Charleston is a city that presents itself with an air of value luxury. The humid, sea-salty air, the timeless and immaculately preserved architecture, the somewhat European flair – one can imagine Kings and Queens of royalty being suitably impressed.
But it’s not just historic inner Charleston that has the charms. Heading out of town to the northeast – towards the airport but not quite that far – you’ll find the Ashley River. In the twists and bends of this river lies some of South Carolina’s most historic waters – the sites of many former Charleston plantations.
While many come as a day trip from Charleston to enjoy sightseeing in famous plantations like Magnolia Gardens or Drayton Hall, I encourage you to stay and spend the night. And I know just the place.
Middleton Place Inn
Many visitors to Middleton Place’s historic plantation attractions don’t even know that there’s an inn here. That’s because it’s tucked away into a private nook of the sprawling estate, with its own drive entrance. It couldn’t be quieter – only the rustle of the trees and the buzz of insects pierces the silence.
The Inn is not as historic as the old plantation home itself – though if you tour the home you’ll probably be thankful for something a little more modern! The inn is laid out in a series of buildings that ensure a lot of privacy and give each room lots of space and lots of open windows for you to see outside.
Room Amenities – Is that a Swimming Pool?
You’ll slightly be confused when you walk into your room, because you’ll have seen the swimming pool outside and there is, in fact, a bathtub in your room that could double as a second swimming pool. Avail yourself of the complimentary bath salts – you’ll thank me tomorrow, after a good long soak and a restful sleep.
The rooms at Middleton remind me of a balance between a rustic mountain lodge and a ski resort chalet. Mostly hardwoods with several wood shutters give it that lodge feel, and then the stone fireplace is what reminds me of the chalet. It’s very spacious and borders on minimalist – ironing boards and other items are tucked away out of sight, so you can do with the space what you wish.
While You’re Here
Since you’re staying on the plantation, I encourage you to do a bit of exploring – even if it’s stifling hot, an early or late in the day walk can be a great insight opportunity to reflect on plantation life – both the good and the bad. I recommend asking at the front desk to book you on one of the carriage tours – the Middleton Property is enormous, a fact you might appreciate more after tooling around behind the horses; the guide also gives a bit of color to the historical significance of this plantation.
Continental breakfast is included with your room- tea, coffee, cereal, juice, pastries; hot foods are available for an extra charge. It is served in a small building adjacent to the lodging buildings. Grab a seat by the window – we did and enjoyed watching a baby alligator swimming silently past outside the window. (He was close but not *too close* – no danger of being mistaken as breakfast, I assure you.)
Visit Middleton Place Inn’s website for more details and to book a reservation, which I recommend placing in advance. You can certainly visit Middleton place without spending the night, but taking the opportunity to sleep next to the Ashley River, soaking up history and atmosphere, is a side to Charleston not everyone sees.
Just be sure to get out of the bathtub eventually, ok?
Photos by Margo Millure and Andy Hayes.