8 Places to See Azaleas in the Lowcountry


A couple on their wedding day amid a green landscape with pink flowers.My Love Letter to Charleston Spring

I was 12 years old the first time I saw Charleston in the spring. While on vacation at Hilton Head, my family made a day trip into the city. This Minnesota girl didn’t know March could be anything but gray skies and mud puddles. The bright, colorful blooms set against Spanish mossed-draped live oaks at Magnolia Plantation completely captured a little girl’s heart. I was in love with this fairytale of a place. Twenty-five years later, I got married in the spot where I first fell in love . . . with the Lowcountry.

Charleston is always beautiful, but it’s never more beautiful than during those few weeks in March when the azaleas are in full bloom. I’ve had my breath taken away driving by strip malls on Highway 17 during the time when the ordinary transforms into dense, swaths of vibrant color. But, over the last decade and a half, I’ve accumulated a list of places I intentionally seek out during our azalea bloom. The colors make the day trip worth it. Check out our family favorites below!

NOTE: Different varieties of azaleas bloom at different times. Blooms happen from the end of February through May, but it seems like we get a couple of weeks (typically in March) that are truly remarkable.

Little girls running and posing along strips of azaleas.Where to See Azaleas in Charleston

1. Charles Towne Landing

This park, known as the birthplace of South Carolina, is rich in history; it is where English settlers first landed in 1670. There’s always lots to see here — historical exhibits depicting colonial life, a wonderful natural habitat zoo, and a replica of a 17th-century sailboat (kids love to climb this!).

In the spring, the star exhibit is the 80 acres of trails along the marsh on the Ashley River, all lined by thousands of azaleas. Take a walk down the park’s alley of live oaks and enjoy the amazing splash of color against the backdrop of the Ashley River. You can also bring or rent bikes to ensure you see each corner and curve of the trail.

2. Cypress Gardens

This unique, 170-acre swamp garden in Berkeley County is just a 45-minute drive from downtown Charleston and features a swamparium, butterfly house, self-guided boat tours, gorgeous walking trails, and a wonderful playground.

In the spring, the gardens are exquisite, and the azalea-lined trails are almost cartoonish due to the color. On March 15th, the park is offering a torchlit boat tour. Play “Where’s Waldo?” with alligators among the azaleas!

3. Hampton Park

Charleston’s largest green space, this 61-acre park is a local favorite. Its ornamental gardens, ponds, and walking and jogging trails look their best in the spring. Walk or bike the outer paved track or stroll one of the interior trails — both are guarded by azalea bushes, so you’ll feel like you’re in a floral wonderland. Our family likes to pack a picnic or get a coffee at the nearby Citadel Starbucks and enjoy the scenery.

4. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

I would argue the crown jewel of floral displays anywhere is the romantic gardens of Magnolia Plantation. The whimsical play of floral color among swaying Spanish moss, blanketed under the grandeur of centuries-old live oaks has earned this garden a unique and charmed place in my heart. In the spring, the trails are tunneled by azalea blooms. You’ll stroll through arches of color along the Ashley River.

When you’re done admiring the beauty of the gardens, Magnolia also offers six miles of walking and biking trails, a Wildlife Center, a robust snack bar, a swamp garden, house tours, boat tours, nature train tours, a gift shop, greenhouse, and a “from Slavery to Freedom” tour. Check their event calendar for fun happenings throughout the year.

5. Magnolia Cemetery

On the banks of the Cooper River near Charleston’s Wagner Terrace neighborhood, this antebellum cemetery is full of rich history, beautiful architecture and art, and a surprising amount of wildlife. The 150 acres of grounds provide the chance to walk through gorgeous gardens and insight into Charleston’s storied past and lore. The image of colorful blooms against gravestones is hauntingly beautiful.

6. Mepkin Abbey

Once a plantation, Trappist monks now make their home at this monastery on the banks of the Cooper River. The serene setting is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. The gardens and grounds are made accessible to the public through a reception center and a small gift shop. The beauty of this sacred place is especially heightened in the spring with the azalea bloom. Pack a picnic and come prepared to be calmed and inspired by the stillness, quiet, and natural beauty the monks are kind enough to share with us.

7. Middleton Place

A few miles down the Ashley River from Magnolia Plantation is Middleton Place with its formal gardens. Whereas Magnolia is wild and romantic, its neighbor is manicured and stately. When the azaleas are at their peak, my family and I enjoy a buffet lunch of traditional Lowcountry dishes at the lovely Middleton Place Restaurant overlooking the gardens. The dining area is reminiscent of a sunroom and the views from every angle are incredible. The restaurant also offers picnic options.

The slightly elevated walking trails lined by azaleas create hillsides of color that are absolutely spectacular. Middleton also offers several tours, and my children always enjoy seeing their livestock animals, especially the free-range sheep. Starting in late March, visit for the Spring Garden Strolls and Wine Tastings every Wednesday evening from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

8. White Point Garden

Get your postcard shot of Charleston in spring at this beautiful green space along the Battery. It doesn’t get much more iconic than blooming azaleas set against the grand dames of South Battery Street. Kids can run and play under the live oaks and among the cannons of the gardens and keep an eye out for dolphins in the harbor, while mamas can debate which Rainbow Row window box they envy most.

A toddler girl admires a bush with pink azaleas.What places would you add to this list to see our beautiful Charleston azaleas? Are there any neighborhoods or drives we should be sure to check out?


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Elizabeth Crabtree Killen
Elizabeth grew up in the lake country of Minnesota, and she has always loved the water. She was thrilled when her work as a public health researcher and hospital administrator brought her to MUSC in 2012. Charleston has been the setting of all her greatest adventures, the best of which is being a mother to her 7-year-old daughter, Annabeth, then later in life finding love with her husband, Tim. She became a stepmother to his two teenagers, and now she’s also the mother of ‘two under two.' Elizabeth and her family live on Wadmalaw Island where they enjoy being on the water and in a space that accommodates the activities of their large, blended family.


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