Nature lovers can also enjoy Cypress Gardens (3030 Cypress Gardens Rd., Moncks Corner, 843/553-0515, www.cypressgardens.info , daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., last admission 4 p.m., $10 adults, $5 ages 6–12), which carries with it a lot of the same quiet, meditative nature of the Abbey , though it’s entirely secular.
One of the first nature preserves in the Lowcountry, Cypress Gardens is the life’s work of Benjamin R. Kittredge and his son Benjamin, Jr. Together they brought back the former glory of the old Dean Hall plantation, which the elder Kittredge, a New Yorker married into a wealthy Charleston family, had bought in 1909.
Instead of rice, the main crop was to be flowers—millions of flowers, from azaleas to daffodils to camellias to wisteria to dogwoods to roses to lotus and then some. The old paddy system was made navigable for small boats—today they’re glass-bottomed—to meander among the tall cypress trees. The city of Charleston  acquired the tract from the family, and later Berkeley County would come into possession of it.
The current 170-acre park was heavily damaged during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but has made quite a comeback, and its inspiring and calming natural beauty remains true to the vision of the Kittredges. The founders would certainly approve of a particularly modern addition, the “Butterfly House,” a 2,500 square-foot building packed full of butterflies, caterpillars, turtles, and birds. Just go in quietly, remain as quiet as you can, and the butterflies will find you, an unforgettable experience for children and adults alike.
You can also walk two nature trails and enjoy the flora and fauna of this area, untouched by modern development. There’s a new “Crocodile Isle” exhibit with several rare species of the reptile. A freshwater aquarium has 30 species of fish as well and about 20 species of reptiles and amphibians. Out on the water, you can enjoy one of those glass-bottomed boat rides on the blackwater or—and this is what I recommend—paddle yourself in a canoe (included in the admission price) amongst the gorgeous cypress trees.