Charleston Plantation Tours

This post compares and reviews the various Charleston plantation tours available to you. This way you can choose the best one for you and know what to expect on your visit.


WHY VISIT A PLANTATION?

Charleston is known for its historical attractions, and some of the most popular places to visit are plantations. Visiting these beautiful estates allows you to see the foundations of our nation from an entirely different perspective. In addition to the political, social, and cultural accounts that you can learn about by visiting a plantation, you can also discover some of the most magnificent architecture in American history.


BEST TIME TO VISIT

You might be wondering, when is the best time to visit a plantation in Charleston? Most of the plantations and attractions listed below are open year-round. Summertime and holidays tend to be busiest when most people are on vacation, so be aware that it might get crowded then. Also, since most plantations are known for their beautiful gardens, the seasons dictate the blooms you will see. Below we have links to the weather in Charleston each month, so you can browse through them and best decide when to come. 

To browse what Charleston is like in different seasons, click here.


PLANTATIONS OF CHARLESTON

There are a number of beautiful plantations in Charleston to choose to visit. We’ve done our research and have highlights of each below so you can best decide which plantation, or all, to visit on your trip to Charleston.


Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

 

 

Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation is the most visited plantation in Charleston. Around before the American Revolution, it harbors centuries of history that few places in America can boast to have. It is the oldest public tourist site in the area, having opened their doors to visitors in 1870. Magnolia Plantation is also renowned for its beautiful gardens.

We have a whole post outlining the details of Magnolia Plantation.


Things to Consider 

During certain periods of the year, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens offers an All-Inclusive Pass which includes all of the tours and attractions. This pass is $52 for adults and $42 for children. As usual, children 5 and under can enjoy everything for free with their parents or guardians.  The All- Inclusive pass includes Basic Admission, House, Nature Tram, Nature Boat, “Slavery to Freedom” Tours and Audubon Swamp Garden. Several tour operators run tours from Charleston and Myrtle Beach to Magnolia Plantation as well as other plantations, making this plantation an easy addition to your Charleston itinerary.

If you’re not interested in any of the tours, you can opt for the Basic Admission and explore the estate on your own. Considering that the price of admission is much cheaper than some of the other plantations on this list, you could save a lot of money simply by taking your own self-guided tour and exploring the fields by yourself. 


Admission Price

Basic Admission includes access to a variety of activities and spaces including the Orientation Theater, Historic Gardens, Gilliard Garden Center, The Conservatory, Old African American Cabin, The Peacock Café, Petting Zoo, and Gift Shop.

$20 for Adults; $10 for Children; Children 5 and under can enter for free.

To take a guided tour, you must pay an additional $8 per person. Tours offered are the Plantation House Tour, Nature Train Tour, Nature Boat Tour, Slavery to Freedom Tour and the Audubon Swamp Garden.


Hours

Magnolia Plantation is open 365 days a year including all major holidays, though hours vary by season:
November – February from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm; March – October from 8 am – 5:30 pm.


Reviews

With over 6,000 reviews, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens has received an overall 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor.  This location has also received the Certificate of Excellence for their consistently positive ratings. That being said, they have received hundreds of negative comments which indicate that some guests may not enjoy their trip. Some have said that admission is overpriced, while others complain that their tours aren’t very good.  Ultimately, these opinions only represent a small group of visitors, so chances are that your experience will be much different. An overwhelming majority of reviews refer to Magnolia Plantation as beautiful and full of life. For every unhappy customer, there are dozens more who appreciated the services offered.

Click here to visit their website. 


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Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens

Like many of the plantations in America, Boone Hall has been transformed into something of a historical garden which features some of the most beautiful views you will ever experience. The drive down to this location will definitely set the mood, as beautiful oak trees line the road and create a natural arch shading your journey.

