Wanderlusting: Magnolia Plantation
“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” ~ Luther Burbank
Second Half of the Day
I feel like I am talking about two completely different days. Not only did we do completely opposite activities from the morning to the afternoon, but the weather also turned. Going from sunny to rainy. Despite the rollercoaster of the day or maybe because of it, I this was my favorite day in Charleston.
With the chilly day and the threat of rain later on, we made a quick stop at the hotel for an outfit change and grab a caffeinated pick me up. It was eleven, but it honestly felt like three.
I, of course had to stop at City Lights Coffee for my fix, where I introduced Rhiannon to the owner and she grabbed a chai. We then drove to Magnolia Plantation located in Northern Charleston.
Magnolia Plantation was established in 1676 by Thomas and Ann Drayton. It continues to be owned by their descendants, three hundred years later. Built along the Ashely River, it is 464 acres of lush gardens, former rice fields, and a vast history that you could only find in the South.
On its fifteenth generation of ownership, the plantation is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country as well as home to the oldest public garden in America. Its grounds were opened in 1870 to build revenue where they have stayed open over a century later.
There is much to do and see when visiting, from touring the gardens and house, to visiting the animals, which include stunning peacocks, to even a boat ride along the Ashely River. It isn’t so much a tourist attraction, as it is an immersion into history and a family’s passion to keep their legacy alive.
The highlight of Magnolia plantation, is the sprawling gardens which seek to incorporate nature and history into its’ landscape. It is not uncommon to find oak trees growing in and around fencing.
While they were always one of immense prominence, they were cultivated to their true glory by the Reverend John Grimké-Drayton who had inherited the plantation through his mother and as stipulated in the will reverted to her maiden name.
He was the on who introduced azaleas to America, as well as had the idea to open the gardens to the public to create income after the Civil War.
Walking along the endless paths, I got lost in the mixture of cultivated elegance and southern wilderness. There were an endless array of picturesque bridges covering the algae water, reminiscent of a scene out of a Monet painting.
While Charleston had just had a frost, forcing many of the flowers to go into hibernation, you could see them attempting to come back to life amongst the decay of the old.
It was such an amazing afternoon, as we explored. I could have spent hours there walking on the historical grounds that had born to witness to so much. From the birth of a nation, to its petulant and evil teenage years, to settling into maturity of older age. Not only the tales, but the lessons of Magnolia Plantation were felt in every step and I was in awe as I soaked it up.
Surrounded by lush gardens, the house is a formidable fortress rising through the vegetation. It has been rebuilt twice, with the house moving to a new location after the first fire. It was burned down a second time during the Civil War which led to a slow rebuilding process where they incorporated part of another house, which was built pre-revolutionary and expanded from there.
The current owners have taken great steps in making sure that the tour is at once interesting, rich in history, as well as honest. They do not shy away from any of the family skeletons and it is refreshingly authentic and relatable no matter the century.
Photography isn’t allowed inside the house, allowing visitors to actually hear what is being said and appreciate the depth of history.
After our tour it had begun to rain, but that didn’t deter us from visiting the Audubon Swamp which was named after John James Audubon who visited the plantation gathering samples for his experiments and paintings.
The Audubon is separate from the house and gardens at the base of the long winding drive way. It had stood out with its green waters and spanish moss and we decided to save it for last.
Prior to our visit, the sales clerk had warned us of an alligator with her babies. Adding to that unsettling bit of information, (I grew up in the mountains, you do not mess with ANY animal that has babies!) the grayness of the day and the rain, it makes sense that Wes Craven filmed movies here. It was indeed ominous!
But it was also incredible, stunning and epic. The greenness of the algae shown through despite it being so overcast, adding a vibrancy that was reminiscent of a tropical jungle. Despite the rain, it was fun to walk on the boardwalk, snapping pictures, and yes, even trying to spot the alligator…From a distance!
We stayed until closing at Magnolia Plantation, before driving back to Charleston.
I had heard amazing things about Fig. Reviews said to book months in advance, but I called and got a reservation a half hour later. It was located next to our hotel so we didn’t have far to walk. A foodie at heart, this restaurant deserves every award and accolade it has gotten. The waitstaff were incredibly helpful, and the food was delicious! I would happily eat there every night! With our bellies full, we went back to the hotel, to watch the opening ceremonies and prepare for another adventurous day exploring Charleston.
Have you been to Magnolia Plantation? Do you enjoy exploring historical places?