Step Right Into “The Notebook”: Cypress Gardens Charleston, SC

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Ever wanted to have your own romantic boat ride through massive cypress trees like Noah & Allie in “The Notebook”? Well, you can right at Cypress Gardens near Charleston, SC. 

I loved the Nicholas Sparks romance, The Notebook, and while the book is always better than the movie, the film didn’t disappoint, especially when it came to creating a scene that looked like it was from another world on a boat amongst massive cypress trees and swans. 

While I took this trip with my kids (who have not seen the movie), the boat ride at Cypress Gardens was just incredible, beautiful, and peaceful. Doing it with your significant other would be next level up romantic. But there’s more to see at the gardens than the swamp gardens, which I’ll tell you all about. 

boat ride at cypress gardens
Look how pretty this is!

About Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre nature preserve with trails, a swamp garden with boat rides, a Swamparium, a playground, and an education center. 

Think lots of beautifully tall trees and Spanish moss, flowers everywhere, and a sense of total peace, especially on the water. 

It seems that Hollywood also loves Cypress Gardens, Charleston SC. The Notebook was filmed here, as well as parts of the “Outer Banks”, Swamp Thing, The Patriot, and Cold Mountain. You can see the full list on the Cypress Gardens Website

The Swamparium

Just outside the Swamparium is a small waterway where we saw two big gators. I actually thought they were fake until we got closer. Nope, they are real and they are everywhere in the gardens. They are pretty docile – just don’t go trying to pet them. 

cypress gardens gators
Yup, those are real

The Swamparium is a building that houses lots of fish and reptiles that are found both in local waterways and swamps as well as in South America. We saw big catfish and a couple of venomous snakes but the biggest thing we saw was the massive Anaconda. 

This thing was huge – and it was feeding time. I’ll spare the details for those readers who would rather not read about this part of nature but for those who think it’s cool, it was. 

The Swamp Boat Tours

The self-guided swamp boat tours are part of your admission ticket, which is pretty awesome. We went in February, which could not have been more perfect in terms of temperatures and bug levels. It was cool and bugless so we could really take in the immense beauty of the blackwater and cypress trees. It’s truly a stunning sight. 

There are very sturdy rowboats to take out into the swamp and life jackets are available. Pro tip: for smaller groups, take a smaller boat. There were only three of us and maneuvering the larger rowboat was a challenge. 

boat ride at cypress gardens
Boat ride at Cypress Gardens

The self-guided tour takes you through the swamp by arrows on the trees so it is easy to follow. You’ll go right past the part of the swamp where Noah and Allie were filmed in the boat as well as the bridge that was shown at the beginning of the film, referred to by the guides as the “duck bridge” because you have to duck under it while paddling. It’s so pretty. 

We were told it would take us about 45 minutes to paddle through the swamp and it took us a bit longer, maybe. I totally lost track. It was peaceful and quiet paddling through the blackwater. We were given instructions to watch for gators and other wildlife and just to keep to ourselves. I’m sure they were there but we didn’t see any in the swamp. 

If you’d rather paddle with a pro, Cypress Gardens offers guided boat tours, it’s an additional $5/person and you can reserve that when you get there. 

The Trails, Butterfly House, and Playground

There are trails that wind all around the gardens. We took the pink trail around part of the swamp and it took us about 20 minutes to walk it all. There are places to sit along the swamp and admire the beauty. There are other, longer trails if you’d like. 

The Butterfly House is a must-see. The plants and flowers there are very pretty and you may get to see some newly-made butterflies. There is a small pond inside with koi fish as well.

And kids will love the playground at Cypress Gardens. There is a larger playground for bigger kids and a smaller one for the littles. There is also a covered pavilion with picnic tables that are perfect for a shaded rest. 

cypress gardens playground

Honest Mom Review: Cypress Gardens

My kids are 13 and 9 and they really enjoyed Cypress Gardens. They are used to me dragging them to gardens to see pretty flowers and plants but not to take a boat ride in a swamp. They both definitely liked it but for me, I was just awed the whole time. Yes, I love the romantic movie that was filmed there but I love nature more. The beauty of those huge cypress trees standing tall in the water just blew me away. I could have done that boat ride again. 

And the Swamparium was also really neat. I may be in the minority but I like snakes and turtles, especially the more I learn about them. The building was so well put together and educational.

And one of the best parts about Cypress Gardens was the price. I couldn’t believe the low cost of admission to see all we did and the fact that it included the self-guided boat ride. You can’t really do any better than that in the Charleston area. This place is a treasure – go visit.

Visiting Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm with the last admission at 4 pm and the last self-guided boat tour going out at 4:15 pm. They are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Admission is $10/adults and $5/kids ages 6-17 and free for kids ages 5 and under. 

Pets are allowed only from November through February and they must be leashed at all times. They are not allowed in buildings.  Be sure to check the website for special events, like an upcoming torch-lit boat ride!

Cypress Gardens
3030 Cypress Gardens Road, Moncks Corner, SC
Cypress Gardens Website

Travel Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

Discover more things to do in Charleston, SC!

Here’s the Kidding Around Travel Guide to Charleston, SC.

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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