Charleston boom or bust? The Old Exchange and Dungeon tour

The Old Exchange Building was the state’s commercial, political and social epicenter during the Golden Age.

Kids are fascinated by the old colonial style dressed people

Trick or treat...the start of the Dungeon tour

Today it’s the most significant historic public building in Charleston, and a highly advertised family attraction.

Although the building has many exhibits to enjoy, don’t expect “fireworks” or dramatic re-enactments on the guided Dungeon tour ($8 adults, $4 children 7-12).

The museum is open daily 9AM to 5PM.

You can park in the metered lot left of the building or the garage on Mid-Atlantic Wharf ($1 per hour, $10 per day).

Things to know before you go
1. The tour is geared toward kids and lasts about 30 minutes.

Talking mannequins...some like it, some do not

Most of the time you listen to animated mannequins tell you stories about the burgeoning British rule, the capture of famous Caribbean pirates and the Patriots uprising.

My 5 years old really enjoyed it, she was intrigued about all the (fake) rats roaming around.

2. Mystery seekers should consider one of the city night tours, like the “Charleston Ghost and Dungeon Tour” offered by Bulldogs Tour ($18 adults, $10 children over 7. The website offers a $2 coupon). At night the Dungeon will make you shiver with its pitch dark pathways and eerie sounds…you may even catch an orb or two on your digital camera.

3. History buffs will appreciate the 2 stories filled with photos, original artifacts, exquisite furniture and stories from the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. I was humbled by the many pictures depicting the overwhelming destruction Charleston suffered during Civil War.

Most significant events that took place at the Old Exchange building (data from the official website):

Revolutionary War defense against British

Don't let the British get their hands on this!

• Stede Bonnet “the Gentleman Pirate” and crew are imprisoned prior to their hanging at the Battery Park.
• British tea is seized and stored in the Exchange cellars.
• South Carolina drafts its first constitution and declares independence from Great Britain.
• General William Moultrie hides 10,000 pounds of gunpowder in the cellar.
• Colonel Isaac Hayne is imprisoned in the Exchange, and later executed by the British.
• George Washington is entertained here several times during his Southern Tour.
• The Charleston Post Office moves into the Exchange.
• The Half-Moon Battery, part of the original Charleston fortification is excavated beneath the cellar of the Exchange.

4. There are many cool colonial artifacts throughout the Exchange: the “Stair to Nowhere”, the Half Moon wall, the 17th century bronze Spanish war vest, the 18th century flintlock British pistols, the Post Office replica, Gen. William Moultrie waistcoast and Gen. Marion Francis lucky charm buckeyes and much more…

Down in the Dungeon

Trying on the Spanish bronze vest and drums

5. Children will enjoy the stories and graphical representations of the most famous Pirates who used to rule the Charleston Harbor and the Sea Islands: Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Old Exchange tour exhibits

Hey look at these old guns!

Nearby family attractions:

The kids favorite Waterfront Park (free)
• The Old Slave Mart Museum ($7)
• SC Aquarium ($18 adults, $11 children over 2)
• The Powder Magazine ($2)
• The Market.

If you decide to vacation at Folly Beach make sure to check out the beautiful Morris Island Lighthouse and to visit the country’s only Tea Plantation, that produces the flavorful, aromatic and truly eco-friendly American Classic Tea.


A Hunley tour to remember! Travel tips, photos and what kids love to do in North Charleston

The Hunley submarine, “the find of the century” is South Carolina’s most prized historic military possessions. So on your next Charleston vacation make sure to visit the Hunley, the world’s first submarine to sink an enemy ship.

Tours are offered Saturday from 10AM – 5PM and Sunday 12 – 5 PM. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, and free for kids 5 and under.

H.L. Hunley museum photos North Charleston

A real tight squeeze even for a child...

Things to know before you go

• The guided tour lasts about 20 minutes, most spent on a platform overlooking the conservation tank. Here you’ll be “bombarded” with all kinds of facts, figures and trivia that will make your head spin.

• For obvious conservation reasons you will not be able to get too close to the sub nor take any pictures once inside the lab area.

The Hunley tour is about to begin

People line up for the real tour

• Take your time in the exhibit gallery. Here you and the kids can play inside life-size submarine replicas, learn about the Hunley history, crew and recovery efforts, see amazing artifacts and even get your own golden lucky charm coin.

I really enjoyed watching the National Geographic documentary “Raising the Hunley”. Who knew there is still so much drama surrounding the sub discovery?

