How sweet it is! Charleston tea plantation, your weekend paradise escape

I’ve always wanted to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation, America’s only tea garden and this Spring I finally made it! Nestled in the picturesque Wadmalaw Island, the plantation is a short drive from both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach.

Come to the First Flush Festival at Charleston Tea Plantation

We made it to Americas only tea garden!

Things to know before you go
You can tour the indoor tea factory for free or take the $10 (free for kids under 6) trolley tour around the farm.

The plantation is open daily 10AM to 4PM (noon on Sundays), except on major holidays.

Although the Charleston Tea Plantation started in 1987, its roots go way back.

In the 1700’s the Camellia Sinensis tea plant first arrived in the United States from China in an attempt to produce the exquisitely aromatic tea.

It only took about 150 years…In 1888, Dr. Charles Shepard managed to produce the first American grown tea on his Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, SC.

In 1963, Shepard’s tea plants were transplanted from Pinehurst to a 127 acres potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island.

State of the art machinery on display at Charleston Tea Plantation

Here comes The Green Giant!

This farm eventually became known as the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Every Camellia Sinensis plant growing on the grounds today is direct descendant of Dr. Shepard’s 1888 crop, making the Charleston Tea Plantation a living part of American history!

The trolley tour lasts about 20 minutes. You listen to a recorded audio that goes over the most interesting aspects of growing tea.

The trolley makes frequent stops so you can take pictures, and have plenty of time to marvel at the charming garden, serene irrigation ponds, and blooming rows after rows of tea plants.

Charleston Tea Plantation facts, trivia and tips

Picture perfect spot from the tea trolley

I feel jolly on the trolley!

• This is probably one of the most eco-friendly plant farms in the world. They use no herbicides, pesticides or insecticides and consequently there is minimum soil erosion.

• The plantation is not only organic but very high tech. They have designed their own fully sustainable irrigation system and the Green Giant tea harvesting machine…truly unique in the world!

• Did you know that green, black and Oolong tea all come from the same plant? The difference is in processing: green tea leaves, once harvested go straight to drying, and within minutes, are sorted, then put into bags or let loose.

• Tea plants, once mature are very sturdy and resilient and can live for hundreds of years!

• A cup American Classic Tea contains half the amount of caffeine than the average cup of coffee. To reduce the caffeine in hot tea try the following: Pour boiling water over your tea and let it sit for 60 seconds. Pour OUT that first cup (heat releases caffeine), then again pour boiling water over the tea and enjoy!

• To get the best flavor and lower caffeine iced tea, pour cold water over your tea bags (DO NOT use boiling water!) and let it sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, remove your tea bags, add a sweetener if desired and serve over ice.

See how tea is made

The self guided free factory tour

The self guided factory tour is free and takes about 15 minutes. You watch video on a TV screen about each major step in the tea producing process: harvesting, withering, maceration, filtration, oxidation, drying and packaging.

Note the tour may be boring for young children (mine ran up and down the corridor)…

It gets more exciting during the harvesting season, May through October, when visitors can see all the big machines in action!

Once done with the tour, enjoy all you can drink fresh-made tea or shop for one of kind gourmet items at the Shoppe. Make sure to get the American Classic Tea sampler box, featuring six delicious varieties of loose leaf tea in the staple pyramid bags.

Indulge in most delicious green and black Southern tea

Yummy, yummy in the tummy!

Health benefits of green and black tea
• Great source of antioxidants
• Promote cardiovascular health, higher bone density
• Help reduce body fat
• Have no carbohydrates or calories

Irrigation pond

High tech, eco friendly and so, so beautiful...

Best time to visit the plantation is during annual First Flush Festival, which this year is on May 16, from 10AM to 6PM. The first flush is when the most fresh, flavorful and aromatic tea is produced. There will be great music bands, art, local cuisine, and fun kids games.

Festival tickets are $15 until May 1, $20 until May 16, and $25 at the door on the event day. Kids 6 and under get in FREE.

Family fun attractions in the area
• The 1,500 years old, gigantic Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island
• The romantic Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the most revered historic landmarks on the Charleston Harbor
Folly Beach, featuring one of the best surfing and fishing spots on the Atlantic Coast.


From Charleston to Savannah with love…Favorite places to visit with my kid in the Lowcountry

Here are the most surprising places I have found during my travel adventures in South Carolina (all approved by my preschool daughter). Today I’ll go over the Lowcountry: Charleston, Edisto, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah.

