Visit the Cypress Gardens in SC + Alligators, Boat Tours and More!

The Cypress Gardens in South Carolina is a must see for anyone visiting the Charleston area. With alligators, a boat tour, walking trails, and more, the entire family will enjoy their visit to this beautiful botanical garden.

The Cypress Gardens located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, is a must see for anyone wanting to slow down from the city of Charleston and experience an unique family activity.

With trails, boat tours, butterfly house, play area, and more, this botanical garden shows you some of the best natural sites the lowcountry has to offer.

And with over 80 acres of blackwater swamp, you may even spot a few alligators. So keep your hands inside the boat at all times and let’s take a insider look of Cypress Gardens, South Carolina.

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Table of Contents: Cypress Gardens South Carolina

Cypress Gardens South Carolina

The Cypress Gardens we know today have come a long way from what it once was. From a plantation with rice crops, properties being confiscated, a duck hunting club, and finally a botanical garden.

Over the years the grounds may have changed but the picturesque beauty was always there. Around every corner you can find trees dripping with Spanish moss and hear the call of a Carolina wren in the distance.

Reflection of cypress tress in the black swamp water.

As you visit the gardens it’s interesting to note the different stages and devastating historical events that went into the gardens we have now grown to love. It wasn’t just a romantic scene from the film The Notebook, but a plantation with deep history and, thankfully, a happy ending.

History of Cypress Gardens

Imagine buying 162 acres of land for 1$. But first, we’ll start from the beginning.

Alexander Nesbitt (Baronet)

Alexander Nesbitt arrived to the lowcountry of South Carolina, from Scotland, in 1725. He later married to a women named Mary Rutherford and together they had three children.

Alexander was a Baronet from Dean, Scotland. A title created by King James I of England, in May 1611. If you’re curious as to what rank and status a Baronet holds they are below a Baron and above a Knight. A Baron to be addressed as Lord and Baronet addressed as Sir.

Together they created Dean Hall and, over time, expanded their rice fields and plantation to over 3000 acres.

After Alexander’s death, the plantation was handed down to his sons and eventually his grandson, John Nesbitt. However, during the Revolutionary War, Dean Hall was confiscated because of the family’s loyalty to the crown. It was later removed from the confiscated list.

Interesting Note- The original Dean Hall was discovered abandoned in the woods in 1967. It was moved into town in 1968 and was fully restored. It now serves as the Berkley County Chamber of Commerce located at 1004 US-52, Moncks Corner, SC 29461

The second family to own the plantation

In 1821 William Augustus Carson purchased the land with his sons, making several improvements to the land to become more profitable.

Plantation owners would use the nearby Cooper River to irrigating their rice plants by damming the swamps and flooding nearby fields. Hence controlling the flow and amount of water and yielding more crops.

After the Civil War came the end of slavery and the once profitable crops, built by slave labor, came to an end.

Light shinning through Spanish moss at Cypress Gardens, SC.

A Duck Hunting Club

Benjamin Rufus Kittredge was the next owner of the plantation to use as a duck hunting club. After several decades the grounds became overgrown with a thick cypress forest throughout the blackwater swamp.

He then decided to protect the land and even planted thousands of azaleas and laurel, among other flora and fauna, to showcase the natural beauty of the area.

In 1932 he opened the gardens to the public.

Sold to The City of Charleston for 1$

Benjamin Kittredge died in 1951 and in 1963 Benjamin Kittredge Jr. sold the wetlands to the City of Charleston for the amount of 1$. To both preserve the beauty of the grounds and allow for future generations to enjoy. The other 1325 acres of the Dean Hall Estate were bought by the Cooper River Industrial Park Corporation in 1953.

In 1996 the property was given to Berkley county who maintains the gardens we know today.

Flat bottom canoe surrounding by cypress trees.

Hurricanes and Historic Flooding

In September of 1989 Hurricane Hugo hit the Southeast coast as a category 5 tropical cyclone. The storm took 67 lives before it’s end and caused 11 billon in damages. Cypress Gardens took its share of the storm and had to be closed until repairs were made.

Sadly, Hurricane Hugo wasn’t the only destruction the gardens faced. In October 2015 parts of South Carolina were hit with a record 20 inches of rain in a short five days. Resulting in 19 deaths, road closures, and damages over 1 billion dollars.

With the historic flooding the gardens faced millions of dollars in damages and closed permanently in 2015. However, in 2016 Cypress Garden officials applied for FEMA and the gardens were reopened in April 2019.

After three years of being closed, Cypress Gardens saw over 3,000 people for the Grand Opening and once again has become a beloved and peaceful destination that is cherished by tourists and locals alike.

Large green wall photo area with seasonal decor.

Location and Admission

Cypress Gardens is located at 3030 Cypress Gardens Road. Moncks Corner, SC 29461.

Only a short 40 minute drive from both Charleston and the Mount Pleasant area, you can easily plan a day trip to visit these tranquil gardens.

Note- It’s important to note that traffic can be difficult, so keep that in mind during the weekend rush hours.

Admission

There is a per person admission at the gate of 10$ for adults and 5$ for children ages 6-17. Children 5 and under are free. There is also a discount for seniors, military, and 911.

Are you a Berkley County Resident?

Berkley County residents and their dependents are able to visit the park free of charge on certain dates throughout the year.

For more information about admission, discounts, and Berkley County resident days please visit Cypress Gardens South Carolina.

Hours of operation

Cypress Gardens, South Carolina, is open seven days a week from 9am-5pm with the last self guided boat tour being at 4:15 pm.

Closed:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • New Years Day

Pets- Pets are permitted November through February and must be kept on a leash at all times.

