Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
July 11th, 2018
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Charles Towne Landing State Park is located at the site of the original colony in the Carolinas and today features hiking/walking trails, a replica 17th-century sailing vessel, and a natural habitat zoo.

In 1670 a small group of colonists established a settlement at Albermarle Point along a wide and relatively deep river. Ten years later the settlement would be abandoned in favor of nearby Oyster Point where Charles Towne would be founded. Centuries later the site of the original settlement along a river later named the Ashley River would become Charles Towne Landing State Historic Park.

The Visitor Center & Museum

The adventure begins at the beautiful visitor center. Inside you’ll find a small gift shop that includes drinks and snacks, a few tables with a nice view, and the information desk where I have always found very friendly park employees and rangers. This is where you’ll fork over the admission price, collect your South Carolina Ultimate Outsider stamp, and rent a bicycle if you want to peddle your way around the trails.

The visitor center also has an incredible 12-room museum. The museum chronicles the history of the original Carolina Colony through the first few decades. It’s a fascinating exploration of who established the colony, what life was like for different types of colonists, and how the colony grew to become the city of Charleston today.

A curved wall leads into the museum at the visitor center at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
Two white mannequins, one portraying a Native American and the other an English settler, at the museum at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
Photos of prominent historical figures at the museum at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

The museum inside the visitor center takes about 15 minutes to casually walk through, but more if you stick around to ready the long history of Charleston.

Legare-Waring House

The beautiful Colonial Revival style Legare-Waring House is the site of weddings and special events throughout the year. Built by Jonathon Lucas III in the 1840s as the overseers house on the Old Town Plantation, the house passed through many owners including Dr. Joseph Waring. The grounds in front of the house, called the Avenue of Oaks, is a grassy field beneath the canopy of massive oak trees.

A beautiful water fountain surrounded by stone pavers in front of the two-story Legare-Waring House at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
A sofa, coffee table, and two open seats on the grass surrounded by towering oak trees at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
About two dozen tables covered with white table clothes on the grass at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

The Legare-Waring House and the long lawn in front are popular areas for weddings throughout the year, such as the wedding setup pictured above.

The Animal Forest

This natural habitat zoo features many animals that would have been found along the South Carolina coast at one point in time. These animals include bison, pumas, bears, otters, and deer. Visitors can stroll along the paved path about 5-10 minutes from the visitor center beneath the shade of massive trees to view these animals.

Most of the times I walk the paths I will find raccoons running around scavenging for food. A ranger recently told me one particular raccoon who lives in the park will give birth to a single albino raccoon each year, but I have yet to spot this interesting creature myself! Maybe you will have better luck than me during your visit.

A pelican shakes off water from his feathers at the Animal Forest in Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
A turtle at the edge of a small lake at the Animal Forest at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
A wild raccoon high in a tree at the Animal Forest at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

A large enclosed aviary features pelicans and turtles, but you’ll also find wild raccoons in the trees of the Animal Forest.

The Adventure Ship

The Adventure is a recreation of a 17th-century sailing vessel that would have hauled cargo during the early years of the Carolina Colony. The ship is fully functional and is docked on Oldtown Creek at the “end” of the park. It’s about a 0.5-mile walk along paved paths to reach the ship or visitors can ride the shuttle golf cart.

Visitors can climb aboard the sailing vessel, peer beneath decks at the cargo hold, and learn about the early history of trading with Barbados and England. The scenery around the boat is gorgeous and usually quite peaceful. A side trail leads back through the gardens of the park, or visitors can continue along the History Trail.

The small sailing vessel USS Adventure floating on the river at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
The small sailing vessel USS Adventure floating on the river at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

It’s really cool being able to go aboard the Adventure and often times there is a park ranger there to answer questions about the early trading vessel.

Hiking Trails

The approximately 1.5-mile History Trail is an interpretive trail that meanders through the park and makes note of the history of Old Town. The trail begins and ends at the visitor center, first passing by The Animal Forest. The trail includes a recreation of a dwelling, the palisade wall, the Adventure, and returns through the Avenue of Oaks and past the Legare-Waring House.

There are a couple of side trails to enjoy in the park. A nature trail takes visitors along the Ashley River from the palisade wall to The Animal Forest and is a great opportunity to see coastal birds and turtles. Another side trail winds through Mrs. Waring’s Garden and includes a scenic overlook on the river.

A large oak tree spreads across a paved path at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
A reenactor demonstrates firing a rifle at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina
A long wooden boardwalk stretches across the marsh at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina

Large oak trees cover some of the trails around the park while other areas have wooden footbridges across the marsh.

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