The Hidden Botany Bay Plantation in South Carolina

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
July 19, 2016
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Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
July 19th, 2016
Share story

The full name is the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area and it’s one of the most stunning hidden destinations in South Carolina. A former oceanfront plantation is now a tourist attraction featuring a natural beach littered with deadwood trees, wildlife in every direction, and a peaceful escape. This is what I found during my visits to Botany Bay Plantation.

The sun rises over the ocean at Deadwood Beach at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, August 29, 2014. Copyright 2014 Jason Barnette

Sunrise at Botany Bay is absolutely amazing.

It’s a Former Oceanfront Plantation

In 1798 the Townsend family moved to this small barrier island and built Bleak Hall Plantation. A few years later the Seabrook family joined them on the island and built Sea Cloud Plantation nearby.

For decades these two plantations were known for producing some of the best cotton in the world. That industry thrived through the Civil War and Emancipation, but eventually collapsed in the 1920s.

In 1968 John Meyer bought the property. In his Will he stated that upon his and his wife’s death the property would be transferred to the state of South Carolina. In 2008 the state’s Department of Natural Resources opened the plantation as a heritage preserve.

The sandy path leading from the parking area to Deadwood Beach at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, August 29, 2014. Copyright 2014 Jason Barnette

A couple walk along the beach at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Manager Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, July 19, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

The one-mile path to the beach offers a gorgeous view, and once on the beach you can hike for miles in either direction.

Deadwood Beach

Visitors begin with signing in at a kiosk at a small gate leading into the plantation. Admission is free, but they still want to know who visited throughout the day. After hanging the day-use tag on my mirror I was ready to go.

The drive down the dirt road was covered in shade by massive oak trees that were probably older than the plantation. It wasn’t a long distance to drive but with the primitive road and gorgeous views it took me about twenty minutes to reach the end.

There was a large parking area for visitors to the beach. From there it was a one-mile hike along a flat gravel path to the beach. The walk was easy and gorgeous while surrounded by salt marshes.

I passed through a grove of palm trees and finally I could hear the ocean crashing on the beach! Just as soon as I stepped out onto the sandy beach, within sight of the infamous deadwood trees, a flock of brown pelicans flew overhead as if they were the official welcome committee.

The beach does not have an official name. Some locals called it Boneyard Beach. But as I looked around at all the trees that have been swallowed by the erosion from the ocean I could only think to call it Deadwood Beach.

During low tide the beach is wide, sandy, and peaceful. People don’t come here to go swimming in the ocean because the stubs of fallen deadwood trees make it dangerously impossible. Instead they come here to read a book, lay in the sun, or go for a peaceful walk on the beach just like I did.

The Bleak Hall Plantation Ice House, built around the 1800's, at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Manager Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, July 19, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

The Sea Cloud Plantation ruins, the remains of an elegant plantation house built in the early 1800's, at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Manager Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, July 19, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

TOP: The Bleak Hall Plantation Ice House. BOTTOM: The remains of Sea Cloud Plantation.

Botany Bay Driving Tour

The dirt road allowed for a self-guided driving tour around the former plantation site. The three-mile road looped around the plantation and passed a few remaining structures of by-gone days.

The Bleak Hall Plantation Ice House was the most intact building left on the plantation site. The large while building stood out like a beacon against the backdrop of dark trees. It was a pleasant walk around the ice house, but keep the mosquitos in mind if you visit in the summer.

From here the one-lane sandy road snaked through the coastal forest and around a few lakes. Marshlands were often in sight on either side of the road. I caught sight of an alligator floating in the shallow water but it was easily startled and immediately disappeared.

The ruins of the Sea Cloud Planation house are now kept behind a fence to prevent people from removing artifacts. It was neat to see the foundation of the former plantation house.

The sandy road eventually returns to the “main” road near the gate. The driving tour is over, but if you turn left you can do it all over again. Just like I did. Several times.

Dozens of seashells hang from branches of deadwood trees at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area in Edisto Beach, SC on Friday, August 29, 2014. Copyright 2014 Jason Barnette

A local tradition is to find beautiful conch shells and hang them on stubs on the deadwood trees. Shelling is no longer allowed on the beach because of the excessive number of shells being taken by visitors.

Botany Bay Hours and Directions

Botany Bay Plantation is just an hour from Charleston and even closer to Edisto Beach. The easiest and most direction route to get there is to take Highway 17 to SC Highway 174 toward Edisto Beach.

After passing the Old Post Office Restaurant and Edisto Island Serpentarium look for Botany Bay Road on the left. After turning onto the road you’ll see Allen AME Church and you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Just before the end of the dirt road you’ll see a gate and kiosk on the left. This is the entrance to Botany Bay Plantation.

The hours are a bit wonky, but also very helpful for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. It’s a day-use area which means the gates open a half hour before sunrise and close a half hour after sunset. The area is closed on Tuesdays and during special hunting events.

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