11 Inspiring Reasons to Visit Hampton Plantation SC in 2024

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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Hampton Plantation Georgetown SC is a large white house with 4 pillars on the front porch. A large oak tree is in the foreground.

“It is a place alive with meanings, hints and whispers, with form and shapes, tinged by starlight. Night is poetry, poignant and deep.”

Archibald Rutledge
Former Owner Of Hampton

Old houses are some of my favorite places to explore and there are lots of them to see!

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 ball room in the Hampton Plantation house with a fireplace and old wooden floors
The Ballroom at Hampton is two-stories high and plank flooring made with one length of wood.

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.

Hampton Plantation sits on bricks and forms a tunnel for air to pass under the house and help prevent flooding.
Hampton Plantation house sits on brick cathedral arches, giving support and allowing air to pass under the house.

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 closeup of the front porch of Hampton Plantation, showing the steps and 4 tall white pillars
You can see one of the “false shutters” on the second floor by the far left pillar.

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).

A closeup of the "fake wood" in a room at Hampton. The wall is painted to mimic wood grain.
An example of decorative painting known as “faux bois” at Hampton Plantation.

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.

One of the many nature trails with large live oak at Hampton state park.
One of the many nature trails at Hampton Plantation.

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.

Flowers in bloom in the gardens of Hampton Plantation with a trail leading through the forest.
You can spend hours wandering through the gardens and trails at Hampton Plantation.

Wandering through the paths at Hampton Plantation is a treat, but I also highly recommend visiting the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park in Florida. The ruins were once a working sugar plantation that was burned by the Seminoles in the 1830s.

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.

I first learned about Archibald after reading his book Home by the River. He also has a beautiful holiday book called Carolina Christmas: Enduring Holiday Stories.

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.

The Rutledge family cemetery at Hampton.
The Rutledge Family Cemetery at Hampton State Historic Park is located a short distance from the house.

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.

Related Post: The McLeod Plantation Historic Site in Charleston, S.C., has a Gullah Cemetery where generations of its enslaved community are buried.

The Hampton Plantation slave cemetery showing a flag grave in the foreground and other stones with flowers.
The slave cemetery at Hampton Plantation.

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.”

Large live oak limbs above with more live oaks in the background at Hampton.
Ancient live oak trees cover acres of the front yard at Hampton Plantation.

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.

The large Washington Oak tree seen through the window panes of the dining room.
The Washington Oak as seen through the dining room window at Hampton.

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.

The only thing I can compare it to is seeing Washington’s actual war tent that is on display at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

Bonus: The Hidden Bell

The huge trunk of Washington's Oak tree with a bell barely seen.
Can you see the bell that grew “up” with the tree?

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. 

A closeup of the front porch of Hampton Plantation showing a pillar on each side of the porch and a rocking chair.
The welcoming front porch of Hampton Plantation.

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.

Boone Hall is close to Charleston, as is Middleton Place. (Both have beautiful gardens).

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.

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