Charleston, SC: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a historic house and garden that was founded in 1676. The plantation’s the first house was built in 1676 by the original owners, Thomas and Ann Drayton. This house and the second house built on the site was destroyed by fire. The current home, a one-and-a-half stucco construction with a raised basement and tower, is viewable by guided tour was built in 1873. In the early 1840s, Reverend John Grimke-Drayton, the grandson of Thomas Drayton, began developing the gardens into the magnificent state it is in today. After developing tuberculosis in 1851, Reverend Drayton, focused his sole attention on landscaping the gardens and surroundings with azaleas and camellias being the primary plants within the garden. He also paid special attention to making sure that the garden was designed around the ideal that something was always in bloom no matter the time of year that people would be visiting. In the early 1870s, the gardens at Magnolia was open to the public becoming one of the first public gardens in the United States. In addition to the house and gardens, Magnolia Plantation is home to numerous fresh water lakes which serve as a preserve for alligators and water fowls; diked rice fields with provide additional sanctuary for wildlife; a row of slave cabins (four of which dates back to the 1850s and one that dates back to the 1900s; live magnolia and oak trees; and a Native American ceremonial mound that evoke the plantation’s complex past.


There are many activities that one can participate in while visiting Magnolia. You can participate in a guided tour of the house or join the “From Slavery to Freedom” guided tour of the slave cabins or you can take a self-guided walk around the gardens. You can also hope on the nature train which takes you through the plantation’s wetland, lakes, forests, and marshes or explore the flooded rice fields along the Ashley River on the boat tour.

To get to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, I per-purchased my tickets for the morning tour (Tour D/Tour H) with Charleston Tours. This 5-hour tour included transportation to and from Magnolia and a “completely guided tour of the 1676 Magnolia Plantation, gardens, manor house, and narrated tram ride through rice fields, cabins, slave street, swamp gardens and wildlife habitat.” This tour was absolutely worth the money spent. The company tour guide was engaging and entertaining. The guides at Magnolia were very friendly and folksy. The house tour was informative, but photography was not allowed. If you are like me, you want to photograph everything; the inability to do so in the house made the hour tour less interesting. The real star of this tour was the nature tram and garden tour. During the nature tram, I was in awe of how much wildlife was around. I got to see a baby crocodile sunning on a ramp; a turtle sunning on a log; both male and female peacocks, and other fascinating water bird species. I was also in awe of gardens, even though a lot of the flowers weren’t in bloom. (Note: The best time to visit to see many plants in bloom is during the spring/summer months.)

I highly recommend visiting Magnolia Plantation and Gardens if you are visiting Charleston, SC.  Specifically, I would recommend taking the nature tram through the wetlands; it is a great way to see a huge chunk of the plantation.  If you do decide to take my advice about the tram, sit on the left side; a lot more was pointed out as being of interest on that side of the tram.  On a lighter note, keep both feet, legs and arms inside the tram; the roads are very narrow and are used as alligator crossings.

I hope you enjoy this post about a very interesting place in American history.



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