 

 

There are several tours and performances available at this estate, including both a coach tour of the entire 738 acres and a house tour of the gigantic mansion. No matter what you want to learn about or experience, chances are that you’ll have an opportunity to discover a lot of valuable information while visiting this plantation.  Several tour operators run tours from Charleston and Myrtle Beach to Boone Plantation as well as other plantations.

For one low price, you can gain access to several different tours and attractions. It would be pretty easy to spend an entire day at this plantation and have a lot of fun learning about the history behind the location. If you’re looking for an activity that will last all day, this could be a fantastic option. This is reflected in the ratings we have analyzed below.


Hours

Operating hours of Boone Hall vary slightly from year to year, but below are the most recent times and dates:

January 1, 2019 – March 10, 2019: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm
March 11, 2019 – Sept. 2, 2019: Monday-Saturday 8:30am-6:30pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm
Sept. 3, 2019 – January 1, 2020: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm
* Closed Nov. 2nd (Scottish Games), Thanksgiving and Christmas Day


Admission Price

Admission price to Boone Hall includes access to several special exhibitions and guided tours. Check their website for more details.

$24 for Adults; $21 for Seniors; Military; $12 for Children; Free for Children 5 and under.


Reviews

Boone Hall Plantation has a 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor and has earned a Certificate of Excellence from the service. Although there are some negative reviews, over 2,000 visitors have rated the attraction at 4 stars or higher. Customers who enjoyed their experience referred to it as a walk back in time, describing tour guides as extremely knowledgeable. Those who did not enjoy their visit typically felt that the tickets were overpriced for the service provided. Most guests have a great time at Boone Hall, but there are a few people who feel that there aren’t enough activities to warrant the price you’ll pay for admission.


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Middleton Place Plantation

Welcome to the home of America’s oldest landscaped gardens! Not only are these grounds absolutely breathtaking, but they’re also historic. Unlike some of the other plantations you may visit, Middleton Place actually employs costumed interpreters to give us a glimpse into the past.

 

 

Middleton Place provides a majority of their tours for free with the price of admission. They also offer a few specialty services for an additional cost, but it isn’t necessary to partake in these extra activities. One of their tours is self-guided, so you’ll have the opportunity to break off from the pack and explore at your leisure.


Things to Consider

Although it will be a bit more expensive to experience everything that Middleton Place has to offer, you’ll find that most of the tours and activities are somewhat different than what you’ll find at other plantations. In addition to their historical recreation of events, this estate also provides a wide variety of nature walks and garden tours. With so many different activities to enjoy, it would be fairly simple to spend an entire day exploring the area and discovering what life was like in the 18th and 19th century.

You can bundle and save at the Middleton Place with their Combo tickets that include General Admission, House Museum Tour, and admission to the Edmondston-Alston House, the House Museum of the Middleton Place Foundation, located in downtown Charleston. For more things to do in Charleston, click here

You can also purchase an All-Inclusive package with the Pineapple Bus tour that takes you and from the plantation. For more information on bus tours in Charleson, click here


Admission Price 

Multiple tours and attractions are included with the price of admission. Find more information on their website.

$29 for Adults; $15 for Students (with ID); $10 for Children; Children 5 and under enter for free.

Note: Specialty Guided Tours cost extra: House Museum Guided Tour $15

Combo Tour Prices: $49 for Adults; $35 for Students; $30 for Children; Free for Children under 5.


Hours

Open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Christmas Eve: 9am-1pm (House Museums & Restaurant closed)

Closed December 25.


Reviews

Over 2,000 reviewers agree that Middleton Place is an excellent plantation to visit. This estate enjoys a 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor and has also been awarded their Certificate of Excellence. Although roughly 100 visitors have left negative comments, they definitely aren’t indicative of the common experience. Most guests describe this as a wonderful trip that is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit.

As you might expect, many of the unhappy customers complained that the price of admission was too steep. There are a few complaints about the service itself, but not enough to cause concern. Positive reviews tend to focus on how beautiful the plantation can be during all times of the year. Some reviewers suggest setting aside at least half a day to experience as much of Middleton Place as possible.


