The McLeod Plantation "big house" is framed with Spanish moss from a tree and the sun shining above in a blue sky. The house is two stories with 4 large white pillars dominating the facade.

5 Memorable Things To See On A McLeod Plantation SC Tour

The McLeod Plantation Historic Site on James Island has long been on my bucket list and I was finally able to visit on my last trip to South Carolina.

Located just two miles from downtown Charleston, the McLeod Plantation differs from other plantation historic sites because it tells the story of the complex tapestry of relationships that took place during the slavery era.

The grounds of this Sea Island cotton plantation are beautiful, but stand in contrast to the stories of those who lived there.

Here is the rich background of the McLeod Plantation Charleston, SC., and what you need to know before your visit.

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McLeod Plantation Historic Site Facts
🏛 Located at 325 Country Club Drive, Charleston, SC.
Open every day except Monday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Closed holidays)
Admission Includes: 45-minute guided tour, access to the first floor of the main house, grounds, cemetery, riverfront.
Plan to spend at least 90 minutes.
Adults (13+) $20; Seniors (60+) $15; Child (3-12) $6; 2 and under Free

The McLeod Plantation big house shows four big white pillars and the sun peeking over the top of the roof. There are steps leading up the porch.
This was once the back of the Plantation house. The large portico was added at a later date.

In a hurry and don’t want to read until the end? My top 2 memorable things to see at the McLeod Plantation House are the McLeod Oak and Transition Row, but those are just two of the many!

The main house is surrounded by colorful azaleas and old trees. The flowers are pink and long limbs hang in front of the house.
Springtime at the McLeod Plantation Historic Site.

Top 5 Things To See

Here are my Top 5 things, but not in any particular order. As you can see from this map of McLeod Plantation, there is a lot to explore at this James Island plantation.

1. The Main House

Visitors can walk through the first floor of the main house on their own, and read the signage about the political and cultural experiences of those who lived and worked there. The house was the residence of the McLeod family, prominent figures in the Charleston area.

The McLeod Plantation Historic Site's main house, framed by Spanish moss, is a two-story white house with four large pillars.

Looking for a cheap flight to Charleston? Check FareDrop!

2. Transition Row

It’s amazing to be able to step back in time to explore the area where the enslaved people lived in the 1800s. The cabins later housed soldiers, freed people and their Gullah descendants.

A large live oak tree trun is in the foreground with a white slave shack in the background. There are shadows on the ground and a brick chimney on one side the house.
Imagine the many lives, and the laughter and the tears that this tree witnessed.

At one time, a large number of small structures extended west along both sides of the oak-lined avenue, or allee, at McLeod. The six houses that stand there now are touchstone to the generations of African Americans who resided in this area.

3. The McLeod Plantation Cemetery

Many of the approximately 100 bodies buried in the riverside grove of trees are the remains of Gullah people. Many Gullah believe sacred cemeteries like this one provide a direct spiritual connection to their African ancestors.

A sign in front of a piece of ground is a serene place to reflect on the slaves that are buried at McLeod Plantation.
Cemetery at McLeod Plantation.

The Cemetery is truly a serene place where visitors can reflect on the generations of Gullah people who lived and worked on the plantation.

Related Post: I ran across an old family cemetery in North Carolina that revealed an amazing Southern heritage tale.

4. The McLeod Oak

I love old trees, so the McLeod Oak is a true marvel to me. It is estimated to be at least 600 years old, so would have been a massive tree during the Civil War, and even during the Revolutionary War.

In my hometown of Gettysburg, we call these “witness trees,” because they witnessed so much history.

The magnificent McLeod Oak is a grand live oak that is said to be 600 years old.
The famous McLeod Oak is said to be 600 years old.

The McLeod Oak is not as big as the iconic Angel Oak on Johns Island, but it is still a living thing that offers a tangible link to the past.

