There is nothing quite like walking the grounds of an old Southern plantation, and Charleston is full of them. If you are looking for something to do outside the city, I highly recommend heading to the banks of the Ashley River.
Established in the early 1730s, Middleton Place was built in many phases and served as the country residence of Mary and Henry Middleton. Located on the Ashley River, about 15 miles upstream from Charleston, the primary access to the plantation would have been by water. The house was completed in 1741, and the work on the gardens began in the same year.
The gardens alone should be the reason you visit this plantation. In the 1940s the gardens were named as the “most important and interesting garden in America.” Designed in the grand classic style that remained popular in Europe in the early part of the 18th century, the gardens have changed over the years thanks to generations of contributors. André Michaux, a French Botanist and friend to Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration, is thought to have brought the first camellias to America by way of Middleton Place. In addition to camellias, crepe myrtles, the gardens also house 100,000 azaleas.
So, why is Middleton Place such a special place? It is the oldest landscaped garden in the United States. The gardeners of Middleton Place closely followed the inspiration of André Le Nôtre, the master of classical gardens who also designed Versailles. The original gardens contained a multitude of walkways that were lined with trees and shrubs, as well as small galleries, green arbors, bowling greens, sculptures, and more.
Don’t miss the massive live oak that is nicknamed the “Middleton Oak”.
The grounds also house a Stableyard where you can get a glimpse of the 18th and 19th-century working plantation life. The Stableyard houses shops for the blacksmith, carpentry, pottery, and textile.
There are various types of tours and experiences you can take while on the property. We opted for the General Admission, which allows you to access 65 acres of the property. There multiple add-ons available including House Tour and Carriage Tour. Additionally, be sure to check out the garden store when you leave. There were so many plants I wanted to bring home.