Some 3 miles south along U.S. 17 from Murrells Inlet, towards Pawleys Island, Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Dr. (tel. 843/237-4218; www.brookgreen.org), is a world-class sculpture garden and wildlife park that’s a source of enormous civic pride to virtually everyone in South Carolina. It occupies the low-lying flatlands of what functioned 200 years ago as a rice plantation. After the destruction of the original plantation house, the gardens were laid out in 1931 to accommodate the world’s largest collection of American garden sculptures, all crafted between 1850 and the present. Archer Milton Huntington and his wife, the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, planned the garden walks in the shape of a butterfly with outspread wings. All walks lead back to the central space, a contemporary building that occupies the site of the original plantation house. On opposite sides of this space are the Small Sculpture Gallery and the original plantation kitchen, now the site of one of the snack bars. An outstanding feature within the wildlife park is the Cypress Bird Sanctuary, a 90-foot-tall aviary housing species of wading birds within half an acre of cypress swamp. The curators of this garden recommend spending at least 2 hours wandering along its byways. Terrain is flat and makes for easy walking. The price of admission grants access to the park and garden for 7 consecutive days.
Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, $7 for children 4 to 12, and free for ages 3 and under. Hours are daily 9:30am to 5pm. In April, the gardens remain open until 8pm. The gardens are closed December 25.
Huntington Beach State Park, just across U.S. 17 from Brookgreen Gardens (tel. 843/237-4440; www.southcarolinaparks.com), offers one of the best beaches along the Grand Strand. Entrance is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $3 for children 6 to 15, and free for children 5 and under. The 2,500-acre park has a wide, firm beach, which is slightly orange. Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, Archer, the creators of Brookgreen Gardens, once owned this coastal wilderness. The park is the site of their winter home and Iberian-style castle, Atalaya (daily 9am–5pm), built between 1931 and 1933. Admission to the house is an additional $2 (for ages 6 and up). Guided tours (45 min.) of Atalaya are offered March to October, while audio tours ($4) are available year round.
In the park are 137 campsites, along with picnic shelters, a boardwalk, terrific birding, bike rentals, and toilets. Swimming in specially marked sections is excellent, as is fishing from the jetty at the north side of the beach, or crabbing along the boardwalk. Campsites are rented on a first-come, first-served basis, at a cost of $21 to $41 per day (price depends on whether the particular site has electricity or water). The park is open daily April to October 6am to 10pm, December to February 6am to 6pm, and March and November 6am to 8pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.