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South Carolina

Charleston’s Plantations and Stately Homes

Immerse yourself in the uniquely American story of Charleston as you learn about plantation life, traditional cuisine, historic architecture and the Civil War.
Rating (5)
Program No. 19402RJ
6 days
Starts at
South Carolina

Charleston’s Plantations and Stately Homes

Immerse yourself in the uniquely American story of Charleston as you learn about plantation life, traditional cuisine, historic architecture and the Civil War.
6 days
Starts at
Program No. 19402 RJ
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5B 4L 4D
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At a Glance

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 many influences that gave Charleston its grand downtown structures.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • 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 enjoy a visit to other historic plantations in the area.
  • Enjoy an exploration of Charleston’s Historic Battery, viewing the exteriors of stately homes built before, during and after the Civil War.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event and a value-priced single room. Lodging is at a retreat center several miles outside of Charleston. For accommodations in Charleston’s historic district, please see "Signature City Charleston: Historic Plantations and Gardens" (#19403).
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Architects of Charleston
by Beatrice St. Julien Ravenel
A Woman Rice Planter
by Elizabeth Allston Pringle
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
by Leland M. Roth
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.
The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War
by Robert Manson Myers and Charles Colcok Jones
[Selected] from the voluminous family papers of the Rev. Dr. Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863), of Liberty County, Georgia.
The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
The Invention of Wings, a powerful and sweeping historical novel by Sue Monk Kidd, begins, fittingly, with an image of flight: Hetty “Handful”, who has grown up as a slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, recalls the night her mother told her that her ancestors in Africa could fly over trees and clouds. That day, Handful’s mother, Charlotte, gave her daughter the gift of hope— the possibility that someday she might regain her wings and fly to freedom. Throughout Kidd’s exquisitely written story, Handful struggles, sometimes with quiet dissidence, sometimes with open rebellion, to cultivate a belief in the invincibility of her spirit and in the sacred truth that one does not need actual wings in order to rise. Barely a stone’s throw from the slave quarters where Handful and her mother share a room behind the grand Grimké house, another young woman fights a different battle with the constraints of her society. Sarah Grimké is the middle daughter of a wealthy and prominent family at the pinnacle of Charleston’s social hierarchy—the daughter her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. From the time of her first violent childhood confrontation with slavery, Sarah is unable to abide the oppression and brutality of the slave system that surrounds her. Ambitious and keenly intelligent, she harbors an intense longing to have a voice in the world and to follow her father and brothers’ footsteps to a profession in the law. Crushed by the strictures that her family and society impose on women, Sarah forges a tortuous, yet brave path toward abolition and women’s rights—a crusade in which she will be joined by her fiery sister Angelina.
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
4 p.m. Check-in, Registration, Welcome Supper, Orientation
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
Coastal Retreat Center

Activity note: Fresh sheets and towels will be in your room. Make up your beds and relax in your home away from home for the week! Hopefully there will be time for a brief beach walk on the beautiful Isle of Palms beach, located just across the street from Coastal Retreat.

Dinner: A delicious supper welcomes you to your new home away from home in the charming South Carolina Lowcountry.

Evening: Introductions and Orientation will start at 7:00 p.m. in our main gathering room, moving to the upstairs classroom for a Visitors Center video introducing Charleston. This session will give you an overview of your week ahead and a chance to meet your fellow explorers! After orientation and the optional hour long video about Charleston and the Lowcountry, come mingle with fellow scholars at a welcome reception.

Historic Charleston Bus Tour, Plantation, Architecture Intro
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
Coastal Retreat Center

Activity note: Today's schedule takes us via bus on a brief overview of the historic Charleston Peninsula, a comprehensive architectural tour of Drayton Hall Plantation, and an introduction to Architecture with an emphasis upon the Charleston area. This evening, the talented Dr. Gail Goudy shares her knowledge and expertise regarding Architecture and the international influence visible in the structure and style our historical buildings.

