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Summer Road Trip: Gardens

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Plan a road trip to South Carolina’s many beautiful gardens.

Every summer, South Carolina breaks out in blooms as gardens across the state show off their botanical wonders, from rare plants like the carnivorous Venus flytrap to the ever-popular romantic rose.

The best displays can be found in dedicated gardens, lovingly tended to create a spectacular sensory experience. The difficult task is picking just a few of these floral sanctuaries to visit on your trip to South Carolina.

Here is a week-long itinerary that will take you to some of the most impressive gardens across the state:




Brookgreen Gardens’ vast collection of sculptures stands out against a canopy of beautiful landscapes.

Start your flower tour at one of the state’s most spectacular horticultural treasures—Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. The 9,100-acre historic property was developed by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington in the early 1930s as a venue to display Anna’s award-winning public sculptures and those of other notable artists. The gardens include a stunning live oak allée planted in the early 1700s when the property was part of four thriving rice plantations.

Don’t worry that you only have an afternoon to view the gardens. Tickets to Brookgreen are good for seven consecutive days so you can return on Sunday and spend the entire day strolling through the property.

A great place to stay on your first two nights in South Carolina is Waterside Retreat, a cozy B&B in the quaint fishing village of Murrells Inlet.




Among Magnolia Plantation’s dedicated gardens is the Audubon Swamp Garden that serves as a rookery for birds like the great egret.

Head south to the Lowcountry to visit two of Charleston’s most beautiful plantations. Dedicate today to exploring Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, the oldest public garden and last large-scale romantic garden in the U.S. Among the many special gardens in the 300-acre Ashley River estate is the 60-acre Audubon Swamp Garden, named after the famed ornithologist who visited the property for inspiration to paint two of his iconic waterfowl paintings.




The famed butterfly lakes in Middleton Place overlook the Ashley River.

Just down the road is Middleton Place. In contrast to the soft, natural landscaping of Magnolia Plantation’s romantic gardens, this National Historic Landmark features formal garden rooms that reflect the grand classic style in vogue in Europe and England in the early part of the 18th century. The oldest landscaped garden in America, its best known for its terraced lawn where you’ll enjoy a commanding view of the famed butterfly lakes overlooking the Ashley River.

If you stay at the Inn at Middleton Place, convenient to both plantations, you’ll receive complimentary general admission to Middleton Place.




Enjoy a lovely stroll through Edisto Memorial Gardens, home to some 4,800 varieties of roses.

Next stop is Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg. Located on the banks of the Edisto River, the 175-acre property is renowned for its amazing 4,800 varieties of roses and five acres of azaleas planted in the 1920s. The gardens also include a half-mile boardwalk through a stunning tupelo-cypress wetland.

Columbia, the state capital, is an hour west on I-26 and offers an extensive array of lodging. A lovely option is the Chestnut Cottage Bed & Breakfast in the historical midtown district of Columbia. The historic home was built in 1850 and features five rooms, each with its own unique character and history.




Take a walk among the colorful flower beds at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden.

Staying downtown will put you just a few minutes from Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. You can park at the garden entrance in West Columbia or at the main zoo gate and take a pedestrian bridge over the Lower Saluda River to the garden. The 70,000-acre property includes more than 4,200 species of native and exotic plants displayed in a number of formal and themed gardens, including the Asian Garden, Bog Garden and Old Rose Garden. And, of course, don’t miss the opportunity to walk through the zoo, home to more than 2,000 animals in natural habitat exhibits.

You can opt to stay in Columbia one more night or make the two-hour drive to Clemson at the end of your visit.




The South Carolina Botanical Garden includes a fascinating collection of carnivorous plants, including the sundew.

To cap off your garden road trip, you’ll visit the South Carolina Botanical Garden on the Clemson University campus. As you walk the extensive network of paths and nature trails, you’ll find reproductions of South Carolina’s many diverse habitats, allowing you to see plants native to the barrier islands on the coast, the savannas and prairies of the Midlands and the mountain forests in the Upstate—all in one place. The garden is also home to the Fran Hanson Visitor’s Center, Bob Campbell Geology Museum, an internationally acclaimed nature-based sculpture collection and the historic Hanover House.

Spend your last night in the historic Liberty Hall, a charming bed and breakfast in the nearby historic community of Pendleton.


Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.