Standing strong amongst the swaying palms, the vast Atalaya Castle in South Carolina sits desolate. Upon first glance, it appears to be a prison with weathered turquoise bars upon the windows. However, while touring intricate gardens, sweeping courtyards and endless rooms, this grand winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington begins to come to life.
A visit to Atalaya castle makes the perfect day trip from Myrtle Beach, Pawley’s Island, and Garden City. It pairs beautifully with a visit to the beautiful Brookgreen Gardens, part of the Huntington legacy.
In this article, we will share tips for visiting Atalaya Castle and additional recommendations for exploring the nearby area.
Where Is Atalaya
Atalaya Castle, most commonly known as Atalaya, is in Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. The entrance to Huntington Beach State Park is across from Brookgreen Gardens off of Highway 17.
Address: Atalaya Rd, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Hours of Operation
Atalaya Castle is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., daily (extended to 5 p.m. during Daylight Saving Time)
PLANNING TIP: There are many private events and weddings held at Atalaya, which may mean that it will not be open to the public. It is always best to call the park office if planning a visit to ensure the castle will be open during your visit.
Admission To Atalaya
Visitors to the castle need to purchase admission into the park and an additional admission into the castle. For updated admission costs, visit the Huntington Beach State Park website.
2021 pricing to enter Huntington Beach State Park was $8/adult; $5/ S.C. Senior; $4/youth age 6-15; Free for children five and younger.
Admission to the castle is $2/person, ages six and up. Children 5 and under admitted free.
Touring Atalaya Castle
Self-guided tours of Atalaya Castle are available with your $2.00 admission. The admission fee goes to the upkeep and maintains of the property. Grab a map at the entrance and go at your own pace.
Keep in mind that the Atalaya is a shell of its former glory. However, the southern charm remains. Stroll through the magnificent covered walkway leading under the water tower, which housed a 3,000-gallon water tank.
As you enter into the brick home, it is left to the imagination how the winter home of this industrialist would have been furnished. Rooms have numbers with signs giving a brief description along with an occasional photograph. In addition, many rooms give beautiful views of the east coast.
The gardens, courtyards, along some rooms are mostly wheelchairs and stroller-friendly. However, ramps are not available in all rooms, and there are also some stairs.
PLANNING TIP: I recommend visiting Atalaya in the morning or on a cooler day as there is no AC.
The History Behind Atalaya Castle
Archer Milton Huntington was a philanthropist and scholar, primarily known for his contributions to Hispanic Studies. He married his wife, famous sculptor Anna Hyatt, on March 10, 1923. This date so happened to be both Huntington’s birthdays.
The plans for Atalaya were developed while the couple was living in New York City after Anna was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It was to be a winter home that was based on Spanish/ Moorish architecture with the couple’s personal touches.
The home was constructed between 1931 and 1933. Since the home was being built during the Great Depression, Archer M. Huntington and Anna insisted on using local labor. In addition, they employed many local people to work at the house and gardens.
Upon completion, there were 30 rooms, a stunning Spanish courtyard, indoor and outdoor studios for Anna to work, along with animal enclosures like a bear pen and dog kennel.
During World War II, the Huntingtons gave the United States Air Corps permission to use Atalaya as a barracks, and they left. They returned in 1946 and 1947. Anna studios were eventually moved to Brookgreen Gardens. Then and the rest of the furnishings that weren’t donated elsewhere were sent to Connecticut after the death of Archer in 1955.
The Name Atalaya
Atalaya means ‘Watchtower’ in Spanish. In the center of the beautiful courtyard is a 40 ft square tower which the home was named after. The tower use to house a water tank.
Huntington Beach State Park
In 1960 the Huntington Estate, including the house and the sculpture garden were leased to the State of South Carolina for free. The formation of Huntington Beach State Park began, with Atalaya being its crown jewel in preserving the history of the Huntingtons.
Atalaya Castle is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Annual Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival
For over 46 years, the annual Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival has brought artisans, musicians, locals and together. With nearly 100 artisan booths, the festival provides a wide variety of fine art, quality crafts, food alongside musical offerings. The Atalaya Castle makes the ideal backdrop to this highly anticipated event.
The event typically happens on the last weekend of September. There is a daily admission for the festival, with tickets that will allow you to return at any time/day during the festival at no additional charge.
If you are an ALL Park Passport (bright yellow passport) holder, present your passport to receive free admission to the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival for four.
For a great place to take a hike or walk, take time to visit Brookgreen Gardens. The gardens are full of beautiful sculptures, well-maintained walking trails, and the only accredited zoo on the Carolinas coast.
Throughout the gardens, there are 2,000 works by 430 artists. This includes works of art found in the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion. Spend hours discovering all the hidden gems located throughout the 9,127-acre property. The four wings butterfly garden is a popular spot to visit, along with the Dorothy P. Peace Garden Room for Children.
Your general admission ticket also gets you into the zoo. The zoo may not have exotic animals such as tigers and giraffes, but it is home to animals who have injuries or could not survive in the wild.
More Things To Do At Huntington Beach State Park
Huntington Beach State Park offers an incredible amount of activities and excursions. View alligators in the freshwater lakes, grab your binoculars to spot various species of birds, or lace up the hiking boots for a stroll along the nature walk.
Visitors to the park will enjoy three miles of undeveloped beach with beach access for swimming, fishing, running, and relaxing. Swing by the gift shop for snacks, beach gear, souvenirs, and more!
In addition to all the fun outdoor activities, Hunting Beach State Park offers a really cool Nature Center!
Discover more things to do in nearby Garden City, South Carolina.