If you’re looking for the best Plantation Tours in Charleston SC, you’re in luck. I‘ve visited Charleston SC many times and have toured every plantation in the Charleston area (and beyond).
In case you didn’t know, Charleston is a city steeped in history and culture with a wide variety of interesting attractions to explore. Although there is plenty to do in Charleston itself, you should put a few of the surrounding plantations on your must-visit list.
From the lush gardens of Middleton Place to the hauntingly beautiful swamps and grounds of Magnolia Gardens, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on a Charleston plantation tour.
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My Top 3 Picks: Plantation Tours In Charleston SC
My Top 4 Charleston Plantation Tours and Gardens
These are my favorite Plantation Tours in Charleston SC, but not in any particular order. They are all worth seeing!
4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC
Middleton Place Plantation is a historic plantation and garden located just outside Charleston, along the scenic Ashley River.
The primary attraction at Middleton Place is its meticulously landscaped gardens, which are considered some of the oldest — and most beautiful — in America. The gardens feature a wide flowering trees and plants, including camellias, azaleas, magnolias, and an impressive collection of antique roses.
Visitors can explore acres of picturesque ponds and camellia alleys while taking in the breathtaking views of the Ashley River.
In addition to the gardens, this Charleston Plantation tour also features guided tours of the historic house, which was once the home of Henry Middleton, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, and his descendants.
The house tour provides a glimpse into the lives of the Middleton family and their significant contributions to American history. Visitors can explore the period furnished rooms and learn about the plantation’s role in the history of South Carolina.
What I Like: You can definitely spend a few hours at Middleton Place walking the beautiful landscaped gardens. There is also a petting zoo, restaurant, and period craftsmen throughout the grounds. Plan ahead and leave enough time, because this is one of the most expansive Charleston plantation tours.
1235 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC
Boone Hall Plantation was the first Plantation tour in Charleston SC that I took, so it stands out to me as one of my favorites.
Located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, it is a historic gem that features a long oak-lined driveway that is breathtaking when the azaleas are in bloom.
With a history spanning more than three centuries, this plantation has witnessed dramatic changes, from its establishment in 1681 to its role in the antebellum era as a working plantation.
The mansion itself is not as spectacular as others on this list, but the grounds are impressive. Not built until 1936, the Boone Hall mansion serves as the backdrop for guided tours.
It’s the beautiful avenues of oak trees, draped with Spanish moss, that makes this one of my top plantation tours in Charleston SC.
Boone Hall Plantation also offers a variety of tours to cater to different interests. The “Black History in America” tour delves into the experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants, shedding light on their resilience and contributions to American culture.
They also have a “Gullah Culture” tour that explores the unique Gullah Geechee heritage, a rich blend of African and Southern traditions that has shaped the Lowcountry for centuries.
Additionally, you can explore the meticulously landscaped gardens and original slave cabins.
What I Like: Boone Hall has some of the only original slave quarters still standing, which provides a better understanding of Plantation life. The grounds are also beautiful, especially in the spring.
3. Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, S.C.
Drayton Hall’s history dates back to 1738, when it was established by John Drayton. The plantation played a pivotal role in the development of South Carolina’s rice culture.
My favorite thing about Drayton Hall, is that , unlike many other historic sites, this Charleston plantation has been preserved without undergoing significant architectural alterations or reconstructions.
Guided tours take visitors through the stunning Georgian-Palladian mansion, showcasing its remarkable architecture and details that offer a glimpse into the lives of the Drayton family.
Beyond the Drayton Hall mansion, visitors can explore the beautiful gardens and grounds, which offer serene views of the Ashley River and provide insight into the horticultural practices of the era.
Drayton Hall is notable for being the oldest unrestored plantation in the United States that is open to the public. It is a National Historic Landmark that stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Southern plantation culture.
What I Like: There are some memorable stories surrounding Drayton Hall during the Civil War that I ended up using in my novel Shades of Gray. This makes my list of favorite plantation tours in Charleston SC because of its history and back story.
