We awoke knowing that today we would be heading to our new home state. Although we had been there for a few short days in July to house-hunt, we knew that an unknown world was awaiting us.
We packed up the campsite and left the Smoky Mountains behind. Our drive offered varying landscapes from the mountains we were leaving behind, to the rolling hills of North Carolina, to the flat lands of central and coastal South Carolina. It was obvious that we had entered what is called “lowcountry.” The highway runs straight, hugged on both sides by trees. It is not particularly scenic as we couldn’t really see much through the roadside vegetation.
We decided to make a stop for lunch in South Carolina’s capitol city, Columbia. Just the outskirts mind you, we were eager to get to our new digs. Not being to see much through the trees, we were lucky to locate a Cracker Barrel. As the kids and I exited the truck, Troy said to go on in as he wanted to take a look at something.
When he finally joined us, he let me know that we had lost the tread off one of the trailer tires! How long had we been driving with the tire like that? We quickly realized how lucky we were that we didn’t have a blow-out on the highway.
We had purchased Automobile Club coverage for the trailer before we left. We had learned our lesson on our 2014 RV Adventure when we broke down on the side of the road on our way to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. However, Troy said he would change the tire himself, but needed a tool or two.
After lunch we drove very slowly to the blessedly close Home Depot. Drake worked on getting the spare off the trailer while Troy purchased the items he needed. Mia and I sat under a tiny tree in hopes of a respite from the blazing sun as it was quite warm. Our wish was granted as large clouds quickly rolled in and blotted out the sun. A few warm drops of rain started to fall just as Troy and Drake were packing up the tools. We were ready to commence the last leg of our cross-country journey.
I can honestly say that those last couple of hours driving to the campground seemed to last forever. The mood in the truck was somber as everyone seemed to be lost in contemplation of what our new home town would be like and the sadness of another camping trip ending. With all the planning, preparation, anxiety and stress, I was asking myself, did we make the right choice for our family? Will we really like South Carolina?
We arrived within Charleston County right at the end of the work day so we hit some rush-hour traffic. Coming from California, it was certainly not bad but it was enough to prolong our arrival to our temporary home, the Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA. Finally! We made the turn off of Highway 17 and drove under the welcoming entrance arch of the campground. We had safely made it to our destination after driving a grand total of 3,497 miles. What an adventure!
Ms. Jackie Jackson, manager of KOA was expecting us and had a wonderful spot selected. When I saw Site 46 I knew it was perfect for us. A giant oak tree flanked the site with the requisite Spanish moss, a sure sign we were in South Carolina. The tree also was home to little critters such as lizards, spiders and squirrels that would provide us entertainment during our stay.
That evening we took a walk down to the campground’s private lake. Here, we watched the sun set over the trees for the first time in the place that would be our new home. As the fish jumped, Troy and I held hands and appreciated our good fortune to not only make it safely across the country, but to have arrived at such a beautiful location.
When I checked-in, Ms. Jackie Johnson told me not to miss the wagon-ride to the historic Oakland Plantation (runs Friday and Saturday during the summer) that would give us some history of the area. The kids and I couldn’t wait to go! Once we boarded the wagon, we were served refreshing Popsicle’s as we waited for other guests.
The tractor-pulled wagon heads back down the long entrance drive, then cuts along the Dog Park area before driving through a break in the trees. We traveled briefly through forest before arriving at the majestic oak-lined entrance of Oakland Plantation. It is exactly as you would imagine, tree branches reaching over the drive, touching in places with Spanish moss dripping down in beautiful grey clumps. At the end of the avenue, we could see the main plantation house.
Once photos were taken, we continued down the drive and stopped in front of the house. Our driver gave us a brief history of the plantation. Here are a few facts:
-The main house was most likely built in 1740 and was added onto to incorporate a kitchen and an upstairs apartment which is used as a residence.
– During the Civil War years, General Sherman and his wife came to burn Oakland Plantation but the remaining slaves implored them to not to as nine slave families moved into the house after the owners had fled. The house was spared.
– The campground itself and the neighboring shopping center is still part of Oakland Plantation acreage and remains with the current plantation owners.
