Historic Brookgreen Gardens, a tour of the Lowcountry Center

The story of the land…

The Lowcountry Center at Brookgreen Gardens features drawings, maps, artifacts, pictures and stories from 1580s to present. Brookgreen Gardens is open daily and admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors, $6 children 4-12 and free for those 3 and under.

“Draw to life one of each kind of thing that is strange to us in England. . . . all strange birds, beasts, fishes, plants, herbs, trees, and fruits. . . . also the figures and shapes of men and women in their apparel, as also their manner of weapons in every place as you shall find them differing.” – Royal British instructions to John White on a 1582 exploratory voyage

16th century Native Americans lifestyle on the Carolina Coast

1590 drawings of Native Americans living in North Carolina by John White


John White’s drawings, later made famous by Theodore de Bry engraving adaptations, became the most important source of information to Europeans rulers, explorers, settlers and regular folks about the Native Americans lifestyle, social makeup and beliefs.

They showed (through the eye of the “white man”) the flora and fauna that inhabited the area, the village structure, house construction techniques, hunting, harvesting and cooking tools.

They showed the social hierarchy, the roles played by men and women, young and old; how they dressed, how they celebrated and how they dealt with death and the after life.

Learn more about John White’s drawings here.

Rice cultivation was a very complex, time consuming and labor intensive process. Fields needed to be flooded and the water lever to remain stationary. Sometimes the rice needed to be kept completely dry.

Rice flood gates system deployed at Brookgreen Plantation

The rice field trunk was invented by Egyptians more than 6,000 years ago

So ditches were dug, banks were built around the rice fields and small flood gates called “trunks” were installed. People working and maintain the gates were called “trunk menders.”

Did you know? The Egyptians invented the rice field trunk more than 6,000 years ago!

It consisted of two floodgates built to regulate the flow of water. One gate was on the river side and ran through an earthen dike, the other was on the rice field side. The openings were hollowed out from tree trunks, usually cypress (hence the name).

This model was built by Capt. Frank M. Bechkam, who also constructed the two benches in the room with timber left over from the rebuilding of a rice gate on Cane Island in North Santee.

The Lowcountry Center showcases several farming tools used in the past centuries in the rice and turpentine productions. Examples include foot adze, draw knife, broad axe, hoe, rice threshing basket, grinding stone, sap collecting bowl etc.

Rice plantation and sap collecting equipment

18th and 19th centuries farming tools used at Brookgreen Plantation

There is gold in them thar’ trees!

Demand for naval stores products in the United States began in early 1700s to supply the growing shipping industry of the colonies. Turpentine, rosin, tar and pitch were used in various applications in the ship building process.

The turpentine making process in late 19th century

1890s photograph of turpentine workers and distilleries


Tar and pitch were used for water proofing and sealing rope ends; turpentine as a preservative and solvent, and rosin for grease, water proofing and foundry work.

All naval stores were made derivatives extracted from pine trees, especially the Longleaf and Slash varieties abundant along the Carolina coast.

By the early 1800s, the “Tar Heelers” of North Carolina had expanded into the forests of Horry County. By 1850, 12 stills existed on the banks of Waccamaw River. Turpentine workers striped the bark from pine trees and collected the sticky rosin in barrels which were hauled by mule cart to turpentine distilleries for processing.

After Civil War and Reconstruction most of the Lowcountry rice plantations shattered. Ironically this ensured the preservation of extensive natural areas for future generations.

Early 20th duck hunting expedition in the Lowcountry

Waterfowl hunting bonanza on the former rice plantations in the 1920s


At the end of 19th century, real estate promoters described the local climate as beneficial for tuberculosis sufferers.

They advertised the plantations as a dreamland for recreational hunting and fishing. Rich people from the North flocked in the bought most of the plantations.

Anna and Archer Huntington vowed to provide safe havens for waterfowl birds at their properties in Virginia and South Carolina. Other owners encouraged visiting ducks and geese, but ended up harvested them for sport.

Now through August 12, you can enjoy an evening cruise down the creeks of the former rice plantation. Tickets are $7 in addition to general garden admission.

