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Botany Bay — Edisto Island, South Carolina

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Botany Bay

Botany Bay is a 3,363-acre wildlife preserve located on Edisto Island. Its deed was transferred to the state after former owner John Meyer, who bought the property in 1968, illegally built a pond on the property. In order to avoid repercussions, he offered to give South Carolina the land upon his and his wife’s death. A deal was struck, and in 2008, the Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area was born.

Botany Bay Entrance Road

Curtis Cabana of Summerville, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The early history of Botany Bay can be traced back to two plantations – Bleak Hall Plantation and Sea Cloud Plantation. Bleak Hall Plantation was originally developed by Daniel Townsend, III in 1798, and the main house was built in 1805, though it burned during the Civil War. A second house was built in 1866 and demolished in the 1930s.

Botany Bay - Edisto Island

English Purcell of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 1842, Daniel’s first son, John, inherited Bleak Hall. By the end of the decade, he had purchased the adjoining Sea Cloud Plantation from the Seabrook family and was producing more cotton than any other planter in South Carolina.

Botany Bay Entrance

Charles Hardin of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Townsend was renowned for both the quantity and the quality of his sea island cotton, a variety prized for its unusually long and silky fibers. Below are ruins from Sea Cloud, built by Ephraim Mikell Seabrook sometime in the 1800s.

Botany bay Edisto

Alistair Nicol of Mt Pleasant © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

About a year after South Carolina’s secession from the Union, Edisto Island was evacuated and subsequently occupied by the Union army. The Civil War proved devastating to the island and its plantations. Townsend and his descendants worked to rebuild what was left and continued producing the famous sea island cotton until the early 1920s, when the boll weevil all but destroyed the cotton industry in South Carolina.

Botany Bay

Keith Briley of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The plantations remained in the Townsend family until the 1930s, when Dr. James Greenway combined the two properties and renamed the land Botany Bay Plantation. It was acquired by John Meyer in 1968. Before Meyer died in 1977, he deeded the property to the state to be used as a wildlife preserve, but only after the death of his wife, Margaret.

Botany Bay in Spring

Nancy Garvin of Goose Creek, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

While living there during the remainder of her lifetime, Margaret took great care to protect the land and to foster a diverse array of habitats throughout the property, including maritime forests, salt marshes, tidal creeks, and hammock islands. Today, recreational opportunities at Botany Bay include seasonal hunting, catch and release fishing, birding, and an interpretive driving trail.

Botany Bay Marsh

Charles Hardin of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Bleak Hall Plantation at Botany Bay

The house at Bleak Hall burned, but three circa-1840 outbuildings remain: an icehouse, a shed, and what was likely a smokehouse. The Gothic Revival icehouse, shown below and again at the bottom of this section, is especially picturesque and often photographed by visitors.

Botany Ice House

Kathie Lee of Hollywood, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Standing near the icehouse is the tabby shed, pictured below. Tabby is a building material composed of lime from burned oyster shells, the shells themselves, sand, and water. Its use is sometimes disputed but it is thought to have been either a gardeners shed because it stands on the edge of a once expansive Japanese Garden, or it was used as the plantation smokehouse.

Tabby Gardners Shed

Larry Gleason, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Bleak Hall ruins are listed in the National Register:

Though the main house of Bleak Hall Plantation was destroyed by fire, the three remaining outbuildings, probably constructed in the 1840s by John Townsend, are excellent representatives of the Gothic Revival architecture utilized in the construction of this plantation. Particularly noteworthy is the structure and design of the perfectly preserved icehouse with its mock tracery windows and door and the high gabled roof with triangular dormer. A second outbuilding, a rectangular equipment shed, is of tabby construction with a high wooden gable roof covered with cypress shingles. The third outbuilding, a cubicle of tabby construction, was probably used as a smokehouse.

