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Charleston’s Plantations and Stately Homes

Program Number: 19402RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/9/2014 - 3/14/2014; 4/10/2016 - 4/15/2016; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016; 10/9/2016 - 10/14/2016; 10/23/2016 - 10/28/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Price starting at: $736.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Homes & Gardens; History & Culture
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Absorb the beauty and depth of Charleston’s stately homes and lowcountry plantations as you delve into their histories on exclusive, expert-led explorations of historic houses, plantation and gardens. Learn the uncensored story of slave life during onsite lectures, and examine the architectural influences that gave Charleston its grand downtown structures.


• Compare the Aiken-Rhett House in its unrestored state with the beautifully restored 19th-century Nathanial Russell House.
• Enjoy a look into — and tasty sampling of — modern plantation life at Charleston Tea Plantation, containing America’s only tea garden, and Irvin House Vineyards, makers of Muscadine wine and Firefly vodka.
• Enjoy an exploration of Charleston’s Historic Battery, viewing the exteriors of stately homes built before, during and after the Civil War.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles a day over narrow, uneven, flagstone-paved sidewalks and cobblestone streets; some standing; no elevators in historic homes.

Lodging is at a retreat center several miles outside of Charleston. For accommodations in Charleston’s historic district, please see Program #19403.

Coordinated by Coastal Retreat Center.

Charleston (South Carolina)

Founded in 1670, Charleston is an old colonial city brimming with museums and historical attractions. In its early days, it was a cosmopolitan trading center whose wealth is on display today in the well-preserved architecture and cultural institutions. Picturesque tree-lined streets and a lovely coastline make it a tourist Mecca.

Beachside retreat center on Isle of Palms barrier island, several miles outside of Charleston with excellent Southern meals.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Ernest Shealy

Architectural historian Ernest O. Shealy has a master’s in architectural history and historic preservation from the University of Virginia. He has served as house administrator for the historic Aiken-Rhett, Joseph Manigault and Heyward-Washington houses. In addition to wide-ranging community-leadership positions, Ernest hosts the radio show "Road Trip of the Month" on WKDK, has served on the South Carolina Review Board for Historic Preservation and has been a Road Scholar instructor since 1996.
Murrie Johnson

Murrie Alice Johnson is a retired school teacher who taught South Carolina history, American history and social studies in Charleston County and Dorchester County. She received her bachelor’s from Newberry College and her master’s from the College of Charleston. When she’s not sharing her love for South Carolina’s history with eager students, Murrie enjoys growing antique roses and spoiling her grandson.
Meals and Lodgings
   Coastal Retreat Center
  Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC 5 nights
 Coastal Retreat Center
Type: Conference Center
  Description: Coastal Retreat is operated by South Carolina Lutheran Retreat Centers. The center is situated about 150 yards from the Atlantic Ocean with public beach access. Enjoy the sea breeze on our outdoor covered deck, peruse the daily newspaper or play cards in our comfortable lounging areas. Indoors or out, you'll savor the unique escape that comes from this lowcountry beach retreat. Free parking provided for guests. The Isle of Palms is a barrier island, residential in nature, about 15 miles north of downtown historic Charleston SC. The Isle of Palms is considered as prime real estate along the East Coast. There is currently no pharmacy or grocery store on the island, but there are major shopping areas about five miles away in Mount Pleasant.
  Contact info: 2101 Palm Blvd
PO Box 224
Isle of Palms, SC 29451 USA
phone: 843-886-4630
  Room amenities: Each room has it's own private shower bath, along with individual climate controlled heating and air conditioning. There are also table top mini fridges in each room perfect for storing small snacks and medicines. Bed and bath linens, soap, provided. Participants kindly make their beds upon arrival and strip them at departure. Fresh linens are available upon request throughout the week.
  Facility amenities: Lounge areas are located on first and second floors. One television located in the lounge on each level, with cable access and DVD capabilities. Free long distance telephone and Wireless Internet access available in lounge on the first level.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Registration begins at 4 PM on Sunday, Dinner will be served at 6 PM You will be staying at Coastal Retreat Center that night.
  End of Program:
Program will conclude following lunch served at 11:30 AM on Friday You will be staying at Coastal Retreat Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking provided free of charge at the Coastal Retreat Center
To Start of Program
  Location:  Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
  Nearest city or town:  Mount Pleasant and Charleston
  Nearest highway: Highway 517 is the Isle of Palms Connector; Hwy. I- 526, known as the Mark Clark Expressway; and Interstate 26.
  Nearest airport:  Charleston International Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Charleston Airport to Coastal Retreat Center