5. The Cotton Gin House And Other Outbuildings

While exploring the plantation, you can see the Cotton Gin House, as well as the Dairy and Kitchen.

One of the many outbuildings that still stand at the McLeod Plantation, framed the by large limb of a live oak tree.
Outbuildings still stand at the McLeod Plantation.

In the gin house, the harvest from the fall would have been fed into the gin to separate long delicate fibers from small black seeds.

Nearby Hopsewee Plantation also grew Sea Island cotton and Indigo.

McLeod Plantation Tickets And Tours

A visit to the McLeod Plantation Historic Site starts in the Welcome Center, which also has restrooms and a gift shop, with water and cold drinks for sale.

Tours are included in the price of a tickets and cost $20 for adults or $15 for seniors. (Plantation ticket prices for children 3-12 are $6 and 2 and under are free).

The tours begin outside of the Welcome Center and last about 45 minutes. Starting times are: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.

Visitors can walk the grounds, including through a beautiful tree-lined “oak allee.” Although not as large or ancient as the one at the Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana, it is still quite impressive.

Large Spanish moss-draped oak trees line a gravel driveway.
Beauty abounds when you walk the grounds at this historic site.

For a better experience, visitors can download the free McLeod Plantation Historic Site app from the Apple store or borrow an Apple device from the Welcome Center.

There is plenty of free parking at McLeod Plantation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Tickets Prices At McLeod Plantation?

Tickets to enter McLeod Plantation are $20 for adults ($15 for seniors and $6 for children), and include a guided tour.

Is McLeod Plantation Worth It?

McLeod Plantation is the only plantation to tell the story of slavery from the perspective of the enslaved.

How Long Does It Take To See McLeod Plantation?

Visitors should leave at least 90 minutes to take the tour and explore the 37-acre McLeod Plantation.

Related Posts: If you like Charleston SC Plantation Tours, check out the nearby Middleton Place and Hampton Plantation. You might also enjoy reading about the best plantation tours in South Carolina.

Part of a sign that shows the plantation's ownership through time, including the Civil War.
One of the signs that shows the timeline of ownership of McLeod Plantation.

McLeod Plantation History

This James Island Plantation was established in 1851 on the scenic banks of the Wappoo Creek in Charleston, South Carolina.

This Charleston plantation was initially built as a sea island cotton plantation, utilizing the labor of enslaved African Americans, which was a common practice in the region during the antebellum period.

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The strategic location and fertile lands of this plantation made it a significant agricultural entity in the Charleston area, helping to contribute to the wealth and economic growth of the region.

But the history of this property starts before the Civil War.

In 1780 in the American War of Independence, British General Sir Henry Clinton used the original house as his headquarters while planning the siege of Charleston.

Many enslaved workers joined the British lines seeking freedom, and were evacuated from the city.

The view from the McLeod Plantation's current back door, which was the front door up until the 1930s. The view shows a brick sidewalk and a small tree.
The view from the current back of the house, which was the front until the 1920s.

Historic Site Background

The McLeod Plantation Historic Site is a 37-acre Gullah Geechee heritage site that has been carefully preserved because of its cultural and historical significance.

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is a 12,000 square mile, federal National Heritage Area recognizing the unique culture of the Gullah Geechee people who have traditionally resided in the coastal areas and the sea islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The McLeod property features a plantation house and a fully intact row of five slave dwellings. (In 1860 there were 26 cabins where 74 slaves lived).

James Island, where the Plantation is located, became one of the most contested places in South Carolina during the Civil War. As a result, the plantation served as unit headquarters for Confederate forces and as a Civil War hospital due to its strategic location.

When they evacuated Charleston in February 1865, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiments and other Union regiments camped onsite.

Looking out through two white pillars on the porch of the McLeod Plantation James Island.
Looking out from the porch of the main house. This is now the front, but used to be the back.

After the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Period, the Plantation’s main house served as headquarters for the Freedmen’s Bureau for the James Island district.

