Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Charleston, South Carolina has many attractions and a wide variety of activities whether you are looking for a family outing, a romantic get-away weekend, or a historical tour. One of the more interesting and diversified attractions is the Charlestowne Landing state park. Whether you enjoy walking through beautiful, stately gardens or exploring colonial history, Charlestowne Landing is a family excursion with attractions of interest to all.
The park is divided into several areas - the animal forest, the ceremonial center, the colony, the Adventure, the archeology site, and the Legare-Waring Home and Gardens. There are many walking trails and a variety of tours available. Tours of the park range from guided walking excursions to audio packs for individual use to shuttle tours with a knowledgeable guide. The garden walks are exactly as expected of a Southern garden setting. Huge oaks forming canopies over walkways or providing shade by a pond; flowering trees and shrubs that add color and style to the surroundings. The animal forest boasts a variety of animals that were plentiful in the area in the late 1600s including bear, puma, wolves, otters, bison and alligators. They live in their natural habitats but the park does keep prey and predator separated, as well as guests safe. The colonial site boasts a stockade where tourists can have their hands and head secured while family members take pictures. At different times of the year demonstrations on candle- and soap-making take place. Volunteers dress in period costumes and there are several early colonial homes with artifacts for viewing. The walking trails also include a Native American ceremonial building, slave quarters, an African American cemetery, an experimental garden and archeological sites. One of the highlights of the walking tours is the Adventure. It is a replica of a 17th century trading ketch that sits at the wharf in the marsh. Tourists can board the ship to examine its construction and hear how the colonists moved their ships in and out of the marshes based upon the tides.
One of my favorite areas in the animal forest. The boardwalks meanders through the marsh and there is a certain thrill at being so close to the animals. Alligators are below the boardwalk, eyes peering up from the waters. A black bear lumbers around his area, scratching his back on a tree. The wolves lie together in the shade during the heat of the day. Bison graze and the puma watches cautiously from the leafy foliage at the back of its habitat. Realizing that the early settlers dealt with these animals daily without the protection of fences or the ease of navigation facilitated by boardwalks gives visitors a new perspective on life in earlier times.
The park calendar for 2015 has musket demonstration and cannon firings scheduled for the first and third Saturdays of every month (except January and August). Additionally, each month focuses on a particular aspect of the park, such as colonial life, maritime history, colonial gardens and agriculture, and colonial pastimes.
There is a charge to explore Charlestowne Landing and for 2015 it is very reasonable: $10 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $6 for children ages 6-15, and free for children age 5 and under. There is a gift shop and general store on the property, but no restaurants. However, there is plenty of picnic space, so pack a picnic lunch and spread your blanket under widely spreading oak tree. Lay back and relax while the children run and play in the open spaces.
The park is open from 9am – 5pm daily. There are public restrooms and all attractions of the park are ADA accessible with the exception of the Adventure. There are wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles for rent at nominal fees. Pets are allowed provided they are kept restrained and on a leash not over 6ft long.