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Huntington Beach State Park

Robin Carter, updated by Paul Serridge (Feb 2018)


The entrance is on the east side of US 17, about 17 miles north of Georgetown or 17 miles south of Myrtle Beach. There is a daily entrance fee of $5 per person. A South Caroline State Parks pass allows free entry for a year and includes all the occupants of the vehicle.

Birds to look for

Tundra Swan (w), Gadwall (w), American Wigeon (w), Blue-winged Teal (w), Lesser Scaup (w), Common Eider (w), Harlequin Duck (w), Surf Scoter (w), Black Scoter (w), Long-tailed Duck (w), Bufflehead (w), Hooded Merganser (w), Red-breasted Merganser (w), Red-throated Loon (w), Common Loon (w), Horned Grebe (w), Red-necked Grebe (w), Northern Gannet (w), Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant (m, w), Great Cormorant (w), American Bittern (w), Least Bittern (m, s), herons and egrets, Reddish Egret (August to December), Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (m, s), White Ibis, Glossy Ibis (m, w), Roseate Spoonbill (fall), Wood Stork (fall), Osprey, Bald Eagle, Merlin (m, w), Peregrine Falcon (m, w), Clapper Rail, King Rail, Virginia Rail (m, w), Sora (m, w), Common Moorhen, American Coot (w), any South Carolina plover, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt (s), any South Carolina shorebird, Purple Sandpiper (w), jaegers (w), any South Carolina gull or tern, Black Skimmer, Razorbill, Common Ground-Dove, Chuck-will's-widow (s), Cave Swallow (m, w), Sedge Wren (w), Marsh Wren, Henslow's Sparrow (m, w), Nelson's Sparrow (w), Saltmarsh Sparrow (w), Lapland Longspur (w), Snow Bunting (w), Boat-tailed Grackle.


Good to excellent birding from late August to early May, slower and very crowded during the summer. The entrance station usually has a free checklist with abundance of species by month. It is also online at Birds of Huntington Beach State Park. It has not been updated since 2006 and should be used with caution for some species. Ebird barcharts are more useful. Many rarities have been seen from on or near the jetty, a 1.2 mile walk from the north beach parking lot. Huntington Beach State Park is one of the best and most accessible birding sites in South Carolina.

There is a very long list of rarities that have been found at Huntington Beach State Park, including, among others, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Pacific Loon, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black Guillemot, Burrowing Owl, Western Kingbird, White Wagtail, Sprague's Pipit, LeConte's Sparrow, and Lark Bunting.

The entrance road leads to a causeway separating Mullet Pond and a salt water marsh. No parking or stopping on causeway. Mullet Pond is usually good at any time of year, but especially in winter for ducks. Year round for herons, egrets, and ibis. The marsh is good at those times when there is mud exposed. Both can be birded from the Causeway after parking in an area at its eastern end. Pick a time when the marsh is not flooded. Look for an active Bald Eagle nest in a tall tree to the NW of the Causeway.

The south end of Mullet Pond can be viewed from a covered observation deck at the end of the short Kerrigan Nature Trail, which starts from the SW corner of the park store parking area. Check the marsh below the boardwalk leading to the observation deck for Sora, Virginia Rail, and Marsh Wren.

A side trail connects the boardwalk to the Atalaya Carriageway—a paved path which runs between Atalaya and the park's fenced perimeter along Hwy 17. South of the Carriageway is Mallard Pond which holds more ducks, coots, and Common Gallinules. At the NW end of this pond you can often find roosting night-herons.

Driving north in the park leads to the Marsh Boardwalk—rails, salt marsh sparrows, terns. When there is some mud exposed the marsh here can be good for shorebirds and rails (mostly Clapper but an occasional King is reported—note that King and Clapper Rails interbreed).

On the opposite side of the road is a trail-head for the Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail. This trail can be good for songbirds and shorebirds but is very variable. It can also be infested with mosquitoes.

The road north ends at a large parking area with public restrooms. Adjacent to the parking area is the northern end of the Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail. Sandpiper Pond is very close to the parking area, has a large observation deck, and merits a quick visit.

A paved trail leads from the parking area to the beach. The jetty is 1.3 miles to the north. In my experience a trip to the jetty is best made so as to be there within 2 to 3 hours of high tide. The tide times there are about the same as those at Pawleys Island Pier. Link to tide times Another link to tide times.

The North Beach leading to the jetty can be good for shorebirds, gulls, terns, Horned Grebes, Northern Gannets, sea ducks etc but is very variable. I usually allow 45 minutes to an hour to get to the jetty.

At the jetty, walk to its eastern end looking for birds on the water between the two jetties, and on the rocks on either side of the jetty. The rocks usually hold Ruddy Turnstones and, in winter, can be a good place for Purple Sandpipers. The buoys at the ends of the jetties usually hold lots of Double-crested Cormorants and Brown Pelicans. A very occasional Great Cormorant has been reported there. Turn around and follow the jetty back past the beach and walk to its western end. The marsh on the south side can be good for sparrows and shorebirds. At the western end of the jetty some areas are cordoned off to protect nesting birds (Least Terns, Wilson's Plovers). Navigate around the outside of this area to go further west to a sandy point where shorebirds can be numerous—literally several hundreds at times. Also lots of roosting gulls and terns depending on the season. Return from this area via a trail which leads through the dunes on the western side of Jetty Pond to the beach about 15 minutes walk from the north parking area. I allow 3 to 4 hours to do the round trip to the jetty area.

Two other good birding areas are very close to Huntington Beach State Park, the road to the oyster recycling area (which is actually part of the park) and the Murrell's Inlet Marshwalk.

To reach the road to the oyster recycling area, return to US 17 and turn right (north). Look for an inconspicuous state park sign on the right about 0.9 miles north on US 17. Turn in here and go 0.2 miles to a small beach on the edge of the salt marsh. This gives you another perspective on the marsh. American Oystercatchers are easier to find here than in the main park of the park. The road itself goes through a pine-oak forest that has larger trees than you find in the barrier island part of the park, and might be better for land birds than the main part of the park

To reach the Murrell's Inlet Marshwalk from the main park entrance, turn left (north) on US 17 and go for a bit more than a mile to the exit for US 17 Business, which leads into the seafood restaurant village of Murrell's Inlet. The Marshwalk is about 2.5 miles north on US 17 Business. Park in the large lot next to Captain Dick's Restaurant. There is a roost of Black-crowned Night-Herons visible from the Marshwalk, and American Oystercatchers are fairly easy to find here, as well as Eurasian Collared-Doves.



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