Johns Island Angel Oak
I remember the first time we told our kids we were taking a short detour on our way to Kiawah Island to look at a tree.
"A tree? " they said in unison from the back seat, clearly not happy about a stop that would slow down our trip to the beach.
Once we pulled down the dirt road in Johns Island, even they realized this was not just any tree. It's the Angel Oak.
Even a word like majestic does not truly capture the live oak, officially estimated to be between 300 and 400 years old (although some have claimed it is much, much older). It's 65 feet tall and has a circumference of 25.5 feet.
But the thing that stands out is the tree's canopy -- along with the massive limbs that rest on the ground around the tree. It's the perfect spot for a family photo -- and it's a perfect place for kids to marvel at nature.
The tree sits on land owned by the City of Charleston. The small park includes a tiny gift shop nearby, where you can find artwork, T-shirts, food items and other mementos of your trip to the Angel Oak.
"It's really a gift shop for Johns Island," said Mary Richardson, who manages Angel Oak Park for the City of Charleston.
(While many think it was named an angel because of its beauty, its name actually comes from the family who once owned the land -- the Angels.)
It's free to visit the park (which includes picnic tables and a small parking lot), and visitors come by the thousands each year.
"Most people have already visited and they come back, or they learn about it from their friends and they stop," Richardson said. "We don't do any advertising. It's just word of mouth."
You can visit the tree from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday. The gate to the parking area closes at 5 p.m. The gift shop closes at 4:30 each day.
The address is 3688 Angel Oak Road, Johns Island. It's about 12 miles from downtown Charleston, off Main Road near the intersection with Maybank Highway.
Pull off the highway. Look around. Take some photos. Be amazed. You'll be glad you did.