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Swan Lake and Iris Garden: Sumter South Carolina's Hidden Gem

Black Australian Swan
Black Australian Swan

Apart from the state parks and beaches, there's another hidden gem in South Carolina for all travel enthusiasts, the Swan Lake and Iris Garden in Sumter. Swan Lake and Iris Garden is a 120-acre park located in the heart of Sumter, South Carolina, offering visitors a peaceful and calming atmosphere. The picturesque combination of swan-occupied lake and beautiful flower beds attracts visitors from all over the world. This charming park has many attractions to offer, and in this blog post, we are here to explore them all.

Fun Fact: Swan Lake and Iris Garden have all 8 species of swans at one lake. This is the only public park in the United States that offers this.

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History of Swan Lake and Iris Garden

Royal White Mute Swan
Royal White Mute Swan

The park was established in 1927 and was privately owned by a local wealthy businessman. Hamilton Carr Bland began landscaping his garden with Japanese Irises. Rumor has it that the Irises failed so he ordered his staff to dig them up and toss them into the lake. The following year, the Irises bloomed, and attracted attention from locals. This is when the area began to be known as The Iris Garden. Later in 1935, it was re-established by the Sumter Garden Club and renovated as Swan Lake and Iris Gardens after the pair of resident swans in the lake. Finally in 1949 the area was deeded to the city of Sumter.

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Attractions at Swan Lake and Iris Garden

Black Australian Swan
Black Australian Swan

The park is known for its serene walking trails and stunning display of irises. You can stroll around the gardens and enjoy the beauty of the abundant flowers, But as you can tell one of the park's main attractions is the swans that glide around the lake. Visitors can feed them or even rent paddle boats and view them from a closer distance. The park also features over 150 species of irises, including the rarest species of black iris.

One of my favorite attractions is the section called Chocolate Flower Garden. Its smells so sweet. Who knew there were beautiful chocolate flowers. From Chocolate Daisies to Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes (Yes, I am with you, I didn't even know they existed), you will smell the lovely, sweet smell that will make you crave some chocolate.

one of many varieties of flowers
one of many varieties of flowers

Another attraction in the garden is the Butterfly House where visitors can observe the lifecycle of the butterflies. The Butterfly House is open during the summer months and attracts visitors of all ages. Events and Activities at Swan Lake and Iris Garden Swan Lake and Iris Garden is known for hosting beautiful weddings. The garden offers a romantic and serene wedding location for couples, with the lake and beautiful flowers as a backdrop to the ceremony. The park also has several walking trails that allow visitors to take in the picturesque beauty of the park. Stroll around the park, take photos, and picnic with friends and family. The walking trails lead to the many other attractions throughout the park.

Coscoroba Swan
Coscoroba Swan

The garden also hosts annual events like the spring plant sale and the Garden Festival in April. Don't forget the Easter Egg Hunt at Easter also. If you visit during late May or early June, you will be just in time for the annual iris festival. The festival is an event that showcases the collection of irises and offers food, drinks, and entertainment all day.

After spending all day admiring the beautiful lake and gardens you might be hungry or need a place to lay your head. Here is a little list below to help you with that in case you need it. Check below the pictures for a continued list of restaurants and accommodations.


View of Swan Lake
View of Swan Lake
  • You'll be seduced by the scent of smoky barbeque from The Bar-b-Que Hut, a local institution renowned for its fall-off-the-bone tender ribs and finger-lickin' good sauce.

  • Eggs Up Grill has the best breakfast in the area. From big city brunch to the classics you can not go wrong with this place. The coffee is great too.


  • Who could resist the irresistible allure of Baker Sweets, a sweet haven where every bite takes you on a journey of buttery crusts and luscious fillings? So come, explore Sumter; your gastronomic adventure awaits! The coffee is great too.

  • Look for the Palmetto Oyster House. This aquatic-themed eatery serves not just the freshest catch of the day, but it's also a testament to South Carolina's coastal heritage. The locally sourced oysters and hand-breaded shrimp are the stars here, and they're so succulent and juicy, you'll hear the ocean with every bite. Also, you have to try the unique Po House Alligator Cheesecake appetizer.

  • And then there's Willie Sues a cozy nook for great food and a great bar selection. Take your pick from a variety of items on the menu, from Sandwiches to Flounder, they have it all.


walking bridge and fountain
walking bridge and fountain
  • Fancy a quaint inn with a side of history? Try the iconic 1912 Bed and Breakfast, a beautifully restored Southern manor.

  • For those seeking the comforts of a modern setup, the Hyatt Place Sumter/Downtown offers chic rooms and a rooftop bar with stunning city views.

  • Let's not forget the budget-friendly Hampton Inn Sumter, known for its hearty breakfast and friendly staff.

  • If a bustling city vibe is more your style, check out Tru by Hilton Downtown Sumter Apartment, a stylish and modern space located in the heart of the city.

  • And of course, for those who love the rustic allure of camping, you can't go wrong with the Poinsett State Park Campground, where the sights and sounds of nature are your welcoming committee.

Beautiful Swans
Beautiful Swans

Sumter, South Carolina's Swan Lake and Iris Garden is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature and flowers. The park offers a serene and calm atmosphere, perfect for a daytime escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. From the swans to the elaborate flower beds, the Butterfly House to the different walking trails, there's something for everyone at Swan Lake and Iris Garden. Plan your next trip to Sumter and unwind at this hidden gem in beautiful South Carolina.

Thanks to my friend, Lauren Simmons for letting me know about this wonderful place.

Crystal Travel


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