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Mount Pleasant Shuttle
phone: 866-223-7226
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Approx $72 for up to 2 people
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


half hour (30 minutes) 




21 miles


This is our recommended taxi/shuttle service to take if you are looking to get your own private shuttle from the airport to the Coastal Retreat Center. Call to reserve prior to your arrival. Mount Pleasant Shuttle service will arrive any time you request. Courteous, prompt, and safe drivers. Cost is approx 72 for up to two people, one way. Additional people will cost extra. Discuss pricing and payment with MPS. There are other taxi services available from airport.

Driving Directions
  North (via Highway 17 South from coastal SC/Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand) Take Highway 17 South to the junction of Highway 517 (the Isle of Palms Connector). This is a major intersection with traffic lights. Get into the far left turning lane. Signs for the Isle of Palms will be posted at the intersection. Turn left onto Highway 517 (Isle of Palms Connector) and continue through the traffic lights, over the Intracoastal Waterway bridge/causeway. At the base of the bridge is a traffic light. Turn left and stay in the left lane. You will see a large Methodist Church ahead. Follow this road (Palm Blvd.) as it bends to the right then back to the left. As soon as the road bends back to the left, the retreat center will be the first driveway on your left. A brick crosswalk is located immediately before the entrance to the center parking lot. The retreat center is adjacent to the Methodist property.
  North (via I-95 N or S, I-77 S, or I-26 E) Take I-26 EAST toward Charleston, to Exit 212C. Enter onto I-526 E (Mark Clark Expressway) toward Mount Pleasant.Continue about 10 miles to the Hiwahway 17 NORTH (Exit 29) ramp. At the foot of the ramp is a traffic light. Get into the center lane. Continue straight across Highway 17 following Hungry Neck Boulevard (the road that you are on) as it bends to the left. At the third traffic light, turn right onto Highway 517 (Isle of Palms Connector). The connector will cross over a causeway and an intracoastal waterway bridge, onto the Isle of Palms. At the foot of the bridge, take a left at the traffic light. Stay in the left lane. You will see a large Methodist Church (painted white) ahead. Follow this road (Palm Boulevard) for about 1/4 mile as it bends to the right and then quickly back to the left. A brick crosswalk will be located immediately before the left turn entrance to the retreat center parking lot. The retreat center is adjacent to the Methodist Church property.
  South (via Highway 17 North from Savannah) Take US Highway 17 Noth, crossing the peninsula of Charleston. Follow US Highway 17 North toward Mt. Pleasant, across the Arthur Ravenel cable-stayed bridge. After crossing the bridge, bear right onto Highway 703 (Coleman Boulevard). Continue to follow Highway 703, staying right as the road turns into Ben Sawyer Boulevard. Continue to follow 703 (now Ben Sawyer Boulevard) across the Ben Sawyer Bridge. After crossing the bridge, turn left and continue on Highway 703 across the small Breech Inlet Bridge and onto the Isle of Palms. Continue straight on 703 to the intersection of 517 and 703. At the light continue straight. You should see a large Methodist Church (painted white) ahead. Follow this road (Palm Boulevard) as it bends to the right then back to the left. A brick crosswalk is located immediately before a entrance on your left into the retreat center parking lot. The retreat center is adjacent to the Methodist Church property.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Registration, Dinner, Orientation
(Sunday, March 9)
 Arrive To: Arrival at Coastal Retreat Center. Registration begins at 4pm, but our first scheduled activity is not until Dinner at 6pm.
 Dinner: A delicious prime rib dinner welcomes you to your new home away from home in the charming South Carolina Lowcountry.
 Evening: Introductions and Orientations. This session will give you an overview of your week of learning ahead and give you a chance to meet your fellow explorers! After orientation you are invited to watch an optional hour long video about Charleston and the Lowcountry.
Accommodations: Coastal Retreat Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Charleston Architecture, Narrated Excursion in Historic Charleston, Historic Plantation, Slave Community on a Lowcountry Plantation
(Monday, March 10)
 Breakfast: Morning Coffee available at 6am. Several copies of the "Post and Courier" and "USA Today" are available each morning. Personal copies of paper may be ordered.
