Visitors who’ve also been to Savannah’s Wormsloe Plantation  will see the similarity in the majestic, live oak–lined entrance avenue to Boone Hall Plantation (1235 Long Point Rd., 843/884-4371, www.boonehallplantation.com , $17.50 adults, $7.50 children). But this site is about half a century older, dating back to a grant to Major John Boone in the 1680s (the oaks of the entranceway were planted in 1743).
Unusually in this area, which made its original fortune mostly on rice, Boone Hall’s main claim to fame was as a cotton plantation as well as a noted brick-making plant. Boone Hall takes the phrase “living history” to its extreme, as it’s not only an active agricultural facility but lets visitors go on “u-pick” walks through its fields, which boast succulent strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, and even pumpkins in October—as well as free hayrides.
Currently owned by the McRae family, which first opened it to the public in 1959, Boone Hall is called “the most photographed plantation in America.” And photogenic it certainly is, with natural beauty to spare in its scenic location on the Wando River and its adorable Butterfly Garden. But as you’re clicking away with your camera, do keep in mind that the plantation’s “big house” is not original; it’s a 1935 reconstruction.
While Boone Hall’s most genuine historic buildings include the big Cotton Gin House (1853) and the 1750 Smokehouse, to me the most poignant and educational structures by far are the nine humble brick slave cabins from the 1790s, expertly restored and most fitted with interpretive displays. The cabins are the center of Boone Hall’s educational programs, including an exploration of Gullah culture at the outdoor “Gullah Theatre” on the unfortunately named Slave Street. Summers see some serious Civil War reenacting going on.
In all, three different tours are available: a 30-minute house tour, a tour of Slave Street, and a garden tour. Boone Hall’s seasonal hours are a little tricky: from Labor Day through mid-March, Boone Hall is open Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 1–4 p.m.; from mid-March through Labor Day, it’s open Monday–Saturday 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. and Sunday 1–5 p.m.