One Gator, Two Gator, Three Gators, Four …

IMG_9025Some places are more of a surprise than others.  When we headed south in the fall, we stayed at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina based on rave reviews by several RV bloggers.  Not surprisingly, we loved it.

Six months later, now heading north in the almost-spring, we stayed at another South Carolina coast state park with a similar name–Huntington Beach State Park.  We had no blogger recommendations for this park, and knew little about it, but it looked interesting.  It was … and more–a very nice surprise.

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To start with, it had alligators–huge armored grandfather gators, adorable smiling-like baby gators, and everything in between.  And there were lots of them, very close, swimming and sunning. IMG_8837

This is a "how many gators can you spot in this picture" puzzle.

This is a “How many gators can you spot in this picture?” puzzle.

I count five in the picture above, but you have to look really closely at the foreground.  Here is a close up, with three baby gators.

I counted five in the picture above, but you have to look really closely at the foreground to see the babies. Here is a close up, with three baby gators.

It was a gatorpalooza.  Throw in miles of empty beach and more birds than you can throw a stick at and you have one of my favorite campgrounds in our travels.

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IMG_8653The park is right off a main road leading to the highly commercialized Myrtle Beach, which battles with the Panama City, Florida area for the title of Redneck Riviera.  So it was a surprise to find an oasis of alligators and birds, left alone in relative peace.

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There is a causeway leading to the campground, with cars randomly stopped while their occupants take pictures of alligators sunning on a little island a few yards away.

Causeway.

Causeway.

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This fellow was right at the edge of the causeway, about three yards from the road.

This fellow was right at the edge of the causeway, about three yards from the road.

Birders with spotting scopes lined the road, trying to catch site of the eaglets in a nearby nest or photographing the birds fishing, sparring, and courting in the oyster beds and marshes.IMG_9067IMG_9328IMG_9069

The campground was a mix of wooded and open spots with two pathways directly out to a beautiful dog-friendly beach.  IMG_9058

The park was established as a bird and wildlife preserve by Archer and Anna Huntington, a wealthy and somewhat eccentric couple who first came to the island seeking ease for Anna’s tuberculosis.  She was a successful sculptor and he had various interests, including a love of all things Spanish.  The house they built in the 1930s, Atalaya, is open to the public, but is in pretty bad shape.  IMG_8879The park puts on an interesting tour, but the house itself was ugly, dark, damp, and cold.  I couldn’t wait to emerge into the sun again.  IMG_8880The land around Atalaya, however, is lovely and, thanks to the Huntingtons, isn’t covered in water slides and Ruby Tuesdays.

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I spent a lot of time watching alligators and birds.  Their eyes,

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and wings,IMG_8598IMG_8954IMG_9097

Check out the reflection of the bird in the middle.

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and signs of spring.IMG_9004IMG_9009IMG_8483IMG_8622IMG_8969IMG_8607

13 thoughts on “One Gator, Two Gator, Three Gators, Four …

    • I loved this park. It would be a quick trip for you and early spring is a good time–the alligators were slowly emerging and the birds were just getting feisty.

  1. I love your take on Redneck Rivieras (I am a NJ transplant who has lived in the Atlanta area for 35 years.) What a perfect description of Myrtle Beach and Panama City!

    I love exploring the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. There are beautiful, empty beaches and salt marshes, so many coastal birds, dolphins, and one of my favorites, alligators. I’m glad you enjoyed getting to know them and saw the baby alligators, too. They are fun to watch.

    • So many people are not aware of the beautiful, relatively unspoiled areas along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts. We used to live in Atlanta and had spent time on St. Simons and a little in Beaufort, S.C., but we didn’t have much time to visit other areas then. I so enjoyed exploring this coast these past months–and didn’t even get to
      Cumberland Island (a trip I’ve wanted to take for years)!

      • We camped on Cumberland once… Thanksgiving weekend a few decades ago. It was wonderful. I loved the shower back then. It had no roof and you could look up at the stars. It was a small campground and it was very hard to get reservations. I kept the phone on redial and finally got a campsite, the 2nd year we tried. (no internet campground reservations back then) The sites all filled up the first day. It was my first beach backpacking experience, and the only one with resident wild horses on the island.

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