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OTHER PLANTATIONS TO VISIT

While the above three plantations are the most popular to visit in Charleston, there are other less frequented plantations that are just as enjoyable. These plantations are great to visit if you’re returning to Charleston time and again and want something new to see or are a local eager to visit all the plantations of Charleston. Whichever your reason, we recommend checking out the places below. 


Drayton Hall

When it comes to this estate, the name of the game is historical preservation. The group behind the management of this property cares deeply about ensuring that Drayton Hall remains just as beautiful today as it did hundreds of years ago. Those who have a historical interest in Charleston will want to consider visiting this plantation in order to learn as much as possible.

 

 

Admission will grant you access to several different tours, walks, and attractions. Whether you want to visit the African American memorial, explore the grounds on your own, or experience a professionally guided tour of the house, this is a great deal. Learn all about the history behind Drayton Hall from those who work hard to keep it in near-original condition.


Things to Consider 

In addition to their free tours and attractions, Drayton Hall also provides exclusive specialty tours for adults and students on field trips. If you are interested in any of these options, make sure to call ahead and ask about their pricing for such events. This plantation is one of the most educational and respectful estates in Charleston. If you want to learn about the past from a group of people who truly understand their history, a visit to Drayton Hall is definitely in order.


Admission  

Includes several tours and presentations. See their website for more information.

$32 for Adults; $25 for Youth (8-14); Free for Children 7 & under.

*Discounts are offered for all-inclusive tickets with code SUMMER 


Hours 

Open 7 days a week except for New Year’s Eve and Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve and Day.

Mon-Sat 9:00am-3:30pm, Sunday 10:30am-3:30pm


Reviews

At this point, it probably won’t come as too big of a surprise, but this plantation has also received the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. Over 1,000 visitors have seen fit to give this estate a positive review, resulting in an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Compared to other historical locations in the area, Drayton Hall has far fewer negative comments.

As usual, many of these reviews complain that the price is too steep for the services offered. On the other hand, most customers were pleased with their experience and some even stated that the price of admission was reasonable.  A lot of visitors find their tour guides to be very helpful and informative, providing much needed historical context to all of the attractions on display.


McLeod Plantation

If you want to learn more about the history of Gullah people, this is the place to visit. The McLeod Plantation is a notable heritage site for early African Americans, and they provide a lot of valuable information about their culture. In addition to the historical relevance of this estate, you’ll also enjoy beautiful views crafted by the nearly 600-year-old McLeod Oak which span the plantation.

 

 

Admission is fairly affordable and a variety of interpretive tours may be offered with the price of your ticket. Even if you miss one of their guided tours, you are welcome to take a self-guided tour and explore the estate at your own leisure. The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission offers an app which can be used to learn more about the area while you travel from one site to another.


Things to Consider

Although they don’t offer as many tour options as some of the other plantations in the area, the price of admission is much more affordable. If you don’t mind the possibility of leading yourself around the estate, this could be an excellent opportunity to discover relics of the past and learn more about American history along the way.


Admission 

Includes 45-60 minute guided interpretive tours offered at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.

$15 for Ages 13& up; $12 for Ages 60+;  $6 for Ages 3-12; Free for Ages 2 an under.

If you plan to visit often, you can purchase a Gold Pass membership that includes entry of 4 guests for free per visit. 


Hours 

Open every day except for major holidays.

Tuesday – Sunday 9am – 4pm. Closed Mondays.


Reviews

Much like the other historic locations on this list, McLeod Plantation has received a very positive rating of 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor. A handful of guests left negative reviews, but they don’t seem to indicate any significant problems. The most common complaints seem to focus on their tour guides, suggesting that they don’t provide a lot of unique or interesting information. That being said, positive comments send an entirely different message. Several reviewers felt that the tours offered at this plantation are an absolute must. If you’re on a budget, many reviewers recommend this as an excellent opportunity to learn more about the early history of African Americans.


