Lowcountry history is close at hand from the peninsula to plantations. Hit the road to visit grand homes, walk through the secret gardens of famous families and absorb lessons from the past. Four of Charleston's famed stops have stories and specialties of their own.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
A blooming jewel of Charleston, Magnolia Plantation has one of America’s last large-scale “romantic-style” gardens—meaning less focus on symmetry and formal design and more on emotion and natural elements. Enjoy azaleas in spring, hydrangeas in summer and camellias in fall. Throughout the year, walk through Magnolia’s Audubon Swamp Garden via a network of bridges and boardwalks and spot egrets and herons nesting in the otherworldly flora. Check out their list of what’s in bloom month to month. 3550 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, 800.782.3608
Tour a home that has survived more than 273 years on the banks of the Ashley River. Revered for its architectural details, Drayton Hall is one of the only pre-Revolutionary houses that remain in close to original condition today. Take a home tour and then stroll the river and marsh areas using interpretive maps. Stop by A Sacred place, the oldest documented African-American cemetery in the nation still in use. 3380 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, 843.769.2600
Not a “romantic” garden, but certainly romantic in the other sense, Middleton Place’s 65 acres of gardens are some of America’s oldest landscaped vistas. Like Versailles, the gardens are classically designed with order, geometry and balance. Visit the stableyards and tour the house museum—the only surviving portion of the three-building residence that once overlooked the Ashley River. Before the Civil War, four generations of Middletons lived in the home, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 4300 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, 800.367.3517
Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
High on history, Boone Hall tells the stories of “Black History in America” in a critically acclaimed exhibit that takes visitors through original slave cabins to tell stories from slavery to civil rights and beyond. Today the plantation is still a working, living farm, actively producing strawberries, tomatoes and pumpkins and more. Pick your own fruits and vegetables in season or shop the modern market for Boone Hall label jams, jellies and sauces. 1235 Long Point Rd., Mount Pleasant, 843.884.4371