The city of Charleston, South Carolina is steeped in Southern charm and rich in history. Along with the stately mansions spread throughout the Battery, scenic waterfront views, and extraordinary restaurant scene the city has a wealth of historic places to visit and sights to see.
Here are the top five must-visit sites for a history lesson in the Holy City.
Angel Oak Tree
Believed to be one of the oldest trees in America, the moss-draped Angel Oak Tree, located on John’s Island is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old. Some extreme estimates even date it as old as 1,500 years.
It’s quite the sight to see with the tree’s canopy stretching to almost 20,000 square feet. After checking out the massive tree visitors can enjoy a packed lunch at the park’s picnic area. Angle Oak Tree Park is free to visit and open seven days a week.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Meander through the majestic gardens of Charleston’s most visited plantation at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Originally founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public tourist site in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. It’s also the oldest public garden in the U.S.
Several tours are available on the property, including a tour of the gardens, house, and rice field. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is open 365 days a year. General admission tickets for adults are $20.
See where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in 1861 by visiting the Fort Sumter National Monument located in the middle of the Charleston Harbor only a few miles from land. Once there, visitors will have an hour to explore the monument, museum, and peruse the Fort Sumter Eastern National book store.
Tours are self-guided, however, National Park rangers are on site to share stories about the battle and answer any questions about the fort’s history. Tickets for adults are $23 and there are several tours that run daily with ferries departing from both Liberty Square in downtown Charleston as well as Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant.
Drayton Hall Plantation
This historic plantation has miraculously survived two wars, several fires, hurricanes, and even an earthquake. Built in 1738, the Drayton Hall Plantation house is the oldest preserved plantation house that is open to the public. The estate’s vast collections include several historical artifacts, fine-art pieces, and diaries from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Tickets are $32 for adults and the plantation is open seven days a week with guided house tours offered hourly. Tours typically last around 45 minutes. After a tour guests can explore the grounds which back up to the Ashley River and boasts two walking trails.
A little over 15 miles from downtown Charleston sits Middleton Place, which was originally built along the Ashley River in 1755 as a rice plantation. The property spans 110 acres and features 65 acres of some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the country that were designed to mimic 17th century French gardens with sculpted terraces, parterres, and reflection pools.
Today, guests can tour the grounds and house, plus, learn about what life was like in the Lowcountry during the 18th century through reenactments. There’s also a luxury inn, on-site restaurant, garden market, and museum on the property. Middleton Place is open daily and tickets are $29 for adults.