John Townsend was born at Bleak Hall in 1799. Inheriting the plantation from his father, Townsend became well known as an advanced agriculturist. He was one of the largest planters of sea island cotton in the state and won many prizes for its quality and length. Bleak Hall cotton was highly valued for lace making in Belgium and France. The gardens were also renowned, the remains of which surround the outbuildings. John Townsend employed a Japanese gardener to lay out and care for the elaborate and exotic gardens. Townsend was also a political leader, serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate, as a delegate to the Secession Convention, and signer of the Ordinance of Secession.

Ice House at Botany

Megan Pearson of Edgefield © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Ice House

Emily Bagwell of Summerville © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sea Cloud Plantation at Botany Bay

The ruins below are all that remain of the plantation house foundation that once stood at Sea Cloud, the Townsend family home. In January 1863 Confederate soldiers “had a fine view of the Yankee gunboats at the mouth of Rock Creek and also of the village of Rockville.”

Sea Cloud

Donna Edgeworth of Scranton, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The painting below, depicting a waterfront scene at Sea Cloud, shows one of the many marshy vistas that give the Lowcountry its name.

Sea Cloud Plantation

Andy Corley of Edgefield © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

This beehive well, pictured below, was discovered by John Meyer’s widow, Margaret “Peggy” Pepper. The well was known as Jacob’s Well and has sunken considerably over the years. It was thought to have been built in 1825 and once stood twelve feet tall with a conical top and was primarily used as a water source for the slaves of Sea Cloud Plantation.

Beehive Well aka Jacob's Well

Allan A. Russell of Simpsonville, 2010 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

This 1910 photo of Jacob’s Well shows the original height and top portion. The smooth surfacing over the exterior was removed exposing the bricks and the original arched top.

Jacob's Well 1910

Contributed by E.M. “Bud” Skidmore of Edisto Island © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on Botany Bay

Botany Bay Edisto Beach

Mark Wickliffe of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Mark VanDyke shares this about his photo of Boneyard Beach: “When I initially arrived at Botany Bay’s Boneyard Beach to find a low tide my feeling was largely of disappointment. I had hoped for dynamic interaction between the Atlantic Ocean and the stranded coastal trees. The absence of the wave action at the trees, however, allowed me to pull back and take a broader landscape that suggests the situation I was envisioning but did not overtly illustrate it. The absence of the wave action itself allowed reflection of the subject into a tidal pool and perhaps even goes as far as to encourage reflection on the situation by the viewer as well. Botany Bay is a really special piece of property and it’s always a bit magical when visit the Boneyard Beach to check in on the stubborn trees that stand along the shoreline.”

Contributor Keith Briley says: “Botany Bay is one of the most serene and beautiful locations in the Lowcountry. It has been photographed by many, while its beautiful subject matter has led to many award-winning images. On this morning, I wanted to shoot something different. Something that still screamed that this was indeed Botany Bay, but would hopefully provide another intriguing point of view. As always, while I’m at this location, I found myself wondering just how many magical locations around the globe have been undiscovered. Thankfully, this one was! I titled this one, ‘Blush of Dawn.'”

Botany Bay

Keith Briley of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Briley goes on to share his experience of capturing his other photo pictured above: “With my daughter inspiring to become a photographer for marine biology, I thought this would be a beautiful way for the two of us to spend time together on a gorgeous September morning. Much to our surprise as we were leaving the beach, we came across a few scientists who were removing eggs from sea turtle nests. They were relocating them to a safer location. Fortunately, once it was explained that my daughter was preparing for their type of work, they spent some time with us chatting about what they were involved with and encouraged her to pursue her dream!”

Boneyard Beach at Botany Bay on Edisto Island

Keith Briley of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay

Keith Briley of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Visitor Theresa A. Smith shares, “Botany Bay Plantation is a Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management area. Located at Edisto Island, SC. This nearly 4,000-acre area is a nature lover’s dream. The Boneyard Beach is a must-see. Be sure and check the tide schedule before you go. Erosion on Botany Bay Beach has left a ‘boneyard’ of dead trees along the sand, creating a unique coastline. This is a photographers paradise! You need to walk the ‘boneyard’ beach to really appreciate it. There are many shells on the beach, but you are not allowed to take them. When you find a real nice shell, hang it on one of the trees. You will see what I mean when you arrive there. There are shells everywhere! We were lucky enough to see loggerhead turtle eggs on the beach! I could ramble on and on but to sum it up…our trip to Botany Bay was awesome!”

