3550 Ashley River Rd
Located just ten miles from downtown Charleston, a visit to Magnolia Plantation offers the opportunity to savor the quieter, more gentle time of the antebellum South. This is a plantation with a long family history, extending back over 300 years. Not to imply that a visit here is all about yesterday; nothing could be further from the truth. While history will always be a part of the charm of Magnolia Plantation, the conservation of the black water swamp
and the accessibility of the Audubon Swamp Garden make it a very eco-friendly and forward-looking place to visit.
Depending on your interests, you can choose to visit the gardens or the house or both, as there are different entrance fees for each. Beyond that the Audubon Swamp is an additional fee. You begin your visit by watching a 12-minute video in the orientation theater. You will learn about the history of Magnolia Plantation and the three houses that have called it home. The original burned in 1812, and General Sherman burned the second in 1865. The Rev. John Drayton barged his hunting cottage twelve miles down the river from Summerville and placed it on the original foundation of the second house. I was impressed with his ingenuity and determination to rebuild after the war. In 1891, additions were made to make the cottage the same size as the second house. (The cottage had been considerably smaller.)
Tours of the house are offered every hour, and it is an interesting home to visit. The antiques on display are of museum quality, and when you consider that the family lived in the house until 1975, it is even more amazing. It still feels very much like a family home, with photos on display and antique quilts on the beds. The fact that some of the photos were done by Matthew Brady was frosting on the cake. After your tour, be sure to visit the exceptionally fine gift shop; it offers everything from toys and books to fine art.
When we arrived, there was a talk being given by one of the docents in the slave cabin,
which is located very close to the parking lot. If you are bringing children, there is a petting zoo, a maze, and a playground for their entertainment.
With over 500 acres, there is plenty to see here. From the 17th-century English garden to the Barbados Tropical Garden, all your senses will be assaulted in a very pleasant way.
The sights and scents, even in January, were quite amazing. We particularly liked the Biblical Garden, where each plant is placed with its correct scripture.
As you are walking through the grounds, take the time to visit the family tomb
of the Draytons, which is located near the Ashley River.