Fun things to do with kids inside Brookgreen Gardens

Play with clay, draw and pet live native animals at The Children Discovery Room

• See some wading magnificent birds at the Cypress Swamp Aviary

• Admire wild animals and rare farm breeds at the Lowcountry Zoo

• Check out the rice fields and the slave overseer’s house and kitchen ruins on the Lowcountry Trail. Beware, there several ghosts haunting the plantation and the nearby beaches.

Brookgreen Lowcountry Trail rice fields, historic artifacts, ghost tales and beautiful old trees

Present day Brookgreen Gardens stands on what was known as The Oaks, Brookgreen, Springfield and Laurel Hill rice plantations, powerful dynasties built on the backs of thousands of African slaves. They provided the labor, skills and technology required for rice cultivation and production and enriched the region with their traditions, crafts, and language known today as the Gullah-Geechee culture.

The Lowcountry Trail provides a glimpse of what life was like on the plantation hundreds of years ago. Admission to Brookgreen Gardens is $12.95 adults, $10 seniors and $6 children 4-12 and is valid for 7 consecutive days.

Learning about slaves life on the rice plantation

On the boardwalk overlooking the river and rice fields

You can see the remains of the overseer’s residence (on top of the hill), kitchen, smokehouse and dependency (at the edge of the rice field), uncovered during 2000-2001 archeological digs.

As you stroll the boardwalk along the Ricefield Overlook listen to the audio tour, that features a 30-minute fictional story about life on Brookgreen Plantation.

Four stainless steel figures, created by award- winning artist Babette Bloch, tell a revealing story about the specific roles of a Lowcountry plantation: the Plantation Owner, the Overseer, the Enslaved African Male and the Enslaved African Female.

The overseer’s smokehouse
The overseer’ smokehouse architectural design features an exterior firebox, only the second example of its kind to be located and excavated in the Southeast.

Old plantation artifacts Murrells Inlet antebellum history

The smokehouse replica, Lowcountry Trail historic attractions


During the antebellum period, smoked meat, primarily pork, was a staple food for everyone living in the South. The meat was preserved during the “dry salting” process before it was hung in the smokehouse.

Pieces of fresh butchered meat were rubbed with raw salt and placed in a wooden box for up to six weeks. Then the preserved meat was smoked for about a week to give it a particular flavor. Meat was either placed on shelves our hung from horizontal poles.

The smokehouse was filled preserved meat, ham and bacon. As the slaves survival and well being were directly linked to the content of the smokehouse, food allotments were often used as means of social control. The smokehouse came to symbolize the plantation self-sufficiency and the owner’s control over its workforce.

The overseer’s kitchen
By the end of the 18th century all cooking tasks were relegated outside the main residence, thus avoiding the heat, noise, odors, and fire hazards associated with the kitchen.

Brookgreen Gardens archaeological sites

Working in the kitchen at the old rice plantation

It was common for kitchens to also serve as laundry and dairy functions.

The detached kitchen provided a clear separation between masters and slaves. It was an important symbol of social boundaries with clear definitions of status, position and authority.

Archaeological discoveries suggest a typical mid 19th century rural south diet. People consumed cattle, pig, sheep, goat and to some extent chicken and geese. Additional food sources included wildlife from nearby rice fields, creeks and woodlands: gar, perch, striped bass, turtle, wild duck, deer, squirrel and opossum.

Brookgreen Gardens ghost legends
Thousands years old cypress tree trunk lines the path of the Lowcountry Trail. A silent witness to so many stories, mysteries and human struggles…

Giant trunk of a hundreds years old cypress tree

Enormous cypress tree trunk dug out at Brookgreen Gardens

There are many tales surrounding the old Brookgreen Plantation at Waccamaw Neck. My favorites are about Theodosia Burr Alston and the Crab Boy who despite warnings stuck his hand where it didn’t belong, beautifully written by Lynn Michelsohn in her book, “Tales from Brookgreen: Gardens, Folklore, Ghost Stories, and Gullah Folktales in the South Carolina Lowcountry”. All quotes are from this book.