Botany Bay Boneyard Beach

Theresa A. Smith of Knob Lick, Kentucky, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Contributor Jean Power says of her photo: “This is the marsh just behind the beach at Botany Bay on Edisto Island. Friends and I were enjoying the boneyard beach, and I turned around to find this view, which reminded me of a Monet painting.”

Botany Bay Marsh

Jean Power of Georgetown, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Aerial Views of Botany Bay

Boneyard Beach Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Beach Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

More Pictures of Botany Bay

Botany Bay Maritime Forest

Charles Hardin of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Palmettos

Kathie Lee of Hollywood, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Causeway

Larry Gleason of Aiken, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Marsh and Live Oaks, Botany Bay

Renee McKissick of Lexington, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay

Tiffany Briley of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay

Tiffany Briley of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Boneyard Beach Botany

Ben Sumrell of Awendaw, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay on Edisto

Ben Sumrell of Awendaw, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Oaks at Botany Bay

C. Hope Clark of Chapin, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Oak at Botany Bay

C. Hope Clark of Chapin, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Road Black White

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Beach

F. Everett Leigh of Union, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Road

James P. Karner of Rock Hill © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Boneyard Botany Dusk

Christian Stewart of Chattanooga, TN, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Trees

Keith Briley of Goose Creek, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany ay Beach

Keith Briley of Goose Creek, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay South Carolina

Keith Briley of Goose Creek, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Info

Address: Botany Bay Road off SC 174, Edisto Island, SC 29438
GPS Coordinates: 32.543255,-80.253298

Botany Bay Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

48 Comments about Botany Bay

René Hernandez says:
October 19th, 2019 at 10:21 pm

I’m planing on traveling to Botany Bay Beach in November, 2019. I would like to take photographs of the dead trees inside the water. Is there any specific place to take these photographs? Any maps of where these trees are? We are driving from Georgia. Thank you.

Cathy Sheppard says:
January 24th, 2019 at 9:47 pm

Most beautiful and intriguing place to see. Thank you all for sharing your pictures and history of this awesome place. Makes it that much more overwhelming to have pictures and how it came to be “Botany Bay”!

SC Picture Project says:
August 17th, 2018 at 5:25 am

So glad you enjoyed the place and photos! The seashell size and abundance is due to far less human interaction on the beach. Seashells aren’t permitted to be taken on the beach at Botany Bay resulting in much larger ones being left.

Winnie Tracy says:
August 16th, 2018 at 8:13 pm

We visited Botany Bay today, it was beautiful. Just wondering why there are so many big seashells here and mostly little ones at Edisto Beach. Enjoyed the photos on this website.

SCIWAY says:
August 7th, 2018 at 9:13 pm

Absolutely! The SCDNR advises to only visit the beach when the tide is high or there is a potential to be stranded out there. The beach has eroded quite a bit but is still a great place to visit. Most of the trees that were popular amongst photographers are gone but there are still some on the beach.

John Sabatier says:
August 7th, 2018 at 10:16 am

Any updates as to accessing the beach/ boneyard?

SCIWAY says:
August 2nd, 2018 at 1:55 am

We see portraits done there often but are unsure of the guidelines, your best bet is to contact someone in charge there directly. According to the SCDNR website, the contact person is:

Daniel Barrineau
585 Donnelley Drive
Green pond, South Carolina 29446

Anna says:
August 1st, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Is it possible to take bridal portraits around Botany Bay? And if so, do I need any type of appointment? It is truly breathtaking.


SCIWAY says:
August 1st, 2017 at 12:12 am

Hey Paige, yes! It is all back open now! They are closed on Tuesdays though so I would not advise heading out then. Be sure to check property closures on the SCDNR page too because sometimes there are cleanup days as well as certain hunting times depending on the season. We just checked and it looks like no closures are scheduled, minus Tuesdays, until September. Here is the website: https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/57. Thanks!