The American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

This place is FUN with capital letters! Best of all its free for kids and only $6 for adults.

Kids get fired up in Charleston!

Drive a real fire truck at the North Charleston Fire Museum

Children can climb-on a real fire truck, go through a full-fledged emergency response, including a simulated street driving, honk horns, talk on the radio and push all sorts of buttons.

You get to see an amazing display of legendary fire engines from the 1700s to modern days.

I loved learning about the fire fighting history and its technological marvels, the fire trivia (i.e. Benjamin Franklin started the first successful fire insurance company in US) and the most devastating fires in the world (from AD 64 in Rome to 1906 in San Francisco).

The museum is open 10AM – 5PM (1PM on Sundays) and is located near the Tanger Outlets.

Charles Towne Landing Historic Park and Animal Fores Zoo

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of America, is a wonderful place filled with educational, recreational and fun things to do for everyone.

Walk the plank at Charles Towne Landing

17th century justice is served

The park is open daily 9AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6-15 and free for 3 and under.

Start at the Visitors Center to see how life was like in the 1670s for the Lord Proprietors, settlers, native tribes, indentured servants, and slaves.

Visit the Animal Forest zoo home to pumas, bison, alligators, black bears, otters, bobcats, wolves and a variety of birds.

Be a captain aboard Adventure, a life-size 17th century trading ship replica.

Walk, stroll, jog or bike along the marsh or through the 80 acres of magnificent gardens, featuring thousands of azaleas, camellias and centuries old oak trees.

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Gigantic alligators, deadly snakes, funny looking lizards and snappy turtles “with a face only a mother could love”…

Incredible reptiles on Edisto Island near Charleston

Edisto's best buddies

The park features beautiful indoor and outdoor exhibits filled with native species as well as weird reptiles from around the world.

Make sure to attend the live snake education programs (at 11, 1, 3 and 5PM) and the alligator feedings (12 and 4PM).

Some may not have the stomach for it, yet we were thrilled!

Kids really enjoy digging through pre-historic bones from once native saber tooth cats, whales, mammoths and giant bears.

Edisto Island Serpentarium is open May through Labor Day Thursday to Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM (Monday to Saturday in the summer).

Admission is $12.95 adults, $9.95 children (6-12), $5.95 children 4 and 5, free for those 3 and under.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Beautiful 18th century church near CharlestonA deeply moving and inspirational historic site remnant of the 1745 Prince William Parish.

Twice burned, once during Revolutionary War and again during the Civil War March to the Sea and yet still standing…

Amid tragedy there hope and rebirth. The ruins have become a very popular site for outdoor wedding ceremonies and a photographers composition dream.

Mark your calendar! Once a year, on the second Sunday after Easter, the prestigious St. Helena Church holds a public service at the ruins.

The church ruins are located on Old Sheldon Road right off highway 21 between Beaufort and Yemassee.

Hunting Island Lighthouse and State Park – Breath-taking views, romantic beach and lush maritime forest. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in South Carolina, and for good reasons.
Best state park in South Carolina The park jewel is South Carolina’s only publicly accessible historic lighthouse. Dating from the 1870s, the Hunting Island Lighthouse shoots 170 feet into the air, rewarding visitors magnificent views of the Lowcountry marshland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoy 5 miles of soft sand beach, a wonderful lagoon home to seahorses and barracuda, thousands of acres of marsh and tidal creek, a fishing pier and some of the state’s most desirable campsites.

Admire up-close loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the rare coral snakes.

The loggerhead turtles nest on the island in the summer months.

Park daily admission is $4 adults, $1.5 children age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Lighthouse ticket is an additional $2.

Parris Island Museum near Beaufort

An extraordinary place honoring the US Marines history, life as a recruit, and military accomplishments.

WWII Japanese cannon prize of war

Here I am!

Admire hundreds of unusual weapons and enemy captures from legendary battles, laugh at the “good life as a recruit” posters and learn about the inspiring US Marines history.

Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM. If time permits take the island driving tour.

Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

This place has it all! A rich display of the Lowcountry heritage, an incredible saltmarsh ecosystem, world-class history walks and nature tours

Delicate beauty at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

and a brilliant Butterfly Pavilion.

Admission to the museum, outside grounds and the butterfly enclosure is free (guided tours range from $5 to $20 per person).

Coastal Discovery Museum is open year around Monday to Saturday from 9AM to 4:30 PM, Sunday 11AM to 3PM.

