As you may have seen in our previous blog post, Why We Visited Magnolia Plantation, the main reason for the trip was to visit the homes of slave dwellings. We wanted to learn more about the lives of the enslaved people at Magnolia Plantation.
The From Slavery to Freedom tour is outstanding and part of the general admission to the property. There are many other things to see while visiting the plantation.
The Zoo And Nature Center
A small zoo and nature center is just beyond the Main Gate and ticket counters. It’s more what many people might refer to as a petting zoo.
The space is filled with White-Tailed Deer, Peacocks, Rabbits, Ponies, and Donkeys. You’ll also find some local wildlife, including reptiles.
We were there first thing in the morning and had the entire space to ourselves for a quick walk before heading off on our tour.
Next to the Zoo and Nature Center, you’ll find the Peacock Café. It is a small concession stand selling beverages, snacks, and sandwiches.
There is plenty of outdoor seating. The grounds are beautiful, and during our visit in the fall, there were potted plants and pumpkin displays everywhere.
The gardens surrounding the house are pretty extensive, leading down to the river. The grounds are filled with statues, small ponds crisscrossed by bridges, flowering trees, and the family burial site.
The Magnolia Plantation website recommends allowing at least 45 minutes to explore the gardens; however, we spent nearly an hour and a half and didn’t cover all of it. The gardens are considered ‘romantic style gardens.’ They are not manicured gardens. They are ‘to create a tranquil landscape like Eden where humanity and nature are in harmony.’
Impoverished by the civil war, the Drayton’s were forced to open the gardens to the public. Considered to be America’s oldest gardens, visitors could take a paddleboat from Charleston in about an hour. Making Magnolia Plantations and Gardens the oldest manmade roadside attraction in America.
The Tropical Conservatory
The building located next to the Tram Stop is filled with semi-tropical plants, reflecting the colony’s origins.
It’s filled with beautiful orchid specimens, tropical plants, water features, and statues. It’s worth the quick wander through.
The Nature Tram
The only option program we opted for was the Nature Tram. It was $10.00 for adults, and we figured it would allow us to see more of the nearly 600 acres of Magnolia Plantation.
The open tram car took us through wetlands, and forests, past the slave cabins and the rice ponds. The naturalist did an excellent job mixing nature and history, pointing out our local trees, plants, and wildlife.
While we didn’t see as much wildlife as we had expected, we did see a few alligators, turtles, and birds. Just know that photographing some of the animals from a moving tram, with sun glare on the water, at a distance doesn’t give you great photos. LOL
Final Thoughts On Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Magnolia Plantation’s site says that the Nature Center, Petting Zoo, Café, Conservatory, Nature Tram, Boat, Garden Tour, and Gift Shop are all accessible – and we found that to be reasonably accurate. The garden trails can be a bit rustic and challenge some people with mobility issues.
Even though we did not do the house tour, the website states that it requires walking up steps and is not handicap accessible for people in wheelchairs or scooters.
The gardens are well worth the investment and beautiful. We found clean facilities, plenty of parking and the food we saw looked good and seemed to be a good value. The people we met who worked there could not be nicer.
General Admission (Adults): $29.00 and includes the Slaver To Freedom Tour
House Tour: $10.00
Nature Tram: $10.00
Nature Boat: $10.00
Audubon Swamp Tour: $10.00
We’re glad we took the Slavery To Freedom tour and visited the cabins of previously enslaved people. The discussions with Joseph McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project were enlightening.
For us, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was the right choice for visiting a plantation that really shined a light on slavery instead of washing over it and only showing the sunny, southern hospitality side of plantation life.