Paige says:
July 31st, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Hi, my family and I were wondering if the causeway is open yet. If not what is accessible if anything right now? Thanks in advance for your time.

SCIWAY says:
July 4th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Hello Tina! The causeway is set to be repaired though no date has been supplied yet. We have heard anything from Fall to next year. We know many are dying to get back out there again and we hope it will be soon! Enjoy your trip!

Tina says:
July 3rd, 2017 at 2:32 pm

I will be traveling there the week of July 9-16th and was wondering if the beach access is going to be open? IF not is the bridge going to be repaired for future use? Thank you for your time!

SCIWAY says:
June 7th, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Hello Nikolaus, unfortunately the beach at Botany Bay has been closed since last October due to storm damages washing out the causeway. There are plans for it to reopen but we are unsure of a date just yet. We advise to watch the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource’s website (the owner) they will have updated information on the property there. Thanks so much! https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/57

Nikolaus Rohm says:
June 7th, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Just wondering if this breathtaking magical place has any activities planned for the August eclipse? I am bringing a couple of people to see it from the beach. I understand tidal constraints, for I have been driven off of it by an amazingly powerful max high tide rolling in. Thank you and also thank all creation for such a beautiful place.

SCIWAY says:
June 2nd, 2017 at 2:49 pm

The entire area of Botany Bay, minus the beach, has been open since the hurricane. However, the beach still remains closed from the damages.

Celeste Halleck says:
June 1st, 2017 at 5:35 pm

We are wondering if Botany Bay has opened yet since the hurricane. Coming down there next week.

SCIWAY says:
March 14th, 2017 at 6:48 am

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Here is the website: http://www.dnr.sc.gov Best of luck.

Ken Smith says:
March 13th, 2017 at 7:06 pm

SCIWAY, who/what is SCDNR and how would I contact them to find out more info? Thanks so much.

SCIWAY says:
March 13th, 2017 at 8:06 am

We are unsure of when the beach will reopen, but the SCDNR should have more information.

Ken Smith says:
March 11th, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Hi. Do you know if the beach will be open by Mid April 2017? I’ve never had the chance to photograph the trees, and I read with heavy-heart about the storm damage. I hope the area can quickly recover.

SCIWAY says:
February 8th, 2017 at 7:22 am

The greater property is open, but unfortunately, the beach is still closed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew. It is still worth a visit! The beach is only one part of this beautiful WMA.

Susie Bales-Oswalt says:
February 8th, 2017 at 2:45 am

Will Botany Bay be open in mid March, my husband and I are planning our anniversary trip to Charleston. We would love to visit the boneyard beach..

Susan Cox says:
January 7th, 2017 at 5:51 pm

How would I get one of the calendars with Botany Bay pictures? We visited Botany Bay and would love to have a calendar. Thank you.

SCIWAY says:
November 10th, 2016 at 7:43 am

We are sorry that Botany Bay was closed when you visited in September and share your disappointment that Botany Bay will be closed indefinitely due to damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew. While we are not aware to date of any books strictly on Botany Bay WMA, here is a list of SC books: https://www.sciway.net/shop/books.html

Mary Anderson says:
November 9th, 2016 at 1:48 pm

In September of this year, we were blessed to stay at my niece’s home in beautiful Edisto Beach. She had told me to be sure and go to Botany Bay. We planned on going on Thursday. We did go and it was closed. I was so disappointed as I had heard so much about it. We live in Louisiana and probably won’t be able to go again. The trip was for our Anniversary. Is there a book or video that I could buy? So beautiful in SC, I could live there year long in Edisto Beach. Thank you!!

Yumei Liu says:
July 27th, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Really beautiful place I've ever been.

Babbie says:
February 3rd, 2017 at 7:45 am

There are no hotels at Edisto which is why the island is so wonderful. There are also no business or food chains – all restaurants, art shops, grocery store are locally owned. Best way to go is to rent a house. There is a golf community with condos but frankly, I don’t like it. There are a few good realtors and they all do rentals.

