Updated: May 21, 2015
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Review:When you visit the South, especially the Charleston region, it's a good idea to check out one of the plantations that are nearby. In June 2011 I took my wife and 2 kids to Charleston, South Carolina for a vacation that included beach time and some historical sightseeing. One of our planned stops was to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens just outside of Charleston. The weather in Charleston during the summer months is downright hot and humid - go early in the day if possible to enjoy the tours. We arrived at 10:30 in the morning since we had 4 hours before having to catch our flight back home. The Drayton family founded this property back in 1676 - this means the property has withstood the American Revolution and the Civil War and the gardens are the oldest public gardens in America. The house has been replaced/rebuilt several times - most recently due to fires.
Magnolia Plantation Tours - Which one is right for you? - There are a variety of things to do and see at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The basic admission price (see below) lets you get access to the gardens and grounds of the plantation. Beyond that you can choose from a nature train, nature boat, slavery to freedom tour, audubon swamp tour, or seeing the historic house. We did both the house tour and the nature train. Each was expected to last about 45 minutes and they have pre set times to help move things along. When you buy your tickets, they will tell you where to meet and at what time. You can pass a few minutes before your tours looking in the petting zoo or just walking the grounds. If you have time, pick 2 tours but don't try to do everything in one day. It's too much and you won't enjoy it. We did the train tour to start and that was perfect for our kids. The train keeps moving and it's open air which allows you to catch a breeze when it's warm and visibility is great from almost any seat. The train winds you around the swamps and grounds with the driver stopping at various points to talk for a few minutes. We learned about the rice fields, the wildlife that exists in this part of the country, and Indians that once settled on these grounds 100's of years ago. As we passed the ponds and waterways there were at least a dozen sightings of alligators, turtles, and birds. The train starts near the restrooms and Peacock Cafe. We were dropped off at the historic plantation house which made it easy on us. I was more impressed with the exterior of the house than the interior. You wait on the huge front porch for the tour guide to let you inside. The porch is amazing with the huge columns and wonderful views of the property. The interior was less than I expected in terms of nice amenities. The stories that the guide told were informative but the historic home left me wanting more. One interesting part was the staircase from the 2nd story that led nowhere (it used to lead to the roof) and some of the paintings were cool. As you step outside the house there is a small pond with a white bridge. Try to get a photograph of it - we waited for people to get off the bridge and then snapped our photo - it's amazing looking with the reflection of the bridge in the water below.