Visit one of the many historic plantations located around Charleston, about two hours by car from Hilton Head. This is a charming trip back in time to a period when cotton was king and rice ruled, when vast tracts of land were held by a few families, and when slaves bore the weight of the economic success of the South.
We have romanticized the southern plantation era in such epics as Gone With the Wind, but today we can catch a glimpse of just how grueling and heartbreaking those times could be. Due to the efforts of many private families and organizations, plantation life is accessible to the general public. All are open year around and offer a variety of daily and seasonal tours of the grounds and buildings.
Boone Hall (circa 1681), privately owned and listed on the National Register, is one of America’s oldest working, living plantations where crops have been grown and produced continuously for over 320 years. It boasts one of the world’s longest oak-lined avenues. Some tours are offered only seasonally. The plantation is located off U.S. Hwy. 17 at 1235 Long Point Road in Mt. Pleasant, about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. (843) 884-4371.
Drayton Hall (circa 1738), owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest preserved plantation house open to the public. Tours are conducted daily. The house is located at 3380 Ashley River Road (U.S. Hwy. 61), about 30 to 40 minutes northwest of downtown Charleston. (843) 769-2600.
The Hampton Plantation State Historic Site (circa 1750) is one of the area’s most beautiful colonial-era rice plantations. The grounds are open year around, but house tours are conducted on a seasonal schedule. It is located in McClellanville, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Charleston off U.S. Hwy. 17. (843) 546-9361.
Magnolia Plantation (circa 1679) has the oldest public gardens in the country, and is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, first opening its doors to visitors in 1879. A variety of historic and nature tours are available year around on a seasonal schedule. It is located on between Drayton Hall and Middleton Place at 3550 Ashley River Road (U.S. Hwy. 61), about 30 to 40 minutes northeast of downtown Charleston. (800) 367-3517.
McLeod Plantation (circa 1851), a former sea island cotton plantation, was first owned in 1671 and became McLeod Plantation in 1851. It is now owned by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission and includes numerous historic buildings, including the main house (built 1855). Guided tours are available daily except Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The plantation is located at 325 Country Club Drive on James Island, just south of Charleston of U.S. Hwy. 17. (843) 795-4386.
Middleton Place (circa 1741) is a National Historic Landmark and one of South Carolina’s most enduring southern icons. A variety of historic and nature tours are conducted daily, some with seasonal hours. It is located at 4300 Ashley River Road (U.S. Hwy. 61), about 30 to 40 minutes northwest of downtown Charleston. (800) 782-3608.