Fun on the Fourth | How to make the most of your July Fourth stay at Ocean Lakes

Folks headed to Ocean Lakes to celebrate July Fourth are in for one of the most fun, festive weeks of the year.

From our annual Patriotic Golf Car Parade to the Salute from the Shore military flyover along the beach, the week is jam packed with patriotic events and America-themed activities so everyone has a chance to show off their red, white and blue. There’s a reason this holiday week gets booked up months in advance.

“You can’t beat July Fourth at Ocean Lakes,” said Salle Horner, Sandy Harbor and Recreational Activities Coordinator. “The spirit of America is displayed everywhere you look – from the decorated campsites to the decked-out golf cars. It just doesn’t get any better.”

We have patriotic parades on four wheels, two wheels and four paws, as well as a contest for the best decorated site.

Here’s a rundown of the info you need to know to make the most of your July Fourth stay with us, including details on the holiday’s biggest events, highlights of other holiday-themed activities and reminders of some Ocean Lakes rules (no fireworks or sparklers allowed in the campground!).

Fun on the Fourth

Activities run all day and well into the evening. 

Here’s a rundown of some of the must-see events and activities:

Patriotic Golf Car Parade
When | 3 p.m. Tuesday, July Fourth, lineup starts at 2 p.m.
Where | Lineup along Sand Dune Drive at Gull Drive, parade starts on Ocean Lakes Drive at Sand Dune Drive in front of the big Sandy. Use Salt Works Road to get your registered golf car in the lineup on Sand Dune Drive
Tip | Want to participate in the parade? You MUST pre-register before 1 p.m. July Fourth. That gets you the number to display on your golf car; you won't be able to line up to participate in the parade without that number. Simply swing by the Recreation Center to register! Prizes will be given out for Most Patriotic, Most Creative, Most Attractive and Best Overall.

The Patriotic Golf Car Parade has been an Ocean Lakes July Fourth tradition for decades - longer than anyone can remember. Our founders Nelson and Mary Emily Jackson, both of whom passed away in 2010, loved this event and could always be spotted leading the parade.

More than 300 golf cars participate in the parade, which starts on Ocean Lakes Drive near Sand Dune Drive then snakes through the campground.

Be prepared to see golf carts masked in everything America, with guests kicking their creative decorations up a notch every year aiming to take the prize for the most patriotic display.

“Guests go over the top – American flags, a likeness of the Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam - anything and everything that shows how much they love America,” Horner said. “Every year I’m amazed at the fun and crazy decorations our guests come up with.”

Can't make it to Ocean Lakes for the golf car parade? We'll be streaming the parade live on our Facebook page.

Salute from the Shore
What | Military flyover “air parade”
When/Where | Tuesday, July 4. Starts at 1 p.m. in Cherry Grove and ends about 1:30 p.m. over the May River Sandbar in Bluffton
Tip | The Observation Deck is a great spot to catch the flyover (but anywhere on or near the beach works, too)

Military aircraft will zoom by Ocean Lakes on July Fourth as part of Salute from the Shore, a nonprofit founded in 2010 by South Carolinians to honor the Armed Forces on Independence Day and encourage beachgoers to show their support.

Organizers encourage folks to wear their patriotic gear as they watch the flyover, and share videos and photos showing their support of the military.

How to share your images: www.facebook.com/SalutefromtheShore, on Twitter at @July4Salute and Instagram at @July4salute use #SalutefromtheShore.

Organizers aim to distribute the tributes for the benefit of military family at home and abroad.

“Participants on the beaches are strongly urged to organize patriotic displays in groups, big and small, and to share their tributes online for our armed forces around the world to see,” organizers said in a news release.

The flyover features F-16s and vintage military aircraft. The vintage flights are dependent on weather and a variety of mechanical conditions.  

Ocean Lakes Family Campground is one of a number of businesses, foundations and others that support Salute from the Shore. Donations are used to assist the owners of the vintage aircraft with their expenses and to provide funding for video and promotional products.

