Marie McAden



Cypress Gardens is well worth the drive — and price

Posted 9/8/2013 4:46:00 PM

I could go on and on about Cypress Gardens’ beautiful Lowcountry landscape, its wildlife exhibits, swamp boat tours and fascinating history as a rice plantation. But what makes this Moncks Corner attraction so worth the 30-mile drive from Charleston is the price.

For just $10 ($5 for kids ages 6 to 12), you get a full-day of activities in a setting so extraordinary, it has been featured in 15 movies, including “The Patriot,” “Cold Mountain,” “The Notebook” and “Swamp Thing.”

Originally part of Dean Hall — one of the Cooper River’s largest and most prosperous rice plantations — the 170-acre property features a swamp once used to flood the adjoining rice fields by a system of trunks and ditches.

Today, visitors have the opportunity to explore the blackwater swamp’s natural beauty by land and water. A three-mile network of walking paths and nature trails wind around the swamp gardens. I’ll tell you more about the trails in an upcoming blog.

The price of admission also includes free use of a flat-bottom wooden boat to paddle among the swamp’s magnificent bald cypress and tupelo trees. The easy-to-follow self-guided water trail takes you through wide expanses of lily pads, under picturesque footbridges to the far reaches of the 80-acre swamp. If you’d rather have a guide paddle you around, it’s just $5. You can purchase a ticket for a guided tour at the Visitor Center.

When my husband and I visited Cypress Gardens last month, he ended up doing all of the paddling. We had barely left the dock before I put down my paddle to take a photo of a blooming water lily. I never picked it up again during the entire 30-minute tour — it was just one gorgeous picture after another.

As we floated slowly through the trees, we spied an alligator in the distance, its gnarly body armor just visible above the water’s surface. Less menacing was the family of ducks paddling aimlessly about. We also heard the low grunting of pig frogs, an eerie sound in the swampy setting.

I would have been happy to pay the $10 just to walk around the gardens and paddle through the swamp. But Cypress Gardens offers so much more.

There’s a bird exhibit, butterfly house, heritage museum, heirloom garden, swamparium, an alligator pond and a very cool nature center. Whew! And each attraction offers fabulous photo opportunities. With so much to tell you about Cypress Gardens, I can’t do it justice in just one blog. In an upcoming post, I’ll describe all the extras and share more photos.

Cypress Gardens also features a couple of large picnic shelters and two unique climbing structures in a play area where you can cut your kids loose to burn up some energy. Be sure to pack a lunch with you on your visit. There also are plenty of shaded park benches all around the preserve where you can stop and have a snack.

If that’s not enough, special events are offered throughout the year. This year’s schedule includes the Blackwater Ukulele Festival Sept. 14 and Halloween in the Swamp Oct. 17-19.

Cypress Gardens is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Pets are permitted on a leash in any of the outdoor areas from November through February. Of course, you’re responsible for cleaning up after your pooch.

For more information on Cypress Gardens and its upcoming events, click here or call (843) 553-0515.