The original seat of the Drayton family dates back to 1676, when Thomas and Ann Drayton built the first hall on this site. Their rice plantation, which was worked by slaves, soon made the Draytons rich, though the first mansion burned just after the Revolution, and the second was set afire by General Sherman. What you see today is attractive but not altogether genuine: the house was reconstructed in stages after the Civil War, though the oldest section was actually built before the Revolutionary War and transported here from Summerville. The house is filled with museum-quality Early American furniture, porcelain, quilts, and other Drayton family heirlooms, with guides providing illuminating background throughout the tour. Learn about the current owners in the History Room at the end of the tour. The flowery gardens of camellias and azaleas—among the most beautiful in America—reach their peak bloom in March and April but are colorful year-round. Basic admission includes entry to the gardens (including an herb garden, horticultural maze, topiary garden, and biblical garden), a petting zoo, and a waterfowl refuge. Other sites include five 19th-century cabins that have been restored and furnished to reflect the homes of slaves and workers in different periods, a Nature Boat ride along the Ashley River ($8), and a Nature Train ($8) that carries guests on a 45-minute ride around the plantation’s perimeter. The Audubon Swamp Garden, also on the grounds, is an independently operated 60-acre cypress swamp that offers a close look at local wildlife such as egrets, alligators, wood ducks, otters, turtles, and herons.
- Frommer's Staff