During the tail end of our annual beach trip, we decided to spend the drizzly day visiting Atalya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park. This is another one of those stops that we wish we had more time – and better weather. It was more of a teaser to get us to go back for a longer trip (still working on my goat trailer converted to teardrop trailer for happy camping, lol! It would be perfect for beach trips!).
If you haven’t heard of Atalya before, you have probably heard of Brookgreen Gardens. Atalya sits on the ocean on land that originally consisted of over 9,000 acres of mixed land. The Huntington’s (Archer and Anna) used part of that acreage to build the first public sculpture garden (Brookgreen Gardens) to showcase Anna’s work.
The Huntington’s were from New York, and when Anna came down with health issues, Archer built Atalayan for their winter home. They built the castle hurricane ready with steel bars in the windows and practicality (well – what they considered practical) in mind. Anna was an artist and sculpture and the castle provided many indoor and outdoor places for her to work. They also kept exotic animals such as bears and leopards..
One of my favorite stories I heard was that Archer insisted on using local builders to boost the economy during the great depression (while my small farm days have come to a dwindle, I still have quite the passion for locally grown, built and created!). Neighbors helping neighbors! Atalaya was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
While you are there, don’t miss out on the rest the Huntington has to offer. The Nature Center was spectacular – it had a saltwater touch tank, live baby alligators, and many, many animal exhibits. On our way to the Marsh Boardwalk we found a washed up horseshoe crab too! We did make it to the end of the boardwalk, but the rain came down heavy and we made a run for it. We will return for a longer (and not so soggy) stay at this amazing gem!