Huntington Beach State Park Boardwalks from the Air

Murrells Inlet: South Carolina’s Best Kept Secret

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Escaping to the coast is one of our favorite things to do on the weekend. Usually we head to Myrtle Beach, but this time we traveled about 30 minutes further south to a little place called Murrells Inlet. It felt like we stumbled onto South Carolina’s best kept secret.

Did you know Murrells Inlet is home to the “largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture” in the US? Or, that it’s South Carolina’s seafood capital? Or, that its state park is one of the top bird-watching areas on the East Coast? Not to mention its beautiful beaches.

Ready to pack your bags? Here’s a weekend agenda for Murrells Inlet.  

Beach at Huntington Beach State Park

We started our weekend at the beach within the state park. There are three miles of soft sand to choose from. We just loved how much quieter it is than any beach near Myrtle.

Huntington Beach State Park Beach

Lunch at Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk

As we didn’t bring anything with us for a picnic, we headed out of the park for lunch. A seven-minute drive north, Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk is one of the best spots to grab a bite. There are about a dozen restaurants to try.

On this trip we went with Dead Dog Saloon. Okay, so the name isn’t fantastic, but the views and the food were. We sat on their covered porch. Jeremy had the Mahi Mahi taco, which he liked. But, I totally won this lunch with the Brisket Taco which was amazing.

Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk Dead Dog Saloon Mahi Mahitaco
Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk Dead Dog Saloon Brisket taco

Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park

After lunch we went back to Huntington Beach State Park to do some of the attractions. Just make sure you save your entrance receipt if you leave and come back to the park.

Atalaya Castle is the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. There’s an additional $2 entry fee to visit the “castle” on the beach, but it is well worth it.

Huntington Beach State Park at Murrells Inlet Atalaya Castle water tower

Archer was a wealthy scholar and poet, most noted for his translation of El Cid. Anna was a groundbreaking and award-winning sculptor. Which we will talk about again further down in this article. The castle has an amazing amount of information on how this powerful couple lived.

Built with no drawn plans, Archer had a clear vision of what he wanted in his head, which he described to the architect. From the outside, it looks a lot like a fort or even a prison. However, from the inside, it’s a lovely refuge from the outside world with the perfect studios for Anna’s art. This place is so unique and beautiful.

Huntington Beach State Park at Murrells Inlet Atalaya Castle covered walkway
Huntington Beach State Park at Murrells Inlet Atalaya Castle

Trails and Boardwalks at Huntington Beach State Park

There are several trails in Huntington, including a few boardwalks and lookouts. It’s pretty easy to hit them all. The walk across the causeway is probably the most popular. It’s a great place to check out the local wildlife.

Lots of bird enthusiasts with their binoculars and long telephoto lenses try to identify as many of the 300 bird species found in the park as they can. The park has a thorough birding checklist that everyone uses.   

Huntington Beach State Park at Murrells Inlet Pelican
Huntington Beach State Park Causeway by air

Dinner in Pawleys Island

For dinner we went to Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island, about a 10-minute drive from Murrells Inlet. The restaurant was quite popular with locals, so we recommend making reservations. We tried the snapper and the duck, which were both delicious. Though it was a challenge to pick a desert, we went with the Meyer lemon tart and couldn’t have been happier.

Duck_dinner at Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island
Snapper_dinner at Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island

Where to Stay at Murrells Inlet

We really loved the Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet. The location was convenient, the room was clean, comfortable and spacious. Best of all, they have thought of everything. The rooms include kitchenettes. If you fish, there’s a cleaning station with freezer storage. Sporting equipment storage, for those who bring bikes, etc. Even a small rooftop lookout. The only improvement could be a better selection for the free breakfast, but then again, you can cook in your room.

Room at Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet
In room kitchen at Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet

Day Two in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

Sunrise at Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk

First thing in the morning is the best time to take a walk along the boardwalks at Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk. The mornings are quiet and a bit cooler. Mostly you just run into fishermen ready to start their day. Plus, the birds are super active, making for great photographs.

Evenings are another nice time to walk the area, but with all the restaurants and bars open, there’s a completely different feel. In general, it’s just a lovely place to take a stroll.

Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk Anhinga shake waterr off his feathers in the sunlight
Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk Dead Dog Saloon on the waterfront at sunrise

Brookgreen Gardens

We spent most of our second day at Brookgreen Gardens, which is much more than just a garden. Brookgreen Gardens is huge. It’s a sculpture museum, botanical garden, exhibition center, zoo, and more. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and designated a National Historic Landmark due to its cultural significance. 

Read our post on Brookgreen Gardens for further details on what to see and do.

"Raphell" by Bruno Lucchesi, woman touching a small waterfall
"Raphell" by Bruno Lucchesi
"The Wings of the Morning" by Marshall Maynard Fredericks; Large hand holding a swimmer with geese
"The Wings of the Morning" by Marshall Maynard Fredericks

Lunch in Pawleys Island

After leaving the gardens, we wanted to try a local microbrewery just down the road. Luckily, Quigley’s Pint & Plate also serves great food as we were starving. The Yardbird Wings and Steak Sandwich were just what we needed. We paired these with the house made brews, Red Ale and an Uncle Fester.

Quigley's Brewery Red and Ale and an Uncle Festers

Shopping at the Hammock Shops Village

As we were already in Pawleys Island for lunch, we made a last stop at the Hammock Shops Village before heading back home.

One of the cutest shopping areas with a 100% southern feel. They have about 25 little shops, mostly focused on home goods and gifts. It all started with the Hammock Shop. Next door, you can still see the weavers making hammocks today.

Wine shop at the Hammock Shop Village
Sweet Home Carolina storefront at the Hammock Shop Village in Pawleys Island
Hammock Shop storefront at the Hammock Shop Village in Pawleys Island

Booking Your Trip To Murrells Inlet


  • The closest airport to Murrells Inlet is Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR).
  • Use Skyscanner to look for flights to the Murrells Inlet area. The Skyscanner tool is great for searching across most major carriers to find the best prices and schedules.

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Planning a trip to Murrells Inlet? Here’s a few suggestions on where to stay:

  • We stayed at the The Inlet Sports Lodge. We loved that we could cook right in the room and the central location.
  • Another good option for a mid-range hotel in Murrells Inlet is the Hampton Inn
  • If you want to stay on the beach, go a little further north to Surfside Beach. Here you’ll find the Surfside Beach Oceanfront Hotel.

Been to Murrells Inlet? What did you love most about it? Any great places we are missing? Please leave your suggestions in the comments to help other readers. 

Related Posts:

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