Patriotic Bicycle Parade
When | 10 a.m. July 4
Where | Meet in front of the Recreation Center
Show off your patriotic pride on two wheels! Ride around the campground on your decorated bike. Sign up before 8 p.m. July 3 in the Recreation Center. Prizes to the top three winners!

Have fun all week

We had so many patriotic events planned we couldn’t fit them all in on the Fourth. Check out the full list of activities online; many of our regular summer activities will take on an American theme during the week of the Fourth, including Amazing Race, Minute to Win It and Field Day.

Some highlights:

Patriotic Pet Parade
When | 10 a.m. July 3
Where | Recreation Center
Cost | $5 donation to Canine Angels
Let your pets show their patriotic spirit, too! Dogs, birds, guinea pigs and more strut across the stage in the Recreation Center donning their best July Fourth costume. Prizes for Cutest, Best Smile, Most Patriotic, Funniest. Sign up in advance in the Recreation Center.

Patriotic Site Judging Contest
When | 7 p.m. July 3
Decorate your campsite or beach home with your best July Fourth gear for a chance at prizes! If you want your site judged, you MUST sign up in the Recreation Center before 4 p.m. July 3.

Our guests are the judges! Swing by the Recreation Center to pick up the list of sites for judging at 7 p.m. July 3 then return the ballot by 9 p.m. that night to be tallied. Only one ballot per site/family. Prizes will be awarded to Most Patriotic, Most Creative, Most Eye Catching and Best Overall.

Remember our rules

We love guests to show their patriotic pride, especially around Independence Day, but remember that fireworks and sparklers are NOT allowed in the campground.

Unfortunately, nearby Surfside Beach has canceled its usual July Fourth fireworks display because of the damage to its pier from Hurricane Matthew in the fall. The town is working to rebuild the pier, but it will be at least 2019 before it's back. Though the fireworks have been canceled, the town still plans to have entertainment and live music on Surfside Drive from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. July Fourth.

Respect each other and our teammates
July Fourth is one of the busiest weeks of the year, so expect the campground to be packed. Might want to pack a little extra patience and remember we are all here to have a fun, festive time!


"Minute to Win It," "Lip Sync Battle" highlight jam-packed summer activities lineup at Ocean Lakes

Ever sit on your couch watching “Minute to Win It” or “Lip Sync Battle” and think, “I could rock that.”

Here’s your chance.

The Ocean Lakes versions of the two popular TV shows have joined the jam-packed lineup of summer activities in our Recreation Center. Summer activities – including the new TV-show inspired offerings as well as staples such as bingo, ceramics and tie-dye – kick off Monday, June 5 and run through Saturday, Aug. 12.

“There’s something for everybody every single day,” said Salle Horner, Sandy Harbor and Recreational Activities Coordinator.

The Ocean Lakes Recreation Team is ready to help guests have fun on their vacation with a jam-packed lineup of summer activities.
“Minute to Win In” features goofy games such as Rapid Fire (shooting rubber bands to knock over a stack of cans), Magic Carpet Ride (sitting on a mat and scooting across the floor) and Junk in the Truck (just watch the video to see what that one is all about).

Requirements: At least three players but no more than five players. Ability to not take yourself too seriously.

“Minute to Win It” will be played at 4 p.m. Mondays. Sign-up in the Recreation Center starting the Saturday prior to game day. Like most of our Recreation activities, there’s no fee to play and prizes for the winners!

For “Lip Sync Battle,” channel your inner rock (or country or rap) star. We’ll have a variety of family-friendly songs for you to choose from. Don’t just memorize the words – dress the part! Costumes encouraged.

The battle is set for 4 p.m. Fridays. Sign up in the Recreation Center starting the Monday prior to the Friday performance. Free to participate, with prizes to the winners!

And those activities are just the start. Stay updated on all the fun things to do by picking up the pink Summer Activities calendar from the Main Office when you check in or in the Recreation Center.

Want to plan ahead before you even arrive in Myrtle Beach? Check out the activities calendar online – click on each activity to see a detailed description.

