Huntington Beach State Park: The Complete Guide

blue sky reflected in pond with yellow duckweed at Huntington Beach State Park
blue sky reflected in pond with yellow duckweed at Huntington Beach State Park. patti white photography / Getty Images
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Huntington Beach State Park

Address
16148 Ocean Hwy, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, USA
Phone +1 843-237-4440

Located on the southern tip of South Carolina's Grand Strand and 18 miles from Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach State Park is a 2,500-acre recreation area boasting 3 miles of pristine coastline, beach access, a freshwater lake, as well as dedicated trails and campsites. Home to over 300 species of birds, the park also offers some of the East Coast's best bird-watching, and is one of South Carolina's best surf fishing spots. Visitors who come to spend time in the park can also visit the historic Depression-era Atalaya Castle, the Moorish-style winter home of philanthropist-artist duo Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, who also donated the land for the adjacent Brookgreen Gardens.

Things to Do

Just 20 miles (40 minutes) south of Myrtle Beach and 80 miles (1 hour and 45 minutes) from Charleston, Huntington Beach State Park is an easy day trip from either city. With nearly 200 overnight campsites, it's also a great overnight destination for those looking to rough it outdoors.

Visitors can explore native plants and wildlife via the park's extensive nature programming, which includes guided walks and kayaking excursions to see loggerhead turtles, birds, and other creatures up close. The 1/4-mile Kerrigan Trail and several park boardwalks wind through salt marshes and freshwater lagoons and offer exceptional wildlife viewing. Other activities include a hike or walk along two mile of trails through coastal forest, a swim in the ocean, fishing or boating on the lake, or a tour of the historic Atalaya Castle.

Best Hikes & Trails

While short, the trails at Huntington Beach State Park are scenic, taking you to pristine beachfront, through coastal forest, and over wildlife habitats and salt marshes. Here are your best options:

  • Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail: Follow this beginner-friendly, 2-mile out and back trail to beautiful beachfront, through a coastal forest dotted with oaks and red cedars, and to a saltwater pond with an observation tower ideal for observing ospreys, egrets, and other species of birds.
  • Kerrigan Nature Trail: Nature lovers will want to opt for the easy, .3-mile interpretive trail that beings in the parking lot and traverses to a boardwalk over a freshwater lagoon and observation area, where visitors can spot sandhill cranes, swallowtailed kites, shore birds, and other local wildlife.
  • Boardwalk: At 1/10-mile, this is the park's shortest trail. Follow the parking lot to a boardwalk overlooking a saltwater marsh teeming with spartina grass and oysters and an area to observe loggerhead turtles, shore birds, and other animals in their native habitats.

Bird Watching

Ranging from ospreys to bald eagles and buffleheads, the park is home to more than 300 species of birds who reside in its salt marshes and tidal waters. The park has a birding checklist and a log book of recent sightings, and the best places to spot birds inside of the park include Mullet Pond, a freshwater marsh just to the right of the causeway as you enter the park, the beach, and the jetty at the park's northern edge-the southernmost recorded sighting of several species.

Boating, Fishing & Swimming

Boating access is available via a ramp located one mile from the park's entrance at Oyster Landing. Surf fishing and fishing are permitted in the park for visitors with a valid South Carolina fishing license, and the jetty at the park's north end is one of the more popular spots for anglers.

Want to go for a swim? Enjoy it year-round anywhere along the beach, although lifeguards are only posted at South Beach during the summer months.

Atalaya Castle

Built in the 1930s by New York City-based philanthropist Archer Huntington and his wife, Anna, this Moorish-style home was originally designed as a winter residence for the couple. With thirty rooms situated around a center courtyard, the home's centerpiece is a 40 foot-tall water tower that gives the structure its name ("Atalaya" is Spanish for "watchtower").

