A timeless beauty envelops the revolutionary and civil war era here in Charleston showing us the pebbled paths of a time past, a time that was glorious for some and a terror for others. Between the 1600’s and 1800’s crops of sea island cotton, indigo, and rice were planted and harvested on large plots of land in the Charleston area by using indentured servants bound to contracts until the 17th century when African slaves were brought in to care for the crops and anything else plantation owners needed. The stories behind the lush green beauty of these plantations may make your stomach crawl, particularly when you walk the properties slave quarters and get a glimpse of of a day in the life of a slave. The magnitude of strife and survival is as present as the magnificence of the land today. You can learn all about a day in the life at a plantation visiting any of the following timeless attractions.
BOONE HALL PLANTATION – Over three-hundred years old sits on over seven-hundred acres in Mount Pleasant just off of Highway 17 and Long point Road. It’s a popular venue for all sorts of events. Halloween is especially creepy as the fright night haunted house is one of the scariest in town. If you’re not interested in peeing your pants there are other more light hearted things to do at Halloween. You can pick your own pumpkin from the large pumpkin patch or you can jump on an adorable hay ride available for children or anyone who would like to experience a less intimidating scare. Oyster roasts, strawberry picking, and fresh produce are available different times of the year. What’s spectacular about Boone Hall is the education you get when walking through the slave cabins. The speaker system narrates a self guided tour. You can also check out the butterfly garden, or hop on a tractor to tour the plantation in its entirety. A colorful and entertaining way to learn about the Gullah Culture adapted by slaves is by visiting one of the many events held at the Gullah Theater near slave cabin number 9.
MAGNOLIA PLANTATION – The garden of enchantment, Magnolia hosts over 150 different types of flowers that consistently shower the grounds with a variety of colors and scents throughout the year. It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit as it is always romantically whimsical. It’s easy to imagine parasols, hoop skirts, and bonnets strolling the paths and over the white latticed bridge witnessing firsthand the cypresses growing from the black waters of the Abdubon Swamp Garden. Take an educational boat ride through the old rice fields or a tram to the slave quarters where African American history played a vital role at the plantation. It is not uncommon to see all sorts of wildlife in plain view. Alligators and herons, turtles and snakes, and a wide variety of birds all occupy the nature infused grounds. If you are an animal lover, you will love the petting zoo. Having a bit of kibbles in your hand will land ducks, pigs, and deer at your heels waiting for a bite.
MIDDLETON PLACE – Just down the road from Magnolia, you will find remnants of history at Middleton Plantation where over 110 acres of vibrant colorful gardens and a velvety green perfectly manicured lawn blend together in an enchanting liaison overlooking the Ashley River. A horse carriage ride with a professional tour guide will leave you feeling well informed about life from 300 years ago to the present. A modern Inn along the Ashley River will bring you back to nature with floor to ceiling windows allowing you to disconnect, if even for a short time, from the hustle of city and work life. Visit the stable yards where you will find goats, sheep, hogs, cattle and horses. Enjoy Lowcountry fare at the Middleton Place Restaurant nestled among trees and azaleas with a captivating view of the Mill Pond. It’s quite romantic, has an excellent wine list, and the food is pure comfort.
DRAYTON HALL PLATANTION – Located to the right of Magnolia Plantation, Drayton Hall is the only plantation house on the Ashley River still standing and quite miraculously intact after a beating from the Revolutionary and Civil wars. The kitchen and laundry house were destroyed by natural disasters, but the grounds hold a palpable feeling of plantation life within them. You won’t find slave cabins on the grounds as they were destroyed as well, but if you tour the home, you will learn that the indigo and rice cultivators owned 78 slaves all of which, at one point or another, shared 13 cabins. The house is vacant and has no furniture, but if you think that may make for a boring visit, think again. It is one of the most interesting plantation tours I have taken. The tour guides do a fabulous job conveying a day in the life of plantation workers and owners alike. They also talk about architecture and relay both fun and gory facts about Charleston’s historical past, some of which will warm your heart while others might make your skin crawl. The plantation does have a membership which can prove cost effective if you plan to return or live in Charleston and want to entertain visitors. The funds go toward preservation and you will receive a lovely host of gifts in return for you contribution.
There are other plantations in the area, some that are used for weddings and private events like Lowndes Grove Plantation near the Citadel. A live oak tree laced waterfront property prime for stunning bridal photos and a picturesque setting perfect for an outdoor gathering. McLeod Plantation rests just over the bridge past Earthfare and the Country Club subdivision on the James Island side. This plantation is perfect for history buffs and school trips as carefully articulated stories of life before and after slavery affected life in the South. The Charleston Tea Plantation located in Wadmalaw just past Johns Island is another lovely place to visit if you’re into tea. They have plenty of it and will gladly share with you how it’s made via both a bumpy but darling trolley tour through the tea fields and a close up look at how the tea is processed.
If you would like to know about other plantations that once thrived in the Charleston area, you can do so right here.