• The most difficult part is finding the museum! From I-526 take exit 19, then N. Rhett east until you reach the Park Circle roundabout. Take Sprull to McMillan where your turn left. McMillan will take you to the old Charleston Naval Base. Follow the (small) white signs to the Friends of the Hunley museum. Here is the Google Map.

What kids love to do inside the museum

No wonder they call it the Infernal Machine! The 4 by 3.5 foot cabin could barely fit 8 men; all sat hunched on benches cranking hard on a center shaft while the captain steered. One flimsy candle provided a glimmer of light…

Happy kid playing inside Hunley full size replica

Is not as easy as it looks...this is hard mom!

Just for kids fun activities…pretend you’re the captain of the mighty submarine!

Children games at Warren Lausch conservation center

Peekaboo! Hunley just for kids

Check out Pioneer, the first submarine build by the Hunley, McClintock and Watson trio. The 3-men submersible was fabricated from quarter-inch iron plates bolted to an iron frame.

Touching Pioneer replica at Charleston Hunley museum

It looks a little scary...

A small, hand turned spiral propeller at the stern provided mobility, while dividing planes on either side allowed the vessel to sink and rise as the crew desired.

Although Pioneer received a privateering commission from the Confederate government it didn’t have a chance to prove itself.

When Admiral Farragut captured New Orleans, Pioneer was scuttled so it will not fall into enemy hands. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered and dragged to shore by Union soldiers. The little torpedo boat was examined, sketched, and in 1868, auctioned away as scrap metal…

The battle mystery begins! What ever happened to the submarine? Learn all about the clues, theories, legends and the incredible forensic analysis.

Mesmerized child at HL Hunley Conservation Center

Wow! Can you believe this?

More fun family attractions in the area

• The American LaFrance Fire Museum has the best fire show in town (free for kids, $6 adults).

• Isle of Palms beach and park feature the best playground and free outdoor family recreation in the Charleston area.

• Fort Moultrie, a cradle of heroism and southern ingenuity (free for kids, $3 adults).

The “Infernal Machine”! HL Hunley’s submarine amazing artifacts and good-luck charms

The find of the century…

The Charleston Harbor is home to the country’s most intriguing Civil War naval battle. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only HL Hunley, also called “The Diver”, “The Infernal Machine”, “The Fish Boat”, “The Peripatetic Coffin”. The Hunley was the world’s first combat submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship, and recently, I got a chance to see it.

The museum is open Saturday 9AM – 5PM and Sunday noon – 5PM. Admission is $12 (free for kids 5 years and under) and includes a 20 minutes guided talk on top of the 90,000 gallons tank holding the Hunley, access to interactive exhibits and two full size

Inside the submarine hull

Playing inside Hunley full size replica from the TNT movie

submarines replicas, and viewing of the Natl Geographic “Raising the Hunley” documentary.

Among the 3,000 artifacts recovered from the mysterious HL Hunley submarine, the most incredible findings are those not yet displayed to the public:

Like Lt. George Dixon’s watch, that when opened had the hands still in position!…or crewmen brain tissue inside the skulls, soft tissue in the shoes, and most amazing discovery of all… fingerprints!

However, here are the cool ones you can see at the HL Hunley Lauch Conservation Center (historic data taken from the exhibits):

The power of love
For more than a century a romantic legend has captured the hearts and minds of countless Civil War history buffs: the story of the lucky $20 gold coin that saved the life of Lt. George Dixon, the captain who lead HL Hunley in its final mission.

It was believed, his sweetheart, Queenie Bennet gave Dixon a 1860-minted gold coin as a good luck charm. And the coin delivered!

$20 gold coin replica HL Hunley Museum

The lucky coin that dodged a bullet during Civil War Shiloh battle

During the 1862 Battle of Shiloh, he was shot point blank. A bullet ripped into the pocket of his trousers and struck the center of the coin. The impact was said to have left the gold piece bent, with the bullet embedded in it.

Was the legend true or merely a romantic tale?

The world got the answer 137 years later. In 2000, during the excavation of the H.L. Hunley, the gold coin was discovered next to the remains of Lt. George Dixon. It was deeply indented and carried traces of lead!

The front of the coin features the Lady Liberty image, while the back has the Shield and Eagle symbol and a hand inscription:

April 6, 1862
My life Preserver
G. E. D.

The above photo is from the coin replica displayed inside the HL Hunley Museum. It was cast from the original. Now, for $10, you can purchase a similar gold coin replica from the Friends of the Hunley online store.