– When they were creating the lake, Hurricane Hugo came through and ocean water rushed in flooding the half-dug lake. After that, the lake was brimming with sea creatures such as eel, jellyfish, and salt-water fish. There are still sea creatures living in the lake that have adapted to the brackish/fresh water.
We realized quickly that this KOA was special for many reasons. Besides how we felt about it, we started meeting campers and learned that this campground was not only popular for people passing through the Charleston area, it was also a locals’ favorite. During our two-month stay as we awaited to move into our permanent home, we continued to meet campers that lived within 50 miles of Mount Pleasant; most having camped here many times. Why do they keep coming back?
The campground is located off Highway 17; the main road through Mount Pleasant. Since it sits about ¼ mile off the highway, there is a feeling of being out in the country when really, you are next to a shopping center with Kohls, Wal-Mart, gas station, bank, and restaurants.
Outside the entrance, there is Blackbeards Cove; a fun entertainment facility offering putt-putt golf, go-carts, climbing wall, inflatables and a game room. Additionally, there is a large Publix grocery store and more dining choices across the street. We found this location very convenient to downtown Charleston (only 10 miles away), Isle of Palms and Sullivan Island.
One of my favorite parts of the campground! There is a boat ramp, dock, and boat rentals. Troy rented a canoe to take the kids out on the lake. Everyone had a great time. Cost is $10/hour.
Guests can fish along the edges of the lake, from the dock, from a rental boat, or from your own small fishing boat. There is no need for a fishing license as it is privately owned but before you have visions of a fish fry, it is catch-and-release only. Drake caught his very first fish here and his photo hangs on the “Wall of Fame” in the campground office. We ended up buying our own equipment and spent many happy hours of family-time fishing and watching the sun go down.
Important Note: There are alligators in the lake. It did take us weeks to spot one as they are pretty elusive but everyone should be mindful of their presence. A more pressing danger is around the edge of the lake. Keep your pets and children out of the vegetation around the lake as snakes do like to hide within it.
There are a few hiking trails within the campground. I started on the Lake Trail and ended up on the Marsh Trail. On my way, I saw a beautiful buck and a handful of wild turkeys. You will want to bring your bug spray as there were many hungry mosquitoes attempting to dine on me.
The restrooms, showers and laundry room are all in great condition and cleaned often. There are banks of showers and restrooms by the cabin and tent loop and more at the main office building. The Wi-Fi here was the best we’ve had at a campground as there are multiple towers within the park.
There are two nice playgrounds; one by main office/pool and one within the cabin/tent area. Keep cool in the pool, open seasonally. Trust me, we spent many hot afternoons cooling off here. Don’t forget to check out the basketball hoop, horseshoe pits and banana bikes available for rent at $7.50/hr.
For your Pet:
Kamp K9 is a large, off-leash fenced dog park located on the far side of the lake. Have a dog that likes water? Dogs can get their paws wet safely in the lake here, as there is a protective fence about a foot off-shore.
Alternate Ways to Camp:
This KOA offers both basic and deluxe cabins, popular with locals and out-of-towners alike. Some units are right on the lake. Want to try something different? Ask about renting the lake-side caboose for a unique experience.
We found that there was an added benefit of staying in the campground versus moving right into our house. We had a lot more time to explore since we didn’t have to set up a house right away.
Our very favorite family day trip was to Cypress Gardens. The kids still beg to go back and we plan to take our visiting friends and family here for sure. Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre swamp garden that was originally part of the Dean Hall, one of the most prosperous rice plantations in the region.
The highlight of the visit to Cypress Gardens was definitely the self-guided boat ride touring the black-water swamp. At no extra charge, we boarded our own boat and paddled our way through the swamp. Once we pulled away from the boarding area, it was like we had entered another world.
Silence enveloped us with only the sounds of our paddles slicing through the water, a few frogs and crickets and a call or two from birds. It was stunning. The black-water is mirror-like and reflects the bald cypress and tupelo trees in its surface.
Duckweed and blooming lily-pads are everywhere. It was one of the most unique and amazing experiences that we have had in the state of South Carolina (so far!).
