Hidden within one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina, Atalaya Castle is an unexpected joy to explore. The single story stone castle within sight of the beach is open to the public with a beautiful courtyard, over 30 different rooms, and a small museum to tour. It’s just one of the many things visitors can do at Huntington Beach State Park.
A friendly volunteer greets visitors just inside the large wooden doors leading to a small courtyard inside the walls of Atalaya Castle. It’s $2 per person to take the self-guided tour, but it’s well worth the couple of bucks especially since the money goes to the Friends of Huntington Beach. For an extra dollar you can pick up an old fashioned cassette and headphone kit for an audio tour along the way.
The next doorway leads into the large courtyard within the inner walls of the castle. Towering palm trees and Spanish style architecture whisk you far away. On a quiet day the sound of waves on the nearby beach echo inside the courtyard. The lush grass and stone benches look inviting, but this is only the beginning.
Visitors can explore nearly every room inside the castle. The master suite with an envious fireplace. The kitchen where all the meals were once prepared. The foyer, long hallways, library, and office. Servant quarters. Nearly every room has a large window, most of them on the outer wall with a view close to the beach. Most of the windows have long since lost their protective glass, leaving the large holes open for salt-tinged wind to blow through.
If you happen to be in the park on a rainy day don’t be discouraged when you scamper off the beach. Instead head for Atalaya, which usually remains open even in the rain, and duck inside one of the rooms with large windows. The sound of the rain echoes off the stone floor, ceiling, and walls creating a cascade of comfort.
It may take more than once to fully explore the large former residence. The castle was built in 1933 for Archer and Anna Huntington. After Anny was diagnosed with tuberculosis they decided it was probably best to spend the cold New York winters in South Carolina. The home was last used in 1946, and by 1960 Huntington Beach State Park was created. The home was added to the National Historic Registry in 1992, sealing it’s position in history.
If you happen to be in the area near the end of September be sure to check out the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival, a wonderful festival featuring artwork from local artisans held inside the castle each year.
If you would like to view more photos from Huntington Beach State Park, please visit my photography site at photography.southeasterntraveler.com/South-Carolina/Huntington-Beach-State-Park