Hampton Plantation State Historic Site Is A Lowcountry Gem
I’ve been to Hampton Plantation in Georgetown SC a number of times and I always discover new things with each visit.
Situated just a few miles from the charming Southern town of McClellanville, S.C., Hampton is a beautifully preserved 18th-century estate that provides a window into the history of the area.
From the stunning architecture of the centuries-old house to the nature trails that wind through forest and swamp, there are plenty of reasons to add Hampton Plantation to your travel itinerary.
In this post, I’ll share my Hampton Plantation photos as well as my top 11 reasons why you should consider visiting this Plantation on your next trip to South Carolina.
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“It is a place alive with meanings, hints and whispers, with form and shapes, tinged by starlight. Night is poetry, poignant and deep.”
Former Owner Of Hampton
Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
The Hampton Plantation State Historic Site encompasses 274 acres that feature natural beauty and centuries of history.
Short walking trails give you a sense of the Eden-like wilderness of a Lowcountry estate that has changed very little over the last few hundred years.
Here are some of the most inspiring reasons to visit Hampton Plantation SC.
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1. Discover A Rich History That Spans Centuries
The original core of the Hampton Plantation House was built in 1735 by Noe Serre, a French Huguenot. It was a two-story structure with a central hall, which is typical of Southern houses of the time.
In 1757, the plantation came into the possession of Daniel Horry through marriage, and shortly thereafter he more than doubled the size of the original house.
A second full story was added and extensions made to both ends—a ballroom on one side and a master bedroom on the other.
The ballroom (or Long Room as it was called) is 42-feet long and the yellow pine boards (cut on the property) are all one length. It is said to be the longest floorboards used in America.
The ceiling arches 28 feet high, and is made by huge cypress bows pinned together in eight pieces.
The fireplace in the ballroom is amazing, measure more than seven feet wide. You would definitely need a large fire to keep that large room warm.
Check out my favorite plantation tours in Charleston SC.
During the Revolutionary War, the plantation home served as a place of refuge for women and children.
Legend has it that the rice fields surrounding the property hid Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox) when British troops arrived at Hampton Plantation in search of him.
The Horry family owned two other plantations along the South Santee River which totaled up to just under 6,000 acres.
2. Discover Amazing Architecture
Hampton Plantation’s Georgian-style mansion is a striking example of 18th-century architecture. The rooms are enormous, with large fireplaces being the only means of heat.
In order to ensure symmetry of appearance, Horry had false shuttered windows placed on the front walls of these additions.
A large portico was added in 1791. Family legend says this was the back of the home until this addition of eight great pillars. The pillars are made of solid yellow pine and are about 24 inches in circumference.
There are 12 rooms that you can learn about and explore during a Hampton Plantation tour of the house, including a room in which the walls contain decorative painting known as “faux bois” (French for fake wood).
During the house tour, visitors learn how Hampton Plantation was constructed and how it changed over time.
Hampton is said to be South Carolina’s finest example of a large two-and-one-half story frame Georgian plantation house. It was listed in the National Register on April 15, 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark.
3. Scenic Surroundings And Relaxation
Hampton Plantation is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, including majestic oak trees, serene marshlands, and the winding Wambaw Creek, which is a tributary of the South Santee River.
There are two trails you can take. One explores the plantation’s natural beauty and the other explains its history through a series of signs.
The trails take you through through pine forests and the remains of rice fields that once stretched as far as the eye could see.
There are also acres of “wild gardens” that were starting to bloom during my last visit. It’s an inviting place to stroll because you never know what you will see around the next bend in the trail.
Flowering plants are sprawled around here and there, wherever it was suitable to place them apparently.
Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll through the gardens or simply sitting on the porch and taking in the stunning views, the plantation provides a serene and peaceful atmosphere that is perfect for relaxation.
4. Educational Opportunities
The plantation offers educational tours and programs that provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the history and culture of the Lowcountry region.
Walking the paths of the nature trail, visitors can learn about how the rice plantation operated with informational wayside signs. There are also signs explaining the slave population that kept the plantation running.
It’s interesting to see the area where archaeologists have discovered building foundations, a tea pot, blue beads and a coin, which may have come from the slave quarters part of the plantation.
You can also learn the story of the freed people who made their homes in the Santee Delta region for generations after emancipation.
5. Special Events at Hampton
Hampton Plantation State Park hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including hikes with a park ranger on the first Thursday of each month. The hikes cover a different topic each time, ranging from tree species to the history of the landscape.
Because of its remote location, Hampton Plantation is also a great place to stargaze. Check the plantation’s website for dates of this special event.
Hampton Plantation Park holds an annual living history day in April where visitors can learn about South Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries from historic interpreters and reenactors.
Want to learn how to make a sweetgrass basket? Hampton Plantation holds special classes throughout the year.
6. Don’t Forget Your Camera
With its beautiful architecture, stunning scenery, and rich history, Hampton Plantation is a popular destination for photographers looking to capture the essence of the Lowcountry.
Wander around the plantation’s trails and you will find a variety of scenes to shoot, from graceful live oaks to tall pines and from sandy trails through the swamps to pine-covered passes through stands of ancient timber.
And don’t forget the gardens and the wildlife. You will see plenty of flowers and may catch a glimpse of a deer, turkey…or even an alligator.