Dixon’s gold and diamond ring and brooch…another charm, another love story?
While excavating the fragile waterlogged textiles of Lt. Dixon the Hunley research team uncovered two enigmatic pieces of gold jewelry:

9 diamonds 24 carat gold ring and 37 small diamonds brooch

Exquisite diamond gold jewelry on a Civil War secret mission?

• A 18-24 carat gold ring with 9 large diamonds It has no inscriptions or jewelry marks and resembles a ring for a rich and more mature woman.

• A gold brooch with 37 small diamonds. Originally pinned to a small piece of fabric, it appears to have been wrapped in cloth along with the ring, most likely for safekeeping.

The brooch featured a popular 1820s design symbolizing wealth and high status for its owner.

It is believed the two pieces were made from different jewelers. Together they represented quite a fortune during Civil War.

Why did Dixon carry such expensive jewelry with him in a perilous battle? Whom did they belong to? Were they also a lucky charm gift?

It was known that Lt. Dixon was a “ladies man”….

A Union soldier fighting with the Confederates on board Hunley?!
On April 27, 2001, the excavation team was surprised to discover a Union ID tag inside one of the most secret Confederate naval weapon!

Prized enemy capture discovered inside HL Hunley

Another Civil War mystery solved ~130 years later: Ezra Chamberlain's medallion found with a Confederate soldier inside the HL Hunley submarine

The ID tag was found on the skull of one of the Hunley crewmen, bearing the name and class of Ezra Chamberlain, Private, 7th Connecticut Infantry, Union Forces.

Was Ezra onboard that fateful night? Did he switch sides?

Was he a prisoner and thus forced to operate the Hunley?

Was Ezra’s ID tag picked up from the battlefield by a Hunley crewman as a souvenir of war?

Mystery Solved! Early 2002, forensic experts found that the Hunley crewman wearing the tag was in his 30s, while Ezra would have been only 24 at the time of the mission. Further research suggests that Pvt. Chamberlain was killed in action 7 months earlier, during the Fort Wagner battle on Morris Island.

The brass medallion was indeed a battlefield souvenir picked up by Joseph Ridgaway.

A candle in the wind…
This simple white candle was used to light the interior of the submarine.

Mind boggling discoveries from H.L. Hunley submarine Civil War battle

Only one candle lit the cramped 4 foot interior it is more than a century later

When the flame of the candle diminished, the crew knew the oxygen level in the hull was getting low.

Before the Hunley’s last mission, Lt. Dixon put the crew to rigorous training to test their physical and emotional endurance.

On one occasion the men hat to wait at their stations for 2 and half hours, in complete darkness, while the submarine was resting on the ocean floor.

This exercise proved extremely helpful during the mission since most of the navigation was done after the candle light blew off.

To walk in their shoes…
When found this leather shoe still had bones and tissue inside, more than 130 years after the submarine sinking!

Priceless Civil War blockade naval warfare memorabilia

A shoe from the past...another inspirational human touch from HL Hunley submarine

Where is smoke, is (explosion) fire…
Three wooden tobacco pipe bowls were found inside the Hunley, with one still holding a tobacco wad! Among the personal possessions scientists also found the remains of a delicate matchstick.

Civil War Charleston Harbor Blockade memorabilia

One of three tobacco pipes found inside the Fish Boat

Dress for success…
On May 3rd, 1995, NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency) archaeologist

Original uniforms of the NUMA crew who discovered the submarine

The suit of the man who first touched the Hunley

Harry Pecorelli, wore this wetsuit during his first dive to investigate an object on the ocean floor.

Upon touching the sub, he radioed back to the boat, “I don’t know what it is, but it is definitely not the Hunley.”

The structure proved to be the Hunley, and Harri Pecorelli became the first person to touch the elusive submarine in more than 130 years!

Then Harry was affectionately nicknamed “the first person to have never found the Hunley.”

Check out this cool animation of the “2000 Raising of Hunley” provided on the museum official website.

A face to remember
The human remains underwent comprehensive analysis by some of the world’s most noted forensic anthropologists.

The real faces of the HL Hunley volunteers

The heroic crew of HL Hunley who sunk the Housatonic

The results were remarkable showing the crew spatial distribution and the facial reconstruction of each member.

A biographical and physical portrait was assembled for each man who perished in the 1864 attack.

In 2004 the crew was buried with full military honors at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. They were laid to rest next to the two previous crews who also died while serving on HL Hunley.

