Am I on a Nichola’s Sparks Movie Set? Magnolia Plantation

Piazzas of Charleston (1)

If you’re planning a visit to the Charleston area one of the “must do’s” is to visit a Plantation!  There are SEVERAL to choose from in the area and today I want to share with you one of my favorites!

I first visited Magnolia Plantation & Gardens in the fall of 2015 with my Mom, who came with Aaron and I  to Charleston with our 2 oldest daughters (Allie wasn’t born yet…though she WAS born 9-months after this vacation).  We left our condo rental on Isle of Palms around 8am and headed to Magnolia on a beautiful spring day in May.  Our 2 favorite months to travel to Charleston were early May and early October (one of the perks of homeschooling is you can travel during “off-season”).

From the drive down Ashley River Road onto the grounds of Magnolia Plantation I was in awe of the natural beauty!  I am a long-time Nichola’s Sparks fan…probably due to the fact that most of his novels are set in Coastal Carolinas & I just love romantic movies.  The moment we parked I felt like I had stepped onto the set of a Nicholas Sparks movie!


The large oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss, the vibrant color from the nearly 70 acres of gardens and grounds to explore, the beautiful Magnolia Plantation House, watching the herons and egrets glide over the beautiful flowing Ashley River, and the 60 acres of cypress & tupelo gum trees that rise up from the unique black water in the Audubon Swamp Garden are just a FEW of things that make this place so incredibly “magical”.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places the Magnolia Plantation has been the original ancestral home of the Drayton Family since 1676! Today the plantation is still owned by the 12th & 13th generations of the Draytons and it is believed that no other plantation in South Carolina is still under the original family ownership from such an early date.  Magnolia has been selected as one of “America’s Most Beautiful Garden’s” by Travel + Leisure Magazine.  


I could spend ALL day just walking around the beautiful grounds of Magnolia.  With your Gardens & Grounds Basic Admission you have access to the entire 500-acres of the plantation including the Historic Garden (1hr),  Orientation Theater (23 min), Conservatory, Biblical, Herb, and Camellia Gardens, Petting Zoo, Horticultural Maze, Wildlife Tower and more…


Other activities at Magnolia include…

  • Plantation House Tour: (30 min) This guided tour will give you the history of the Plantation and the Drayton family as you walk through the beautiful house and see several Drayton family heirlooms.
  • Nature Train:  (45min) On this tour you will see LOTS of wildlife that call Magnolia “home” including alligators, turtles, herons, egrets and more.  This is a tram ride and although it is an AMAZING tour if you suffer from motion sickness I would encourage you to not sit at the front of the tram facing backwards.  This tram takes you along 4 miles of wildlife habitat including marshes, ponds, forests and a Native-American ceremonial mound.  The guides that we’ve had have ALL been GREAT and they also discuss plantation life & history.
  • Nature Boat: (45 min) Want to experience even more of Magnolia’s beautiful grounds…take a Nature Boat ride and get up close with alligators, turtles and waterfowl in their own habitat.  You’ll travel through the former rice fields of Magnolia Plantation and learn about rice culture, the Ashley River and the wildlife that lives there.
  • From Slavery to Freedom: (45 min) Magnolia is home to a unique street of slave cabin that were occupied well into the 20th century that have been carefully preserved and restored to document the African-American life at Magnolia.  Each cabin represents a different period of the African-American experience on the plantation from slavery to the Civil Rights era.
  • Audubon Swamp Garden:  This is one of the most unique “gardens” I have ever seen.  It is filled with wildlife that you can observe in their natural habitat as you stroll down the boardwalks, bridges and dikes within the swamp.
  • Sunday Morning Bird Walks:  Sunday’s at 8:30am Join a local ornithologist as you walk around the property enjoying the sights and sounds of nature at Magnolia.   Great experience for bird lovers and photographers!  Plus, everyone can enjoy a coffee and a cookie provided after the tour.


If you spend the day Magnolia Plantation you can also get a great lunch at the Peacock Cafe (where the Peacock’s literally will dine among you!).  They have beautiful spots to enjoy your meal under the shade of the magnificent live oaks!


Tips for visiting Magnolia:

  • Wear comfortable shoes.  With over 500 acres of gardens and grounds to explore you want to have comfortable walking shoes.
  • Bring insect repellant.  With all the swamp land Magnolia does have its fair share of insects so come prepared.
  • Wear sunscreen.  Although a lot of Magnolia’s gardens are shaded by the beautiful oak trees if you’re planning to spend the day make sure your skin is protected from the hot South Carolina sun.
  • If you’re visiting with small children bring a stroller or wagon for them.  Again, there’s a LOT of ground to cover.
  • Make sure you have your camera (or cell phone) charged and ready to take LOTS of beautiful pictures!  (I always bring a portable cell phone charger in my purse, just in case.)
  • Dogs ARE allowed on the garden grounds and on the tram tours.
  • You can bring in food and drinks if you want to plan on a picnic on the lawn under the oaks.  (There is also the Peacock Cafe if you need to purchase food or beverages.)

Want a “virtual tour” of Magnolia?  Check out the video below…

Magnolia Video on my YouTube Channel 

If you’re planning a trip to Charleston I would HIGHLY recommend a trip to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens!  If you have any questions about Magnolia or the Charleston area in general please contact me at

Happy Travels,


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