Here is an overview of the fun things you can do with kids outdoor.

Fort Pulaski National Park near Savannah

A memorable Civil War battle marked the end of masonry fortifications after the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski fell after 30 hours of cannon firings.

Magnificent Civil War reenactments

Fort Pulaski, an incredible Civil War battle and military marvel

Admission is free for kids under 16 and $3 for adults and is good for 6 days. The Fort Pulaski National Monument has a plethora of educational family activities.

Learn about the tragic story of the Immortal 600 Confederate officers, and mind-boggling military strategies and weapons deployed at the time.

Make sure to attend the live musket and cannon fire demonstrations that are held each weekend.

Walk the scenic 0.75 mile Overloook Trail to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1837. The lighthouse escaped untouched during the 30 hours attack on the Fort despite the fact it was positioned straight in the line of fire!

Life is beautiful in the historic Lowcountry!

Vibrant, resilient and mysterious, St. Helena Church towers historic Beaufort almost 300 years later…

Recently I visited one of the most iconic churches in Beaufort and the Lowcountry, the St. Helena Episcopal Church. Thanks to our lovely guide the free tour was a pure delight (that’s quite a feat with my young and restless 5 years old!).

The superb St. Helena Church...South Carolina second oldest and most active churches

The superb St. Helena Church...South Carolina second oldest and most active churches

St. Helena church was established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England, under the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

Getting ready to celebrate 300 years of existence, the venerable St. Helena is the state second oldest church, and remarkably, one the fastest growing in the diocese.

St. Helena History and Interesting Facts (content courtesy of St. Helena Church website)

• Built in 1724 (construction delayed by the 1715 Yemassee War), St. Helena was made out of ships ballast bricks and then smoothed over with stucco, bolstering excellent proportions and fine interior decorations

• In 1734, Captain John Bull gave a silver Communion service in memory of his wife, who disappeared during the Yemassee Indian War.

The chalice, paten and tankard, engraved “The gift of Captain John Bull to the Parish of St. Helena” are still used today on special occasions.

The Baptismal Font, only original item left after Civil War

The Baptismal Font, only original item left after Civil War

• Thomas Heyward, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence, was St. Helena’s most noted parishioner during the Revolutionary period.

A wound inflicted at the battle of Port Royal in February 1779 left a scar, which marked him for the remainder of his life.

• During Civil War, Union forces occupied Beaufort in November 1861, the entire congregation fled and the church was converted to a hospital.

The church was stripped of its furnishings, balconies were decked over to make a second floor and slab gravestones from the graveyard were used as operating tables.

Bishop Thomas noted soon after the war was over “the church was a wreck of its former self and could not be used”. All that remained of the antebellum furnishings was the 1784 baptismal font.

The St. Helena Church graveyard and the legends…

The old cemetery, enclosed by a brick wall constructed around 1804, is entrenched in the local history.

• One of the earliest burials was Colonel John Barnwell (1671-1724), better known as “Tuscarora Jack,” a famous Indian fighter and a founder of Beaufort Town in 1711.

• Two British officers, killed in the battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill during the American Revolution in February 1779, are buried in the churchyard.

British Officers died during Revolutionary battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill

British Officers died during Revolutionary battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill

Recovered from a hasty grave on the battlefield, they were interred by an officer of the American forces, who read the funeral service from St. Helena’s altar prayer book:

“Soldiers and fellow citizens: We have now shown our enemies that we have not only the courage to face and best them in the field, but that we have the humanity to give their dead a decent and a Christian burial.”

• Two Confederate generals rest in peace in the old cemetery, Lieutenant General Richard Heron “Fightin’ Dick” Anderson and Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr.

• Beware of John, legend has it he asked to be buried with a jug of milk (or was it wine?), a loaf of bread and an axe so when the time comes he can come out his tomb!…

A wicked story...

A wicked story...

How St. Helena Church changed over the years…

• The church has been enlarged 3 times, in 1769, 1817, and 1842. The northeast corner of the building and the original bricks in the outer walls have been retained over the years

The exquisite interior galleries

The exquisite interior galleries

• The 1817 west side extension was retained in 1842 while the rest was demolished. The present sidewalls were constructed at that time, and the foundations of the 1769 church were used to support the interior galleries.

• In 1874, a new roof was put on the church. Two years later a new organ replaced the one lost in the Civil War and the original cedar box pews were replaced with heart of pine benches.

