Charleston's Plantations

View out top picks for historic homes and gardens in Charleston.
By: Janet Maragioglio

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Plantations were a staple of the economy, culture and lifestyle of the pre-Civil War South. Experience both natural beauty and history when you visit these 5 plantation destinations in Charleston.
Boone Hall

Boone Hall Plantation

Photo by: Frank Kehren, flickr

Frank Kehren, flickr

The Spanish moss-draped canopy of the majestic “Avenue of Oaks” leading to Boone Hall transports modern-day travelers back 250 years to Charleston’s plantation past. Major John Boone’s son planted the twin rows of evenly spaced oaks in 1743 to showcase the family’s prosperity, and they are just one of many unchanged features found at Boone Hall today.

Tour the Manor House and gardens, listen to traditional African tales from a Gullah storyteller, and visit 9 original slave cabins, some of the few still standing in the Southeast. Crops have grown continually here for more than 300 years. Today, visitors can pick strawberries in spring and pumpkins in fall, as well as buy seasonal produce at the plantation’s farm stand.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Photo by: anoldent, flickr

anoldent, flickr

The Drayton family founded Magnolia as a rice plantation in 1676, and several gardens date back more than 325 years. Boat tours usher visitors through flooded rice fields, providing glimpses of the alligators, herons, turtles and egrets that call the waterways home.

Or opt for a “nature train” that winds past slave cabins, 19th-century rice ponds and an ancient Native American ceremonial mound, while providing glimpses of rare wildlife. Encounter rarely seen animals and plants as you walk the network of wooden boardwalks and bridges that crisscross the haunting Audobon Swamp Garden, or get up-close-and-personal with furry, feathered and scaly friends in the Petting Zoo and Nature Center. Something is in bloom at Magnolia year-round, making any season perfect for a visit.
Drayton Hall

Photo by: Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall

Preservationists have kept this Georgian-Palladian masterpiece in near-original condition while avoiding the lure of modern conveniences, such as electricity, air conditioning and plumbing. The house remains largely undisturbed by modern life and has withstood wars, hurricanes and earthquakes since it was built between 1738 and 1742.

Enjoy a guided tour of the historic home, explore the nearby river and marshland, and visit A Sacred Place, the oldest documented African-American cemetery in America still in use. Interactive programs take visitors on a journey from Africa to America and from slavery to emancipation, and explore the 7 generations of the Drayton family who lived here.
Middleton Place

Photo by: Damian Entwistle, flickr

Damian Entwistle, flickr

The gardens at this National Historic Landmark were carefully planned to bloom every month of the year. Whether its centuries-old camellias giving a delicate color to the winter landscape, a riot of azaleas on a hillside above a pond, or crepe myrtles and magnolias scenting the Southern summer, Middleton’s carefully manicured gardens are a delight for every sense, in any season. Built in 1755, the House Museum takes visitors on a tour of 4 generations of the Middleton family and affords a peek into their genteel lifestyle through personal artifacts such as furniture, silver, porcelain and rare books.

Since the house and grounds remained under the stewardship of the Middleton family for more than 300 years, visitors get a first-hand look at the lives of one historic family (including a signer of the Declaration of Independence) as well as the chance to learn about plantation life. In the stable yards, costumed historic interpreters bring to life the skill and artisanship necessary to run a Lowcountry rice plantation.
Charleston Tea Plantation

Photo by: Bruce Tuten, flickr

Bruce Tuten, flickr

Picturesque Wadmalaw Island cannot be commercially developed, making it one of the Lowcountry’s most unspoiled destinations. Wadmalaw’s sandy soil and mild climate is also exactly right for growing Camellia sinensis, or tea. Tea still grows in over 300 varieties on the 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation, and visitors can take a factory tour and trolley ride through the tea fields to learn how the plants are turned into the leaves used to brew South Carolina’s famous “sweet tea.”

Plus, fill your glass with a true Southern delicacy, American Classic Tea on ice. Charleston Tea Plantation is a bit off the beaten path, so plan to spend the day at this one-of-a-kind attraction, and experience the true, unspoiled beauty of Charleston’s surroundings and heritage.

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