Three Miles of Beach
Every once in a while – I get an opportunity to go outside the Midwest on a longer roundtrip – and in this case, I traveled to South Carolina and while driving the coast I discovered two state parks sitting along the Myrtle Beach area (Huntington Beach State Park and Myrtle Beach State Park). Both parks were gorgeous and, of course, highlighted their amazing beaches along the Atlantic – but the cool thing was that the parks worked together for tourists – if you paid admission to one park, you could visit the other (only miles and minutes away from each other) for free. A two-for-one deal! You don’t want to miss either one of these fabulous state parks in South Carolina. The beaches were clean and undeveloped, meaning you could go and have plenty of space to socially distance yourself and still soak in the sun and take in the fun and excitement of the ocean.
The beaches are always a draw around Myrtle Beach – but the main attraction in the park is undoubtedly – Atalaya Castle – The Winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington – for which the park is named after.
Atalaya (which means watchtower in Spanish) was modeled after a Moorish architecture style along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Archer was a famous Spanish studies scholar and poured his creativity out with his background around Spanish Culture. His wife, Anna, was a famous sculptor and their creativity and genius can be felt around the entire property. The castle itself is huge – and can take a long time to walk through (Insider Tip: Take time to walk through every room and read the explanation and history displayed on the walls. It’s worth the extra time to get a full picture of Atalaya and who the Huntington’s were).
Atalaya is a national historic landmark – Checkout the second half of the video below – where I take your through Atalaya Castle.
A Fireplace in Every Room
One of the things that stuck out to me as I toured the site, was that every room had a fire place – and was unique and original in the Moorish style. Check out the pictures below that capture the essence of each room.
The entire courtyard brings in the beauty of the surrounding nature and gave the Huntington’s the privacy and beautiful surroundings in the Winter months that they were looking for. They wanted a beautiful view – from the ocean (which is now covered by brush) to the courtyards and walkways below.
The Marsh Board Walk
Discovering Huntington Beach State Park on this road trip to South Carolina was a gem. We discovered while exploring the 2,500 acres (which was donated by the Huntington’s) that it is considered one of the East Coast’s most popular birding destinations – especially during Winter migration. It’s speculated that over 300 species of birds have been seen or observed in the park. One of the places that are considered a hot spot to bird watch is over around the boardwalk area – which takes you to three different areas to hike.
- Marsh Boardwalk – which goes through a saltwater marsh – with opportunities to view different cranes – and even alligators!
- Kerrigan Nature Trail – which is .3 miles in length and considered an easy hike, gives you opportunity to see alligators, sandhill cranes, but more importantly migrating songbirds.
- Sand Piper Pond Nature Trail – which is 2.0 miles and gives hikers a chance to experience a true Upper Coastal Plain setting – with observations of herons, egrets, ospreys and other birds.
Staying & Admission
South Carolina has some of the best state parks, and they have two of them right in the Myrtle Beach area in Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park. The best part of both parks is having a two for one deal and getting the price of both state parks for the price of one (if you visit both on the same day) – Adults were $8 and Seniors were $5 (65 and older) and children (6-15) were $4 and kids under the age of 5 were Free.
Park Hours 6 am – 6 pm
Atalaya Hours 9 am – 4 pm
- Huntington Beach State Park has 173 campsites available (107 standard and 66 full hookup).
- 6 rustic tent camping sites
- 3 picnic and shelter areas.