Are you looking for the best plantation to visit in Charleston? Let me suggest McLeod Plantation which takes you through an immersive journey of the enslaved people who lived there during and after slavery.
Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston: McLeod Plantation
When planning a recent trip to Charleston, I knew the city and surrounding area was home to several plantations that also served as popular tourist destinations. However, I knew that if I were to visit a plantation I wanted that visit to be grounded in reality and reflect the true history of what took place at the plantation throughout it's history. I am always grateful when I'm able to explore history first-hand and immerse myself into the stories that these places hold. McLeod Plantation does just that.
McLeod Plantation Quick Overview
The plantation is 37 acres and was established in 1851 on James Island, just a short drive outside of the Charleston city center. The plantation house is a two-story clapboard structure and you are able to tour the first floor.
The plantation grounds include slave cabins, detached kitchen, gin house, barn, carriage house and gardens. You are not able to step inside of these buildings but are able to look into windows and step up to the entrance to look inside while touring to better understand the lives of those enslaved here.
Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston: Why McLeod Plantation
McLeod Plantation has been recognized as a "Place of Conscience," an international honor given to this public county park and historic site that confronts both the history of what happened at the site and it's lasting impacts.
Something I learned during my visit to Charleston is that of the approximately 388,000 Africans brought to America as enslaved people, 40% of them entered through Charleston between 1783 and 1808. I didn't understand before just how big a role Charleston played in the slave trade until learning that fact.
Since it's opening as a historic site, McLeod Plantation has dedicated itself to sharing it's full history and weaving both the stories of the enslaved people and the slave-owners of the property across many decades. McLeod Plantation also works closely with descendants of the enslaved from McLeod Plantation and weaves their knowledge alongside ongoing research into the tours, which I believe is not done at other plantations in the area.
What to Expect When Visiting McLeod Plantation
Essentially as a visitor you will be able to step into history and explore the lives of the people whose stories were nearly erased and have shaped Charleston's complex past as well as it's future.
- You'll be able to hour the homes of the McLeod family as well as those built for enslaved families and compare their conditions.
- Your tour guide or self-guided tour will shed light on the daily life and relationships amongst the men, women and children who lived and worked at McLeod during and after slavery.
- Learn about the plantation's importance during the Civil War.
- Hear stories about all the people who lived on McLeod Plantation, including those who were living in the slave quarters until the 1990's.
- See the McLeod Oak tree, thought to be more than 600 years old.
- Learn more about Gullah culture.
- And much more.
Best Plantation to Visit in Charleston: McLeod Plantation Details
McLeod Plantation is just a short drive from downtown Charleston. I would recommend using a rental car to visit as Uber and Lyft are unlikely to pickup from the plantation.
325 Country Club Dr
Charleston SC 29412
Tuesday - Sunday 9 am - 4 pm
Open Memorial Day and Labor Day
How much does it cost to go to McLeod Plantation?
Adults (13+) $20
Seniors (60+) $15
Child (3-12) $6
Children 2 and under Free
Included in admission are guided interpretive tours offered at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
Or take a self-guided tour using the free McLeod Plantation History app currently only available on iPhones. Bring headphones to listen at your own pace.
FAQs about McLeod Plantation
Which Charleston plantation is the best?
In my opinion, McLeod Plantation is the best and only ethical plantation to visit in Charleston as it's been restored to share the stories of the enslaved men, women and children who lived there through slavery and after.
How long does it take to go through McLeod Plantation?
The guided tours take approximately 45 - 60 minutes, then afterwards you are free to explore the first floor of the plantation house. I would estimate 90 minutes to 2 hours for your visit.
How many slaves were at McLeod Plantation?
At one point in 1860, there were 74 slaves living in 23-26 dwellings on McLeod Plantation. You can find the names of the enslaved persons on the McLeod site.
Other historical sites to visit in Charleston
Aiken-Rhett House Museum
The Aiken-Rhett House Museum takes you on a tour through antebellum Charleston through the eyes of the powerful and wealthy Governor and Mrs. William Aiken, Jr. and the enslaved Africans who maintained their house, property, and way of life. You'll follow a self-guided audio tour through the enslaved quarters and throughout the house.
Nathaniel-Russell House Museum
Similar to the Aiken-Rhett House, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy slave-owners who flourished in the late Colonial and early Federal period, the artisans who built their opulent homes, and the enslaved men and women whose forced labor made possible their lavish lifestyles. Similar to AR House Museum, you are able to follow a self-guided audio tour through the museum.
Old Slave Mart Museum
The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American slave museum according to it's website. The website notes that there is a lot of reading while touring the museum, therefore it's not as engaging for young children and you can expect to spend about an hour visiting.
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