South Carolina’s 187 miles of natural Atlantic Ocean coastline make it a popular family vacation destination spot, home to major tourist destinations such as Myrtle Beach, known worldwide for its beautiful 60-mile Grand Strand beach stretch. A number of state recreation centers and nature parks operate seasonal water park facilities featuring high-thrill water slides, giant wave pools, and unique attractions such as wave surfing simulators.
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Carolina Harbor was originally opened in 1982 as Ocean Island water park before its purchase in 1997 by Paramount Parks, who incorporated it into the nearby Carowinds theme park. Today, both Carowinds and Carolina Harbor are owned and operated by Cedar Fair, with water attractions available for an additional fee with theme park admission. Attractions at the park include the Blackbeard’s Revenge multi-slide complex, the high-thrill Storm Surge body slide complex, and the Surfer’s Swell ocean surfing experience, along with a 600,000-gallon wave pool and several children’s interactive safe play areas. Over at Carowinds, visitors can also enjoy coasters and thrill rides such as the Fury 325 gigacoaster and the Intimidator steel coaster, both designed by famed coaster corporation Bollinger and Mabillard.
300 Carowinds Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28273, Phone: 704-588-2600
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Discovery Island water park is located within Greenville County’s Southside Park recreation complex, which attracts more than 200,000 annual visitors and offers tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, and picnic shelters. The award-winning public water park facility features a variety of high and mild thrill attractions for visitors of all ages, including South Carolina’s only wave-generating boogie boarding ride. Two body and tube slides are offered at lengths of 270 and 185 feet, along with a 270-foot-long lazy river attraction and a giant leisure pool area with varying water depths. Children can enjoy a four-tiered splash-and-play water play area, which is located within the pool’s shallow end. Party huts and cabanas are available for rental, and concessions stands serve American fare.
417 Baldwin Road,, Simpsonville, SC 29680, Phone: 864-963-4345
3.Dunes Village Resort
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Dunes Village Resort is a water park resort and hotel that is located near the famed Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, offering guest rooms, suites, and multi-bedroom condominium rentals with top modern amenities. The resort is the home of Myrtle Beach’s only indoor water park facility, which offers attractions such as a 250-foot lazy river ride, high-speed water slides, and a children’s Silly Submarine Pool area with a giant bucket drop. Three relaxing whirlpool areas are offered for adult visitors, along with a massive oceanfront pool deck and lounge area open during the summer months. Other children’s activities at the resort include a Kid’s Club experience that offers guided pool games, arts and crafts activities, and treasure hunts throughout the resort. Several restaurants are located on site, including a poolside bar and grill and a cabana tiki bar.
5200 N Ocean Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, Phone: 877-828-2237
4.Family Kingdom Amusement Park
© Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Family Kingdom Amusement Park has been ranked as one of the top amusement parks in the country outside of the Orlando theme park district by TripAdvisor and has been a Myrtle Beach favorite for more than 40 years. Its main park area is home to more than 37 rides, including the Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster, which has been ranked as one of the most underrated wooden coasters in America by About.com. Its Splashes Oceanfront Water Park was originally opened as Wild Rapids and offers 18 attractions across its two-acre facility, including open and enclosed flume, body, and speed slides and a lazy river attraction. Children’s play areas include several splash pools and eight mild-thrill children’s slides.
300 S Ocean Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, Phone: 843-626-3447
5.Fantasy Lake Water Park
© Fantasy Lake Water Park
Fantasy Lake Water Park is a family amusement center located in Hope Mills that offers water and land attractions. High-thrill water attractions include classic favorite park rides such as its Tarzan Swings and Trapeze water swings, Master Blaster slide complex, and Banana Slides mat racers. Unique water play equipment is also offered, including Ringa-Linga water monkey bars, water seesaws, and waterfront porch swings. A fantasy land playspace area is designed for children ages 3-11, offering attractions such as kids’-sized water slides and zip lines. Paddle board and kayak rentals are available for children and adults, and water volleyball and basketball courts and equipment are available for use. A number of land attractions are also offered at the park, including shuffleboard courts, ping-pong tables, and regulation basketball courts.
5869 Permastone Lake Rd, Hope Mills, NC 28348, Phone: 910-424-9999
6.Great Wolf Lodge Concord
© Great Wolf Lodge Concord
Great Wolf Lodge Concord is the South Carolina location of popular family resort chain Great Wolf Lodge, which operates nearly two dozen resorts throughout the United States. The Concord location is home to an 80,000-square-foot water park facility that is kept at a comfortable 84 degrees year-round, offering opportunities for high and mild water thrills throughout the winter months. Slides, lazy river and wave pool attractions, and children’s play areas are offered, such as the lodge’s signature Howlin’ Tornado racing slides, four-story Alberta Falls tandem tube ride, and Fort Mackenzie interactive treehouse playspace. An outdoor water park area is also offered seasonally, featuring water slides and opportunities for water basketball play. Sauna and hot tub areas are available for older visitors, along with a poolside bar and grill. Other attractions for families staying at the resort include a MagiQuest gaming center, a Howly Wood XD Theater, a Creation Station build-a-stuffed-animal workshop, and a miniature golf course and bowling alley.
