A trip to Charleston, SC, should most definitely always start with a visit to the tranquil Middleton Place plantation. The Inn at Middleton Place is a surprising modern contrast to the old-world charm of the Middleton home and lands.
Designed by Clark and Menefee of Charleston, this Award-Winning Architectural structure is a very unique pet-friendly hotel providing accommodations for the nearby Middleton Place.
Buildings are made to blend in with the landscape by featuring minimalist stucco walls covered in fig vines, which grow much better in the humid heat of the south than English ivy. The Inn not only blends into the natural landscape, but was also designed to blend in with the landscape of Charleston. The color of stucco used was matched to Charleston’s St. Philip’s Church. Its terra cotta chimney pots echo those so commonly seen in the city. The room’s modern windows all feature interior louvered shutters. And its doors and other trim were painted Charleston Green.
The sprawling property of the Inn itself contains a lodge with a bar and restaurant, a Lakehouse building for events where breakfast is served daily, stables, and a pool overlooking the Ashley river.
You can enjoy this incredibly peaceful respite by relaxing by the river, taking a horseback ride, floating along the water in a kayak, or enjoying a morning stroll over to Middleton Place.
Rooms are filled with natural light thanks to full length floor to ceiling cantilever windows that wrap around two walls. The interior is designed to match the exterior walls by being very minimal and reminiscent of a cabin in the woods. I will add that while we were comfortable in this room, they are not what I would consider luxurious. Additionally, for us, we found a bit of a musty odor upon arrival thanks to the generous rain Irma dumped just days before, but it had dissipated by morning.
The Inn serves a continental breakfast daily that is included in your stay, but a menu of made to order items is also available for an additional charge. The breakfast buffet included yogurt, muffins, bananas, apples, oranges, hot oatmeal with a topping bar, cold cereal, tea, coffee, and juice. We found that there were ample choices in the continental breakfast, but also heard the omelets and other made to order dishes were incredible.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Inn at Middleton Place. The peaceful atmosphere and lush property made it the perfect start to our trip to the area. We had a few minor hiccups with service that reaffirmed some other guest reviews we’ve read where past guests commented on the lack of communication among the staff. We were provided a late check-out because we were traveling with our dogs, but housekeeping seemed unaware and knocked on our door twice just after the normal check-out time of 11am. We had been offered a pack and play for our baby that would be set up for us upon arrival, but it was not there so we had to get ours out and set it up very late at night. Neither of those are a big deal and the overall experience and service we received definitely made up for it. We found staff to be very helpful and friendly! While we missed out on it, we hear The Lodge on property does a really nice evening reception for guests with light appetizers and drinks!
While we were staying right next door, we took the opportunity to see Middleton Place, one of many historic large plantations around Charleston. You can quite literally take a 5 minute walk and be standing on Middleton Place property! Tickets to the plantation gardens and house museum are also included in your stay at the Inn, which is an incredible value. We didn’t have time to tour the house museum, but tours run approximately every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour so you just have to get scheduled on one. If you plan to just do the self-guided walking tour of the grounds like us, then that will take you around an hour and a half to two hours depending on how fast you walk.
The pathway over to and around Middleton Place is easy enough to maneuver, but I wouldn’t wear any high heeled shoes. A stroller could likely navigate it just fine despite a flight of stairs, but we chose to wear the baby. It’s basically well worn gravel, sand, or dirt most of the way with a few bridges and stairs thrown in the mix.
Do you see that dark stripey looking thing in the grass across the pond? And then that dark spot in the shade beside it? Yeah…those are alligators. We saw quite a few during our trek around Middleton, mainly sunning or swimming around the pond / estuary. We chose to steer clear, but saw some
brave crazy people who were seeking them out and getting too close for comfort for pictures.
This part of the country is definitely not devoid of scenic spots with it’s low hanging Spanish moss that makes everything just look a little bit dreamy.
More wildlife friends below…with a brave little turtle (not be confused with the brave little toaster) joining the sun bathing beauties.