Charleston Tea Plantation

Charleston Tea PlantationFor those who weren’t aware, Charleston is actually the home of America’s only tea factory. Chances are that you have some of their tea in your home right now! The Bigelow Tea Factory can be found at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. The unique climate in this area makes it the perfect location to grow tea plants.

Although this plantation isn’t as historically relevant as some of the other estates on our list, we still find it pretty cool. If you want to learn about how they began to grow tea in the United States, the tours offered at this location are incredibly informative. In addition to a trolley tour around the grounds, they also provide a factory tour and several other opportunities to explore.


Things to Consider

In addition to the trolley and factory tour, you can also call ahead and request group tours led by professional guides who work at the plantation. School tours/field trips are also available upon request.  If you want to learn about the history behind early American plantations, this probably isn’t the place to visit. However, if you’re interested in learning about one of the most popular tea companies in the entire country and how they grow their product, this is your place to visit. 

Each free factory tour comes with complimentary samples of tea. Not only do they offer admission and a tour for absolutely nothing, but they also give away some of their tea to visitors. Needless to say, this is definitely a different experience from other estates in the area, and it could be worth visiting simply to experience a modern perspective on plantations.

For more free things to do in Charleston, like a free walking tour, click here


Admission

FREE to visit the estate and take the Bigelow Tea Factory Tour.

*Other tours cost extra:

  • Charleston Tea Plantation Trolley Tour $14 for Adults, $6 for Children (12 & under)
  • William Barclay Hall Tour (minimum $600; $30 per person, 20 person minimum)

To learn more about the Charleston Tea Plantation, click here


Hours 

Open 7 days a week except for major holidays.

Monday -Saturday from 10:00am – 4:00pm; Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm.


Reviews

The Charleston Tea Plantation has received a 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor with over 800 positive reviews. As usual, they have also been given a handful of negative reviews, but these do not seem to be indicative of a larger problem. Some found the tour boring, while others were looking for something a bit more historic. One thing is for sure – the history you’ll learn about here is far different than what you’ll discover at other plantations in the area. Many visitors are fans of the Bigelow Tea Company, and they report that this is an excellent opportunity to discover how tea is grown and cultivated in the United States.


Charleston Pinckney National Historic Site 

Pinckney National Park

This plantation does not provide any tours of their grounds, but it’s worth noting that entrance is absolutely free. If you want to explore one of the most historically notable locations in Charleston at no cost, this is an excellent opportunity. With the help of information provided on their website, you can take a self-guided tour and discover all of the important sites on your own.

Charles Pinckney is noted for his role as both a signer and drafter of the original U.S. Constitution. Considering that he was a founding father, it’s not hard to understand why the government would make his estate a national historic site. This plantation is considered a national park, so you are free to visit at your leisure and learn all about the life of an early American founder.


Things to Consider

They may not provide guided tours, but you can always enjoy a free self-guided tour of the Snee Farm. These include the Historic Road to Main House, Slave Community Area, Nature Trail, Boardwalk, Model Rice Trunk. This plantation has a history dating back to the early 1800s, making it one of the most historic locations in Charleston. 
The visitor center – located in the Lowcountry farmhouse – features three films about the story of Charles Pinckney and his plantation. Even without a guide showing you around the grounds, there is still plenty to do at this historically relevant estate.


Admission

Since this is a national park, it is always free to visit. 


Hours  

Open every day en Wednesday-Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.


Reviews

The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site has received a 4 star rating on TripAdvisor. Very few of their reviews are negative, but there are quite a few average ratings. Even the negative comments note that you get what you pay for, and visiting this location will not cost you a dime. Most average reviews suggest that this plantation is worth checking out, but take issue with the fact that there is not much to see. Visitors who enjoyed their trip to this plantation appreciated both the free access and the focus on political history. Many guests describe this location as both beautiful and educational, some going so far as to say it’s a great lunch spot.


