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.  

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Beach at Huntington Beach State Park

We started our weekend at the beach within the state park. With three miles of soft sand, the beach stretched beyond our sight. We loved how much quieter it was compared to 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 local 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. Sitting out on their covered porch gave us a view of the boardwalk.

As for food, Jeremy opted for the Mahi Mahi taco, which he enjoyed. However, 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. Be sure to save your entrance receipt if you leave and come back to the park.

First we went to check out Atalaya Castle, the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington.

Archer Huntington was a wealthy scholar and poet, most noted for his translation of El Cid. Anna was a groundbreaking and award-winning sculptor; more on Anna under Brookgreen Gardens below.

Huntington Beach State Park at Murrells Inlet Atalaya Castle water tower

Built with no drawn plans, Archer had a clear vision of what he wanted Atalaya Castle to look like, which he described to the architect in great detail.

From the outside, it looked a lot like a prison, with barred windows and concrete walls. However, from the inside, the large courtyards, complete with towering palms, made a lovely refuge from the outside world.

With more than a dozen rooms to explore, including Anna’s art studios, it took us about an hour to make our way around the castle.

There was an additional $2 entry fee to visit the “castle” on the beach, but it was well worth it.

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 were several trails in Huntington, including a few boardwalks and lookouts. It was pretty easy to hit them all.

The walk across the causeway was the most popular and the most interesting. We found it a great place to check out the local wildlife and get some good birding photos.

Every year tons 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, both were delicious. Though it was a challenge to pick a dessert, 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, it felt like they thought of everything. The rooms included kitchenettes. If you fish, there was a cleaning station with freezer storage. Plus, sporting equipment storage for those who bring bikes, etc. They even had a small rooftop lookout.

The only improvement could have been 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 was much more than just a garden. In addition to the botanical gardens, the main draw were the detailed sculptures throughout the park. 

Remember we mentioned Anna Huntington from Atalaya Castle? Brookgreen Gardens, and most of the artwork throughout the park, was her creation.  

Read our post on Brookgreen Gardens to learn more about Anna and these unique gardens.

"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.

With a 100% southern feel, it’s one of the cutest shopping areas. 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

Flights:

  • 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.

Car Rental:

Guidebook:

Hotels

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. 

Travel Resources

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