This Coastal State Park Is An Underrated Southeastern Gem Full Of Beach Activities

After a very long winter of wild storms, deep snow, and cold winds, you're probably longing for some sunshine in the great outdoors. However, you don't have to jet off to the Caribbean or the south of France for spring and summer fun. Why not visit something a little closer to home? There is a gorgeous spot in South Carolina in the Myrtle Beach area that is perfect for your outside excursion. Huntington Beach State Park has so much to do, with a lovely stretch of beach and beautiful sand dunes.

That's not all, of course. Huntington Beach State Park has a 1930s castle to explore and incredible wildlife to see, including alligators and loggerhead turtles. It's a prime location for birders, with over 350 types of birds spotted here as of 2020. There are plenty of campsites of several kinds (with free wifi, no less), trails to hike, marshes to visit, and an arts and crafts festival every year. Let's take a look at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, and see all the activities for your summer vacation.

On the water in Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park has 2,500 acres of land, and a 3-mile stretch of undeveloped beach to lounge on. Swimming is permitted on the beach, though there are no lifeguards. You can do some fishing from the shore or the jetties in the park with a South Carolina fishing license. Though kayak rentals aren't available, you can bring your own for the creeks and the marshes (though not the ponds). This is a popular destination, and the park's website advises visiting during off-peak hours before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. to avoid full parking lots. Before Daylight Saving Time begins in March, the hours for the park are 6 a.m. through 6 p.m., but after it starts, closing time is 10 p.m. 

If camping is your thing, you are in the right place, with 173 campsites in the park. 107 have water and electricity, and 66 have hook-up sites for water, electricity, and sewer, with six of the sites just for tents. There is access to hot showers and restrooms. You can make a reservation here, and we weren't kidding about the free wifi in the park. You'll need it for all the Instagram pics you're going to take. Dogs are welcome on a 6-foot or shorter leash. Wandering around the marshes, ponds, and causeway (accessible from the parking lot) gives you the opportunity to see some wildlife like loggerhead turtles, alligators, mink, ducks, frogs, deer, and an incredible number of birds. 

More activities in Huntington Beach State Park

If hiking and biking are your jam, Huntington Beach State Park is wonderful. There is the 1-mile (each way) trail to Sandpiper Pond from the north side of the parking lot or the short 0.25-mile Kerrigan Trail from the gift shop parking lot. You can take your bike on the park's 3-mile paved stretch of the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway (and beyond) that parallels US-17.

If you love birds, this park is paradise. In fact, the Waccamaw Audubon Society has provided a PDF checklist of all the bird species spotted in the area so you can print it out for yourself and enjoy some incredible birdwatching. You may spy roseate spoonbills, wood storks, green and tricolor herons, swallow-tailed kites, and so many more. 

While you're here, you can visit the charming Atalaya Castle, built by Archer and Anna Huntington in the early 1930s. It's inspired by Moorish and Spanish architecture and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. Admission for a castle visit is $8 for adults, $5 for South Carolina seniors, $4 for kids aged 6 to 15, and kids under the age of 5 can enter for free. You can even have your wedding here. If you're planning to visit, check with the park office to make sure there aren't any closures for events. Every September, the castle hosts the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival as well, and 2024 will mark its 49th year.