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Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet

Here is an intro to Brookgreen Gardens, a treasure trove and do-not-miss attraction in Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

(UDPATED APRIL 2022) The priceless Fighting Stallions sculpture at the entrance of Brookgreen Gardens was created by the garden’s founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington, a local artist and philanthropist. Anna oversaw the beauty and creativity inside Brookgreen Gardens and left the masterpiece for us to enjoy. Here’s an intro of what to expect when you visit Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

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Who was Anna Hyatt Huntington? 

Anna Hyatt Huntington was the brainchild behind the 9,100-acre unique sculpture garden and wildlife preserve known as Brookgreen Gardens. The grounds were formerly rice plantations and are now majestic, picture-perfect manicured gardens that look straight from a book. Anna and her husband, Archer, found that this would be the perfect place for her and her sister Harriett Hyatt Mayor to display their works. The gardens soon added other American sculptors.

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Brookgreen Gardens opened on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast in 1932, making it the first public sculpture garden in the country. It also has the most extensive collection of figurative sculptures (by American artists) in an outdoor setting in the world.

Fun Fact: You can take a boat ride to see the rice plantations while at the gardens.

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What to See

The biggest draw at Brookgreen Gardens is the American figurative sculptures, while the Lowcountry Zoo, another offering at Brookgreen, is a close runner-up. Besides Anna Hyatt Huntington and her sister, Edward Frances McCartan, Gutzon Borglum, and the Piccirilli Brothers also have pieces on display. 

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Pieces that intrigued me were Diana (fountain) by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Dionysus by Edward Francis McCartan, and the Fountain of the Muses by Carl Milles.

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Brookgreen Gardens Property Features

In total, around 1500 sculptures are displayed at Brookgreen Gardens. One day may not be enough time to see the fantastic works showcased here. We toured for a few hours and only saw a small portion of them. A fun fact is that part of Brookgreen Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and another part (the sculpture garden) became a National Historic Landmark in 1984. 

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Besides the beautiful sculptures, there are also magnificent trees and flowers. Something is always in bloom on the property. You are in for a visual delight, from zinnias, begonias, and snapdragon to bachelor buttons, hydrangea, and azaleas.

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Photographers will swoon over the photo opportunities found at Brookgreen Gardens. You’ll stroll through 250-year-old live oaks with moss hanging beneath them, the perfect backdrop for that new profile picture. Then take in the roses and perennials in the Brenda W. Rosen Carolina Terrace Garden. Pay special attention to the serpentine lattice brick walls, Moorish in style. 

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Children are more than welcome at Brookgreen Gardens. They have their own garden to enjoy and special activities throughout the year.

Learn more about South Carolina’s Lowcountry on the audio tour, emphasizing the historic preservation of this unique area, free with garden admission. The 30-minute fictional story about the plantation takes you by the rice-field overlook trail.  

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The Gullah Culture: A Special Offering

The Gullah Geechee is a living culture of direct descendants of enslaved West Africans brought into the US in the 1700s to work the rice, cotton, and indigo fields along the Georgia and South Carolina seaboard. Hundreds of years later, they continue to teach the traditions of their ancestors and have a strong-knit family unit. The cultural corridor of the Gullah culture runs from Wilmington, NC, to St. Augustine, FL.

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Brookgreen Gardens is fortunate to have Ron Daise sharing the Gullah culture of his people through special programs offered at the gardens. I was privy to a bit of insight into the culture as we sang songs and learned about what makes the people of Gullah special. It was a history lesson at its finest, and I won’t spoil it for you, but it does involve spiritual songs, benne cookies, rice dishes, and having respect for elders.

My daughters watched a show called “Let’s all Go to Gullah, Gullah Island in the mid-1990s, in which his family was the stars of. I recognized the enthusiasm in his voice right away. 

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Why You Should Visit Brookgreen Gardens

A visit to Brookgreen Gardens is a beautiful way to see impressive artwork, admire lovely flowers and trees, be at peace with nature, and get some exercise in a gorgeous setting. No matter what reason you choose, you will have an enjoyable time. I’m so glad that I finally experienced the magic of these gardens and hope you will, too.

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Thanks to Brookgreen Gardens for hosting our half day FAM trip during the Travel South Conference. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.

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Visiting Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet is a visual treat for your eyes and senses.

Read more of our South Carolina posts:

How to Spend a Day in Greenville

Best Things to Do in Myrtle Beach: A 5-Day Guide

Things to See on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast

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