Blackwater Swamp Boat Tour

With your admission comes a self guided tour of the blackwater swamp. You’ll step inside a flat-bottom rowboat and make your way around the quiet swamp waters while following the arrows that lead you under tall cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss.

You’ll duck low under the first bridge the path leads you and marvel at the half moon shape of the next bridge with its mirror reflection in the waters below.

White half moon bridge reflecting on the water.

This self guided tour can take anywhere between 30-40 minutes to enjoy the swamp and, in my opinion, the main attraction of the park.

Be sure to take your time and soak in the serene nature surrounding you. Above you’ll hear small birds fluttering from one branch to the other, spot turtles sunbathing on logs, and if you’re luck, see and alligator spying on you from a distance as you pass by.

Is it scary?

If you’re new to the business of alligators, then the idea of being in a boat so close to them can be intimidating and thrilling all at the same time. Just the idea of spotting one is an exciting and unique experience.

However, the idea of spotting an alligator while on dry land, and seeing one while in a rowboat, can be very different things.

Alligator spotted in the swamp.

The first time we spotted an alligator was exciting and a bit scary. This baby alligator watching us while sunbathing on a small area of land we had to row directly past. He wasn’t bothered by us and in turn we slowly went by.

The second and third time were still thrilling but less scary. They are use to seeing rowboats pass at all times of the day and are not interested in any of us.

Remember to be respectful, stay on the water trail, and give them their space.

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Guided Boat Tours

You can also opt to have a guided boat tour.

If the idea of rowing yourself and your family in a boat is not for you, then you can reserve a time to have a guide bring you around the swap.

It is an additional charge but well worth it to be able to sit back and hear the history of the area and have a knowledgeable guide point out the wildlife and tell you about their resident alligators and where they like to spend their time.

Family of three starting their rowboat self guided tour.

The guided tour is still approximately 40 minutes but you’ll be relaxing, hearing stories, and possible giving a little gasp with your family, young and old, as you (possibly) spot your first alligator making his appearance.

Cypress Gardens Trail Map and Exhibits

Cypress Gardens offers 4.5 miles of walking trails with a few different loops to choose from. Making it easy to customize just how far of a walk you’d like to take.

Walking trails around the water.

From the shorter loop trails near the exhibits, to longer perimeter trails.

On your journey you’ll pass by gorgeous flowering bushes that will have you stopping to smell the roses. Venture out to see the gazebo and as you pass over a bridge remember to take a moment to spot any wildlife that may be lurking in the water below.

Trail map of Cypress Gardens, South Carolina.

Exhibits and more

Once you’ve finished your nature walk head back to the front entrance and make your way over to the butterfly house. Inside you’ll be met with lush greenery that nearly reaches the ceiling and butterflies in search of their favorite flower to land on.

Exhibits and Picnic map of Cypress Gardens, South Carolina.
  • Butterfly house
  • Swamparium
  • Heirloom Garden
  • Bird Exhibit
  • Gift Shop
  • Playground and covered picnic area
Blue and black butterfly in the butterfly house.

Movies Filmed Here

With its unique scenery it’s no surprise that this garden has been the filming location for a few movies. Some of the more well known movies being The Notebook starring Ryan Gossling and Rachel McAdams, and The Patriot starring Mel Gibson.

Other moves and tv shows include:

  • Swamp Thing (1982)
  • The Patriot (2000)
  • Cold Mountain (2003)
  • The Notebook (2004)
  • The Yearling (1994) TV
  • The Temptest (1998) TV
  • Outter Banks (2020) TV
Slate sigh with the famous quote from The Notebook. "If you're a bird, I'm a bird." Noah.

You may remember the iconic scene from the Notebook when Noah wants to show Allie something before the storm rolls in. As he rows the canoe around the tall cypress tress they are surrounded by hundreds of Emden geese. Beautiful white geese that part the waters as the canoe glides over the black water, reflecting the cypress tress above.

The storm comes in and the rest is history.

Is It Worth Visiting

I would say that it is absolutely worth visiting but my opinion may differ from yours. With the nature trails, boat tour, and exhibits, you can spend a fair amount of time touring the property. This is a great place to take a leisure walk with family of all ages.

There is also a huge playground with covered picnic tables to enjoy a picnic lunch of sandwiches, fruit, chips ect. So be prepared to bring a cooler and pack some extra water.

Artistic sculpture of rainbow row in the butterfly house.

It’s also affordable as activities in the Charleston area go. Making it a lot easier to take large families. Another point to consider is that since it is so affordable, if you’re unable to spend the entire day, or not interested in the nature trails, then paying admission for the self guided boat tour and exhibits is still well worth it.

  • 40 minutes from Charleston
  • Affordable admission
  • Spend the day or just a few hours

Cypress Gardens SC Bingo!

Nature trails are great, but sometimes when you’re little it’s a bit more fun to play a game! Cypress Gardens, SC, bingo was made just for this park! Can you spot spot an alligator with his mouth open? Hint, he might be behind a glass.

Download to your phone to take on the go, or print one out for everyone. Be sure to remember the stickers or pencil to mark off each one you find.

Cypress Gardens, South Carolina + Bingo Download

Bingo printable for two

Cypress Gardens South Carolina bingo for two free printable download

Things to bring with you:

  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sunblock
  • Picnic lunch
  • Extra drinking water
  • Walking shoes
  • Binoculars
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Backpack for the kids water bottles and snacks

Pro Tip- It’s best to do the self guided boat tour first, as the line for that can take some time.

If you happen to have extra hands with you, such as grandparents, then it’s a great opportunity for them to spend some quality time at the playground with the grandkids while you hold the spot in line. Just be sure to have everyone meet back up with you in plenty of time before your boat becomes available.

We’ll see you on our next family adventure.

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