Since moving to North Carolina, Brian and I have really been wanting to visit a historic plantation. I think it’s important to see and understand a huge part of our country’s (really the world’s) history and the progress we’ve made as human beings (also they’re beautiful). However, we just hadn’t prioritized a trip, with getting settled and working and all of the normal day to day human life things that take over (and relaxing, we love relaxing around here) it just wasn’t at the top of our daily list of things to do. That was until a few weeks ago when we took a little trip down to Charleston.
We only had time to visit one plantation during our trip, and having already scoured the internet for options, I settled on Magnolia Plantation. I actually initially came across it looking for the most beautiful places to get married in the Carolinas (when we were considering that as an option) and Magnolia Plantation was at the top of nearly every list of must-see historical locations in Charleston. In the end I didn’t like the idea of a plantation wedding (a little dark for me) but the photos of the place were so spectacular we had to visit. The second day of our Charleston trip, we went straight from breakfast to Magnolia Plantation.
We had breakfast near our hotel at the best restaurant Sunrise Bistro Xpress with unexpected alley-style outdoor seating, which I loved. It was the best setting for some delicious food and quality time with my love. Both Brian and I had open-faced omelets (pescetarian…we’re horrible vegan travelers). I had the smoked salmon, Brian had the crab. Both were amazing but mine was better.
Magnolia Plantation was a short and lovely drive from downtown Charleston (about 25 minutes). We arrived before noon and were excited to take in all the property and grounds had to offer. We only had 4 1/2 hours to explore, which might seem like a lot but in reality with all there was to do, it wasn’t nearly enough. We opted to wander through the gardens and take a tram tour of the grounds.
The gardens were expansive and breathtaking. You could easily get lost for hours wandering through the landscape and taking it all in. One of my favorite things we came across was this gazebo. I loved the way the structural elements in the gazebo, as well as all the stone and sculptures scattered throughout the garden, somehow made the natural elements more beautiful.
It was so incredible and eerie to feel like you were literally walking back in time to a different world than the one you currently know through each section of the garden. Portions were over 300 years old, incredible for the fairly new U.S. that’s constantly rebuilding and changing itself. The story behind some of the greater garden renovations is incredibly romantic. The young (unexpected) new owner, after inheriting the plantation from his father, worked tirelessly to create a haven for his new wife, whom he relocated to Charleston from Philadelphia. She longed for her home, and he worked to create a space to please her and keep her happy at her new home. He also happened to bring the first Azaleas to America, which weren’t in bloom during our visit. Those flowers that were in bloom were no less beautiful.
The waterways and bridges were definitely for me the most romantic part of the sprawling gardens. Those combined with the ancient oaks created the perfect ambiance for a leisurely stroll through the balmy heat of Summer.
Oh and since I mentioned the heat. DEAR GOD. prepare yourself. Though you may check the forecast and it will tell you the Summer temperature will be a mere 90 degrees, it is not your traditional 90 degrees. The humidity and dense foliage create a definite rise in the “real feel” and you will sweat from every pore of your body. You will be a disgusting mess (unless you’re a mutant, then lucky you!) so just know this before going and dress accordingly. I wore a light airy dress that virtually felt like I was wearing nothing and I still was dying. Thankfully, there is a small outdoor cafe that provides beverages and food (you get one free refill!) so definitely take advantage. Pound some ice water or sweet tea like nobody’s business.
When Brian and I started our stroll through the gardens, we knew we had a limited time to enjoy them. We had to pre-purchase a time slot for the tram tour. Every activity that requires a guide, has a specific time slot so keep that in mind when you go! We happened to finish up in the gardens and were in dire need of water just in time for our tour. We headed to the cafe, and grabbed some icy goodness to enjoy from our shaded tram seats.
The tour lasted a good 45 minutes. It was gorgeous and very informative. I learned that Spanish moss is different from the weeping willow tree (which I was wondering the entire time because I saw that every variety of tree seemed to be “weeping”), something I probably should have known already. It’s an airborne plant that feeds on air and moisture from humidity and rain. Pretty amazing.
A hurricane many years ago destroyed 2/3 of the beautiful trees that covered the plantation grounds, a fact that felt impossible with how many trees were currently there. Trees had even completely overtaken the former rice paddy’s, which was both amazing and sad. Nature overtakes all history if left alone.
I saw an alligator, one of my worst life fears. I saw various wild birds that were both mysterious and majestic. We drove past slave cabins that destroy the human soul. Rolled by waterways both small and large, and ended up back at the main house, where more wild birds were visible. Peacocks were even wandering the grounds.
By the time we rolled back to the main house we were pretty well done for the day. We were hot, there wasn’t much time left till close and we were ready to go. We snagged our free refills and hit the road. We’ll definitely be going back. We didn’t take in nearly as much as we’d wanted to.