Curtis’ 23rd Birthday Weekend | April 9, 2016 | Magnolia Plantation | Charleston, SC
Curtis’ birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and while we would have loved to get out of town to celebrate Curtis’ birthday in the mountains, that just didn’t work out for us this time. He had security duty that night, and a big test to study for the following Monday morning. We’ll take a trip to make up for this some time for sure, but in the meantime, we took advantage of the beautiful day and went out to cross off another item on our “local to Charleston” bucket list!
You simply can’t visit or live in the South without visiting one of the big beautiful plantations. There are several in Charleston alone – I’m not sure we’ll be able to make it to them all, so I’m really glad we chose Magnolia Gardens as our first plantation to tour. So many people have told me that this one was their favorite in Charleston, and the gardens alone showed us why! While I’m sure the gardens are beautiful year-round, I’m glad we chose to visit in the spring. Not only because many of the flowers were in bloom, but also because the wildlife was out and very active! More on that in a bit.
Magnolia Gardens is out on the outskirts of the greater Charleston area off of highway 61, right off the Ashley River and between Drayton Hall and Middleton Plantation. Honestly, the main reason why we aren’t set out to visit all of these plantations is because they can be rather expensive per person to tour. Magnolia was $15 per person just to enter the gardens, and from there you could add on any other tours such as the mansion, slave quarters, petting zoo, swamp tour, and train or boat rides. We decided to add the swamp tour along with the gardens and call it good – it was a beautiful day to be outside, and as I mentioned earlier, spring is prime time to spot wildlife at the swamp.
We started with visiting the gardens. There were lots of people visiting today, but it didn’t take long for us to wander way out of our way and get away from them. There was a brief period of time when we weren’t exactly sure if we were still even on the plantation, but we found our way around. 😉 We found ourselves wandering through a forest, passing by some lakes, and the historic rice fields. I think we had been following the trolley path for most of this diversion. We’re glad we took “the path less traveled” though because it led to a few more alligator sightings!
The first one we spotted was where we like them to be – out on the lake, sunning itself on a slanted platform designated just for this purpose. We had been walking along a narrow path between the lakes with tall weeds on either side, and I admit I kept imagining an alligator hiding in there, just waiting for us to walk by…Curtis assured me I was crazy. We stopped to stare at the alligator out on the lake – he was a big one! – and took some pictures. Suddenly, there was a loud splash in the water right in front of us! I gave Curtis a panicked look, to which he replied “It was a turtle.” Then an alligator head appeared in the water in front of us. I knew it! I hurried us along the rest of the path, we may have seen one or two more out here. I can’t remember…all I know is that by the end of the day, our alligator count was officially at 9 or 10 altogether.
We made our way back to the gardens, where we climbed a tower to view the rice fields from above, then wandered through the narrow garden paths. We had just missed the peak of the azalea season, but there were still plenty of flowers in bloom. If we would have chosen anything else to tour here, it would have been the mansion, but maybe we’ll save that for a different plantation. Instead, we headed over to the swamp!
top left: donkey & peacock next to petting zoo // top right: beginning of swamp trail //mid left: waterbirds // mid right: looking down on the rice fields // bottom left: ALLIGATOR // bottom right: more swamp!
We really enjoyed the swamp tour. We saw so many big water birds, some turtles, and of course alligators. Because it was spring, the water birds were nesting in the trees all over the place which made them easy to spot. Our favorite was the big white bird flying to its nest carrying a snake. The closest we came to an alligator here was one that was chilling on the side of the lake we were walking past – thankfully just a little one, and it jumped into the water when another trolley tour went by. The path around the swamp went between being a boardwalk and a path beside the lake…to be honest I wish there was more boardwalk to feel “safe” but we managed. 🙂 We ended our tour with a walk through the woods and cut past a cemetery to get back to the parking lot.
We ended the day with delicious sea food (and fish tacos!) for a birthday meal at Pearlz Oyster Bar in West Ashley, then picking out “the birthday rum” for my pirate husband. (He likes rum, wants to live on a boat, and is interested in finding lost treasure by metal detecting, gold panning…I’m pretty sure that makes him a pirate) 😉 Oh, and I continued the tradition of making a new cheesecake for his birthday – for #21 it was an oreo cheesecake, #22 was chocolate raspberry, and this year I made a sweet potato cheesecake which turned out great!
Oh, and don’t worry…we did end up taking a trip as soon as we could. More on that later!