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How to Choose the Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston

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This is a list of plantations in Charleston to aid in picking the best plantation to visit in Charleston.

Charleston plantations are an important part of American history, especially in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. Though many structures have been lost to history, Charleston plantations maintain a rich colonial history with mansions from before the Civil War and some plantations that are still working today. Additionally, they capture the area’s stunning beauty with colorful trees, flowers, and gardens for people to visit. Because many of them were run by enslaved laborers, Charleston plantations are a way to explore the history of African American people and what they endured prior to the end of slavery. Selecting and visiting the best plantation in Charleston is a glimpse into the past and the very foundation of this country.

[Visiting Charleston, SC as a family vacation? Don’t forget to document your trip! Here is a guide to finding the best Charleston family photographer.]

But with so many, how do you choose the right one? This list of the top 9 will help you choose the best plantation to visit in Charleston.

Want other things to do in Charleston with kids? We’ve got you covered! Check out this list of things to do in Charleston SC with kids!

Table of Contents

The Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | McLeod Plantation

The 37-acre McLeod Plantation was established in 1851 with the plantation house, a raised two-story clapboard building, being built in 1858. Located on James Island, the plantation property once served as a Confederacy Hospital, as a burial ground for both slaves and Unior soldiers, and a Freedman’s Bureau headquarters. Visitors can take a guided tour of the property, which includes beautiful gardens, a gin house, a barn, slave cabins, and a carriage house. You’ll also be amazed by a tree on the property known as the McLeod Oak, believed to be over 600 years old!

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Drayton Hall Plantation

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston - Drayton Hall
Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston – Drayton Hall

The Drayton Hall plantation was established in the eighteenth century and is home to a truly impressive plantation home designed according to the European architectural style of Palladian, which derives its name from Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. The house, which was built for John Drayton, Sr. in 1738 was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960. An interesting fact about the house is that it is the only plantation house along the Ashley River to remain intact throughout both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. The 630-acre plantation once harvested rice and indigo. Visitors can take a professionally guided tour through the property that includes an interactive program on African American history. Learn about this plantation’s rich historical significance.

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston - Magnolia Plantation
Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston – Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Adjoined to the Drayton Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was also established by the wealthy Drayton Family and is the most visited plantation in Charleston. Established in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is one of the South’s oldest surviving plantations. Magnolia is now home to thousands of beautiful flower blooms, but it was once home to several vast rice fields. Visitors can tour the property’s 600 acres, including the plantation’s natural habitats, which are filled with interesting wildlife. You can also take a ride on the Rice Field Boat Tour to learn more about the cultivation of rice.

Book a tour of the Magnolia Plantation with transportation from Charleston here!

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Middleton Place

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston – Middleton Place

This eighteenth-century rice plantation was the birthplace of Arthur Middleton, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Middleton’s father, Henry, served as President of the First Continental Congress and served as the founder of the plantation, which began construction in the 1730s. Now a National Historic Landmark, Middleton Place is home to lush gardens and working stable-yards, as well as the Middle Place House Museum. Take a tour to learn about the family and the plantation’s history.

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Charleston Tea Plantation

Originally a 127-acre potato farm, the Charleston Tea Plantation is the only commercial tea plantation in North America. Visitors will be stunned by the sight of hundreds of thousands of tea bushes and will be given a unique tea experience, which is great for tea lovers, and best of all, admission is free! In addition to viewing the endless rows of tea plants, visitors can take an enlightening educational tour of the plantation’s tea factor. See where the tea is made, all the equipment that is used for production, and learn about the entire process of tea making.

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Boone Hall Plantation

This plantation is one of the most photographed historical locations in America and was even featured in the film The Notebook for its beautiful view. Highlights of a visit to Boone Hall Plantation include the stunning entrance through the world-famous Avenue of Oaks and tractor tours of the property. Visitors can also learn about the history of the area through the only live Gullah culture presentation and the Black History in America Exhibit. The plantation’s gardens are rich in color and the property also features natural marsh habitats and area wildlife.

Book a tour of the Boone Hall Plantation here!

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Cypress Gardens

A 175-acre swamp garden, Cypress Gardens originally served as a freshwater reserve for the Dean Hall rice plantation, making it a beautiful waterside location to visit. The property features an incredible butterfly exhibit called the Butterfly House, which shows visitors the various stages of the life cycle of a butterfly. Additionally, the Swamparium features large tanks filled with fish, reptiles, and amphibians native to the area. You can also rent a paddleboat to travel through a marked trail of the swamp and watch out for birds, turtles, and alligators.

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Hampton Plantation

Surrounded by live oak and magnolia trees, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is a beautiful location rich in history with the story of freed people who made their home in the Santee Delta after the end of slavery. Much of the plantation property is no longer used and is occupied by natural wooded and swampy areas. A Georgian-style mansion, which was built in 1735, sits on the property and features a two-story ballroom on one side of the house and a master bedroom suite on the opposite side. A tour of the property includes a walk through the mansion as well as a look at the remains of vast rice fields that once marked the plantation.

Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston | Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

Located on 28 acres of land that was once the location of the 715-acre rice and indigo plantation known as Snee Farms, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is a great place to learn about one of the principal authors of the United States Constitution and a four-term governor of South Carolina, Charles Pinckney. Though none of the original structures of the plantation remain, the site includes a museum and visitor center located in an 1828 Lowcountry coast cottage. The outdoors feature ornamental gardens and live oak trees and Spanish moss. Visitors can learn about the history of Pinckney and life for people on Snee Farms.

No matter which of these you choose, rest assured you are selecting the best plantation to visit in Charleston.

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