Beautiful altar designed by USS New Hampshire sailors after Civil War

Beautiful altar designed by USS New Hampshire sailors after Civil War

• The current altar was given by the officers, and carved by the sailors, of the U.S.S. New Hampshire stationed in Port Royal Sound during the reconstruction.

A hurricane in 1896 destroyed the east end of the church. When the debris was cleared away, the altar remained intact. The building was subsequently rebuilt in its present form.

• The present steeple was built in 1941, (the old one was removed for safety during Civil War). Designed by Simons and Lapham of Charleston, it stands 118 feet high, the only existing specification of the earlier steeple.

• The church was repaired and redecorated in 1959 following Hurricane Gracie, which ripped off half of the roof. Disaster struck again on Easter Sunday 1970, when a hailstorm broke 150 windowpanes on the south side of the church.

St. Helena Church organ

St. Helena Church organ

• Taylor and Boody organ builders of Staunton, Virginia, installed a tracker pipe organ in 1985. Patterned after 17th-century organs of northern Europe, this two manual organ has 19 stops and over 1,150 pipes housed in a beautifully crafted oak case.

• By 1998, the 286-year-old church was badly in need of restoration and repair. 19 months of hard work and $2.6 million later, the church reopened on Palm Sunday 2000.

With its Gregorian makeover edition St. Helena is now ready to celebrate its tricentennial in 2012. No need to wait that long, you are always welcome to visit this magnificent church year around from 9AM to 4:30PM.

Worship Services are on Sunday at 8AM, 10:15AM and 6 PM, Wednesday at 5PM and Thursday at 11AM.

St. Helena Church is located downtown Beaufort at 505 Church Street Check out the official website for sermons, tours, summer camps and ongoing events.

Welcome visitors!

Welcome visitors!

Open your heart and free your mind in spiritual Lowcountry region of South Carolina!

A heart felt return to Old Sheldon Church

On my second visit to Beaufort and the “Palmetto Phoenix Church” I discovered touching stories of love, passion, freedom and despair.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Old Sheldon Church view as you come in the yard

The heart-breaking loss of a child…

“I’ll weep no tears upon the grave
Where lies my darling out of sight
God has but taken what He gave
And made my child a Seraph bright
He early tastes the promised bliss
And shall I, Can I, weep for this”

Front view

Old Sheldon Church Ruins - front view

The rite of passage at St. Helena Episcopal Church in Beaufort…

In 1734, Captain John Bull (brother of William Bull who helped built Old Sheldon Church) gave a silver Communion service in memory of his first wife who dissapeared during the 1715 Yemassee masacre. The chalice, paten and tankard, engraved “The gift of Captain John Bull to the Parish of St. Helena” are still used today on special occasions.

Both John and his second wife Mary are burried in the Sheldon Church graveyard.

1771 Mary Bull tombstone

1771 tombstone of Mary Bull, John Bull's second wife

The Stono Rebellion… (excerpts from PBS article “Africans in America” and Beginningsfrom USC Press)

In September 1739 a group of African slaves led by an Angolan named Jemmy, seized weapons near the Stono River south of Charleston and began to march towards Florida shouting “Liberty!” They burned and plundered plantations, taverns, and shops killing about 20 whites before stoping to rest for the night at Edisto River.

Entrance to the extended parking lot across the road

Entrance to the extended parking lot across the road

The carriage of Lieutenant Governor William Bull crossed paths with the rebels. Bull ordered his driver to get him back to Charleston where he called out all available white militia. The militia and the rebels fought a pitched battle near Jacksonborough.

The better armed and trained militia defeated the slaves and roughly 40 whites and 60 blacks died in the melee.

The response to the rebellion proved swift and brutal. Travelers on the Old Post Road (present day US Hwy 17) would have seen the heads of the rebels placed on pikes up and down the route.

The loyal devotion…

As you rest your body and spirit under the lush oak trees remember Biz and Bill Campbell, who for over 75 years cared with deep love for these sacred grounds.

Romantic picnic at Old Sheldon Church

Romantic picnic at Old Sheldon Church

The church is located on Old Sheldon Road between Beaufort and Yemassee, about 2 miles from the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 21. A free public service is held each year on second Sunday after Easter. Call (843) 522-1712 to inquire about reserving the church yard for personal events or wedding celebrations.

Come as you are, leave as you wish!