 Morning: Interactive Lecture series on Charleston Architecture begins. Presenter is an architectural historian who previously worked for the Historic Charleston Foundation and directed the Charleston Museum Homes. Next, we'll leave the center and receive a comprehensive overview of historic Charleston by a licensed guide. During this narrated bus trip, you'll learn about the history behind the stately homes found on the downtown penisula. Group will disembark the bus to explore the Charleston Visitors Center. This excursion will whet your appetite for sights to see during free periods.
 Lunch: Enjoy a light picnic lunch when we arrive at the plantation.
 Afternoon: Excursion to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold before it from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. It is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, and the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants in its famous gardens. You'll experience the beauty of its gardens along with its rich history with a guided plantation house tour, a narrated nature tram of the Audubon Swamp, guided tour of the gardens, slave cabins, and other outlying areas.
 Dinner: Enjoy a delicious dinner when you return to the retreat center. Participants are given the option of a seafood or non-seafood entrée. Delicious meals are catered by a local restaurant known for their superb seafood selection.
 Evening: Interactive lecture series begin on Slave Community on a Lowcountry Plantation. Local historian will guide you through the work and home life of the slave population in SC. These lectures reveal a behind the scenes look at the work and labor intensity needed to create the luxurious lifestyles in which plantations are known for.
Accommodations: Coastal Retreat Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Charleston Architecture, Slave Community on Lowcountry Plantation, Tour of Drayton Hall, Sweetgrass Basket Demonstration
(Tuesday, March 11)
 Breakfast: You can choose hot or cold breakfast, along with fresh fruit, juices, hot coffee, tea.
 Morning: Architectural historian will help you "see" colonial and antebellum homes with "new eyes" with your morning lecture. Slave Community on Lowcounty Plantation series continues. Learn about the unique experience slaves had in this part of the country due to climate conditions and complex crop harvesting.
 Lunch: Enjoy a light lunch at the Coastal Retreat Center catered by a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Drayton Hall Plantation. This 18th century Plantation is the oldest original Plantation home along the Ashley River. A property of the National Trust, Drayton Hall is shown unfurnished in a state of preservation, highlighting its magnificent architectural details. Included will be an extended guided house tour, plantation exploration and slavery presentation. A fantastic experience that brings plantation culture to life.
 Dinner: Return to the Coastal Retreat Center for dinner. After an adventurous day, you'll be ready for a tasty meal.
 Evening: Sweetgrass Basket Demonstration. Learn about the Gullah tradition of making sweetgrass baskets, a practice brought directly from the west coast of Africa by enslaved people.
Accommodations: Coastal Retreat Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Charleston Architecture, Angel Oak Tree, Charleston Tea Plantation, Irvin House Vineyards and Wine Tasting, H L Hunley Video
(Wednesday, March 12)
 Breakfast: Start your day out right with a complete breakfast with a variety of offerings.
 Morning: Architectural historian discusses historic and cultural influences on architecture in Charleston. This guy is brilliant, and uses appropriate humor, so his topic is not dry but very interesting and enjoyable. Next, we will depart for a day full of adventure! Our first stop will be the famous Angel Oak Tree, the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River. The Angel Oak is believed to be over 1,500 years old and stands 65 ft high with a canopy providing 17,000 sq feet of shade. Second, we will explore the Charleston Tea Plantation! This modern day plantation is thriving in the lowcountry and is America’s only tea garden. Plantation tour and tea tasting included.
 Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking a picturesque setting at the Charleston Tea Plantation.
 Afternoon: Our last stop of our trip will be Irvin House Vineyards. This modern day vineyard produces SC Muscadine Wine and also Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka. Plantation tour, wine and liquor tasting and souvenir wine glass included.
 Dinner: Return to Coastal Retreat Center and our chef will have your meal prepared!
 Evening: After dinner, view a video on the recovery of the HL Hunley, the first submarine to sink an opposing vessel in wartime. On February 17, 1864, the Hunley sank the USS Houssatonic off the Carolina Coast just a few miles out from the Isle of Palms. After its rediscovery in the 1990's, the Friends of the Hunley raised the craft and are working on its conservation in North Charleston. This video documents the recovery efforts through National Geographic.
Accommodations: Coastal Retreat Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Downtown Architectural Walking Lecture, Nathanial Russel House, Aiken-Rhett House, free time in historic Charleston, Graduation Celebration and ice cream social
