There is very good reason why visiting the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island is at the top of many bucket lists! Upon pulling up and witnessing it for yourself, you’ll instantly understand why. For starters, its sheer size is unbelievable! It’s approximately 65.5 feet tall, and its canopy spans a total of 17,000 square feet — making it one of the largest living trees east of the Mississippi River.
The marvel is significantly wider than it is tall, with the most extended limbs reaching 187 feet from tip to end. The tree didn’t get this big overnight; it has been growing for at least four centuries. Some estimate it’s approximately 400-500 years old, while others believe that it’s ancient and claim the Angel Oak is around 1,500 years old.
The history of the Angel Oak Tree
The Angel Oak Tree is so old that it has been challenging for historians to accurately date when exactly it started growing or was planted. The earliest documented date of existence was in 1717, when Jacob Waight became the owner of the tract of land where the Angel Oak Tree stands. 12,000 acres on Johns Island, to be exact.
After that, the history of ownership is even a bit uncertain. The land was divided, sold, and passed on to several owners throughout the years. Martha Waight, Jacob’s heir, ended up with possession of the land where the tree is located.
She married Justus Angel in 1810, and they ran what became the Angel Plantation together for years — which is where the tree gets its name. It was sold in the mid-1900s after being in the Angel family for over a century. Fast forward to the present day, the City of Charleston now owns the land (as of 1991), and the Lowcountry Land Trust has preserved 17 acres around the tree to protect it from future development.
What type of tree is it?
The Angel Oak Tree is, in fact, a southern live oak (also known as Quercus virginiana). Though several other species are called live oaks, the southern live oak is indigenous to the Southeastern area of the United States. What’s unique is these trees keep their leaves nearly year-round, but they are not considered a true evergreen as their leaves fall immediately before a new set emerges in the spring.
Like you will see when you visit in person, the Angel Oak Tree is so mature that its limbs spread in all directions, including underground. Some of them even have supports placed underneath to help keep the enormous branches from breaking. As a fun fact, the wood is so strong that the USS Constitution was built from live oak, and it even acquired the nickname “Old Ironsides” because cannonballs ricocheted off its sides.
How to get to the Angel Oak Tree from Kiawah
You can find Angel Oak Park at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island. It’s about 12-miles from the first security gate on Kiawah Island to the park, making for a quick day adventure! At the traffic circle, you’ll head towards downtown via Betsy Kerrison Highway.
Before reaching Maybank Highway, you’ll take a left onto Angel Oak Road and go down a gravel road for about half a mile. The park will then be on the right-hand side, and there’s no missing this southern live oak tree!
What to expect when you get there
To start with, the park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and admission is free! Parking is located outside of the fence when you pull up, and it’s a short walk to see the Angel Oak up close. You’ll also find a quaint gift shop located on-site that has a wealth of information about the tree along with merchandise and a selection of handmade sweetgrass baskets. And, there are even picnic tables available, making it the perfect spot to enjoy the view and have a picnic under the Spanish moss-covered branches.
Want to visit the Angel Oak Tree?
Our team would love to help you find the perfect vacation rental near the Angel Oak Tree! As you’ve read, Kiawah Island is minutes away, and we offer a wide selection of properties on the island — from scenic one-bedroom villas to magnificent 7-bedroom luxury homes to sleep everyone in your family or group. Plus, there’s plenty of other places to explore and things to do while you’re here! Feel free to browse our rentals or contact us directly for more information.