Magnolia Plantation has been in one family, the Draytons, since 1676! There have been three homes on the plantation: the first was built in 1680 and burned in 1811; the second was constructed in 1811 and was burned in 1865 – no one is certain who burned it but it was at the end of the Civil War period; the third was built in 1865 and has been added on to several times; this is the home we toured. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, another red convertible VW pulled in next to us. “Donna from Rhode Island” became our adopted friend for the day since she was traveling alone. She was a retired middle school teacher and enjoys learning just as Wilma and I do. Magnolia Plantation’s gardens were also started over 300 years ago. At that time it was in the formal style of the 17th century, but it has evolved into acres and acres of informal design now, and is very beautiful. There are nooks and small gardens hidden all over, so many that we got lost and had to wander around until a trolley driver found us, had pity on us, picked us up, and took us back to the mansion. After the Civil War ended, the owner opened the plantation gardens to the public in 1870 and today it is one of the country’s oldest man made tourist attractions. Only a few of the thousands of camellia were blooming when we were there, but the natural beauty of the live oaks, the swamp cypress and the few camellia we saw were worth the walking we did for sure! I would love to return during azalea season and again when the camellias are in full bloom as the photos we saw were outstanding! For more information about the plantation, and to see some of the gardens in bloom, go to this site: http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/
. Five hundred acres of the plantation are now a wildlife sanctuary, home to alligators, turtles, and lots of birds. We took a nature tram ride around the marsh and swamp and a boat ride on the marsh area, plus a visit to the former slave cabins where a historian shared information about the changes made at the plantation during and then following slavery. Our last stop was at the Audubon Swamp Garden near the edge of the plantation grounds, where we walked along raised boardwalks, enjoying the flora and fauna there (well, I liked it all – Wilma didn’t appreciate the alligators much!) We then said goodbye to our adopted friend, “Donna from Rhode Island,” and drove to Savannah to Wilma’s condo. We met a friend of hers there and enjoyed supper at a neighborhood BBQ restaurant.