2011 update! Hunley is sitting in an upright position almost 150 years after its sinking.
“Instead of looking like an artifact, it now looks like a stealth weapon,” said Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission. The newly exposed side of the hull may finally reveal the answers needed in solving the century old mystery…”we are seeing some tantalizing clues on that side,” said Hunley lead archaeologist Maria Jacobsen.

Relive the Civil War’s true “Mission Impossible” with the HL Hunley in Charleston!

Historic Fort Moultrie, Charleston almost free things to do with kids

On my return visit to Fort Moultrie I spent more time soaking in the remarkable stories behind the lime colored stucco walls. From the heroic Revolutionary War battle to the African trade slave tragedy and the World War II sonar defenses.

Admission to the park is free for children under 16 ($3 for adults). Here are the highlights (data provided by the Visitors Center exhibits):

The 1776 Battle Exhibit

The palmetto log fort was garrisoned by 413 provincial officers and troops under the command of Colonel William Moultrie. Most had no experience with the fort’s

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

armament of twenty six old French and British large bore guns.

The British moved slowly allowing the Americans to prepare the fort and build defenses around Charleston.

Redcoats troops were to attack the fort while the naval vessel were to bombard them.

2,500 soldiers lead by General Henry Clinton landed on present day Isle of Palms believing he could ford the inlet between the two islands. This intelligence proved disastrously untrue since most channels were too deep to cross.

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

On June 28, around 11:30AM, the seven British warships squadron launched a terrific bombardment, described by one of the Clinton’s soldiers as “an eternal sheet of flame”.

Expecting to quickly drive the patriots from their guns, the British were amazed to see the spongy palmetto ramparts absorb the hits without splintering.

Around noon the three frigates, Actaeon, Syren, and Sphinx, left the line and moved behind the fort in an attempt to bombard the fort from the rear. However, all ran aground in a submerged sandbar.

The Sphynx and the Syren got off but the Actaeon remained stuck. The captain destroyed the vessel rather to have it fall into the patriots hands.

Running low on powder Moultrie ordered his men to only shot at ten minutes intervals through brief clouds smoke openings. Once re-supplied the patriots return the heaviest fire onto the flagship Bristol and Experiment warships. Both suffered severe casualties.

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

Admiral Parker was wounded and deeply embarrassed when his breeches fell down baring his behind…hence the famous “we beat the pants off them” saying.

Realizing he could not ford the inlet from Long island, Clinton tried to ferry his men across in flat-bottom boats.
This proved to be a huge mistake, as the narrow channels forced the Redcoats to proceed in single file directly into the fire into the patriots guns on Sullivan’s Island.

Soon after the battle the fort on Sullivan’s Island was named after Colonel William Moultrie and the palmetto tree was adopted as the state’s symbol.

Ironically, 4 years later, the British captured the now complete Fort Moultrie without firing a single shot!

The West Africa Slavery Exhibit

Rice and slavery formed the basis of the South Carolina’s wealth. Enslaved workers cleared cypress swamps and built dikes and canals by hand using their homeland rice growing skills.

18th century African Slave Drawing

18th century African Slave Drawing

By 1708 Africans made the majority of the colony’s population and for over 100 years Charleston became the main point of entry for ~240,000 West African slaves.

To prevent the spread of diseases many of the Middle Passage survivors were quarantined aboard ships or in pestilence houses on Sullivan’s Island and James Island.

Le Amistad – In July 1839, 53 enslaved Africans revolted on board Le Amistad leading to a US Supreme Court ruling that set the Africans free. The captives were smuggled to the Americas from Africa after the international slave trade was outlawed. The Africans revolted off the coast of Cuba and their case was heard in a New England court.

Echo – Abolished in 1808 the Atlantic slave trade continued illegally. In 1858 the slave ship Echo so her captain and crew could stand trial for trading in captive Africans. The ship was headed to Cuba when it was captured in the Caribbean. The federal government resettled the remaining 271 Africans in Monrovia, Liberia. The captain and crew were acquitted.

Queen Nzinga of Angola ruled the land that became present day Angola.

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

She fought the Portuguese for many years, gaining fame as an exceptional state woman and warrior. She died at 80 in 1663. Modern day resistance, styled after Queen Nzinga’s military tactics, lead to Angola’s independence in 1975.

Olaudah Equiano“The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. This filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror.”

Olaudah Equiano was captured as a child in Nigeria and brought to America. He bought his freedom, became a seamen and joined the abolition movement in London. His self-published memoir made him wealthy and helped advance the anti-slavery cause.