Activities through our Recreation Center are a big part of the summer experience at Ocean Lakes, with roughly 15,000 guests participating in them every summer. Tie-dyeing T-shirts, bingo, ceramics and corn toss are among the most popular activities.

“A lot of the activities are free, fun and family oriented, which is what I think vacation should be all about,” Horner said.

Tie-dyeing T-shirts is one of the most popular summer activities in our Recreation Center.
The Recreation team tweaks the summer lineup every year, always adding something fresh while nixing activities that aren’t connecting with guests.

“I look at the numbers and see what’s popular and replace it with something that is bigger and better,” Horner said.

Many families enjoy the activities together and flock to them to give their kids or grandkids something fun to do other than the playing at the beach or water park.

Guests already can find just about everything they need for a fun vacation without leaving the campground, and recreation activities fall right in line with that, Horner said.

“And you have all of your fun activities included starting when you check in,” she said.
Let the summer fun begin!


Hooking the big one | What Ocean Lakes is doing to improve fishing in the campground ponds

You have the right bait and the right spot by one of our lakes, but the big fish just aren’t biting. You can’t figure out why.

Neither could we. So we’ve brought in experts to find out why and help us improve the very popular fishing culture at Ocean Lakes.

For years, Ocean Lakes has stocked the lakes in the campground with carp, bream, bass and other fish that folks love to reel in. But the stocking efforts haven’t produced the desired long-lasting results.

So before stocking again with the same disappointing results, Ocean Lakes has hired experts to compile the first thorough assessment of the ponds in the campground’s 40-plus year history. That baseline data will provide more info for officials to create a plan to improve fishing that caters to each pond’s unique environment.

“Why spend money over and over [stocking the ponds] when it’s not working,” said Jeff Wilson, the Landscape Manager at Ocean Lakes. “Let’s solve the problem first.”

The Smart Group, a science-based consulting group in nearby Pawleys Island, has been gathering info ranging from the ponds’ depths to the inventory of fish in each lake.

You might have noticed experts from The Smart Group on the ponds in Ocean Lakes in recent months as they've gathered data on each pond. The results will be used to improve fishing in the campground's lakes.

You might have noticed the team in the ponds the past couple of months gathering water quality samples and taking inventory of the fish. Knowing the type of environment in the ponds will tell the experts what type of fish can thrive there.

“This is really the first time Ocean Lakes has ever done anything like this,” said Russ Bodie, principal at The Smart Group. “This is a baseline, then we will build on that.”

Experts logged the types of fish in each lake and measured them.

How we got here

The ponds around Ocean Lakes started getting special attention in the 1990s when the campground launched a pond management program.

The program initially aimed to improve the look of the ponds, which had become covered in weeds and algae, Wilson said.

Officials started stocking the ponds with sterile, grass-eating carp to control the vegetation. Guests who were fishing started catching these impressive fish – feeding a new frenzy for fishing in the campground ponds, Wilson said.

“When people catch something like that, they love it,” he said.

With tales of landing these great fish circulating through the campground, fishing became an even more popular activity. Ocean Lakes started stocking the ponds every three years with more carp, bass, bream and catfish for sport fishing.

But through the years, the stocking wasn’t working as well as officials hoped.

Jumping right in

Bodie and his team from The Smart Group have closely studied each of the lakes around the campground over the past few months.

Early findings show some of the ponds are much deeper than anyone knew; Lake Emily is 16 feet deep – about six feet deeper than officials always thought.

The early assessment of the lake known as Ocean Lakes – across from Sandy’s Meet n’ Eat – also showed surprising results: Lots of juvenile sunfish and good vegetation – both signs of a healthy environment for fish to live and grow.

“The vegetation is the story on this pond,” Bodie said as he removed some from the net after seining. “It makes a huge difference.”

Bodie and his team netted samples from several spots in the pond, then took an inventory of the types and sizes of fish collected (they tossed them right back in after the quick inventory).

“This has been a big surprise,” Bodie said. “I thought we’d find some but this really bodes well for future fishing.”

