Known for years as the Futrell Family Farm in the Socastee section of Myrtle Beach, Waccatee Zoo was born almost out of necessity. The Futrell family’s love of animals and decision to start collecting an ever-growing list of rare species started drawing curious onlookers stopping on the side of the road to see if their eyes were deceiving them.
Cows, horses and pigs were joined by water buffalo, camels and elephants. Crowd control became a major concern, as bystanders started venturing up the driveway to snap photos of the out-of-place creatures.
Feed me, Seymour. Feed me! — Photo courtesy of Waccatee Zoo
And so Waccatee Zoological Farm was born, at first welcoming school and church groups so children could share in the wonder of the wildlife at this unique location. Situated at the junction of the Waccamaw River and Socastee Creek - hence the blended name of “Waccatee” - the 500 acres of scenic Lowcountry terrain and wetlands are now home to more than 500 species of animals and thousands of visitors each year, since the Futrell family finally decided to share their wonders with the outside world more than 25 years ago.
"We simply love animals - and we always have," said co-owner Kathleen Futrell. "We wanted to create a very natural place where people could walk around and enjoy our extended family."
Despite the transition to a commercial venture, Waccatee Zoo remains very much a family operation. Arriving via a long, gravel driveway, visitors are quickly joined by peacocks and other birds that roam free on the property. A large open field holds large grazing animals not normally spotted in South Carolina (or anywhere in the US, for that matter), like the unusual zeedonk (a hybrid zebra/donkey). The Futrell’s four-legged and fine-feathered friends come from all over the planet and from all walks of life.
Zebra + Donkey = Zeedonk — Photo courtesy of Waccatee Zoo
Visitors enter the park through a country store lined with aquariums that are filled with exotic snakes and other reptiles on display; it's like walking onto another planet.
Exit the store into the park, and you quickly realize that this is not a traditional zoo of caged animals but rather an open, spacious facility where guests can get a good look at the critters that aren’t confined to a small enclosure. Waccatee consists of natural trails where visitors can roam the property and see the creatures in habitats similar to their native homes.
Watch as the monkeys swing through the trees and the “monkey bars,” while the children look on in laughter. Catch the lions and tigers taking cat naps in the shade of their rocky quarters. Sneak up on the alligators sunbathing on the banks of the river, and see the kangaroos and jackrabbits hopping through open fields.
True to Waccatee’s humble roots, visitors can also interact with more traditional farm animals like goats and chickens. Kids can purchase a handful of feed from the coin-operated dispensers and take turns feeding some of the more domesticated critters.
Waccatee Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under.