The World War II Exhibit

HECP Room – Here sat the officer in charge of HECP – HDCP. His primary duty was to take immediate action against any suspected enemy treat or activity within the defense sector. Charleston harbor was also monitored from this room.

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

The Radio Room – The radio information network of the Charleston Harbor Defense provided direct communication line between HECP – HDCP and all elements of the harbor defense system.

It was constantly manned by 2 men, one Army and one Navy, who would respond to all sightings of enemy vessels and distress signals coming from ships.

Duty officer and Operations Room served as the operations center of the Charleston Harbor defense.

Relive 3 centuries of legendary moments at the historic Fort Moultrie National Park!

The Province of Carolina in the 1670s, an inspiring historic tour at Charles Towne Landing

The Charles Towne Landing Visitors Center has an incredible exhibit showcasing the Carolina beginnings. Step in the shoes of white English settlers, Native Americans, or African slaves and experience first hand how life was like in the late 17th century.

Samuel Benwood a successful tailor, became a free man after 2 years

Samuel Benwood a successful tailor, became a free man after 2 years

• How much money can you make if you were a woman?
• What skills were most sought after?
• What kind of crops and trade were the most lucrative?
• How much land can you own as an indentured servant?
• What were the interactions between the settlers and the Native Americans?
• What kind of wildlife roamed the Carolina Coast back then?

There are incredible drawings, artifacts and recollections that paint a vivid image of our primordial past. Here is just a sample:

The cash crop of the Barbados that started it all…

Molasses Cone and Jar in the 1650s

Molasses Cone and Jar in the 1650s

On March 15, 1670 The Carolina finally made it to shore.
“Everywhere they looked, they saw chattering flocks of birds, small game such as rabbits and squirrels, and rivers filled with fish and turtles…they saw miles of unspoiled, seemingly uninhabited land and unlimited potential for their future lives.”

The Carolina

The Carolina

The Cassique of the Kiawah welcomed the white settlers and trading of furs and Indian slaves soon flourished. One settler recollects “…when we came a shoare they stroked us on ye shoulders with their hands saying Bony Conraro Angles, knowing us to English be our collours (as wee supposed) we then gave them Brass rings & tobacco at which they seem well pleased…”

Native American Kiawah chief

The Welcome

Here’s a look at how the Albermarle Point colony developed during its first 10 years.

The first 10 years at Albermarle Point

The first 10 years at Albermarle Point colony

The white English settlers tried to replicate the Barbados style colonial plantations, were indentured servants, and especially African slaves, did the all the work: building houses, working the fields and harvesting the crops. They tried to grow tobacco, indigo, rice, sugar, olives, grapes, flax and cotton.

Life as an indentured servant

Life as an indentured servant

Slaves were brought in from Barbados to work on the new colony. Soon their contribution became indispensable, yet they lived under miserable and inhumane conditions, never allowed to own land or benefit from their hard work.

Pain and suffering...slave ships living Barbados for America

Pain and suffering...slave ships living Barbados for America

Wildlife was abundant along the Carolina coast. However the very lucrative fur trade lead to ravage hunting and the agricultural expansion to massive deforestation, negatively impacting the fragile ecosystem. Many species declined and some went extinct.

Natives hunting gigantic alligators

Natives hunting gigantic alligators

“…The Healthfulness of the Air; the Fertility of the Earth and Waters, and the great Pleasure and Profit will accrue to those that shall go thither to enjoy the fame”

Advertisement of the Carolina by the Lord Proprietors

Advertisement of the Carolina by the Lord Proprietors

History is great, but what about the children?

Relax, there is plenty of activities to enjoy throughout the park. Here are just a few fun things kids can do inside Charles Towne Landing.

History buffs rejoice! Visit Dorchester State Historic Park (only half an hour away, $2 admission) one of the most prolific archaeological sites on early colonial life. Most Saturdays you can observe archaeologists sifting through the remains of a town that included houses, markets, a school, a church, a boat yard and more.

Charles Towne Landing

Be a proud Carolinian at the historic Charles Towne Landing!

Magnolia Plantation just for kids activities (an exciting weekend adventure in Charleston)

The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is Charleston’s best known attraction, a top 25 most visited home in America and one of the oldest public gardens in the country. Coveted glamour aside, we recently discovered there is in fact lots of fun things to do with children at the plantation.