Breakfast: Breakfast is served today at 8:15 a.m. Self serve coffee will be available by 7:00 a.m. daily for early risers, and hot single serving available at all hours!

Morning: 9:00 a.m. We leave Coastal Retreat and enjoy the beautiful 40 minute drive across the incredible Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River. Heading through the Plantation District, our adventures begin at Drayton Hall Plantation. Walking through the amazing main home of the Drayton Hall, America's prime example of Palladian Architecture, will jump start our studies this week, as we view first hand plantation home life in a state of static preservation, allowing a genuine peek into the oldest and finest structure of its time.

Lunch: 12:30 p.m. Together we will enjoy a lovely picnic lunch in the midst of the magnificent Drayton Hall Plantation OR Magnolia Plantation Gardens, depending upon weather and current opportunities.

Afternoon: Our afternoon excursion takes us 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 tour. Following our garden tour, a driving tour of downtown Charleston will give us a glimpse of the architectural variety in Americas oldest historic district, as well as a peak into the Military College of the South, THE CITADEL.

Dinner: Enjoy a delicious supper when you return to Coastal Retreat. Toni Scott with Parish House Catering will delight your palate with Lowcountry favorites throughout the week!

Evening: Dr. Gayle Goudy from the College of Charleston joins us at 7:00 p.m. in the upstairs classroom. Come learn about the diversity of architecture we will encounter as we visit the plantations and stately homes of Charleston, and how the area's rich history influences the style of buildings and renovations even today.

Walking Tour, Museum Houses, Ann Caldwell
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
Coastal Retreat Center

Activity note: Walking Tour will last about 2 hours over uneven cobblestone streets and sidewalks of Historic Charleston, and house tours have some stair cases to climb. Wear comfy shoes and be ready for exercise as we explore!

Breakfast: Early bird coffee is always ready by 7:00 a.m., and at 8:15 a.m. guests can choose hot or cold breakfast, along with fresh fruit, juices, hot coffee, tea.

Morning: This morning allows us the opportunity to walk where history was made as we embark on a comprehensive walking tour of downtown Charleston. Next, enjoy the stately Nathaniel Russell House which is being fully restored to its former beauty and grandeur.

Lunch: Enjoy a delicious lunch at T-Bonz Gil and Grill, featuring local fare and Carolina Red Rice.

Afternoon: Following lunch, scholars may briefly enjoy the historic open air Market of Downtown Charleston on your own, before we all go to Aiken Rhett Home which features its authentic stables and slave quarters right in the heart of the City of Charleston. Begun circa 1818, this house reflects the changing tastes of the mid-nineteenth century through a series of spectacular remodeling. The home of one family from 1825 until the 1970's, it is kept in a state of static 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 downtown Charleston. We will return to the Isle of Palms in time for an afternoon beach walk or a quick break before supper.

Dinner: 6:30 p.m. Toni Scott and Parish House Catering will have another delicious meal prepared, featuring local cuisine to delight your palate!

Evening: 7:15 This evenings featured presentation is with recent Lowcountry Hall of Fame Inductee Ann Caldwell. Hear tales of growing up during the Jim Crow era with renowned Jazz vocalist and story teller Ann Caldwell.

Boone Hall Plantation, Picnic, Sounds of Charleston
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
Coastal Retreat Center

Activity note: Todays adventures are nearby in Mount Pleasant at Boone Hall Plantation where we will walk and tour for a few hours around the Plantation, then transport over to the Charleston Pinckney Historic Site for a delicious southern picnic. Free time awaits us this afternoon and a restaurant of your choice for an early supper on your own leads us to then meet up for a 7pm concert at the Circular Congregation Church called “The Sounds Of Charleston.”

Breakfast: Start your day out right with a complete breakfast with a variety of offerings at 8:15 a.m., including fresh fruit, juices, hot coffee, tea. Early Bird Coffee is always ready by 7:00 a.m., and a Keurig is available at all hours. Room Refreshing is available today for guests desiring fresh sheets and towels.

