Natural beauty abounds at this oceanfront respite famous for its pristine beach, wooded hiking trails and historic castle.
Huntington Beach State Park, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Myrtle Beach, is a nature lover’s playground. Swim or fish along three miles (five kilometers) of unspoiled oceanfront. Explore the labyrinth of walking trails, stopping at the observation decks dotted through the 2,500 acres (1,011 hectares) of wooded parkland. A large, freshwater lagoon is home to alligators. The park is also rated one of the best birding sites on the East Coast, thanks to more than 300 resident bird species.
One of the first points of call should be Atalaya Castle, a sprawling estate close to the park’s entrance. Atalaya was the winter home and studio of renowned 20th-century sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington, a philanthropist and Spanish scholar. The Huntingtons loved Spanish culture and so they built their castle, completed in 1931, in the style of a Spanish Andalusian villa. The building and surrounding grounds were donated to the state.
Guided tours of Atalaya are offered by the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park between March and October and are included in the castle entry price. Outside of those months, pick up a 45-minute audio guide for a small fee.
Huntington Beach State Park is a great place to discover some of South Carolina's native wildlife. Bird watching is a popular pursuit, with many native Southern varieties easy to spot, including spoonbills, ducks and ocean birds. The Friends of Huntington Beach State Park offer a variety of wildlife excursions (weather dependent, and not run during winter). You can look for alligators in the wetlands or search the salt marshes for crabs. Check the website for tour specifics.
Tours are generally included in the park admission price, which is very reasonable. Entry to Atalaya attracts an additional small fee. Children under five enter the park and castle for free. A park store sells some grocery items, souvenirs and fishing supplies.