Basic admission to the Gardens, petting zoo and grounds

Cheese! Magnolia Plantation beautiful gardens in Spring

Cheese! Magnolia Plantation beautiful gardens in Spring

is $15 for adults, $10 for kids 6-12 and free for kids under 6. Here is a list with all prices grouped by age, attractions and type. Hold on to your receipt, it allows you one FREE admission within a week.

The Spring Garden is in full bloom at Magnolia Plantation!

Come enjoy a symphony of vibrant colors from beautiful Native Azaleas, Tulip Magnolias, Wisterias and the Cherokee Roses.

Little kids love spending time at the petting zoo. Say hello to donkeys, mini horses, sheep, geese and ducks. A red little antique carriage proudly decorates the green pastures.

Cute little donkey!

Cute little donkey!

Kids of all ages enjoy the fossil dig, the playground and the topiary garden. We found an ammonite, maybe you’ll get a dinosaur tooth!

Fossil Dig Fun

Fossil Dig Fun

Right across from the playground is the intriguing maze. I let my girls try it on their own and they successfully completed the quest within minutes. Then we all had fun doing it backwards!

Find your way through the Garden Maze

Find your way through the Garden Maze

From here follow the trail to the scenic 1840s Long Bridge over the Cypress Lake, then through the 1680s Flowerdale and the Japanese Garden. Watch out for snakes, we had a close “wild moment of the day” encounter!

The path strolls along the lake all the way to the Wildlife Observation Tower. Here you get breathtaking views of the marshes surrounding the Magnolia Plantation.

The Bird's Eye Watch Tower

The Bird's Eye Watch Tower

Now that you took the bait get onboard the Nature Boat Tour, a 45 minute ride that explores the plantation’s 125 acres of rice fields. This tour offers excellent wildlife viewing, including upclose looks at alligators! The tour is $7 (free for kids under 6).

Boat cruises through pristine marshes

Boat cruises through pristine marshes

Of course no visit is complete without a tour of The Audubon Swamp and Garden, one the most diverse and unique wildlife ecosystems in the country. Admission is $7 (free for kids under 6) and best time to spot animals is late afternoon.

If you are passionate about Charleston’s history then you must go to the Charles Towne Landing park, the birthplace of our state, an oasis of outdoor relaxation filled with fun activities for kids.

Wild family fun at the mysterious Audubon Swamp Garden (what to do with kids in Charleston)

The Audubon Swamp in Charleston is America’s most unique garden and wildlife preserve, a remarkable, must see family experience.

Alligator soaking the sun next to his best pal

Alligator soaking the sun next to his best pal

The swamp garden became famous when John J. Audubon visited 150 years ago in search of waterfowl specimens for his paintings.

Fast forward to our time, it shined again as the filming site of the movie “The Swamp Thing”.

Audubon is an unequaled biodiversity with thousands of plant and animal species coexisting in the 60 acres of blackwater cypress and tupelo swamp.

The pristine waters are home to nesting blue herons and great egrets, impassable alligators, playful otters, slender deer, mysterious turtles and slithering snakes.

Great Egrets Couple

Several boardwalks, dikes and bridges traverse the wilderness allowing you to observe animals in their natural habitat. You may encounter small animals such as rabbits, foxes, squirrels and opossums.

Boardwalk over the eerie swamp

Boardwalk over the eerie swamp

Bird lovers will be delighted to observe blue herons, great egrets, blue-winged teal, common moorhen, pied-billed grebe, wood ducks, white ibis, red-shouldered hawk, yellow warbler, and occasionally, a majestic bold eagle.

Older kids will enjoy reading the centuries old headstones in the graveyard…

Old graveyard inside Audubon Swamp Garden

Old graveyard inside Audubon Swamp Garden

And visiting the pre Civil War slave cabins.

Inside slave cabin at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston

Inside slave cabin at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston

Touring the swamp takes about an hour, more for the nature enthusiast. Best time to observe wildlife is late afternoon.

The Audubon Swamp Garden is open year around from 8AM to 5:30PM (8:30 – 5 in winter) and can be accessed via Magnolia Plantation. Standalone admission is $7 for individuals (free for kids under 6) and $4 for groups that are also visiting the Magnolia Plantation (here are more price details to all the attractions).

The Swamp Troubadours at Magnolia Plantation

The Swamp Troubadours at Magnolia Plantation

Reward your inner beauty at the Audubon Swamp Garden and the historic Magnolia Plantation, one of top 25 most visited homes in America!

And if that’s not enough drive to the modern Edisto Island Serpentarium to rub elbows giant alligators, exotic turtles and fearsome snakes of all shapes and sizes.