7. A Perfect Day Trip!
Hampton Plantation is easily accessible from major highways and is just a short drive from the charming town of McClellanville. If you’re in Myrtle Beach or Charleston, it makes a perfect daytrip!
You can spend the morning at Hopsewee Plantation, grab some lunch in their tea room and then explore Hampton in the afternoon.
The charming town of Georgetown, S.C. is only about 20 minutes away as well. You can grab a bite to eat here, shop, or stroll along their Harborwalk.
8. Learn About Hampton Plantation’s Occupants
Well, this is probably in my top five reasons for visiting Hampton Plantation. One of its owners was Archibald Rutledge, a wonderful writer of more than 300 articles, stories and books, and the first poet laureate of South Carolina.
Archibald was the last private owner of the plantation, and lived in the main house until 1969. He owned 2,000 acres of which the state of South Carolina owns 274 acres today.
You can also learn about the other occupants of Hampton Plantation. The Horrys, Pinckney and Rutledge families were all from politically and economically prominent South Carolina families, making for an interesting and intriguing tour.
9. Two Cemeteries To Explore
I know many people don’t find cemeteries interesting, but I think they are beautiful and serene places to visit. Hampton Plantation State Park has two cemeteries.
One is the family cemetery where Archibald Rutledge, the last private owner of the estate, and his family are buried.
They were laid to rest within a small brick-fenced area with simple flat stones marking their burial site.
There is a second cemetery on the property that is just as beautiful and historic as the Rutledge cemetery.
It is the Hampton Plantation slave cemetery, where generations of African Americans are buried, including Archibald Rutledge’s best friend Prince Allston.
Archibald writes of the cemetery in his book Home By The River:
Deep in the fragrant heart of the plantation greenwood there is a sacred inviolate tract, set aside long before the Revolution as a burial ground for the Negroes. Here the yellow jasmine riots over pines, azaleas, myrtles and dogwoods. Here the mocking bird pours forth his iridescent song. Here nature seems always to tremble with bridal loveliness.”
Archibald Rutledge’s best friend Prince Allston is buried there. He says of Prince:
“From earliest childhood we were inseparable companions. He had a kinship with nature that was as unfeigned as it was intimate. Because he interpreted nature and her children to me, I cannot ever again have my vision clarified, my heart made aware of wonder, by this humble counselor of mine. But always I can be grateful for all that his unassuming companionship meant to me.”
10. If You Love Trees…
If your idea of a beautiful Southern plantation includes live Oak trees with Spanish moss laden limbs, then you will not be disappointed at Hampton Plantation.
The front yard of the estate is interspersed with sprawling majestic trees whose far-reaching branches are draped with the long strands of gray moss.
Walk around and explore a landscape that reflects the mystical charm of a Southern estate.
11. Learn About Washington’s Oak: 220+ Years Old
The large tree you see standing in front of Hampton Plantation is called “The Washington Oak.”
In 1791 when Washington made his triumphal tour of the South, he stayed at Hampton Plantation. The tree was said to have been 40 years old at that time.
According to a story handed down by the family, Mrs. Horry was considering cutting the tree down because it stood right in front of the house and blocked the view.
George Washington told them to leave the tree, and there it stands today.
It’s amazing to be able to touch this living thing that George Washington saw and touched.
Bonus: The Hidden Bell
Hampton Plantation Tours
Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is tucked away among live oaks and magnolias less than an hour south of Myrtle Beach and about an hour north of downtown Charleston.
Exploring the grounds is free, but guided tours of the house cost $10.
Other house tour prices: S.C. Seniors are $6. Youth ages 6 to 15 are $5. Children 5 and younger are free.
Hampton Plantation State Historic Park is open April through September from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. From October through March the grounds are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Guided Mansion Hours: Friday through Tuesday at noon and 2 p.m.
Visitors can wander the plantation grounds and along Wambaw Creek and see the remains of rice fields that once stretched as far as the eye could see.
If You Go To Hampton Plantation
I visited Hampton on February, so the weather was cool, perfect for exploring.
If you go during the warmer months, make sure you bring bug repellant. The water from the nearby creek and swamps makes the house and state park walking trails a feeding ground for mosquitos.
There is a small gift shop that offers books, gifts and art reflective of South Carolina Lowcountry history.
Pets are allowed outdoors but must be on a leash.
How Do You Find Hampton Plantation McClellanville SC?
Hampton Plantation is easy to find. It’s located at Hampton Plantation 1950 Rutledge Rd, McClellanville, SC, which is right off Route 17.
Follow the signs to Hampton Plantation.
Where To Stay Near Hampton Plantation
Your best bet for Hampton Plantation lodging is to stay in Myrtle Beach or Charleston and spend a day or two visiting South Carolina plantations.
If you stay in Charleston and love trees, don’t miss the legendary Angel Oak on Johns Island.
Wrap-Up Of Hampton Plantation
As you can see there is a lot to do at this South Carolina State Historical Park no matter what your interests.
In addition to those listed above, Hampton Plantation also offers opportunities for fishing, geocaching and birdwatching.
A visit to Hampton Plantation provides a thought-provoking and educational experience, as well as a chance to appreciate the splendor of South Carolina’s natural surroundings, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.