William and I have been to Charleston many times so on this quick one day trip we skipped the Waterfront Park and the Magnolia Plantations to visit more out of the way places of interest. We began our adventures this morning in James Island at McLeod Plantation. McLeod Plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton – and on the backs of enslaved people whose work and culture are embedded in the Lowcountry’s very foundation. It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice.
We discovered that the silky and highly-prized cotton grown here boasted extra-long fibers that made the variety particularly desirable. So desirable that it was valued four times more than other local crops of cotton. This sea island cotton grew so tall that it would stand four feet taller than most men. Could this be where the term “high cotton” began to mean one is doing well or is successful?
Another highlight from our McLeod Plantation tour was learning that the slaves quarters were lined up along the entrance to the Plantation to display their wealth. Only a few of the cabins remain today but it was interesting to learn that people rented and lived in these one room cabins even into the 90’s.
A main focal point at the plantation is the Witness Tree. It was here that many enslaved people were tied to the tree in punishment but today is often the site of many weddings.
After the Civil War to assist their transition to freedom, the freedmen’s bureau established its James island headquarters at McLeod plantation. It reunited families torn by the ravages of slavery, performed legal marriages for couples previously denied the right, and provided schools for children to attend for the first time.
If you are in Charleston this is a must do tour. The tour takes about 2 hours and the cost is most reasonable at $12.50 per person.
Our next stop was for lunch. We always do a google search for Vegan Restaurants nearby and were lucky enough to find this all vegan gem – The Gnome Cafe.
Then we headed over to Wadmalaw Island to tour the Charleston Tea Plantation. Did you know that all of the teas we consume in the US is imported from overseas with one exception. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only producer of tea in the United States. They do all their own harvesting, production and packaging in their plant in Wadmalaw Island but they also partner with Bigelow Family as well. We had a really entertaining trolley tour guide as we toured the fields and learned more about tea. For instance, the difference between green tea and black tea is only the amount of time the tea is allowed to oxidize in the open air before being packaged. They both come from the same tea tree bush! How amazing!
Live oaks (which are evergreen trees found in the Charleston area) looked so beautiful living in harmony with the tea on the plantation.
The tea leaves are harvested from the top few inches of the bush. Here’s the machine that is used to cut each row of bushes. Once the leaves are cut, they are taken to the production and packaging plant on the plantation.
This was a very enjoyable tour and one that is very affordable as well. There is no entrance charge to the Tea Plantation and the Trolley Tour is only $12 per person.
Our next stop was at the Angel Oak located on John’s Island and is estimated to be around 400 years old. It is 65 feet high but is best know for it’s majestic spread. The tree’s name is traced back to early owners of the land, Martha and Justis Angel.
By now it is nearing 5:00 and we rush off to Charleston Harbor where we will take a 6:00 boat tour. There is no way we can go near the water without William insisting that we go out on a boat. We took the Carolina Belle for our tour with Charleston Harbor Tours. Our boat captain and narrator of the trip was a local guy who offered a great history of all the buildings and sites of the harbor. Who knew that 800 BMW’s shipped daily out of Charleston from the Greer, SC plant?
We had a couple of dolphins that followed along the Carolina Belle and entertained us all as they jumped from the water.
Most of you have probably driven across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge driving from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant but from the boat we got a completely different view.
Here was our view of Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant with the Yorktown in view from the water.
And of course I must share our view of Fort Sumter
Our boat tour took about an hour and a half and was also quite reasonably priced at $24.50 per person. Well worth the price to see Charleston Harbor from the water.
Our next and last adventure of the day took us to Awendaw, a little laid back town about 10 miles outside of Mt. Pleasant. I had seen an advertisement in a magazine about this little country store that had been putting on music for the community each and every Wednesday for close to 25 years. There was live music from multiple bands, arts and craft sales, and a wood fired cob oven too!
And we had to buy some kale from this vendor!
We packed a lot into one day but at no time did we feel rushed or that we didn’t see all that we needed to see at each of our selected Points of Interest in the Charleston area. However, it sure was nice to come back “home” to our little Airbnb Airstream Rental for a comfortable good night’s sleep before heading home.