While visiting my longtime friend Wendy and her family in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, we headed over to Cypress Gardens for an afternoon. The 170-acre preserve was heavily damaged in historic floods in 2015 and then Hurricane Matthew in 2016, but has since recovered.
We explored the Butterfly House first. It’s a large greenhouse is filled with flowering plants and butterflies.
Next we headed to a small dock for a swamp boat adventure. Guided tours are offered every hour for a extra $5. Reservations are only available on-site. We opted to do the self guided tour included in admission. Wendy and I got in our flat bottom boat and paddled in the 80 acre blackwater swamp shaded by towering bald cypress and tupelo trees.
It was eerily serene as we paddled along a route marked by small arrows on trees keeping an eye out for alligators. We had to duck as we went under the first bridge. There was a turtle sunning on a log just on the other side of it. We only had to duck a little as we went under the second bridge. The swamp is only 4-6 feet deep at its deepest. You can see twisty tree roots in the water and “cypress knee” roots protruding out of the water. Wendy laughed at my excitement of seeing lily pads throughout our paddling adventure. It took us about 30-40 minutes to leisurely paddle the route.
The swamp at Cypress Gardens has been featured in many movies and television shows. Movies like The Notebook, The Patriot, and Swamp Thing were filmed here. The Netflix series Outer Banks has recently filmed some scenes here. You can ask to see the spots where some famous scenes were shot.
Afterward our boat ride, we followed a trail to a spot where you can sit and enjoy the the beauty of the swamp and watch boats pass by. Then we cooled off in the Swamparium. I’m not normally a fan of reptile houses because I don’t like snakes. Yes, there’s a few in here but there’s also a plethora of fish and amphibians native to swamp and nearby waterways.
This is a fun and affordable adventure, especially if you do a self guided boat ride. General admission is $10 for ages 18-64, $5 for 6-17, and $6.50 for 65+, 911, and military. It’s open 7 days a week 9am-5pm (last admission 4pm).
Author Jennifer Broome was born in South Carolina and loves exploring her home state. For food finds on this trip, check out blog Great Southern Food: Where You Should Eat on Mount Pleasant near Charleston, South Carolina.