One of the Grand Strand’s most pristine natural treasures also becomes a center for manmade masterpieces at the 41st Annual Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival. Held Sept. 23-25 at Huntington Beach State Park in nearby Murrells Inlet, this popular event features more than 100 top artists and crafts vendors from the Eastern Seaboard displaying their works in an idyllic setting.
Guests at Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort are only a 15-mile drive south down Highway 17 to Huntington Beach State Park, a 2,500-acre rice plantation-turned-nature preserve that features a diverse Lowcountry landscape. Towering sand dunes parallel the beautiful beachfront, majestic live oaks and palmettos make up the maritime forest, and the salt marsh and lagoon are teeming with wildlife ranging like alligators, otters and a wide variety of coastal shorebirds that attract thousands of birdwatchers.
But almost hidden among the scenic terrain is a Moorish-style castle overlooking the ocean called Atalaya, the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huffington, who entrusted the manor and the land that make up Huntington Beach State Park and the adjacent Brookgreen Gardens. Atalaya’s charming courtyard, landscaped with native flowers palmetto trees, serves as the site of the three-day festival that includes live music, food and drink vendors, and amazing works of art under every tent.
See original paintings, wood carvings, glasswork and so much more, including pieces by local artists that were inspired by the surrounding natural beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Browse through the rows of exhibits and speak to the artists who created them with their own hands. Watch live demonstrations of artists and craftsmen plying their trade, and take a break from all the shopping to tour the brick-and-mortar structure or enjoy a plate of South Carolina barbecue in the shade.
If you’ve ever had a problem getting the whole family to go to an arts and crafts show, that won’t be a problem at Atalaya. Because of the surrounding scenery, you can send the non-shoppers off to explore the park and all its natural beauty. The boardwalk next to Atalaya has changing rooms for those who prefer to enjoy the lovely September weather on the beach, and hiking and biking trails take visitors for a leisurely trip to some of the state park’s treasures, like the jetty on the northernmost tip of the park that overlooks Murrells Inlet. Take some family time to enjoy all the great things the park has to offer.
On the Atalaya festival weekend, that list includes manmade works of art as well as the beauty of nature. Take home a souvenir that will remind you of the experience, and purchase a three-day pass so you can soak up both the festival and the atmosphere. Single-day passes are $8 for ages 16 and up, while multi-day passes are $10 (bargain-shopper tip: you can find a $1 off coupon online at http://www.atalayafestival.com) Tick.ets include admission to the state park and all the facilities in it. Park operation hours and festival times are noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For Compass Cove Resort guests attending the festival, the trip also provides an opportunity to sample some of the best seafood on the Strand at the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk. Featuring a dozen restaurants lining the docks of “The Seafood Capital of South Carolina,” the self-proclaimed nickname of Murrells Inlet, the Marshwalk allows visitors to stroll along the waterfront while they make the difficult decision about where to enjoy a seafood feast. Then head back north to Compass Cove for the perfect ending to memorable day.