Vereen Memorial Gardens is one of those hidden gems you always hear about, but are never quite sure if it’s as good as it sounds. In this case, it definitely is that good.
Located in plain sight off Highway 179 in Little River, you’ll likely pass this forest without even noticing it for all the trees. If you get to the Lowes Foods store, you’ve gone too far.
Once part of a 400-acre plantation owned by the Vereen family, the park today encompasses 114 acres of woodlands and salt marsh along the Intracoastal Waterway and is part of the Horry County Parks and Rec department. Sometimes referred to as the Vereen Botanical Gardens because of the variety of native plant species to be found here, the park offers visitors some outdoor recreation as well as a surprising bit of South Carolina history.
Swings are for relaxing.
Boating on the Intracoastal Waterway.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Myrtle Beach, Vereen Gardens is definitely on the wild side. Nature lovers will enjoy the wide variety of plants and trees and there are interpretive signs to tell you what they are. Keep an eye out for local critters as well. Birding is popular here and snakes are not uncommon in this neck of the woods, although they prefer to go where humans don’t. Stick to the trails and you should be fine.
The hiking trails make up a 3-mile loop that includes shady woods and sunny boardwalks over the salt marsh. There is a gazebo overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and a set of steps from the fishing pier leading down to the water if you want to come to the park by boat.
There are two picnic sites with a total of 10 tables and three shelters, one just before you get to the marsh and one overlooking the marsh. There are also some swings where you can relax and a small children’s play area. Activities at the park include picnicking, hiking, bicycling, birding, fishing, a nature trail, and historical preservation.
During his term as the first President of the newly formed United States of America, George Washington traveled south to see the rest of the country he helped create. Called Washington’s Southern Tour, it was a lot different than presidential travel today. There was no Secret Service, and POTUS traveled with only one coach and one baggage cart. Traveling the King’s Highway from New York to Charleston, the road was rough and the trip wasn’t easy. There were no hotels or condo rentals and George had no reservations.
So when he crossed into South Carolina on April 27, 1791 he was looking for someplace to stay for the night. Local historian Ben Burroughs cites Washington’s diary.
“To this house we were directed as a Tavern, but the proprietor of it either did not keep one, or would not acknowledge it. We therefore were entertained (and very kindly) without being able to make compensation.”
Washington stayed at the home of Jeremiah Vereen, who the next day guided the President and his entourage across Singleton Swash, about two miles south of the plantation. Today the house is long gone, but 350 years’ worth of Vereen ancestors rest peacefully in the family cemetery at Vereen Memorial Gardens, including both Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.
One of the few remaining unpaved portions of the ancient Kings Highway travels through the park, which gives you an idea of what traveling by coach would have been like two hundred years ago. In 1972, a descendant of Jeremiah, Jackson Hiram Vereen, deeded the 114 acres of land and wetlands to the Horry County Historical Commission to be preserved as a park. More area history can be found at the C. B. Berry Community and Historical Center located on Highway 179 next door to the gardens and at the Horry County Museum in Conway.
By all means, bring Fido. Like some of the area's dog friendly beaches, Vereen Memorial Gardens is dog friendly. Pets must be well behaved and on a leash, but they love the cool woods with lots of things to smell and explore. There are a few water stations with bowls, but you might want to bring your own water bowl just to make sure. You can bring your own clean-up bags as well, or there are bags located throughout the park. The point is, please clean up after your pet.
Vereen Memorial Gardens is located at 2250 South Carolina Highway 179 in Little River. Stay on Highway 17 North until you reach Highway 179. Vere right and the gardens are immediately on your right.
Phone: (843) 249-4157
Hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset daily throughout the year.
There are no bathroom facilities, portable toilets only.
Admission is free