Hopelands Gardens is a dreamy 14-acre estate where gently winding paths shaded by century-old live oak trees meander through lush gardens, wetlands, fountains and ponds.
Located just blocks from downtown Aiken and the historic Willcox Hotel but behind a serpentine brick wall, the quiet natural beauty of the gardens affords visitors a peaceful escape and a chance to slow down and just “be”.
There are both paved and dirt paths to follow and explore, and shade is plentiful thanks to the canopy of magnolias, deodar cedars and the sweeping limbs of the live oaks. I just meandered to my heart’s content.
Magical spaces within Hopelands Gardens
The live oaks are my favorite part of the gardens; I can’t get enough of them.
It’s thought they were planted by Hope Goddard Iselin herself while living at what was her winter residence, “Hopelands”. Noted for her philanthropy, she gifted the gardens to the city of Aiken upon her passing.
I love seeing the cypress trees with their swollen trunks and knobby cypress knees peering out from within the swampy water. The more moisture there is in the area, the more cypress knees are found.
Though the reason for their formation has never been confirmed, experts believe they provide stability for the trees.
The plaque at the labyrinth’s entrance encourages visitors to follow the path to the center then stop, linger and absorb all that the labyrinth and gardens have to offer before retracing your steps.
This is a fabulous family activity for those with small children, but even without them, I found my inner child as I followed the twisted trail. Lots of fun!
The reflecting pools were built on the foundation site of the original home and they’re lined with beautiful statues and lush landscapes.
The Dollhouse at Hopelands Gardens
‘The Dollhouse’ was their daughter’s playhouse. Can you imagine?
The structure was ordered from a Sears & Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s and still stands.
The painted life-size horses in the stable peer out and invite visitors to come over and take a look. Each of the horses has an accompanying sign explaining their importance in Aiken’s illustrious equestrian history.
Not only can you see Aiken’s thoroughbred Hall-of-Famers here, you can learn more about the equipment used with thoroughbreds and see an incredibly well-done exhibit on famous black jockeys of the area.
There are lots of other things to explore too, including a touch-and-feel Braille walkway, gazebo, swings, a rock fountain, horse statues and a carriage museum. It’s a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Hopelands Gardens also puts on a fabulous light display over the holidays!
Hopeland Gardens Aiken SC
135 Dupree Pl, Aiken, SC 29801
Open daily 10 am-6 pm
Facial coverings required indoors.