Visit Walterboro’s Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Honoring the Red Tail Angels

The Germans called them with great respect the Black Bird Men. Legend has it the Tuskegee pilots Tuskegee Airmen Memorialnever lost an aircraft to enemy during their coverage support missions in Europe. For their bravery air-bomb crews nicknamed them the “Red Tail Angels”.

So on your way to Hilton Head and South Carolina Sea Islands stop in historic Walterboro (exit 53 from interstate I-95) to honor the first African-American pilots in the United States. The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial is part of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor and is located at the Lowcountry Regional Airport. Here is the Google Map. It’s inspirational, patriotic, has extreme historical significance and it is free to attend.

Interesting facts and things to know before you go

1. US Army Air Corp launched the first African-American pilot training program in 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama. In August of 1942 the Walterboro Army Airfield base was activated to provide final combat training for the Tuskegee Airmen before they were sent straight into action. .The Jug!

2. From 1942 untill its closure in 1945, 992 pilots completed the program and over 450 of them saw combat overseas. Among their missions: Rome, Southern France, Central Europe, Tunisia, Japan, China, New Guinea, Western Pacific. Air Combat support was provided from Walterboro for many important defense facilities and cities, such as Santee Cooper Dams, the Parris Island Marine Base, the Navy Yard and Charleston.

3. The base was also the largest camouflage school in the United States. Some 600 acres were used just for bomb storage! At times it housed 6,000 military personnel and hundreds of German POWs.

4. The Tuskegee Airmen trained for 3 months, seven days a week from dawn to dusk.They were sent as replacement pilots for the 332nd Fighter Group, an all black fighter group operating in Europe. Pilot and Trainer
They trained on 3 types of planes the Air Cobra, the Thunderbolt and the Kittyhawk. Flying the nose-heavy Thunderbolt – “The Jug” – was very dangerous and 5 men lost their life during routine training.

5. Go downtown to the Colleton Museum to learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen – including their ongoing struggle against discrimination – see photographs and aircraft replicas and read the news articles from the war time.

This is another free to attend family attraction and definitely worth the time. The museum is housed in the old county jail-house and has great artifacts about the region’s history, culture and lifestyle over the last 3 centuries.

Check this out for more fun things to do with kids in and around Beaufort.

Come experience the rich history and honor the veterans of beautiful South Carolina!

Fun Family Time at Edisto Island State Park (what kids will love to do)

There is a lot of fun things to do at Edisto Island State Park besides the usual beach activities.

Interpretive Center and Outdoor Action
1. Kids love spending time at the Interpretive Center, a truly “green” building featuring hands-on exhibits and year around nature learning classes. There is a daily live show around 12 PM. Kids can touch live whelks, hermit and horseshoe crabs and watch the cute marine creatures forage for food. At the shrimp boat children have a blast playing captain for a day.

2. In June and July go on the guided night beach walks to spot loggerhead turtle hatchlings. The walks are Tuesdays and Thursdays start at 9:30 PM and last for few hours. There is a $10 fee and you can register at the Interpretive Center or call (843)-869-4430; seats go really fast!

3. You can hike, jog or bike on the park’s many trails through marine forest and over beautiful marshes. Most trails are handicap accessible. By far the most popular is the Spanish Mount trail with its mysterious 4,000 years old mound collection of oyster, mussel and turtle shells relics. Once over 20 feet high the mound lost most of its height due to massive beach erosion.

4. Try your fishing, crabbing and shrimping skills. Be aware the boat landing at Big Bay Creek was temporarily closed so better call ahead.

Outside Edisto Park: Serpentarium and History Museum
1. The only serpentarium in South Carolina is a guaranteed family attraction. The reptiles zoo houses hundreds of snakes, alligators, turtles and iguanas. Alligator feedings are at 12 and 4 PM and educational shows run every 2 hours starting at 11 AM.

In May and from August 19 until Labor Day the zoo is open Thursday thru Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM; From June 1st till Aug 19 the zoo is open every day except on Sunday. Admission fee is: adults $9.95, children 6-12 $7.95 and under 4 $4.50. There are discount rates for groups and military personnel. SC teachers get a one time free admission. Visit the website for more information. The serpentarium is located on 1374 Highway 174.

2. While in the area drive to the Edisto History Museum. There are photographs, furniture, farming tools, and even toys depicting the island life in the 1800s. My little one enjoyed the wildlife exhibit, the 1800 version of the Radio Flyer and the ancient cotton machinery. The museum is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 1 to 4 PM. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children under 10. Here is a Google Map to the museum.

Have an awesome family vacation on Edisto Island!