10175 Weddington Rd, Concord, NC 28027, Phone: 866-925-9653
7.Myrtle Waves Water Park
© Myrtle Waves Water Park
Myrtle Waves Water Park is the largest water park in South Carolina, offering 22 high and mild thrill slides and water attractions that pump a total of 1.2 million gallons of water daily. The park is open May through September and features major attractions such as the Turbo Twisters slide complex, the tallest tubular slide complex in the world, reaching a height of 10 stories. Other attractions include a 20,000-square-foot wave pool, a 1,200-foot-long lazy river attraction, and a 7,000-square-foot leisure pool with a variety of water umbrella and jet features. Children’s play areas include Saturation Station, which highlights a replica volcano, children’s slides, and spraying water attractions.
3000 Mr. Joe White Ave, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, Phone: 843-913-9250
8.Splash Island Waterpark
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Splash Island Waterpark is located within Mount Pleasant’s 943-acre Palmetto Islands County Park, a tropical park area that also offers a 50-foot observation tower, a number of walking and biking nature trails, tidal creek fishing docks, and a large open meadow with sporting and picnic site areas. The seasonal water park is open between May and September, offering attractions such as a 200-foot body flume slide, a cyclone swirling water ride, and a large activity pool for visitors of all ages. Other attractions include a 16-foot otter slide for younger visitors and play areas with water features such as geysers, waterfalls, and spray jets. Private water park rentals are available, including birthday party package rentals. Visitors to the park may also rent pedal boats for use on the park’s lake.
444 Needlerush Pkwy, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, Phone: 843-795-4386
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Waterfall Junction is a recent expansion at Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden, a 170-acre zoo, aquarium, and garden facility located on the banks of the Saluda River. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility attracts more than one million annual visitors and is home to more than 2,000 animals in natural habitats, including African elephants, koalas, and gorillas. Waterfall Junction provides a milder water play alternative to larger thrill water parks in the area, offering a tadpole pond play area for young visitors with skipping stones and a splash pad with a 25-foot cascading waterfall. Other dry attractions at the playspace include a life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex replica, a giant tree house, and a rabbit hole climbing and crawling play area.
500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210, Phone: 803-779-8717
10.Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark
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Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark is located within North Charleston’s Wannamaker County Park, a 1,015-acre woodland and wetland nature park that also offers two children’s playgrounds, a nine-hole disc golf course, an off-leash dog park, sand volleyball courts, and more than two miles of paved walking and biking trails. The water park is open to the public between May and September, offering 15 acres of high and mild thrill water attractions, including the Rip Tide Run mat racer, the Tubular Twister multi-slide complex, the 870-foot Rollin’ River lazy river attraction, and the 27,000-square-foot Big Kahuna wave pool. Children’s play areas include the Big Splash Tree House and the Otter Bay children’s pool area, which features a six-lane racer slide and interactive water spray elements.
8888 University Blvd, North Charleston, SC 29406, Phone: 843-762-5585
11.Wild Water and Wheels
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Wild Water and Wheels is a combination water and land family amusement center in Surfside Beach, offering a variety of high and mild family thrill rides, including 14 water slides and rides. Top attractions include the body plummet slide Free Fall Cliff Dive, which reaches speeds of 45 miles per hour and features a near-vertical drop, and the Dark Hole enclosed inner tube ride, named as Myrtle Beach’s best scary ride by Southern Living magazine. Family attractions include the Wipe Out wave pool, which creates waves reaching heights of four feet, a 950-foot lazy river attraction, and a double inner tube White Water Express ride. Younger visitors can enjoy the Wally’s Lagoon family fool and the Wee Kids Water World play area, which showcases a raindrop fountain, gang plank slide, and floatable characters. Several land attractions are also offered for an upcharge, including a Race Zone go-kart racing area, a miniature golf course, bumper boats, and a section of kiddie rides.
910 US-17 BUS, Surfside Beach, SC 29575, Phone: 843-238-3787
11 Best South Carolina Waterparks
- Carolina Harbor, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Moravcik - Fotolia.com
- Discovery Island, Photo: Courtesy of Artem - Fotolia.com
- Dunes Village Resort, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Bandurenko - Fotolia.com
- Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Photo: Family Kingdom Amusement Park
- Fantasy Lake Water Park, Photo: Fantasy Lake Water Park
- Great Wolf Lodge Concord, Photo: Great Wolf Lodge Concord
- Myrtle Waves Water Park, Photo: Myrtle Waves Water Park
- Splash Island Waterpark, Photo: Courtesy of sanedor - Fotolia.com
- Waterfall Junction, Photo: Courtesy of pahis - Fotolia.com
- Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark, Photo: Courtesy of producer - Fotolia.com
- Wild Water and Wheels, Photo: Courtesy of bortnikau - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of galitskaya - Fotolia.com