Morning: Our morning outing takes us nearby to the working plantation of Boone Hall, right in Mount Pleasant, SC. The Authentic Slave Cabins and beautiful gardens along with the Gullah Theater add to the splendor of the plantation where produce is actively cultivated and the community comes together for multiple events hosted at the plantation.

Lunch: Experience a picnic lunch together at the Historic Charles Pinckney Home. An 1828 historic Lowcountry cottage house serves as the park's visitor center. Visitors can enjoy museum exhibits, film options, Jr. Ranger program, and obtain park and local area information. On occasion, this park is closed due to staffing issues or other occurrences, in which case we will picnic on the Isle of Palms State Park, weather permitting.

Afternoon: Free time this afternoon allows scholars to choose a private basket making session at the Coastal Retreat or time on their own downtown before our evening concert together.

Dinner: Partake of an early light supper on your own.

Evening: Scholars will meet back together at 6:45 for a 7pm concert at the Circular Congregation Church at 150 Meeting Street for a delightful SOUNDS OF CHARLESTON production. Snacks will be offered at the Retreat Center following our return from the concert.

Charleston Tea Plantation, Angel Oak, Private Reception
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC
Coastal Retreat Center

Activity note: Today will be a long day out and about, as we venture to the Angel Oak Tree and the Charleston Tea Plantation. Very little walking early in our day, instead enjoy the beautiful ride across the peninsula as we enjoy North America's ONLY tea plantation! The private reception is at the Single House of friends of the retreat in downtown historic Charleston.

Breakfast: Breakfast is served at 8:15 am to get you ready for your day of adventure!

Morning: Today, comfortably enjoy the beauty of the Cooper and Ashley Rivers as we cross the Charleston Peninsula to behold the famous Angel Oak Tree, deemed the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River. The Angel Oak is believed to be anywhere from 600 to 1,500 years old and stands 65 ft. high with a canopy providing 17,000 sq. feet of shade. Following the Angel Oak, we will head over to North America's only Tea Plantation, located moments away on Wadamalaw Island for a private tea tasting session with the 3rd generation tea taster and operator of the Charleston tea Plantation.

Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch under the gorgeous oaks while overlooking a picturesque setting at the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Afternoon: Exploring, tasting, and learning at the Charleston Tea Plantation will be the early afternoon adventure! This modern day plantation is thriving in the lowcountry and is the only place tea is grown in North America. Afterwards, a private reception at the home of Dr. Biemann and Mrs. Janelle Othersen allows us a inside peak at a lovely Charleston Single House and tales of working with the Charleston Board of Architectural Review.

Dinner: Tonight's final evening meal together will be at an island restaurant featuring local fare served with lowcountry style and hospitality, a highlight of the week! Cola, Tea, coffee and water will be available with alternate beverages available for individual purchase.

Evening: At 7:30 p.m. our Closing Celebration brings us together for fun and fellowship with a local folk musician and delicious ice cream!

Turtle Team Volunteer Presentation, 11 a.m. Check Out
Isle of Palms, Charleston County, SC

Activity note: As we bid farewell today, take with you the memories of the week together, new friendships, and the plight of the loggerhead turtles who utilize the coastal region to overcome near extinction, thanks to the efforts of expert volunteers we celebrate as “The Turtle Team”.

Breakfast: A full breakfast bar offered up with lots of variety. Coffee, hot tea, juice and infused water available.

Morning: After a break to allow guests to prepare their belongings for departure, a visit from volunteers with the South Carolina Turtle Teams shares with you the efforts to preserve the nesting habitats of the Loggerhead Turtle.

Lunch: Program concludes after the presentation by the Island Turtle Rescue Team. Check out at Coastal Retreat is at 11:00 a.m. Please leave your sheets and towels just outside of your door and your door propped open so that Housekeeping knows it is okay to begin cleaning your room for the next guests. We hope our Coastal Retreat has surpassed your experiences at other retreat centers! Safe Travels everyone!

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We’re committed to making your experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.

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