At the turn of the 19th century, The Oaks-Brookgreen Plantation welcomed a new Mistress in Theodosia Burr Alston, the only child of Vice President Aaron Burr. She married South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston and gave up the high social life in New York for a life on the rice plantation.

“Theodosia never prospered in the South. Her health was never good, and she found the South Carolina climate depressing. The heat and humidity often left her frail and sickly. While she participated in lavish social events at The Oaks and in Charleston, she missed the sparkling company of those New York dinners, and she missed the doting father she idealized. Aaron Burr’s disastrous duel with Alexander Hamilton, later accusations of treason over his land schemes, and then his self imposed exile in Europe all left Theodosia deeply saddened.”

Resting under beautiful oak tree near the rice fields overlook

Taking in easy on the Lowcountry Trail at Brookgreen Gardens


Fortunately, little Aaron was born in 1802 and the next ten years brought joy and happiness to his parents. However, in the summer of 1812, the boy died from sickness and was buried in the family plot on the plantation.

Devastated, Theodosia planned to visit her father in New York to try lift her spirits. She departed Georgetown harbor for a six days sea voyage on a small schooner, The Patriot. The vessel never reached New York. Theodosia’s mysterious disappearance gave way to countless speculations and remains a mystery to this day.

Some believed The Patriot perished in a winter storm off Cape Hatteras, the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Others feared the boat sank due to hull damage caused by its old guns that somehow got loose. However most people, including “Kitty Hawk” poet Robert Frost, think that Outer Banks pirates “had lured the ship to its doom for the spoils they could salvage.”

Over years many have sighted her spirit either near the Georgetown warehouse where she boarded the vessel or walking the shores of Dubordieu Beach where her son died. Some have seen “floating over the waves on foggy nights at Huntington Beach, once called Theaville in her honor” or walking down the steps leading to the rice island at Brookgreen Gardens.

Amazing horse sculptures by American artists

Wild, powerful, and beautiful horses

Fun things to do with kids at Brookgreen Gardens (free with garden admission)
• Visit the Children Discovery Center arts and crafts and a live native wildlife show
• Check out interesting farm animals and native wildlife at the Lowcountry Zoo and Farm
Admire beautiful herons and egrets at the Cypress Swamp Aviary

Dolphins swimming at Springmaid pier, free wild things to do in Myrtle Beach

Best things in life are free…amen! Want to watch dolphins swimm in the ocean? Save the $40 or so on dolphin cruises and instead take a stroll on the beach. On my second trip this winter we stayed on the south side of the Grand Strand at historic Springmaid Resort. Once again we were delighted to see dolphins swim by every morning (~11:30) and afternoon (~5PM). This time they were really close to the shore…what a treat!

Best views are from the pier. Here you can relax in the swing, on the giant Adirondack chair or on the wooden benches. Feeling lucky? Then rent a fishing rod ($10 per day) from the pier shop and try your hand at tuna, snapper, mackerel, bluefish, flounder, whiting and trout.

Here is a list with all the free and fun family things to do in and around Myrtle Beach.

Enjoy your vacation in Myrtle Beach!

Fun kids rides at Broadway at the Beach, affordable family entertainment outdoors

Up in the air!

Giant boat swing Myrtle beach fun

Wild ride on the giant Pirate Ship


The Pavilion Nostalgia Amusement Park at Broadway at the Beach offers fun rides for the entire family.

This post features the year around rides, located behind Ripley’s Aquarium.

There is another group of rides geared for younger kids, on the other side of the walkway, next to WonderWorks’ “Soar and Explore” zipline and ropes challenge course.

Every ride is $3 + tax. You’re better off buying in bulk (i.e. 9 rides for $20 + tax).

All rides open at 12PM and run till dusk.

Here are the photos and few videos with the most exciting rides:

Broadway at the Beach just for kids fun rides
It would make your head spin…dangling high up in the air at breaking-neck speed, what’s not to like?! Here’s the video…

Out of control giant carousel Broadway at the Beach

I am getting dizzy mom! Riding the old Wave Swinger in Myrtle Beach

My daughter’s favorite ride! She did 3 times in a row (keep in mind it travels super fast forward and backwards)…I’m surprised she didn’t get sick!