Russ Bodie (center) with The Smart Group gets a sample of fish from Ocean Lakes as Rowan Iwaniuk, 9, from Michigan eagerly watches and waits to cast his fishing rod into the pond.

Those were just initial results from one of the ponds. Bodie plans to present overall findings to key leaders at Ocean Lakes this week. Once they have that baseline information, they can determine the next steps in the long-range plan to improve fishing in the ponds.

“We want to enhance the fishery,” Wilson said.

Check back in the coming weeks for more on the study’s results.


Water park, traffic loop, weather | What you need to know as the summer season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend

The kick-off to the 2017 summer season has finally arrived!

Ocean Lakes Family Campground will have a full house for Memorial Day weekend, with families enjoying a long holiday weekend and bikers here for what has been known as the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. The Grand Strand will be packed, and the 23-mile traffic loop will be back in Myrtle Beach late night Friday, Saturday and Sunday (more details on that coming up).

Here are five things to make the most of your stay with us:


All the Sandy Harbor water amenities – slides, lazy river, Splash Zone and pools – will be open and in full throttle starting Friday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through the summer.

Have fun and be safe! Remember: coolers are NOT allowed in the water park. Get a rundown of all the water park rules – including the height restrictions for our slides – before slathering on the suntan lotion.


The South Gate is open for the season! We want all of our guests to get in as conveniently and easily as possible so they can start having fun. South Gate hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. through the summer.

Bringing a motorcycle? You cannot ride motorcycles through the campground. 

Special parking for bikes is set aside in a lot near the South Gate. You must be a registered guest of Ocean Lakes and have an orange wristband attached to the bike's handlebars to park in this area. 

Guests should pick up the orange wristband for their motorcycle in the Main Office when they check in. If the office is closed, you can get a wristband from the Main Gate or the South Gate. Your site number will be on the wristband, which gives our team a quick way of contacting the bike's owner in case of an emergency.

Also not permitted: Riding motorcycles past the designated area at the entrance (signs mark the boundaries where bikes are allowed) or coasting - not under power but with a guest sitting on the seat.

Rope and motorcycle dolly towing are permitted to and from your rental site or campsite.


Prepare to see lots of motorcycles on the roads and a late-night traffic loop that includes Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.

Thousands of visitors will be along the Grand Strand for the Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival, formerly known as Atlantic Beach Bikefest. As in the last few years, a 23-mile traffic loop will be in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday aiming to keep traffic flowing on Ocean Boulevard.

The loop starts at 29th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, continues south to Kings Highway near Myrtle Beach International Airport, up Harrelson Boulevard to U.S. 501, to northbound U.S. 31, to U.S. 17 Bypass then back to the loop’s start at 29th Avenue North.

An app and a hotline are available to help visitors and locals maneuver around the loop.

Access the app here then click the city seal icon in the upper right-hand corner. Enter the addresses for your destination and starting point to get the directions.

You can also call the Myrtle Beach Police Department’s new Information Line at 843-918-INFO (4636) to get directions or alternate routes.


If the beach or water park doesn’t wear you out, you’ll have lots of activities in the campground and around town to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend.

Belt out your best tune during karaoke from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Center Stage by Sandy’s Meet n’ Eat. On Saturday, swim in our outdoor pool for the Dive-in Movie at 8: 30 p.m. This week’s feature film: “Finding Dory.”

Looking for more? Lots of activities are planned along the Grand Strand, including the Military Appreciation Days in Myrtle Beach. The parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Farrow Parkway at The Market Common. Get a run-down of all the Military Appreciation Days events here
Check out all the Memorial Day activities around town here.


Bring your sunglasses – you’re in for a hot sunny weekend. Lots of sunshine Friday and Saturday with highs in the 80s; expect highs in the upper 80s Sunday and Monday with a slight chance (20 percent) of storms. Check out the detailed forecast from our friends at WPDE.

Thanks for choosing to kick off the summer and celebrate Memorial Day weekend with us. Have fun! And remember the reason for Memorial Day; we appreciate and will think of all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And thanks to all the veterans and those serving in our military. We appreciate all you do!