtle Beach ($85).