Tag Archives: South Carolina’s Hammock Coast

Huntington Beach State Park’s Nature Center to reopen four years after devastating fire

Huntington Beach State Park’s new Nature Center is set to open later this year.

An old friend is returning to Huntington Beach State park later this year.

A new Nature Center, a 4,500-square-foot facility that will mirror the layout and appearance of its predecessor, is on schedule to open in early summer, much to the delight of park-goers.

“Every single day someone asks about it,” Park Manager Brenda Magers said. “Long-time park visitors want an update on when it will open and new visitors stop and ask about the construction.”

The original Nature Center was destroyed in a fire on July 20, 2016, after the building was struck by lightning. Fire officials responded to a 2:34 a.m. call to find the three-story building fully engulfed.

The morning after the devastating 2016 fire revealed only charred remains of the Nature Center. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens)

The wait for the return of the popular attraction has been longer than anticipated, due to storms that forced the reallocation of state resources, but the end is in sight. Park officials expect construction of the new building to be complete in early March, clearing the way for the installation of exhibits.

The new Nature Center will allow visitors to experience the natural habitat of Huntington Beach State Park, ranging from the saltwater marsh to a maritime forest and birding area. Throw in a classroom exhibit featuring various live reptiles, including snakes, alligators and turtles, and a touch tank, that is home animals like horseshoe crabs, and everyone is energized.

“We are all very excited,” Magers said. “The loss of the Nature Center was devastating. … Huntington Beach is a great place for people to connect with the park and create memories, and they get to see things they’d never be able to see in nature.”

Park officials said they were devastated following the fire.

“Everyone is heartbroken,” Magers told The Georgetown Times in 2016. “… Having the Nature Center burn down was obviously devastating for those of us who work here.”

Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman told the newspaper that fire teams fought the blaze from 2:34 a.m. to about 6:30 a.m. but were unable to save the structure.

In addition to a collection of artifacts and exhibits, Dawn Dawson-House, director of corporate communications for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, told The Times that more than 20 animals were killed in the blaze.

Immediately after the blaze, Eggiman said there was no way to save the animals, which includes snakes, amphibians, several fish, including a sting ray, and reptiles, including alligator hatchlings. There were no birds or mammals housed at the center.

“Unfortunately, even before we arrived, there was no life sustainable inside the structure,” Eggiman told The Times. “Even if it was, it was too fully involved for us to make any kind of entry. All our operations had been exterior.”

Fish, reptiles and amphibians were lost in the 2016 fire. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens)

While the reopening of the Nature Center is attracting a great deal of attention, it’s not the park’s only anticipated reopening this year. Magers is hopeful the boardwalk next to the Nature Center, which was damaged during Hurricane Dorian, will be ready to reopen simultaneously.

The boardwalk extends a couple hundred yards into the saltwater marsh, allowing visitors to enjoy the splendor of the surrounding the marsh, including bald eagles often soaring overhead.

Huntington Beach State Park is also home to one of South Carolina’s most pristine beaches, outstanding surf fishing, and a campground just yards from the gently pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Birdwatchers flock to the state park throughout the year, and more than 330 bird species have been recorded there, making it one of the best birding spots in the Southeast.

Vacationers also visit to the park for the opportunity to see loggerhead turtles and, of course, Atalaya, the beautiful Moorish-style winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, who left the park as part of their considerable legacy.

— By Chris King and Mark A. Stevens

Hammock Coast beaches dominate Southern Living’s list Of South Carolina’s best

Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet is one of three Georgetown County beaches to make Southern Living’s list of 7 best beaches in South Carolina. Other Georgetown County beaches along South Carolina’s Hammock Coast making the list include DeBordieu and Pawleys Island. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens)

Georgetown, S.C. — Southern Living, one of the most respected names in lifestyle journalism, has unveiled its list of “7 South Carolina Beaches Perfect for a Relaxing Lowcountry Getaway,” and Georgetown County’s Hammock Coast dominated the list of the Palmetto State’s best. 

In fact, three of the seven South Carolina beaches – Pawleys Island, DeBordieu and Huntington Beach State Park – featured in the Southern Living article are located along the Hammock Coast.

Robert Bilsky snapped this stunning photo of the beach on Pawleys Island.

Pawleys Island, which is just one square mile in size, is long on beauty. The barrier island is almost devoid of commercial business, enhancing its stunning natural scenery. 

Located in Murrells Inlet, Huntington Beach State Park is home to the best-preserved stretch of beach along the South Carolina coast, and visitors get to enjoy one of the state’s best parks, too.

Southern Living said of DeBordieu, “One of the best-kept secrets along the South Carolina coast, DeBordieu is a tucked-away community that teases visitors with the ultimate natural escape.”

“We have long believed the beaches of the Hammock Coast to be South Carolina’s best, and it’s certainly gratifying to receive this type of recognition from Southern Living,” said Mark A. Stevens, director of tourism development for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. “With the summer season on the horizon, we can’t wait to welcome vacationers in search of a beach that is as beautiful as it is relaxing.”

The beach along DeBordieu Colony in Georgetown County was included in a list of 7 best beaches in South Carolina by Southern Living. (Photo from www.debordeiu.com.)

South Carolina’s Hammock Coast may not receive the notoriety of its neighbors – Charleston to the south and Myrtle Beach to the north – but savvy travelers have long been aware of the destination’s considerable charms. 

Composed of five seaside communities, Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, Pawleys Island and Georgetown, as well as the inland town of Andrews, the Hammock Coast is an oasis for vacationers in search of a relaxing destination, eco-activities and superior dining. 

For more information, visit www.HammockCoastSC.com.

Shelling is a favorite pastime on the beaches that make up South Carolina’s Hammock Coast in Georgetown County. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens)

About South Carolina’s Hammock Coast

Georgetown County’s casual charm and Southern hospitality earned it the nickname Hammock Coast. Adventure and relaxation blend together in perfect harmony, like the flowing and ebbing of waves on the county’s famed beaches. With six communities – Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, Pawleys Island, Georgetown and Andrews – comprising the pristine coastal area between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, you can experience South Carolina’s Hammock Coast like never before.

Georgetown County offers an abundance of accommodations for guests, including beachfront homes and condos, hotels, cozy bed and breakfasts and camping. No matter where you stay along the Hammock Coast, the area’s stunning natural beauty is never far away.