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TOURS FROM CHARLESTON

Whether you want to avoid getting lost or enjoy a break from driving, there are some tour companies in Charleston that will take you directly to one of the above locations. These services provide transportation and tours to Boone Hall, Magnolia Plantation, and Middleton Plantation. Some of these opportunities actually come in the form of combo packages, combining tours of the city with a plantation adventure. Depending on which ticket you purchase, prices will typically fluctuate from $50-$94 per person.


Gray Line Tours 

This company offers a bus tour to Boone Hall which lasts approximately 3 ½ – 4 hours. You can also combine this plantation tour with their Historic City Tour for another 90 minutes of Charleston discovery. Guests will enjoy a 30 minute guided tour of the house at Boone Hall Plantation. For the remainder of your trip, you are encouraged to explore the grounds on your own. There are several attractions available to all visitors, so it should be pretty easy to spend an afternoon taking a walk through some of our nation’s most significant history.

They also offer a bus tour to Magnolia Plantation from Charleston, which lasts approximately 4 1/2 hours and includes, the house, the tram tour the historic gardens and so much more.  Like with Boone Hall, you can combine Grayline’s Historic City Tour with a ticket to Magnolia Plantation.

Boone Hall Plantation Tour

Magnolia Plantation Tour

  • $54 for Adults | $27 for Children
  • Duration: 4.5 hours
  • Availability: March – November (+ Christmas week)

Historic City Tour & Magnolia Plantation Combo

Historic City Tour & Boone Hall Plantation Combo 

Reviews

Gray Line enjoys an overall 4 star rating on TripAdvisor, and reviews for their Boone Plantation tour are generally favorable. The only negative review came from a customer who felt that the trip wasn’t worth the ticket price, but others were pleased with the convenience. Considering the small size of their bus, it shouldn’t be too surprising that couples and other small groups reported the best experience with this tour company. Most positive reviews came in the spring, and this is usually a pretty popular time to visit the Charleston Plantations.


Adventure Sightseeing

Much like Gray Line, this company offers both combo tours and trips to Charleston Plantations. However, unlike their competitors, Adventure Sightseeing offers service to both Boone Hall and Magnolia Plantation. Some of their combo packages also include tours of the harbor, providing a unique look at the Charleston area. Their plantation tours last for half a day, giving you plenty of time to explore the historic grounds. Round trip transportation and gate fees are included in the ticket price for every tour.

Boone Hall Plantation Tour

  • $52 for Adults | $28 for Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

City & Boone Hall Plantation Tour Combo

  • $65 for Adults | $40 for Children
  • Duration: 6 hours

Boone Hall & Charleston Harbor Tour Combo

  • $68 for Adults | $44 for Children
  • Duration: 6 hours

Magnolia Plantation Tour

  • $59 for Adults | $30 for Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

City & Magnolia Plantation Tour Combo 

  • $72 for Adults | $40 for Children
  • Duration: 6 hours

All tours from Adventure Sightseeing are offered throughout a majority of the year.

Reviews

Adventure Sightseeing has an impressive 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor. Reviews for their plantation tours are almost all positive. Although there are one or two negative comments, neither of them indicate any serious problems with the service. Most happy customers took their tour during either the summer or the fall, which suggests that this may be a better option for the warmer months of the year. Many guests felt that both the tour guides and customer service provided by this company were very helpful.


Pineapple Tour Group

Pineapple Tour Group only offers tours to the Middleton Place Plantation but has exclusive rights to provide an all-inclusive Middleton Place experience. This means an all-day tour that includes lunch, round-trip from downtown Charleston, and even an introductory video to get an overview of the place before you arrive.

Middleton Place All-Inclusive 

  • $94 per person

Reviews

Pineapple Tour Group boasts a 5 star rating on Trip Advisor. Lots of reviews mention plenty of information being shared on this tour and stops with plenty of time to explore and take pictures. The president of the tour group replies to each and every one of the reviews either to simply acknowledge or to assure guests that their concerns/recommendations will be implemented. This one seems very personable and a great experience.


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