Must visit parks near Myrtle Beach, SC: Huntington Beach State Park and Myrtle Beach State Park


Beautiful morning at Huntington Beach State Park, SC

One of the biggest pleasant surprises of our AirBnB condo rental, where we stayed from December 2021 until February 2022, was the South Carolina All Park Pass.  This pass allows free entrance to all the state parks in South Carolina.

Prior to our visit to Murrells Inlet, which is a village about 8 miles south of Myrtle Beach, I had seriously considered purchasing the same pass.  I was glad I didn’t, as the rental provided the pass free of charge!

Thanks to this pass, we ended up visiting and revisiting both the Huntington Beach State Park and Myrtle Beach State Park multiple times.  We guessed the pass ended up saving us at least $200 on entrance fees during our 3 months stay.  Note:  entrance fee is $8 per person to either of these state parks.

Huntington Beach State Park is located in the fishing village of Murrells Inlet.  Murrells Inlet, known as the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, was once the lair of infamous pirate, Blackbeard.  Today, the village is an outdoorsman’s favorite playground.  Plenty of options exist for water related activities (fishing, kayaking, boating), and when you get hungry, many restaurants and bars await along route Business 17.

Two days after arriving at our rental, our pack (my wife, myself, and our Pomeranian Toby) left our condo to check out the park!  Being that our rental was located in Murrells Inlet, the drive only took about 15 minutes.  

We took Route 707 South until Highway 17 South, then turned left at the sign for Huntington Beach State Park.  We proudly showed our All Park Pass at the gate, and made our way into the park.

We were blown away by the wide open marshland along both sides of the causeway leading into the park.  Already, we saw people bird watching and taking photographs using expensive long lens cameras.  The views were just mesmerizing…

Marshland views

We parked at the nearest parking lot to the causeway we had just passed, then walked along the concrete walkway enjoying the incredible scenery and the crisp December morning air.  We saw a sign that mentioned alligators in the marshes, so I was designated as the lookout while walking!

We stopped several times to take in the scenery, and boy, what a scenery at that!  There were waterfowl, cranes, and egrets enjoying the warm glow of the rising morning sun.  We were happy we could just watch nature at its best…

Bird relaxing in the sun
Another one!
One of many observation decks

We chatted with several photographers and bird watchers about the park.  We all agreed it was super awesome!  After walking all the way to the end of the concrete walkway, we crossed the road to check out the other side.  

The marshland gave off a very earthy smell, mixed with fragrant ocean breeze.  I closed my eyes to take in all the sounds, and the smells.  Birds were talking and communicating with each other, while tiny insects were also making some loud noises!  

We walked back to where we had started our walk near the parking lot, then checked out a boardwalk leading to another observation deck.  There were group of 3 bird watchers coming back out from the observation deck.  They pointed up so we can see the hawk perched up on a tree.  It was an awesome sight!

Boardwalk leading up to an observation deck
Toby at the concrete walkway 

At the observation deck, we saw bunch of cranes huddling together and slowly swimming to nowhere particular.  Against the backdrop of the marshland and the lake, the scene was absolutely beautiful and serene.  It was just what we live for when visiting parks…

After finishing our exploration of the observation deck, we headed back to our car to continue our journey.  The next stop:  beach and the Atalaya Castle.  

We parked near the beach area, and was immediately greeted by a friendly gentleman with a large retriever.  He wanted to greet all of us, but Toby, ever the cautious one, kept backing away.  My wife and I did greet the large retriever, at which time he went about playing with his tennis ball.

The friendly gentleman let us know of a prickly cactus-like plant that Toby should watch out for.  We thanked him for his excellent information then headed towards the beach.  As soon as we got on the short boardwalk, Toby immediately stopped dead in his tracks!

That little prickly cactus-like thing had gotten stuck in-between his paws.  He looked at us with his huge brown puppy eyes begging us to take it out.  We obliged.  Soon thereafter, we decided to lift Toby until we got to the ocean.

We saw the ocean in all its awesome glory in the early morning.  The sun was partially cloudy but we didn’t care.  Ocean is an ocean!  We loved the wide open expanse of the beach area and of course the immense ocean right in front of us.

Beautiful ocean!
Short boardwalk where Toby got pricked by that cactus

We walked around the beach glad to be seeing our old friend, the ocean, again.  We all stood still at several spots to enjoy the smells, the sounds, and the sights of the beach and the ocean.  I love the ocean!

After spending several minutes by the beach area, Toby got antsy, so we headed back out towards the parking area.  We noticed a nice paved walkway that leads to the Atalaya Castle, and we started to walk towards it.

Atalaya Castle was the winter residence of Archer Huntington and his wife Anna between 1931 and 1933.  A well known philanthropist from New York City, he had built this castle to spend time with his wife, who was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  

He designed the castle in the Spanish or Moorish architecture.  The word ‘Atalaya’ means ‘watchtower’ in Spanish.  