In 1926, owners renovated the house, changing what was designated as the front and rear, and altering the front facade.

Visiting Charleston and want to see as much as you can? Book this tour and see four different plantations as well as Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church. Let someone else do the driving and get to see the best of Charleston!

The old front of the McLeod Plantation house is now the back. It is a two story hours with gray shutters and a back porch with brick steps and walkway.
This is the original front of the Plantation’s main house, but is now the back.

Inside The Main House

The “big house” is open for visitors, but it is not part of the tour.

It is also devoid of furniture because the focus of McLeod Plantation is the enslaved population.

The historic Drayton Hall Plantation also has no furniture. I love looking at the bare bones and seeing the original architecture.

At McLeod Plantation, banner signs tell the story of the tapestry of relationships that occurred between people who lived close together, yet were worlds apart.

A white fireplace with an ornate gold mirror above it inside the main house at McLeod Plantation.
One of the rooms inside the main house.
A room with a white fireplace and shiny hardwood floors inside the main house at McLeod Plantation.

McLeod Plantation Slaves

Other plantation homes I’ve toured, including nearby Boone Hall, have original slave quarters, which is a stark reminder of our nation’s past.

But what sets this Plantation apart is that it shares the histories of some of its enslaved people, making their lives real and personal.

For instance, Charles was a slave who was described as a “first rate field hand, boat hand and wood cutter.” He died from a a severe bout of diarrhea while building Confederate fortifications on Sullivan’s Island when he was 50 years old.

Also of note is that many descendants of the enslaved people continued to live and work on the land through the 20th century.

The Plantation Owner

William Wallace McLeod acquired the property in 1851 and had a new home constructed by enslaved people who also began cultivating Sea Island cotton.

When the Civil War broke out, William joined the cavalry even though he was exempt because of his age (41). In February 1865 he headed home to see his family only to die of pneumonia at Moncks Corner, just 29 miles to the north of James Island as the crow flies.

His wife had died years earlier, leaving his three children orphaned.

The home was occupied by the McLeod family until 1990.

Large live oaks with spreading limbs stand beside white slave quarters at McLeod Plantation.
The large live oaks that stand next to where the slaves were quartered are impressive.

Related Post: Laura Plantation in Louisiana tells the story of generations of women who took the reins of this complex business.

How Do You Get To McLeod Plantation?

Directions to McLeod Plantation Historic Site from Charleston:

Take Broad Street west to S.C. 30 West. At exit 2 take the ramp and turn left onto Harbor View Road. Turn right on SC 171/Folly Road and then bear right onto Country Club Road. Turn right onto Picard Way.

If you don’t want to drive, there are lots of tour services that will pick you up and take you on one of the many plantation tours from Charleston.

A black iron fence with spear ends is in the foreground, with a gravel path lined with old live oak trees leading to the main house.

Plantation Wrap-Up

McLeod Plantation does a good job of highlighting the complexities of slavery, war, and reconstruction, by offering a glimpse into the lives of those who lived through these transformative years.

The tour guides and the signage offer visitors an authentic exploration of the lives of the enslaved people who worked the plantation fields and the legacy they left behind.

It’s amazing to see the history that is frozen in time and contrast it with the great changes that have been made in the United States to right the wrongs of the past.

If you enjoy exploring vast plantation gardens, don’t miss Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Plan to spend the day!

The McLeod Oak is said to be 600 years old. It's large limbs sweep the ground.
The McLeod Oak.

Who Owns McLeod Plantation?

The property was bought by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission in 2010 and opened to the public in 2015.

Hotels Near McLeod Plantation

Looking for a hotel near the Plantation? There are lots to choose from.

PLAN YOUR TRIP
Need help planning your trip from start to finish? Check out these helpful links:
Cheap flights
Savings on accommodation from hostels to luxury hotels
Affordable car rental options
Affordable sightseeing tours and day trips
Affordable travel insurance

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