Once we returned to civilization, it was time to walk the nature trails surrounding the 80 acre open swamp. As we began our walk, I noticed that an azalea bush was blooming at the edge of the swamp. As I approached to photograph it, there was a splash and we looked in the water…. it was a baby alligator! What a find! The kids were so excited.
Walking the path is a must as it gives a completely different view of the swamp. We saw lots of different birds, squirrels and spiders along the way. We were even caught in a brief rain shower so we took shelter in the aptly named “Rain Shelter” along the way. We didn’t stay long as the day was warm and the rain was refreshing.
Once back, we took the time to explore the other exhibits offered such as the Butterfly House, the Swamparium, and the Alligator display, all worthy of a visit. Our last stop was the cute Gift Shop where we made some small purchases including ice creams to enjoy before we headed out.
Note: I am saddened to announce that Cypress Gardens is currently closed due to substantial flood damage from the recent historic storm. A date to reopen has yet to be set. Check their the Cypress Gardens website at to learn more.
Our second favorite trip was to Downtown Charleston. Since it was still summer, we decided to take the Water Taxi from Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant to Downtown. What a great idea! The ride offers panoramic views of Charleston Harbor and the iconic Ravenel Bridge. There were also ample dolphin sightings and a very knowledgeable Captain who pointed out some landmarks within the city.
The boat landing on the Charleston side is lovely with shade pavilions that offer tables for picnics and swinging benches to rest and enjoy the scenery. We ended up right at the famous Pineapple fountain, a South Carolina symbol for welcome.
We took a walk to explore Waterfront Park, the Battery, Rainbow Row and other iconic peninsula locations. We certainly worked up an appetite so we went on the hunt for a restaurant called Virginia’s on King, a hot-spot Drake remembered seeing on the Food Channel. We were game and soon found it, located next to Marion Square.
Virginia’s serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Troy and I shared the Southern Fried Chicken plate that came with collard greens and smashed potatoes with tasso gravy. We also ordered a side of biscuits and gravy.
Everything was delicious and the prices were reasonable. The kids enjoyed their fried shrimp kids meals. We will be back!!
Before heading back to the water taxi, we took a stroll through the historic Charleston Market. Here, you can find sweetgrass baskets and other local arts and crafts.
Note: The Charleston Water Taxi links Mt. Pleasant (Patriots Point or Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina) and historic Downtown Charleston (Waterfront Park or Aquarium Wharf) running in a continuous loop from 9am to 8pm. Service is every day during summer months and Saturdays only during the off-season. Cost is $10 for an All Day Pass for everyone 4 years and older. No reservation needed.
We spent a total of almost two months at the Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA. During that time Troy started his new job, the kids started at their new school, and I spent my days getting through all the rest of the stuff that needed to be done to get our house in California sold and to purchase our house in South Carolina. Luckily, I had a large picture window so I could watch as the campground emptied on Monday and Tuesday, just to begin to fill back up on Thursday and Friday as I worked. I loved witnessing thunder storms as they darkened the sky before releasing their deluge of water. Out that window I could see squirrels at play, birds taking a rest on branches to sing, sunsets, and best of all, my kids at play. I reminded myself that even though I was ready to move into a real house, this time in the campground was special and would be missed. And it is.
So, what lessons did I learn on our cross-country adventure? Here are some of the highlights:
– Traveling without itinerary, plans and prior reservations can be done but was not my personal favorite.
– Having Automobile Club coverage gave me great piece of mind even though we didn’t have to use it.
– Spending two months in a 27’ trailer with the family wasn’t always easy, but we did it and I would do it again.
– I used the packing list that is posted in the “Plan your Trip” section of this site: and seriously, I did not forget one thing!
I am pleased to announce that I will be covering a new topic in 2016: “RV Adventures with…Pets!” Yes, we have a new addition to our family; a one-year-old rescue dog named Lily Rose. Like any new adventure, she is quite a challenge today, but with lots of love and training, soon she will be assimilated into the family. We hope she loves camping as much as we do.
HAPPY Travels dear readers! I look forward to continuing to post on our adventures as we start to explore the beautiful and history-rich Southeastern United States. I am already starting to contemplate where we will visit for our 2016 summer adventure. If you have ideas, please feel free to send a comment.