Many people visit Charleston, SC to see the city’s charming architecture, historic homes, beaches or to try the delicious Lowcountry cuisine. But, did you know that Charleston is also known for its rich history? Charleston, SC is one of the oldest and most culturally rich cities in the United States.
In this blog post, I’ll look at 5 historic plantations that are worth visiting during your next trip to Charleston, SC.
Best Historic Plantations to See in Charleston: My Pick
Our pick is Magnolia Plantation & Gardens because of its vast size, modes of touring the site (tram, boat), and wildlife nature center
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Table: Historic Plantations to Visit in Charleston SC
|Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
400 acres of wetlands
|House and garden tours, nature tram tour, boat tour, wildlife center visit
|Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
|Avenue of Oaks
|House and plantation tours, events and educational programs
|Charleston Tea Garden
|Only tea plantation in America, tea garden tours
|Trolley tour, gift shop visit, special events
|McLeod Plantation Historic Site
|Early 19th century
|Focus on lives of those who were enslaved and freed individuals
|Guided tours of grounds and buildings, interactive exhibits, educational programs
|Drayton Hall Plantation
|One of the oldest preserved plantation houses in America
|House and landscape tours, guided group tours on African American history
History of Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina was settled because of its natural resources, fertile lands, and a deep harbor that facilitated trade. This is why Charleston was named the original capital city of the Carolina colony.
In the 18th century, Charleston became a bustling port and an economic powerhouse.
The city’s success relied heavily on the labor of enslaved Africans who worked on plantations surrounding Charleston. They cultivated crops like rice, indigo, and cotton, which contributed to the city’s wealth.
To this day, you can still tour many of the historic Charleston plantations. Most plantations now offer tours that give an inside look at the land, buildings, and stories of these historic sites.
Historic Plantations to See in Charleston, South Carolina
1. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Founded in 1679, this is one of the oldest plantations in the South. Magnolia Plantation is located along the Ashley River. There are over 300 years of history at this plantation home!
Magnolia Plantation’s main purpose in the early days was the cultivation of rice. But since the 19th century, the plantation has become a beautiful garden full of centuries-old camellias and azaleas. It’s known as one of America’s most beautiful gardens!
If you visit Magnolia Plantation, you can:
- Tour the plantation house
- Explore the gardens
- Take a nature tram tour
- Enjoy a boat tour through the surrounding wetlands
- Visit the wildlife nature center
Fun fact: the plantation is home to over 400 acres of wetlands. You might get lucky and see some native wildlife, like bobcats, eagles, and owls when you’re here!
Ticket prices vary depending on the activities chosen, ranging from $20 to $50 per person.
2. Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantation was founded by Englishman Major John Boone in 1681, after the Civil War. The plantation has been around since the Antebellum South for more than three centuries, making it one of America’s oldest working plantations.
Boone Hall Plantation is best known for its long entrance lined with massive live oak trees, known as the Avenue of Oaks. Fun fact: these trees were planted in 1743 by the son of Major John Boone, and still stand today.
The plantation house was built in 1936 and is beautifully preserved to this day. It has a Georgian-style architecture and is furnished with period pieces. Guided tours of the house provide insights into the plantation’s history, architecture, and the people who shaped its legacy.
Boone Hall has also preserved the slave cabins, which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The cabins serve as a testament to the enslaved individuals who lived and labored on the plantation.
Boone Hall Plantation hosts a variety of events and educational programs throughout the year, including reenactments, festivals, and special exhibits.
Admission prices to Boone Hall vary depending on the activities chosen. General admission is about $24 per person, with discounts available for seniors, military, and children.
3. Charleston Tea Plantation
The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in America. The 127-acre plantation was established in 1963 and allows visitors to see the ins and outs of tea production.
A visit to the Charleston Tea Garden offers a delightful and educational experience. The highlight of the plantation is the trolley tour that takes visitors through the lush tea fields.
During the plantation tours, visitors get to learn about how the tea is cultivated and harvested while exploring the beautiful tea gardens.
After the trolley tour, you can also explore the Plantation Gift Shop to grab a souvenir. You can take home your own homegrown teas, with options like:
- Charleston breakfast tea
- Peach tea
- Cinnamon spice tea
- Island green tea with min
The Charleston Tea Plantation is also known for its special events and festivals. And, you can even host private events here, from weddings to corporate events.
4. McLeod Plantation Historic Site
The McLeod Plantation Historic Site is on James Island near Charleston, SC. Unlike many other plantation sites, McLeod Plantation focuses on the lives and experiences of both enslaved and freed individuals who lived and worked on the plantation.
The history of McLeod Plantation dates back to the early 19th century when it was established as a sea island cotton plantation.
Today, the site provides visitors with an understanding of plantation life and the impact of slavery on the region.
A visit to McLeod Plantation begins with a guided tour, which takes visitors through the grounds and buildings that have been carefully restored and preserved. Visitors can explore the plantation house, the former slave cabins, and other historic structures at the plantation.
Visitors will also find interactive exhibits here, that help explain topics like Gullah culture and emancipation.
McLeod Plantation also hosts a range of educational programs and special events, including workshops, lectures, and cultural demonstrations. General admission to McLeod Plantation costs around $18 per person.
5. Drayton Hall Plantation
Drayton Hall Plantation is one of the oldest preserved plantation houses in America.
Drayton Hall was built in the mid-18th century by John Drayton, a wealthy plantation owner. Unlike many other historic sites, Drayton Hall remains in its original condition. This means its historic preservation showcases the architectural and cultural legacy of the period.
The Drayton family estate is here to give visitors a deeper understanding of colonial life in America and the South.
During a visit to Drayton Hall, you can:
- Tour the main house and landscape
- Take an interpreter-led house tour
- Take a guided group tour and interactive program on African American history
Drayton Hall Plantation is also committed to education and preservation. The site features an interpretive center where visitors can learn about ongoing research, conservation efforts, and the plantation’s historical significance.
General admission to Drayton Hall, including the guided house tour and access to the grounds, costs around $30 per person.
Conclusions to 5 Historic Plantations to See in Charleston, SC
As you can see, there are many plantation historical sites in the Charleston area, each offering a different experience.
For more ideas about ways to spend time in Charleston, check out these blog posts:
And for more about the deep history of Charleston, SC, check out this video: