magnolia plantation charleston sc

Why You Need to Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

main house of magnolia plantation and gardens in charleston sc

Some would argue that Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC, is a tourist trap.
And maybe it is. But it’s still worth a visit.

One of the oldest plantations in the country, Magnolia Plantation was founded in 1676 by Thomas and Ann Drayton. Their descendants still own the plantation 15 generations later. This beautiful and extensive plantation was the site of many firsts in Charleston and the country over the centuries. As such, it should be at the top of your list when visiting Charleston, South Carolina. While the history of the plantation is fascinating, the gardens are world-renowned and worth a visit in their own right.

The Most Fascinating Parts of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens History

Magnolia Planation and Gardens is one of the first plantations in America. However, it didn’t become famous until Reverend John Grimke-Drayton inherited the property and went to work on improving the gardens.
Grimke-Drayton’s wife was an abolitionist, and found slavery abhorrent, and the plan initially had been for the couple to settle in her hometown of Philadelphia.
When his older brother passed, plans changed. Trained as an Episcopal minister, Grimke-Drayton inherited the plantation and became a Southern planter on the condition that he adopt the Drayton surname.
azalea flowers at magnolia plantation and gardens in charleston, south carolinaLocal legend holds that Grimke-Drayton worked on the garden to draw his bride down from up North. She did eventually join him, and hopefully the gardens were a consolation. Even if they weren’t, the family has still done an amazing job of preserving it for the millions of visitors to the plantation each year.
The original manor house burned-down in the War Between the States (the Civil War up North), likely by Union troops. The current main house on the property was built after the Civil War and expanded over several decades of renovations. While not as impressive as some other Charleston plantation homes, it is still gorgeous with wide porches and fantastic gardens surrounding it.
The plantation was originally opened to the public after the War to help raise funds and has remained open ever since.

Is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Haunted?

The crew from the TV show “Ghost Hunters” made a visit to Magnolia Plantation to investigate what is considered one of the most haunted locations in America. They heard music, the sound of a young girl’s voice, a cough, even some growling and a woman’s voice asking, “What are you doing?” While there was plenty of paranormal activity, the team could not ascribe the activity to one specific member of the family.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Magnolia Plantation

So aside from hearing ghosts, what are the best reasons to visit Magnolia Plantation of South Carolina?
First and foremost, the gardens at Magnolia Plantation are spectacular. This is the first site on which azaleas were grown in America. From here they spread throughout Charleston, the South, and eventually America. There are varieties of azalea not seen anywhere else in America, and possibly the world. And the extensive arrangements of azaleas, camellias, and live oaks scattered throughout the swampy terrain mixed with the white bridges crossing ponds make for more than a few ideal photo opportunities in a highly romantic Charleston attraction.
For those looking for more of a hike, there are trails through the Audubon Swamp Garden. Be sure to bring bug spray in the warm parts of the year.
Goat in the petting zoo at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC


There’s also a petting zoo, for visitors looking to be chased around by pushy goats. Actually, this one is likely the most child-friendly of the plantations. The petting zoo and tourist focus makes this a great family friendly Charleston attraction as well.

The house, the third to occupy the site, is also beautiful and warrants the half-hour tour offered by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. There is also a Nature Train tour, which travels around the plantation to help visitors catch a glimpse of the various local wildlife–including alligators!

Magnolia Plantation Hours and Tickets: What You Need to Know

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and the Audubon Swamp Garden is open every day of the year, including major holidays. Winter months–November to February–the plantation is open 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, while March to October, hours are 8 am until 5:30 pm. Basic admission to the Plantation is $15 for adults and $10 for children 6-12, and children under 6 are free.

All of the Best Magnolia Plantation Tours

Besides the half-hour tour of the Magnolia Plantation House and Nature Train Tour, there is also a Ricefield Nature Boat Tour, which explores the old flooded fields of this former rice plantation. You can also take a tour through five historic former slaves’ quarters on site. The Slavery to Freedom Tour is an award-winning tour of the African-American experience in this part of the South.
After paying basic admission,
  1. The Historic House Tour is an extra $8
  2. Nature Train Tour an extra $8
  3. Nature Boat Tour an additional $8
  4. Slavery to Freedom Tour another $8
  5. An unguided tour of the Audubon Swamp is $8

Why Should You Plan a Magnolia Plantation Wedding?

What better place to declare your undying love than in the oldest Romantic Garden in America? Magnolia Plantation and Gardens offers 4 beautiful wedding venues:
  1. Carriage House and lawn overlooks the Ashley River
  2. The Conservatory and School House Pond Lawn offers an intimate indoor venue for your wedding surrounded by a gorgeous collection of tropical plants
  3. The Plantation House Veranda and Long White Bridge Lawn is described by many as quintessentially Charleston with its elegant ambience
  4. The Pavilion is an excellent outdoor venue for any occasion

The Best of the Places to Stay Near Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC

There aren’t a ton of options very close to Magnolia Plantation. But none of the best places to stay in Charleston, SC, are too far of a drive anyway.
The Inn at Middleton Place is located on Middleton Plantation, and is the closest inn or hotel near Magnolia Plantation. Rates start at $186 a night, and include admission to nearby Middleton Plantation for couples, an $86 value. You could kill two birds with one stone by staying here: visit both Middleton Plantation and Magnolia Plantation.
There are also plenty of hotels near the Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, a 20-minute drive away, and just as many in historic downtown Charleston, a 25-minute drive away. CARTA (the Charleston public transportation system) also provides service to Magnolia Plantation and the other Charleston plantations on Highway-61 from downtown Charleston.

3 More Amazing Charleston, SC, Plantations to Explore

Magnolia Plantation, SC, isn’t the only choice for plantations near Charleston! Some more great options near downtown Charleston include:

Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens

One of America’s oldest still working plantations, one of the highlights of a visit is a tour of the working farmland. This plantation has been featured in more than a few famous movies, including most recently the Notebook. Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens is as idyllic as they come. That is, until you tour the African-American exhibit and are reminded of how that idyllic environment came to be for the few.

drayton hall is right next door to magnolia plantation and gardens in charleston, scDrayton Hall Plantation

Drayton Hall features one of the most iconic plantation buildings in the Charleston area. The Palladian architecture home is often what people think of when they see Charleston in their mind. Drayton Hall is also next door to Magnolia Plantation.

Middleton Plantation

Located on the other side of Magnolia Plantation from Drayton Plantation, Middleton Plantation Charleston is tied to the Edmunston-Alston house in downtown Charleston, SC. Both the historic downtown home and this Charleston, SC, plantation were owned by the Middleton family for generations until ownership was passed to the Middleton Place Foundation. The tour of the house is dull, but the gardens and view of the river are spectacular.
And there you have it, plenty of great reasons to visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Seriously, don’t miss the gardens there. And check out our list of the best things to do in Charleston, SC, for even more recommendations on other activities and attractions to see on your next visit!


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  1. Paula Joye

    My family has a picture taken of our children playing on the joggling board back around 1990 and you can see a dark figure watching them . We took it to Magnolia around 2001 to show them. The young guy in charge acted like he didn’t believe us and talked down to us. Now they want to push the “haunted” place.

    • chpearson

      They were probably much more willing to listen to the ghost stories after they realized ghosts could actually be a draw to the plantation.

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