Charleston’s Cypress Gardens great for family outings

Swamp destination showcases wildlife and wildflowers

I was traveling near Charleston, SC, with a free half-day and no plans. So I decided to walk and explore nature somewhere on this hot and humid August day. After surfing the internet, I settled on Cypress Gardens.

There are multiple options for exploring South Carolina’s low-country ecosystems, but I specifically chose Cypress Gardens because it’s a little more touristy with facilities and attractions, with easy parking, access to trails and a reasonable entry fee – I paid $6.50 as a senior.

Charleston Cypress Gardens top thing do
The swamp features diverse wildlife, like this golden-silk spider.
cypress gardens charleston best view wildflowers
I enjoyed photographing the wildflowers, like this bergamot, also known as beebalm.

I walked about three miles around its well-groomed nature trails and foot bridges, stopping along to the way to photograph egrets, herons, yellow-billed cuckoos, very cool insects, alligators, river otter, wildflowers and the cypress swamp. For couples and families interested in making this an outing, I passed gazebos and open spaces for picnics and relaxation.

After arriving, I wished my family had come along because we would have enjoyed the boat trips through the swamp and backwaters. There’s no additional fee for using boats for self-guided rowing and there’s a modest $5 charge for a guided boat tour. Everyone I saw exploring the swamp by boat was having a great time in this gorgeous setting.

Alligators Cypress Gardens Charleston
Most visitors look for the swamp’s superstars, the American alligator.
Hollywood has filmed movies at Cypress Gardens.
Hollywood has filmed movies at Cypress Gardens.
Charleston Cypress Garden dragonfly
Nature’s helicopters – dragonflies – hovered over the swamp.

Cypress Gardens features a small indoor Swamparium that includes fish, amphibians, reptiles and snakes native to the area. In addition, I walked through a butterfly house and around a variety of wildflower plantings. I then finished my day by chugging down a soda from the gift shop and browsing a nice selection of souvenirs.

Hollywood has filmed movies at Cypress Gardens with stars such as Patrick Swayze, Mel Gibson, Jude Law, Heath Ledger, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. When you walk the trails, it’s easy to understand the appeal of this location.

I really enjoyed Cypress Gardens and plan on returning in the spring when temps are cooler and migratory birds start to arrive. Cypress Gardens isn’t opulent or high-end; it’s simple, affordable and serene. That’s exactly the type of destination that I was looking for to complement my bigger trip to Charleston.

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