Touring Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in South Carolina

Did you know George Washington spent a night here after becoming the first president and saved an oak tree? This is what you'll learn with a tour at this South Carolina state historic site.

Written by

Jason Barnette

on

May 26, 2017

The gorgeous house at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is one of the most authentic and original plantation homes in South Carolina. Take a walk around the grounds, enjoy a guided tour of the house, and learn about the connection with George Washington. That is exactly what I did when I visited on a cool spring day in May.

Guided Tours of the Plantation House

The main attraction of Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is the plantation house. Tours are offered a couple times a day throughout the week and take about 45 minutes. The tours are packed with information about the plantation house, life in the rice fields, and the history of people who passed through here.

After touring the plantation house I realized it was one of the most authentic and untouched plantation homes I had ever visited. Unlike many plantation homes that are eventually updated with plumbing, climate control, and electricity, Hampton Plantation was never modernized. I didn’t see outlet boxes screwed to the baseboard or metal pipes running along the walls painted to match the historic colors. Instead, I found an authentic and rather original mansion.

The day I toured the plantation house a series of thunderstorms swept through the area. The ranger and I got caught inside the house just as the tour ended as a storm passed through. Rather than waste the time we sat on the covered back porch and she told me more stories about this amazing plantation house.

Large two-story white plantation house with towering portico and surrounded by a lush yard at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in McClellanville, South Carolina
The grand ballroom inside the plantation house at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in McClellanville, South Carolina
Unfinished walls inside the plantation house at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in McClellanville, South Carolina

The interior of the plantation house has been left much as it was when first built, with some sections of wall exposing the beams behind.

George Washington Oak Tree

One of the stories I heard on the tour involved our first president, George Washington. Shortly after being elected as the nation’s first president Washington took a “thank you” tour of the South. After visiting Georgetown he crossed over the Santee River and spent a night at Hampton Plantation.

While visiting the plantation the lady of the house asked Washington if he thought a giant oak tree in front of the house should be cut down to provide a better view from the portico. Washington sternly replied the beautiful oak tree should never be cut down.

That tree is still there and is now known as the George Washington Oak Tree.

Hiking Trail

The only hiking trail at Hampton Plantation State Historic site is the 2-mile Hampton Plantation Nature Trail. The trail begins at the parking lot, skirts Wambaw Creek, then loops back through an old rice field.

The trail is a primitive path and not handicap accessible. Walking it takes about 15-20 minutes.

The remains of a chimney of an old house at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in McClellanville, South Carolina

This chimney is all that remained of a home at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site.

Gift Shop

The gift shop and park office are located in a small building beside the parking lot. It’s a small gift shop with only a few items such as clothing and books for sale.

This is where you would purchase tickets for the guided tour of the plantation house and there is usually a ranger here, during normal operating hours, with a brochure for the park.

The South Carolina Ultimate Outsider stamp is located at a kiosk beside the restrooms near the shop.

Getting to Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is located in McClellanville about halfway between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. It’s within an easy day’s drive of these two popular tourism destinations as well as just fifteen minutes from Georgetown.

The entrance to the state historic site is located about two miles from Highway 17 along a two-lane state route. Interestingly visitors to the state historic site pass Old Georgetown Road, the original route of Highway 17 or “The King’s Highway” and the only section left unpaved. It just might make for a good scenic detour if you are heading back to Charleston.

When to Visit Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

I cannot stress this enough, although this may not be entirely popular with South Carolina State Parks: avoid this state historic site from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The first time I attempted to visit this park was in early August. I arrived at the park, parked my car in the sandy parking lot, and started walking toward the gift shop to buy a tour ticket. Before I reached the office I felt a little lightheaded.

That’s when I looked down and noticed at least a hundred mosquitoes clinging to my legs and ankles. I immediately ran back to the car, but it was too late. I had been bitten so many times I actually felt sick at my stomach.

Now do not let this story deter you from ever visiting this park. The next time I visited was in mid-May and it was a gorgeous day with very few mosquitoes. But you have to keep in mind this park is located along the swampy Wambaw Creek and is a haven for mosquitoes. You just have to time your visit right.

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