Botany Bay – Edisto Beach, South Carolina

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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.

Botany bay Edisto

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

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 Beach Aerial

Larry Gleason, Aiken Aerial Photography, 2015 © 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 the Townsend family in 1798, and the plantation house was built in the early 1800s, though it later burned.

Botany Bay Entrance

Charles Hardin of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

By the mid-1800s, owner John Townsend – who was born at Bleak Hall in 1799 – had purchased the adjoining Sea Cloud Plantation from the Seabrook family and was producing more cotton than any other plantation in South Carolina.

Botany Bay on Edisto

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

Townsend was renowned for 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 House Ruins

David Shull of Elloree, 2013 © 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.

Botany Bay Edisto Beach

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

Townsend and his descendants worked hard 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.

Boneyard Beach Botany

Ben Sumrell of Awendaw, 2014 © 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.

Boneyard Beach Aerial

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

Botany Bay 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 Canopy

Mark VanDyke of Herndon, VA © 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.

Botany Bay Maritime Forest

Charles Hardin of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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

The Bleak Hall ice house (seen below) remains a popular site at the preserve. The Gothic-style structure was built in the 1840s and is representative of the other buildings at Bleak Hall.

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

Botany Bay Aerial

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

Botany Bay Road

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

Botany Bay Boneyard Beach

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

Botany Bay

Paul Gowder of Lexington © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Botany Bay Beach

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

Botany Bay South Carolina

Megan Pearson of Edgefield © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sea Cloud Plantation

Andy Corley of Edgefield © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Bleak Hall ruins are listed in the National Register, which says the following:

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.

SC Picture Project Contributors Reflect on Botany Bay

Photographer Mark VanDyke, who provided an exquisite photo of Botany’s Bay entrance road, leaves visitors with these words: “Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve is a 4700 acre plot of land in Charleston County along the North Edisto River. Part of the ACE basin focus area, the plantation is quoted as part of the largest remaining relatively undeveloped wetland ecosystems along the Atlantic coast. During its early days, the plantation itself thrived from the trade of sea cotton, which was later destroyed by the introduction of the boll weevil. Opened to the public in the summer of 2008, the plantation and boneyard beach are relatively new destinations, yet already must-see spots for landscape photographers.”

Contributor Keith Briley shares his experience of capturing one of the beautiful beach scenes 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!”

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 Info

Address: Botany Bay Road off SC 174, Edisto Beach, SC 29438

Botany Bay Map

Botany Bay – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Botany Bay, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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11 Comments about Botany Bay

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 WarnerNo Gravatar 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 .

MarkNo Gravatar 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 tindallNo Gravatar 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 DantzlerNo Gravatar 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 McGaheeNo Gravatar says:
April 25th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

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

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

Amazing beauty. Thanks for sharing the picture.

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

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

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

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


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