One of the most visited plantations in South Carolina, Magnolia Plantation delivers in beauty and history. Pair those things with spacious gardens and trails that meander through camellias and azaleas, and you have yourself a wonderful outdoor destination. With 60 acres of cypress and tupelo blackwater swamps and 125 acres of waterfowl refuge, Magnolia Plantation is a bustling wildlife and nature center in the midst of Charleston county. Founded in 1676, the Plantation is as old as it is embedded in Charleston culture, and exploring the gardens will help you realize why.
The gravel and dirt trails at Magnolia Plantation offer easy hikes that take you around some of the most beautiful plantation trails in the Lowcountry. Two main trails dominate the hiking at Magnolia Plantation: The Wildlife Nature Trail (2.5 miles) and the Nature Walk and Bike Trail (5.4 miles). Whichever one you decide to hike, you will be pleased with the amount of camellias, azaleas, and alligators to be seen. Don’t forget the camera either, as this is one of the most picturesque places in Charleston. If your legs tire, or you just need a breather, take a seat on one of the many benches around the Plantation and maybe have a snack. If you are quiet long enough, you are destined to see some of the many birds that visit Magnolia Plantation throughout the year. Birders will love hiking here. If you bring the family, make a pit stop at the Petting Zoo and Nature Center. It’s not every day you get to see a Peacock!
What Makes It Great
This is a history lesson and an outdoor destination all in one. Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, and the vistas and gardens are the key to it all. The gardens alone boast hundreds of species of flora, and are often overgrown onto the trail. There are several benches and an observation tower to let you enjoy this natural space without disturbing the wildlife, allowing for a greater wildlife experience. The trails are gorgeous, often under canopies of oaks and vines that provide a rooftop tunnel of green along your hike. And don't forget to check out the 60 acres of swamp, where alligators may be there to greet you.
Who is Going to Love It
Everyone from the family of hikers, to the hiking tourists that want a taste of Charleston history, to the avid bird-watchers and gardeners will enjoy Magnolia Plantation. The trails are well maintained and extremely easy to hike, with many different lengths of trails to choose from. If you don’t feel like toting around lunch, grab a bite to eat at the Peacock Cafe, adjacent to the Nature Center. All in all, the Plantation appeals to everyone.
Parking, Trailhead, and Hours
From downtown Charleston, travel south on Hwy 17, over the Ashley River, until you hit Hwy 61. Take Hwy 61 North for about 9 miles. You will see signs for “Historical Plantations and Gardens” and Magnolia Plantation will be on your right. The hours of operation are 8 a.m. to dusk, but from November to February make sure you give the Gardens a call, as hours are subject to change.