Charleston has my heart! We stayed on Kiawah Island, a coastal paradise of premier golf courses and sandy beaches approximately one hour south of the city. From the coast, it takes only takes about an hour to drive to the historic plantations in the area - including my favorite, Magnolia Plantation, which occupies more than four hundred acres off of the Ashley River.
Magnolia was originally a rice plantation, and the property is rich with the kind of low lying, stagnant waters beloved by that particular crop. African slaves created an extensive system of dams and dikes to best orient the water toward the crops, leaving behind a beautifully cultivated land yet terrifying and humbling legacy.
In the mid-1800s, the gardens on the property were reworked into a lavish, abundant and thoughtfully curated group. The gardens now encompass a tropical indoor garden, Biblical garden (featuring plants mentioned in the Holy Book), Camellia collection, Cattail wildlife refuge, Cypress Lake (featured above), formal mazes and labyrinths, and even a nature center and petting zoo. For anyone who loves gardening (like me!) this particular plantation will leave you feeling like you're in absolute Heaven. I can't wait to visit again during a different season to take in the variation among the blooming plants.