In 1670 a small group of colonists established a settlement at Albermarle Point along a wide and relatively deep river. Ten years later the settlement would be abandoned in favor of nearby Oyster Point where Charles Towne would be founded. Centuries later the site of the original settlement along a river later named the Ashley River would become Charles Towne Landing State Historic Park.
The Visitor Center & Museum
The adventure begins at the beautiful visitor center. Inside you’ll find a small gift shop that includes drinks and snacks, a few tables with a nice view, and the information desk where I have always found very friendly park employees and rangers. This is where you’ll fork over the admission price (more on that later), collect your stamp in the Official Guide to SC State Parks, and rent a bicycle if you want to peddle your way around the trails.
The visitor center also has an incredible 12-room museum. The museum chronicles the history of the original Carolina Colony through the first few decades. It’s a fascinating exploration of who established the colony, what life was like for different types of colonists, and how the colony grew to become the city of Charleston today.
The beautiful Colonial Revival style Legare-Waring House is the site of weddings and special events throughout the year. Built by Jonathon Lucas III in the 1840s as the overseers house on the Old Town Plantation, the house passed through many owners including Dr. Joseph Waring. The grounds in front of the house, called the Avenue of Oaks, is a grassy field beneath the canopy of massive oak trees.
The Animal Forest
This natural habitat zoo features many animals that would have been found along the South Carolina coast at one point in time. These animals include bison, pumas, bears, otters, and deer. Visitors can stroll along the paved path about 5-10 minutes from the visitor center beneath the shade of massive trees to view these animals.
Most of the times I walk the paths I will find raccoons running around scavenging for food. A ranger recently told me one particular raccoon who lives in the park will give birth to a single albino raccoon each year, but I have yet to spot this interesting creature myself! Maybe you will have better luck than me during your visit.
The Adventure Ship
The Adventure is a recreation of a 17th-century sailing vessel that would have hauled cargo during the early years of the Carolina Colony. The ship is fully functional and is docked on Oldtown Creek at the “end” of the park. It’s about a 0.5-mile walk along paved paths to reach the ship or visitors can ride the shuttle golf cart.
Visitors can climb aboard the sailing vessel, peer beneath decks at the cargo hold, and learn about the early history of trading with Barbados and England. The scenery around the boat is gorgeous and usually quite peaceful. A side trail leads back through the gardens of the park, or visitors can continue along the History Trail.
The approximately 1.5-mile History Trail is an interpretive trail that meanders through the park and makes note of the history of Old Town. The trail begins and ends at the visitor center, first passing by The Animal Forest. The trail includes a recreation of a dwelling, the palisade wall, the Adventure, and returns through the Avenue of Oaks and past the Legare-Waring House.
There are a couple of side trails to enjoy in the park. A nature trail takes visitors along the Ashley River from the palisade wall to The Animal Forest and is a great opportunity to see coastal birds and turtles. Another side trail winds through Mrs. Waring’s Garden and includes a scenic overlook on the river.
The Admission Price
If you have seen the price of admission at the park you know there is an elephant in the room. I like talking about elephants in the room.
The admission price is $10 for adults, $6.50 for South Carolina seniors, $6 for children age 6-15, and free for children under 6. This makes Charles Towne Landing State Historic Park one of the most expensive parks to visit in the state.
But it’s worth the admission price. This park is the historical location of the first colony in the Carolinas and what would eventually become Charleston. The park features a small zoo, a replica 17th-century sailing vessel, canon and musket demonstrations, and gorgeous views of oak trees, blooming shrubbery, and the Ashley River. If you’re interested in history you will learn about the very beginning of everything that North Carolina and South Carolina is today. If you couldn’t care less about history you might enjoy the wildlife and coastal views.
If you’re a local look at purchasing one of the Park Passports and it will pay for itself in no time at all.