We noticed the huge castle as we walked towards it, with its Moorish design accents (at least to us).  Visiting this castle is a must when visiting Huntington Beach State Park.  Don’t forget to walk the beautiful long walkway right in front of the castle.  Trees form a canopy providing a welcome respite on a hot day…

Beautiful walkway in front of the castle
Atalaya Castle

Satisfied with our walk around the castle, we headed back to our car to check out the north side of the park, especially the Nature Center.  We parked in front of the boardwalk and headed into the marsh.

Boardwalk into the marsh!

Loved the boardwalk 

The temperature had noticeably gone down near the marsh as the wind picked up, and we really had to bundle up.  We were glad we brought our hoodies and jackets!  There were plenty of birds and insects to watch.  I was secretly hoping to see an alligator but wasn’t successful.  Oh, well.  Next time…

After our exploration of the marsh area, we headed to our last destination, the far north end of the park and  another observation deck!  What a view…

All of us were exhausted by the time we had seen all of these attractions inside the park.  We were getting hungry as well, so we headed home, to our AirBnB rental.  On our way back, we were happy knowing we could revisit this awesome park anytime we wanted, thanks to the park pass!

After taking a day off, we decided to visit the other state park near us, the Myrtle Beach State Park.  Myrtle Beach State Park is located about 8 miles from Murrells Inlet area.  For this trip, we left in the afternoon, around 2:00 p.m. so we can take full advantage of the warm sun.

The drive took us on Highway 17 Business North and took around 30 minutes.  There were two separate lanes to take once we entered the park, depending on whether or not you have a park pass or not.  The ‘express’ lane for park pass holders allowed us entry in no time. The line for cash customers was definitely longer.

We decided to check out the first attraction at the park, the Nature Center Activity Center on our left.  We parked our car, then started to walk on a path that was made from recycled tires.  It was a brilliant idea to reuse and repurpose!  

There are helpful information placards throughout the path that cover things like bird calls, various bird species, and trees.  We felt like kids on a school day trip.

Although the path is relatively short, we really enjoyed the walk and learned a few things about the indigenous species of plants and birds.  One particular tree with long and curving roots was especially striking.

Path made out of recycled tires
Check out the crazy roots!

We headed to our car to further explore the park, especially the beach area and the pier.  We parked in front of the pier and tried to walk on the pier, but we saw that dogs were not permitted on the pier.  We instead went on the beach area to look at the pier from beneath.  It was still pretty impressive!

Myrtle Beach State Park pier and the beach
View looking north
My favorite view of the pier
Right beneath the pier

It was super windy at the beach and chilly, so we started to walk towards the boardwalk.  Boardwalk is long and beautiful with views of the pier, the ocean, and the foliage all around.  Toby really came alive once he got on the boardwalk!  He started to prance and walked like he owned the place.

Many people commented on how cute and adorable Toby was.  We thanked them and continued our walk on the awesome boardwalk.

As the boardwalk ended, concrete walkway came up.  We continued on enjoying the various palm trees and oak trees dotting the landscape.  We noticed the walkway extended out for another quarter mile or so.  At the end of the walkway, a path leading down to the beach area came up.  As we started to walk on that path, we saw a dozen or so horse riders coming up toward us.  

Toby at his age didn’t care much about the horses.  When he was younger, he would’ve made a scene, barking his loud protestation that horses are not welcome on the same path as him!  He used to be a loud barker back then!

Once we reached the beach area again, we walked on the sand until we got back to the pier.  It was quite a walk with Toby in tow (actually, lifting him all the way as he didn’t want to walk on the sand!), but we had made it.

We sat down underneath the pier to catch our breath and to enjoy the amazing scenery.  It quickly got cold, so after few minutes, we headed back to the boardwalk, hoping to get insulated from the winds.  

As we walked on the boardwalk again, we found a covered table/picnic area so we can sit for awhile in the shade.  It was so perfect right then and there!  We closed our eyes taking in the breeze and hearing various seagulls lazily gliding in the air and calling each other…

The sound of the waves lapping the beach made for a perfect afternoon nap.  Had I brought a blanket, I might have slept there longer than 15 minutes…

As the afternoon faded away, we felt the temperature dropping slowly but surely.  It was time to go!  We headed back to our car, then drove home, completely satisfied at the park we had just visited.  The fact that Toby really enjoyed the walk there made us smile…

In conclusion:

When visiting Myrtle Beach area, both of these state parks are must see attractions.  While both parks offer similar things, each is unique and different.  

We loved the Huntington Beach State Park for the excellent marsh and the various observation decks.  We loved the Myrtle Beach State Park for its awesome boardwalk, the pier, and the walkways.

We got to revisit both parks multiple times during our 3 months stay and we enjoyed them every single time.  We hope you do the same!

Thank you all for reading!


Wandering Money Pig 

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