Sheep grazing at Middleton Place.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Middleton Place


Designed in 1741, this plantation's vast gardens are the oldest in the US. Countless slaves spent years terracing the land and digging the precise geometric canals for the owner, wealthy South Carolina politician Henry Middleton. The bewitching grounds are a mix of classic formal French gardens and romantic woodland, bounded by flooded rice paddies and rare-breed farm animals. Union soldiers burned the main house in 1865; a 1755 guest wing, now housing the house museum, still stands.

The on-site inn is a series of ecofriendly modernist glass boxes overlooking the Ashley River. Enjoy a traditional Lowcountry plantation lunch of she-crab soup and hoppin' john at the highly regarded cafe, or bring a picnic lunch.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Charleston attractions

1. Magnolia Plantation


This 500-acre plantation, which has been owned by the Drayton family since 1676, is a veritable theme park. Enjoy a tram tour, a petting zoo and a guided…

2. Drayton Hall

4.09 MILES

This 1738 Palladian brick mansion is the country's oldest preserved plantation house open to the public. Yep, it's older than the nation. Drayton Hall was…

3. Citadel Campus & Museum

12.53 MILES

South Carolina's military-college campus is set in historic buildings and is replete with uniformed cadets and various memorials. There's a small museum…

4. Hampton Park

12.63 MILES

A big, awesome park that locals love for its arboreal and floral displays, fitness trail and large swaths of open space, often utilized for things like…

6. Angel Oak Tree

13.08 MILES

Some folks reckon this Southern live oak tree is 1500 years old (others says it's 400 to 500 years old). Whatever the case, it's one of the oldest living…

7. George Gallery

13.38 MILES

A neighborhood favorite, this contemporary-art gallery displays mostly abstract and nonobjective work of artists from the East Coast with some connection…

8. McLeod Plantation

13.44 MILES

Opened to the public in 2015, this James Island plantation offers an honest and frankly devastating account of the lives of the enslaved and later …