One of my ‘musts’ when visiting Charleston was to visit a plantation. There are so many to choose from in the city, Drayton, Boone, and Middleton just to name a few, it can make your head swim! After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each, I decided to go with Magnolia Plantation [3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414] because it is so much more than simply a historic house, it is entirely infused with nature.
Upon entering you will be awed by the beauty of the land driving down the enchanting oak lined entrance.
You are on the property of the Drayton Family, a plantation established in 1676 for rice cultivation. Soon you will see the plantation house, if you choose to take a tour you will be surrounded by early American decorative artifacts and learn details about life in the 19th century.
Standard admission allows you to wander the garden, petting zoo, conservatory, and old African American cabin – you could easily spend hours here and there is a café on the grounds. The gardens are beyond magnificent and we couldn’t have picked a lovelier time to visit than the spring bloom.
The world was a rainbow, filled with vibrant azaleas and blossoming trees, colorful guinea gamefowl and peacocks!
Walk along the extensive scenic trails, twisting and turning, crossing Alice and Wonderland like bridges.
You will feel perfectly in tune, garden and nature in harmony – very different from a typical strictly laid out and organized garden.
Make your way to the rice fields once bustling with work, now bustling with birds.
Spot a moorhen in the water or a hawk flying above it.
Walk along the water and make your way to the observation deck for a different view.
We made our way back to the front of the grounds to check out the zoo which was a really nice addition. Many animals indigenous to the area including turkey, deer, fox, a whole reptile house, and typical farm animals. Plus more fabulous peacocks!
For an additional fee you can add a ride on the nature train, nature boat, slavery to freedom tour, and/or Audubon swamp garden. Admission is pricey for all plantation tours in the area, but I was lucky enough to find a groupon which substantially cut down on costs – make sure to check if it’s still there when you visit. The groupon included the Audubon swamp which was an incredible bonus, I highly recommend it.
The trails here aren’t terribly long, but you will want to take your time. They are packed with wildlife, beauty, and have interesting environmental signage.
The boardwalks give you a great chance to get up close and personal with the swamp life.
You will quickly come to identify tupelo trees, one of the few trees that are able to grow directly in water. The boardwalks disappear and the trail opens up to a colorful scene.
Here we were shocked and excited to spot our first alligators, some of the larger ones we would come upon!
As we kept walking we spotted a majestic bird sunning in a tree, and another of the same species sitting in a nest.
I have never known this bird before, called an anhinga, and was so happy to have learned of it. Further down the road we walked beside a large pond, and lucky for us we were there at the right time.
The springtime rookery was filled with birds nesting up in the trees, flying about bringing twigs home, and lots of action.
There were plenty of ibis, heron, and egrets to view, along with more gators and some turtles!
What an exceptional treat. After a while of observation we continued on, passing a serene African American cemetery, and then back to where we started.
Filled with history, nature, and pleasing aesthetics, the Magnolia Plantation was one of the highlights of our visit to Charleston! It was the very first thing we did after setting foot out of the airport and set a wonderful aura for the rest of the trip.