3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC
I’m not sure I can describe Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in the late 17th century, it is one of the oldest and most renowned plantations in the American South.
Initially established by Thomas and Ann Drayton in 1676, it has been home to generations of the Drayton family and has played a significant role in the development of rice cultivation.
Treat yourself to a chauffeur, plus admission to Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation, AND box lunch.
What sets Magnolia Plantation apart is its breathtaking gardens, which are among the oldest public gardens in America. The gardens are a stunning blend of formal and informal designs, featuring a wide variety of plant species, including azaleas, camellias, magnolias, and countless other colorful flowers and trees.
Guided tours and educational programs provide insights into the plantation’s history. Visitors can explore why Magnolia has earned the title of “One of America’s Most Beautiful Gardens” according to Travel and Leisure and why it maintains a consistent position among Charleston’s top attractions.
What I Like: I never realized how lovely a swamp could be until I visited Magnolia Plantation. This tour of the grounds includes arched bridges in a wonderland of flowering plants. The beauty is breathtaking, and it’s why Magnolia Gardens is on my list of best plantation tours in Charleston SC.
Don’t want to drive? You can book a tour to Magnolia Plantation with transportation from Charleston.
Other Charleston Plantation Tours and Activities
This offers a fun and educational experience like no other. Witness the process of growing and making tea while enjoying a free factory tour, exploring a unique gift shop, taking in scenic views, and sipping all the tea you desire!
Explore the preserved estate, once owned by a Founding Father and now under the care of the National Park Service. You can wander the grounds, visit the historic cottage, explore exhibits, watch a film, shop at the museum store, and attend various programs—all for free!
They offer a variety of programs, including signature lecture series, seasonal workshops, and exclusive garden tours, all aimed at celebrating the heritage of horticulture in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Visitors can enjoy wandering along miles of garden trails, paddling through cypress swamps, relaxing in a greenhouse adorned with butterflies and flowers, and discovering exhibits featuring native and exotic reptiles alongside a freshwater aquarium.
Established in 1851, this acclaimed Gullah/Geechee heritage site stands as a testament to the careful preservation of the heritage of generations of enslaved people. Guided tours are included with admission.
Other Charleston Tour Packages
There’s probably no other city as beautiful and historic as Charleston, in the U.S. Experience the best of Charleston on a history and architecture walking tour.
You can’t really see Charleston correctly without going on a historic carriage tour.
Experience more than 300 years of history on this guided carriage tour of Charleston. See the many mansions, churches, and gardens as your horse-drawn carriage tour covers more than 2.5 miles and 30 blocks of historic Charleston.
Other Tours In Charleston SC
An air-conditioned sightseeing bus offers a refreshing Charleston Sightseeing Tour for summertime visitors trying to escape the heat or those with limited mobility. Roll by popular “Holy City” sights like Rainbow Row, the Battery, White Point Gardens, Nathaniel Russell House, and St. Michael’s Church from wide viewing windows while your guide informs and entertains with stories from Charleston’s rich past.
Experience a special behind-the-scenes tour of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, granting exclusive access to parts of the ship typically off-limits to the public. The price of this tour includes admission.
Explore the darker side of Charleston and experience some of the city’s most eerie sites with a 90-Minute Ghost & Dungeon Nighttime Walking Tour with Entry to Provost Dungeon! Wind through the Historic District’s dark corridors and graveyards, and hear spooky tales of ghosts, voodoo, local superstition and famous haunted spaces from your local guide.
Plus, many more highly-rated walking tours!
You’ll Love Plantation Tours in Charleston SC
As you can see, all of the plantation tours in Charleston SC have their own particular historical significance and charm.
Charleston’s plantations stand as living testaments to the city’s storied past, offering visitors a chance to connect with history, nature, and culture all in one place.
Whether you’re drawn to the stunning landscaped gardens, the centuries-old architecture, or the stories of those who once lived on these grounds, Charleston’s plantations provide a window into the past.
Where To Stay In Charleston
Want to find a hotel close to one of the plantation tours in Charleston SC?