The iron work was designed by Anna
Belles on Location

Huntington Beach State Park’s Atalaya

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Atalaya at Huntington Beach State Park, SC: Archer and Anna Huntington’s Castle by the Sea


From the outside, Atalaya, the former home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington doesn’t look so welcoming, but it sure gets your attention.

When I first laid eyes on Atalaya, it struck me as incongruent with everything I thought I knew about coastal South Carolina. I stood in the parking lot of Huntington Beach State Park, gaping at the unusual Moorish structure for more time than you would expect from someone whose main objective was to go to the beach.

Was it a fortress? Or perhaps a pirate prison? Did South Carolina have a Spanish colonial influence I wasn’t familiar with? Did it have something to do with the Civil War?

The foreboding feeling of Atalaya disappears once you are inside the courtyard.

The foreboding feeling of Atalaya disappears once you are inside the courtyard.

The answer to all the above questions is, “No.” The real story of Atalaya is that of Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington, a philanthropic couple from New York.  In 1930 they purchased a huge swath of oceanfront land that was the location of four former rice plantations. Archer was a poet, philanthropist, and Spanish scholar. Anna was a world-renowned sculptress who at the time they married several years earlier in middle age, was already established and wealthy in her own right.


Much of Atalaya’s intrigue and charm comes from the fact that it is not restored or renovated to look as it did when the Huntington’s resided here.

The Huntingtons’ initial intentions were two-fold. First, Anna suffered from tuberculosis and needed a winter home to convalesce. Then Archer, who had a passion for high-minded projects, hoped to provide a much- needed economic boon to the area. The Waccamaw Neck had remained economically devastated in the years since the Civil War and during the Depression.

No pirates, but you will find bear pens at Atalaya. Anna Hyatt Huntington used live animals as models for her life sized sculptures.

The Huntington’s project would soon evolve to include the building of Brookgreen Gardens, the first public sculpture gardens in America. Brookgreen is located directly across Highway 17 in Murrells Inlet.

The wrought-iron work on the windows was designed by Anna

Ever since that day in the parking lot, I’ve been sending visitors to the Myrtle Beach area to Atalaya. Those that like a little romance, intrigue, and history mixed in with their beach visits, always walk away enchanted. While it is possible to visit both Brookgreen Gardens and Atalaya and the other attractions in Huntington Beach State Park in one day, if time allows it’s best to allow for two days.

Docent-led tours of Atalaya are given once a day from March through the end of October and are free with the $2 entrance fee to Atalaya and $5 per person park admission. For those visiting in the winter months or at other times, an excellent recorded tour is available for $4. Call 843-237-4440 or visit the Huntington Beach State Park website for tour times and more information.

This post was created in partnership with FlipKey, the vacation rental division of Trip Advisor. Be sure to visit their Myrtle Beach virtual tour, which features Atalaya. What a great opportunity to share Atalaya with you. It is probably my absolute favorite off-the-beaten track spot in the Myrtle Beach area to visit. Atalaya (sometimes known as Atalaya Castle) is located just south of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet.

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

This article has 3 comments

  1. Katy

    What an interesting discovery! Looks like such an intriguing and enchanting place for sure!

  2. Krista Bjorn

    What a fascinating spot! I admit “prison” was the word that sprang to mind at first sight, but I’m delighted by the interiors, all that gorgeous old brick. Swoon. 🙂 And the story behind it is most interesting.

  3. raj

    This is very interesting destination, Nice Information including Images.

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