Did you know there was an oceanfront castle at Huntington Beach State Park? Did you also know you can enjoy a self-guided tour of this castle? Last question: do you know how many times I have toured this castle?
Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, remains one of my most surprising discoveries. It’s open to the public, absolutely amazing, and has an interesting history. Here is how to visit and what to expect when you arrive.
Huntington Beach State Park
Huntington Beach State Park has long been one of my favorite state parks in the country. The biggest reason for being included on that list is the abundant wildlife and bird watching opportunities. But the hiking trails, beach access, and Atalaya Castle are a few other reasons this park makes the list.
When you visit the state park be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore. Start at the gift shop that also serves as the park office and visitor center. That’s where you’ll find park brochures, supplies for your day at the park, and even book a campsite if you decide to stay.
The South Carolina Ultimate Outsider stamp is located inside the gift shop.
Winter Home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington
Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington were New Yorkers. Archer was an industrialist and Anna an artist. But Anna suffered from tuberculosis, forcing the couple to find a winter home in the South for her health.
Using local labor during the Great Depression the 200-foot by 200-foot Atalaya Castle, locally called just Atalaya, was built from 1931-1933. The Spanish Moorish architecture was the idea of Archer who apparently guided the construction of the mansion without any drawn plans.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
Today visitors can enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Atalaya Castle. There is another fee of $2 in addition to the regular state park entrance fee. The money from admissions goes to a local non-profit group that helps to maintain the mansion.
There are twelve rooms inside the large square mansion to explore, including the master bedroom, kitchen, and Anna’s studio space. The large central courtyard features lush grass and towering palm trees. From just about any room in the mansion the sound of waves crashing on the beach echoes along the stone walls.
It takes about 30 minutes to leisurely explore Atalaya Castle. Most of the mansion is handicap accessible though there are a few steps here and there, but there is a way around the steps for wheelchairs.
Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival
Each year in September Atalaya Castle is the home of the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival. Dozens of local artisans set up for the three-day festival in the courtyard and various rooms of the mansion.
Although there is an admission fee to walk around the festival, you’ll get the chance to tour Atalaya while also doing some window shopping (and maybe actual shopping).
The festival is held the last weekend of September each year which is also a pretty good time of year to visit the park.