Landscaped with native plants, the grounds once included enclosures for the couple's menagerie of monkeys, horses, and even a leopard and are now part of the adjacent Brookgreen Gardens. The entire 2,500-acre property was designated a state park in 1960 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Tours are $2/person ages 6 and up, with children 5 and under admitted free. Note that the venue hosts several special evens, so call ahead to ensure

Where to Camp

For visitors wishing to stay overnight, Huntington Beach State Park offers 107 campsites with electricity and water and 66 sites with full-hookups for electricity, water, and sewer—all within walking distance of the beachfront. The park also has six dedicated, rustic campsites that include tent pads, and the entire park has complimentary wifi. There are also two designated primitive campsites for organized groups.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-866-345-PARK at least one day in advance; otherwise, accommodations must be arranged directly with the park.

Where to Stay Nearby

From reliable hotel chains to beach resorts, there are several options for visitors who wish to spend the night near the park.

  • The Oceanfront Litchfield Inn: For a beachfront stay with all the amenities, try this 3-star resort just 3.6 miles from Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park. The property has traditional rooms as well as two-bedroom villas that can sleep 6 to 8 people, two swimming pools, beach chairs, bike rentals, on-site dining, and complimentary breakfast and wifi. It's only 20 minutes from downtown Myrtle Beach.
  • Hampton Inn Pawley's Island: Located 2.5 miles south of the park, the Hampton Inn is a solid choice for travelers, with clean rooms, moderate rates, and amenities such as an outdoor pool, fitness center, beach access, and free breakfast.
  • Best Western Pawleys Island: The 63-room Best Western is another affordable choice, just five minutes from Pawleys Island's beach and five miles from the park. The decor is a bit dated, but the property is clean with good service, and room rates include free breakfast and access to an outdoor pool and 24/7 fitness center.
  • DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront: If you don't mind staying a bit further from the park, the DoubleTree's location is the heart of Myrtle Beach. The 27-acre oceanfront property includes beach access, indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, on-site dining, and discounts to local golf courses. The hotel is a 14 miles (a 24-minute drive) from Huntington Beach State Park.

How to Get There

From Myrtle Beach and points north, take US-501 N/Main Street to US-17/US Highway 17 Bypass S. Follow US-17 for approximately 18 miles, then turn left on Pratt Road. Parking will be straight ahead on the left after you cross the causeway.

From downtown Charleston and points south, take East Bay Street north, and stay in the right lane to enter US-17 N. Follow for 78 miles into Georgetown County, then turn right on Pratt Road and follow directions above.

From Florence, SC and points east, take East Palmetto Street/US-76 E and continue on US-576. Merge onto US 501-S and go straight for 13 miles, then turn right on US-544 in Socastee and then merge onto SC-31 after three miles. Exit onto SC-707 S and then after 7 miles, turn right onto US-17 S/US Highway 17 Bypass S in Murrells Inlet. Follow for 4 miles, then turn right on Pratt Road and follow directions above.

Accessibility

Huntington Beach State Park welcomes visitors of all ability levels. The park's trails, boardwalks, and beach access points are paved and accessible to visitors using wheelchairs. The gift shop and restrooms are ADA compliant, and the park has designated accessible parking lots as well.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Dogs are welcome year-round at the park, but they must be kept leashed at all times and are not permitted in park buildings or the beach's north end.
  • The park is open year-round 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily, but take advantage of extended hours (until 10 p.m.) during Daylight Saving Time.
  • Consider a trip to nearby Brookgreen Gardens, a 1600-acre park that is part pristine sculpture garden, part wildlife preserve. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, park highlights include a butterfly garden, 250-year-old oak trees, an on-site zoo, and the largest collection of figurative sculptures in the United States: 2,000 works by 425 artists interspersed throughout the gardens and indoor gallery space.
  • Bike enthusiasts can pedal through three miles of paved trails inside the park, part of the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, a flat and paved trail that runs along US-17 from Murrells Inlet to Pawleys Island.
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Huntington Beach State Park: The Complete Guide