Beth Mccandless says:
July 6th, 2016 at 12:49 pm

What places are best to stay.

Linda Thomas-Cook says:
April 30th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Going there today with my photography club from Murrells Inlet. Can't wait.

Jim Jenkins says:
April 29th, 2016 at 7:49 am

Today’s post was most interesting. Thanks to all who contributed pictures and details about Botany Bay. What a wonderful treasure the state has at this location. Thanks to SCIWAY for keeping us so informed about the state and all the beautiful place to enjoy.

Becky Mojica says:
March 28th, 2016 at 5:56 pm

I hope to visit this place in a few weeks!!!

Michael D. Lempert says:
May 29th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Michael Oliver: Yes, the fact is a man can’t do something on his own property without government involvement. I didn’t see anything there that looked inappropriate, including a pond.

Michael Oliver says:
May 29th, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Government sticking it&#039s nose where it don't belong. Stealing land.

South Carolina says:
May 25th, 2015 at 8:35 pm

The DNR would likely be able to answer questions on the management of the site. The state-managed website for Botany Bay is above the map.

Michael D. Lempert says:
May 23rd, 2015 at 6:01 pm

So the pond was a major problem, but is now okay since the state owns it?

Joe Reyes says:
April 26th, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Beautiful South Carolina.

Linda Parham says:
April 7th, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Laura and Karen, check this out

Kathy Reynolds says:
March 30th, 2015 at 2:54 pm

This in on my bucket list!

Carolyn Kennedy Dominy says:
February 27th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

One of the most beautiful places on the eastern seaboard. I have gone to this area yearly since 1989 and each time it is as relaxing as before.

Suzanne Hatcher says:
November 7th, 2014 at 2:31 am

5th year in a row, and I fall in love all over again.

Scott Warner says:
May 16th, 2013 at 11:39 am

Southern Hospitality was never more evident,rewarding, and rich than spending time at Botany Bay, never more poignant than watching Junior Meggett throw his shrimp net in the creek to provide a succulent treat. Also fun to use the rope swing jumping into the creek, at high tide of course and to sit on the beach moonlight nights and watch the turtles in their timeless exercise .

Mark says:
January 24th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I am not local nor am I particularly well read of the SC heritage but I have visited BB many times. I have traveled many fascinating parts of the world and BB is an amazing magical well-preserved place. If you can go don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity. You can hike south, towards Edisto or north, toward Seabrook. Either way is an adventure. It’s like going back to prehistoric times. I guess, I wasn’t there then!

tom tindall says:
December 1st, 2012 at 11:51 am

I appreciate the comment from Frances Dantzler, and share her enthusiasm for Botany. I came to work for John E.(Jason)Meyer in the spring of 1973 and served him and his widow, Margaret Morgan Meyer as caretaker until 1980. The base article is incorrect in that Jason purchased Botany from Newton Bros Lumber in 1968 and not 1973.
I am currently working on a book that covers the history of Bleak Hall, Sea Cloud and Westcoat Plantations that were combined by Dr.James C.Greenway to form Botany Bay Plantation in the 1930s. Anyone with information that they would like to included are invite to do so.

Frances Platt Dantzler says:
October 11th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I have wonderful memories of the time my family was fortunate to live on Botany Bay. At the time it was mostly referred to as Greenway Plantation. Newton Lumber Company of nearby Adams Run purchased the plantation in the 1950’s from Dr. Greenway, who was a retired botanist. My father, Baynard Seabrook Platt, and John Towles farmed the land for a large trucking firm. They didn’t plant cotton, but they did plant lots of tomatoes, cucumbers and every kind of squash you could think of. So sad to see the ocean taking the beach!

Steve McGahee says:
April 25th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Botany Bay Plantation is a great place to visit. Thanks for the picture!

Christine Moore says:
April 22nd, 2011 at 6:09 am

Amazing beauty. Thanks for sharing the picture.

Brandon Coffey says:
December 23rd, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Botany Bay is so beautiful — definitely glad to see it being preserved so well!

Mom Gowder says:
November 16th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

That is great to have one of your photos featured!
Love Mom


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