BrookGreen Gardens: Flowers, Sculptures, Animals, and More

Samson and the Lion sculpture at BrookGreen Gardens

On one of my visits to Myrtle Beach, I drove to BrookGreen Gardens. The entrance has a giant sculpture of two horses playing. It gives you a sense of what to expect when you enter. Everything is on a massive scale, the statues, the gardens, the low country rice plantation, and the zoo. There is so much to see and what is so lovely is that the tickets are good for seven days. If you are here on an extended vacation, come the first day, and then you can come back later during your trip. Trust me; you will want to come back. There is more than enough to do here that you won’t be able to get it all done.

BrookGreen GardensSpanish moss hanging from Oak tree

The history of this area is pretty interesting. The grant for the land was given in 1711. The title of the land changed hands several times until 1799 when it went to Joshua Ward. His son, Joshua John Ward, became among the wealthiest planters in the nation because of his development of long-grain rice. At the biggest, the plantation yielded 3,900,000 pounds of rice from the land cultivated by 1,092 enslaved laborers. The Ward family lived here until 1958.

BrookGreen Gardens opened in 1932. It is built on four former rice plantations in which one of them was called BrookGreen Plantation, giving the garden its name. The 9100-acre includes numerous themed gardens with American sculptures within them. BrookGreen Gardens is also, a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located off Highway 17 in Murrells Inlet. Open hours are from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are $18 per adult. garden at BrookGreen Gardens

Botanical Gardens

I started at the Welcome Center to pick up a map of the property (highly recommend this). I decided to begin my adventure in the sculpture garden. Walking through the hedges, you step into a serene, quiet garden with a fountain in the center and a giant Greek sculpture seeming to rise from the water. If you go early in the day, there will be fewer people meandering through what will feel like your own private garden. Some of the fountains have moving water, and the sound of it shooting up and splashing down is quite soothing. The only chief complaint is the flys that bite if you aren’t paying attention. If you saw me there, you would have laughed at the sight of me running around trying to get away from the flies with my arms flailing about and swatting myself.

The hedges and shrubs are as tall as a person bigger than me (5’4″). You have to resort to looking at your map repeatedly so; you don’t get lost or to ensure that you see everything. After seeing the signs for Watch Out for Alligators & Snakes a couple of times, I moved out of those areas with the ponds quickly. Then I headed to the low country as soon as I finished seeing all the flowers and sculptures.Yellow and Red flowers at BrookGreen Gardens

Spanish Moss on Oak TreesSpanish moss hanging from Oak tree

Out of all the sights that define the South, Spanish moss hanging from huge Oak trees is something that I always wanted to see in person. And BrookGreen Gardens did not disappoint me at all! There were big Oak trees right in the parking lot, and there were, even more, more significant Oak trees in the gardens. These are the most photogenic trees I think because of the way that the branches grow and the moss hanging down, creating the contrast with the leaves. Love them!Spanish moss hanging from Oak treeSpanish moss hanging from Oak tree

BrookGreen Gardens SculpturesFountain of the Muses at BrookGreen Gardens

Within most of the centers of each themed garden has a fountain and statue. Some of these are Greek, but most of them are American sculptures. It is ingenious how the statues all work well with the surrounding fountain and flowers/shrubs, and they don’t look like they were just put down anywhere. My favorite sculpture is the Saint James Triad. It reminds me of my sisters and me. Have you ever seen a sculpture that immediately speaks to you and reminds you of something or someone?Saint James Triad

Low Country TrailTrail in BrookGreen Gardens

The path through the low country to the zoo is nicely laid out. They have stations where you can hear what it was like for slaves on the BrookGreen Plantation. I stopped to rest at the Lumpkin Ricefield Overlook. You can almost imagine the field hands working the fields harvesting the rice while the master was standing on his porch looking out to all he owned and his wife sitting on the porch drinking peach tea. I have been watching the TV show Underground, and it is heartbreaking to see what the slaves went through and experienced. There is a Low Country Audio Tour available where you can hear about a fictional story of life on the BrookGreen Plantation, or you can read the interpretive panels set along the trail.

Excursions

One of the BrookGreen Gardens activities that you can partake in is to go on a tour. There are three to choose from: The Creek, The Trekker, and the Oaks Excursion. The Creek Excursion has you cruising the creek on a 48ft pontoon boat for 45 minutes along the rice fields. The Trekker Excursion is on land. It takes you on a road of historic Oak trees to a plantation cemetery, a Civil War fort site, and a historic rice mill chimney, then to a panoramic view of the Waccamaw River. The Oaks Excursion takes you on a bus to the Oaks Plantation. All excursion tickets are an additional $8/adult and $4/child and run from March to November. Tickets for these excursions can only be purchased at the Low Country ticket counter. Check to see if the tours are operating before you make plans.

Low Country ZooAlligator sunning himself in the grass at the BrookGreen Gardens Zoo

Moving along to the zoo next after the Low Country Trail. I loved the natural habitats and the non-zoo like feel of this place. I started in a clockwise direction with the domestic animals of the plantation. Some of the animals were rescued, and the zoo takes care of them. For example, the Great Horned Owls in the aviary that I saw are survivors of injuries, either from car collisions, broken wings, or amputations. Their injuries did not heal fully, so; they are now only partially flighted. It is so nice to see that there are places like this that will take injured animals and care for them and give them a home.

Whispering Wings Butterfly HouseWhispering Wings Butterfly House

The Whispering Wings Butterfly House is a seasonal exhibit that houses hundreds of butterflies. The butterfly enclosure is filled with tropical plants that butterflies thrive in, and they might interact with you by landing on your shoulder. Open hours are from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily. Tickets are an additional $4 per adult and $3 per child.

Blast from the Past: Lego Bricks ExhibitHerd of Deer: Buck, Doe, Fawn Lego by Sean Kenney

The special event that I saw was the Nature Connects Art with Lego Bricks. Sean Kenney created pieces of art with legos representing the animals in this zoo. There were 12 different life-sized creations scattered throughout the animal exhibits all made with thousands and thousands of legos. How long do you think it must have taken this guy to create all of these masterpieces?Grandfather Gardening with Child Lego by Sean Kenney

Summary

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to BrookGreen Gardens and will definitely return on my next trip to Myrtle Beach. If you are looking for a way to escape the touristy crowds around Myrtle Beach head a little south to Murrells Inlet. Spending a day exploring the gardens, low country, and the zoo is a great way to spend a day in Myrtle Beach.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to South Carolina for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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