Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Turtles, alligators and birds abound in this former plantation, now swampland, gardens, lakes and forest.

The Magnolia Plantations and Gardens feature 600 acres (243 hectares) of gardens, lakes, forest and old, flooded rice fields. Tour historic buildings or take a boat ride through the wetlands. An interesting array of animals are found in the nature center.

The plantation was bought by the Drayton family in 1676. Thomas and Ann Drayton built a house and small formal garden. Dams and dykes were built in fields along the river to irrigate the land. The property has remained in the Drayton family for more than three centuries.  

The restored plantation house that visitors see today is the third built by the Draytons at Magnolia Plantation. The core of the house was built in nearby Summerville, and dates prior to the American Revolution. After the Civil War it was floated along the Ashley River and installed in its current location.

On a tour of the house you’ll see rooms furnished with antiques and heirlooms, providing a glimpse into the lives of wealthy plantation families.

From Slavery to Freedom is an award-winning 45-minute interactive tour of the plantation’s five other historic dwellings, such as the kitchen and stables. These date back as far as 1850 and have been restored to reflect various periods of occupation by African-American workers.

The plantation’s gardens have been open to the public since 1870. They are the oldest unrestored gardens in America. Wander through several themed gardens and along the 14 miles (23 kilometers) of pathways.

Take a Nature Train or Marsh Boat tour of the plantation’s gardens and wetlands to see alligators, turtles, egrets and herons in their native habitats.  

The Nature Center has domestic species and those native to the area, including the gray fox, beaver, bobcat, snakes and birds of prey. There is also a petting zoo.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is about 30-minutes’ drive northwest of downtown Charleston, near the Ashley River. Car is the easiest way to get to the plantation, which is open every day of the year. The admission fee includes entry to the gardens; tours and entry to the zoo are extra.

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