Once you go over the bridge and past the pond, if you head to the left following the self-guided tour, the path takes you up to the stable yards where they house water buffalo, guinea hogs, horses, and cows.
Guinea hogs were a common breed on southern plantations until they were replaced by modern breeds, today they are a rare heritage breed.
Outside the stable, we actually witnessed a farm hand milking one of the dairy cows that morning!
The self-guided tour takes you past Eliza’s House, circa 1870, where you can see for yourself how enslaved once lived. This two-family vernacular dwelling provides evidence of domestic conditions of the African American community at Middleton before and after the Civil War. The left room provides the history of some of the slaves that worked at Middleton and the relationship they had with the family. On the right, you can see a home staged as they would have lived years ago.
Continuing along the self-guided tour, when you loop back past the stables, you can see the front entrance to the house in the distance. The standing building is actually the 1755 gentlemen’s guest wing of the original structure that mostly burned and then toppled during an earthquake years ago. The house is used as a museum now.
If you are staying at the Inn, the guided tour of the House Museum is included with your stay, but it you are not then there is an additional fee to take part in the tour inside.
The brick entry way, steps, and gate are what remain of the original structure along with a pile of brick ruins of the Main House and North Flanker. The brick walkway marks what was the center hall.
In 1865, toward the end of the U.S. Civil War, Union soldiers burned most of the house, leaving only the south wing and gutted walls of the north wing and main house. An earthquake in 1886 toppled the walls of the main house and north wing. Drayton Hall seems to be the only plantation home in the area that survived the wrath of Union soldiers.
The original home at Middleton Place had an amazing view of the Ashley River and tiered butterfly garden overlooking the river.
Along the path leading to the right away from the back of the house you will find the Middleton Place chapel and Spring House. At the lower level, spring waters provided cool storage for dairy and other foods. The chapel was added in 1851 for use by the enslaved families on the plantation.
Back up the hill to the tiered gardens, the tour takes you through the top half of the butterfly garden and then through the rest of the gardens. I can imagine how beautiful this place would be at peak season when most of the flowers are in bloom!
Off to the left of the house is a garden for butterflies and bees planted with flowers to attract them and a butterfly bath.
Deep within the formal gardens is a secret garden hidden from view by hedges with one entrance. These small, private retreats apparently often contain classical sculptures or a lawn tennis court.
A long reflecting pool heralds the entrance to Middleton Place for guests and is where most would start their tour.
At the very far end of the property is the Cypress Lake in a far more informal part of the gardens where trees and wildflowers have grown up along the lake.
Along the new Camellia Garden, rows of hedges have grown up together to form archways. Be wary of spider webs as you are walking through the gardens, particularly in the alleys of low hanging hedges. They provide some much needed shade to not only us, but to all sorts of living things. 😉
The largest measured Southern Live Oak, named the “Middleton Oak”, grows at Middleton Place. In 2004, when the Middleton Oak was measured it was the largest tree in eastern part of the U.S. Until 2012 this tree was only surpassed by a bald cypress tree in Florida.
In 2008, the tree lost a large part of its crown, when two massive limbs snapped off the base of the tree greatly reducing its total mass.
Just past the Middleton Oak, you can take brick steps down to a pathway along the Ashley River to finish out your tour by the sunken rice fields, a testament to one of the original uses of the plantation.
If you want to visit Middleton Place, one of the most popular plantations in Charleston, check out their website to book tickets and tours. You can also see their garden blooming list to determine when might be the best time of year to visit. Open daily from 9am-5pm, adult tickets cost $28 each and can be purchased online or at the plantation. You can also book a combination ticket for general admission to Middleton Place, the House Museum tour, and admission to the Edmondston-Alston House for an additional $21 for the best value if you plan to see both attractions during your trip.
It’s easy to see why Middleton is the favorite among locals and tourists alike with its planned formal gardens, natural beauty, and abundance of preserved history. During my research for our trip, it stood out as the easy pick for which plantation to visit if you only have time to see one. If you have time to visit others, Drayton Hall is the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public and Magnolia Plantation is home to the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870.