What kids love to do Broadway at the Beach

Now is going backwards!

What little kids would love to ride

The 1912 Herschell Spillman carousels one of the world’s few originals still operating. It’s elaborate design features hand-painted lions, zebras, ostriches, frogs and horses.

Old carousel ride Nostalgic Pavilion Amusement Park

1912 Herschell Spillman carousel, one of the oldest in the country and few remaining in the world.

Probably the most easy going ride at Broadway at the Beach

Broadway at the Beach just for kids entertainment

Free Willy!

If you can’t handle the giant one, hop on the kiddie version…hey, not everyone is Jack Sparrow!

Rides for little kids at Broadway at the Beach

Arrrgh! Ahoy mates, welcome aboard!

Perfect ride for toddlers and very young kids

Fun rides for little children Broadway at the Beach

Captain Nemo at your service...

Here are more fun and affordable kids activities in the area as well as printable coupons to the best Myrtle Beach attractions.

The fun is devine in Myrtle Beach!

Wild and wonderful Waccatee Zoo, the Myrtle Beach kids fun thing to do!

Authentic, real and totally unexpected. Fun, fun, fun that is…just 15 minutes drive from Myrtle Beach’s hustle and bustle. There are hundreds of animals from classics like lions, tigers, black bears and chimps to most unusual species like the South American peccarts, Patagonia Maras and the half zebra half donkey ones…

Tip! Spend $1-2 on a bag of popcorn or boiled peanuts to feed the beasts. Kids love it, animals love it (that’s how I got the bear to dance for me!) and you can snack along the way.

I asked the longhorn if Texas will beat Oklahoma. He responded promptly by hooking a poor bystander emu…if you can’t get your horns on a sooner, the emu will do 🙂

The Zoo is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is $4 for children 1-12 and $8 for adults. Here is a customized Google Map showing Waccatee Zoo and other Myrtle Beach attractions worth shouting about.

At minimum visit the ever mysterious Atalaya Castle inside the Huntington Beach State Park where among other wild things you can rub elbows with free roaming alligators!

Happy family fun on the Grand Strand!

Myrtle Beach Photos of Great Fun in the Sun (Myrtle Beach free things to do)

Cool ocean breeze…white sand tickling your toes…fresh saltwater smell and seagulls flying into the sunset…everybody in the family is in a good mood and willing to goof around (how often does this happen? 🙂 )

Stay at Ocean Creek Resort, an all inclusive and reasonable priced resort; secluded oasis on 57 beautifully landscaped acres and yet close to awesome Barefoot Landing and the Alligator Adventure attractions. It has excellent amenities (pools galore, tennis courts, golf, private beach access, restaurant).

If you’re looking for something to do with your family that’s affordable, educational, memorable and fulfilling then visit Brookgreen Gardens a National Historic Landmark with the world’s most significant collection of outdoor American sculptures and the only accredited zoo on the South Carolina coast.

However if you’re more an adrenaline pumping kind of person then go to Ripley’s Aquarium inside Broadway at the Beach. For about $20 ($10 for kids 6 to 11, and $4 for those 2 to 5) you can say Hello! to 15 foot Sharks pet feisty stingrays, and if you hurry up before the year’s end, can even “shake hands” with Blackbeard, the most ruthless pirate in the Caribbean known to man!

Keep your family happy in Myrtle Beach, a South Carolina’s top family attraction (golf anyone?!)

Just Amazing Alligator Photos from South Carolina

Alligators are truly amazing creatures. We are so blessed to still see them all around South Carolina (like the Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach or Charles Towne Landing in Charleston).

Just recently, Business Week published in article underscoring once more their excellent survival skills and importance to the human race. Apparently, alligators have super-potent proteins in their blood with the ability to fight off fungi, viruses and drug resistant super-bugs. Researchers unleashed these proteins on 23 different strains of disease carrying bacteria. All of them were killed – a feat unequaled by any known human blood protein!

This post is an ode to one of the most magnificent and ancient animal on Earth. “You’re alright mate! You’re alright”…

Keep watching, respecting and protecting the South Carolina alligators!

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