(Thursday, March 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast is served at 7:45am to get you ready for your day of adventure!
 Morning: Travel downtown for a guided walk of Charleston’s Historic Battery viewing the exteriors of stately homes built before, during, and after the Civil War. 45 minute architectural walking lecture brings together all the knowledge learned in classroom lectures, and reveals greater details about the families who built and lived in these homes. Next, explore the historic Nathanial Russell House. This beautifully restored 19th century Charleston House illustrates the grandeur of Charleston at the height of its wealth. Furnishings and the beautiful interiors speak to the elegant nature of 19th century Charleston Homes. Also, this property exhibits beautiful gardens.
 Lunch: Experience a picnic lunch overlooking the Cooper River at Waterfront Park in Mt. Pleasant.
 Afternoon: Aiken Rhett House. Though begun circa 1818, this house reflects the changing tastes of the mid-nineteenth century through a series of spectacular remodelings. The home of one family from 1825 until the 1970's, the house is kept in a state of preservation with many of its original furnishings in place. With its dependencies, slave quarters and stables intact, the house offers a unique view of life in Charleston. After the tour, enjoy some free time in downtown Charleston. We'll drop you off near the market area in the heart of the historic district.
 Dinner: Enjoy another great meal at the Retreat Center.
 Evening: "Graduation Celebration" brings us together for fun and fellowship. Enjoy some special entertainment and an ice cream social complete with all the toppings!
Accommodations: Coastal Retreat Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Charleston Architecture, Pack up time, God's Gonna Trouble the Water DVD, Lunch and Farewell
(Friday, March 14)
 Breakfast: A full breakfast bar offered up with lots of variety.
 Morning: A final hour long installment of the Charleston Architecture series. Next, you will have an hour to pack up your rooms, remove used linens, and gather your belongings for departure. At 10:30am there will be a showing of "God's Gonna Trouble the Water," a documentary released by South Carolina Educational Television about the Gullah/Geechee people, decendants of the enslaved West Africans. Learn about how these descendants carry on the culture today through their daily lives and special demonstrations to educate the public.
 Lunch: Program concludes with Lunch served at 11:30am. Safe Travels everyone!
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC Historic Charleston SC
Charleston charms about three million visitors a year, and is one of the top travel destinations in North America. Charleston is a world-class tourist destination, filled with elegant colonial and antebellum mansions. Significant Revolutionary and Civil War battles were won and lost here. Art, history, famous gardens, beaches, historic sites too numerous to mention, along with fabulous recreation opportunities, will draw your attention and capture your heart. You will have opportunity to pick up brochures at the retreat center or at tourist information at Charleston Visitors Bureau when our tour bus stops there on Monday afternoon. You may also wish to explore the web for various free time suggestions. A good place to start is the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism agency at: For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Woman Rice Planter

Author: Elizabeth Allston Pringle

Description: A self-portrait of an admirable plantation mistress spanning a period from antebellum days until World War I, originally published under the pseudonym "Patience Pennington."

American Architecture: A History

Author: Leland M. Roth

Description: American Architecture introduces the major developments that shaped the American-built environment from before the arrival of the Europeans to the present, from ceremonial enclosures and homes to modernism and its discontents. On both the high-style architecture of aspiration and the everyday vernacular architecture, Leland Roth presents the historical impact of changes in conceptual imagery, style, building technology, landscape design, and town-planning theory. There is also extensive historical coverage of 17th- and 18th-century architecture and regional style. Throughout Roth charts the gradual development of towns, cities, and suburbs along with the social, cultural, and political forces that shaped their growth.

Architects of Charleston

Author: Beatrice St. Julien Ravenel

The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War

Author: Robert Manson Myers and Charles Colcok Jones

Description: [Selected] from the voluminous family papers of the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863), of Liberty County, Georgia.

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