My family and I spent Labor Day weekend taking in the sites of South Carolina’s Grand Strand
. One of our favorite stops was at the Waccatee Zoo
Waccatee Zoological Farm sits on about 600 acres of land that has been passed down through the generations of the Futrell family. Jeff Futrell gave us the grand tour of his zoo, which he runs with his mom. His parents used to be concession vendors during the glory years of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, but they left in the late 1980s with a dream of turning their private collection of exotic and domestic animals into a private zoo.
Jeff and his father spent months closing in habitats, digging holes for cages and fence posts and cutting wood for the long boardwalk that extends out into Waccamaw River. His father passed away about a year ago, but his handiwork is all through the zoo’s winding trails. We could not believe how it just kept going and going. In the 90 degree heat, we were excited to find that almost the entire zoo is perfectly shaded. We spent the better part of an afternoon walking around making friends with the animals.
The Waccatee Zoo is different because the animals are not just a part of the zoo, they are a part of the Futrell family. It is amazing how they know and respond to the owners. The tiger purred and chased Futrell back and forth, the monkeys chatted with him, and the llama even stood on two legs straight up in the air when he saw him coming.
Be sure to take your quarters when you visit the zoo for the animal treat machines. You can also buy peanuts. The animals aren’t shy around strangers either. This is truly a petting zoo. My daughter fed goats, deer, capabera and anything else that would come near enough to eat out of her hand. I loved the tiger and lion and the black bears (which, I’d like to point out, you don’t feed) and monkeys, and a llama, who had quite the personality.
The zoo is also home to a wildlife sanctuary and breeding ground for many species of migratory birds. Thousands of egrets and heron call the property home several times a year.
The zoo is a mesmerizing place for both children and adults, and definitely is worth a visit on your next trip to the Grand Strand. It is open 7 days a week year round (even Christmas and Thanksgiving) from 10 a.m. t o 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for ages 13 and older; $4 for ages 1-12. Children younger than one are admitted free. For additional information call (843) 650-8500 or click here
. Hours and fees are subject to change, so best to check ahead of time.