Cypress Gardens: The Best Kept Secret of Berkeley County


Swamp at Cypress GardensJust 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston lies the best-kept secret of Berkeley County. At Cypress Gardens, an entirely different world awaits even the most hesitant city slicker. Expansive swampland and trails, a giant playground, swamparium, and exhibits are sure to please guests of all ages. 

PRO TIP: Arrive early in the day to beat the heat and the crowds. Cypress Gardens is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The last admission to the park is at 4:00 p.m. 

A row boat sitting at the dock at Cypress Gardens swampThe Swamp at Cypress Gardens

A visit to Cypress Gardens isn’t complete without a trip around the swamp. Captain a boat yourself at no additional charge or join a guided tour for just five dollars more. Tours run 45 minutes long and cover more than you need to know about the history, wildlife, and plants of the park. Just head to the dock at the top of the hour to join the fun. 

The dock workers have plenty of practice helping families get out onto the water. Boats range in capacity from 1-13. To captain a boat you must be 16 years old or older. Everyone must wear a life jacket. Older kids use an orange horseshoe-style life jacket while infants and toddlers will be offered a buckle life jacket with straps between the legs and a float behind their head. All riders must be able to duck under the bridge to complete the tour.

PRO TIP: Start with the boats! Everyone loves the boats at Cypress Gardens (and for good reason!) so a line will start to form as the day goes on. The last boat leaves the dock at 4:15. No exceptions.

The Trails

With plants blooming year-round, the trails at Cypress Gardens never disappoint. Explore over four miles of trails along the swamp, through the forests, and past beautiful gazebos and overlooks. My kids love walking over the bridges to wave at the boats and animals! Trails are well marked with maps staggered throughout the gardens and available digitally. Paths are paved, dirt, mulch, and gravel. Check out the all-terrain wheelchair for those with limited mobility — even the Main Path, which is paved, is still quite rugged.

PRO TIP: Walking with kids? Grab the stroller and start with the Main Path. You’ll get a great feel for everything in the park and finish right at the playground. 

A young boy sits atop a snake shaped climbing structure.The Playground

Yes! The playground at Cypress Gardens is our favorite! My big kids love it because it’s tall and has really cool slides. My little kids love it because there are cool statues of snakes and turtles to climb. And I love it because while small it packs a serious punch. I like to set up a little lunch at the tables in the shade and can see the entire playground from that one spot as kids come and go. With four kids ages one to eight, this is seriously a dream come true! The playground is mostly fenced in with entrance points from a gate to the parking lot and a boardwalk by the front lawn. 

PRO TIP: If you are visiting the park on a free day or for a special event, food trucks will set up near the park and create a loud environment for kids. Consider stopping at the playground first before this area gets busy. 

The Swamparium

The Swamparium has large tanks and terrariums featuring fish, amphibians, and reptiles from nearby waterways and beyond. My kids cannot get enough of this place! While animals can hide or sleep tucked away at the zoo, there’s no hiding here. My kids know that no matter the day or time, they are going to see some wicked cool stuff at the Swamparium. Don’t worry, there are comfortable chairs and benches just outside the building if you decide anacondas aren’t for you. 

PRO TIP: Check the weather when you get to the parking lot. When rain showers are on the forecast we like to wait them out here.


As a newcomer to the Charleston area, I love seeing the plants labeled at the Butterfly House and getting ideas for my own garden at home. My kids love tip-toeing through the exhibit to find koi fish and butterflies. Make sure to visit during the holiday season to see the tiny replicas of Charleston landmarks made out of natural materials. Think gingerbread house contest, Cypress Gardens edition. 

Boss and Ally are real-life, super giant, totally rad alligators who live just outside of the Swamparium. While it is highly likely you will see alligators in the swamp, I always bring guests here who say they want to see an alligator on their trip. 

The Bird Exhibit is outdoors and just steps away from the butterfly house. It is home to parrots, peacocks, and more. 

PRO TIP: Set up camp at the bird exhibit and invite everyone to use the bathroom at the nearby facilities. Diaper changing tables are located in the handicap stall. These are the only bathrooms available at Cypress Gardens. Sometimes a port-a-potty can be found near the playground. 

Special Events at Cypress Gardens

The special events at Cypress Gardens are incredible! Feature events include Fossil Fest (February), Halloween in the Swamp (October), and Santa in the Swamp (December). I like to follow Cypress Gardens on social media for updates and take a picture of the Upcoming Events poster when I visit. All the events I’ve been to, including gardening lectures and field trips, have been incredible. The volunteers and staff truly go above and beyond to make every day special. 

PRO TIP: There are frequent free days for Berkeley County residents! Go early to enjoy all the regular thrills then stay for the food trucks and vendors. 

Stop by Cypress Gardens this summer and experience the magic of the Lowcountry!

What’s your favorite part of Cypress Gardens?