Charles Towne Landing is a park that replicates the first European settlement in the Carolinas. It is a State Historic Site run by Friends of Charles Towne Landing and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park is located on the Ashley River, Highway 171 about three miles north of downtown Charleston. Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, the cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and free for children ages five and under. Charles Towne Landing is advertised as the birthplace of the Carolinas Colony, plantations and one of the first major ports in the New World.
Charles Towne Landing is an interpretive site with an animal forest, living history and archaeological investigations. Costumed rangers are seen in a way of life that the 1670 settlers experienced, demonstrating crop gardens, a fort and the 17th century supply ship Adventure. The animal forest is home to native animals that settlers would have encountered in coastal Carolina upon settlement in 1670. Archaeology has revealed how Native Americans, European settlers and African slaves lived. Also on the premises are walking and biking trails, an African American cemetery, the Legare-Waring House and a visitor center.
Albemarle Point is the part of the park that hosts the living history experience. Staff members are dressed in 17th century period costume and interact with each other and with visitors as though it were the 1670s, making candles and soap, etc. The crop garden adheres to the instructions Captain Joseph West received when he was put in charge of the colony and is a demonstration of the colony's subsistence techniques. The fort in the living history area includes a Palisade Wall of pointed logs and earth fortifications used for cannons pointed toward the river. The final addition to the living history part of the park is the Adventure, a reproduction of a trading vessel that was used to carry supplies from the Caribbean to the colonies in the 17th century. The Adventure has seen two incarnations as one was built in 1970 and a newer version built to replace it in 2008.
The animal forest is intended to be a place for visitors to view animals in a natural habitat. These animals would have been seen by settlers in 1670 and are native to the South Carolina lowcountry, although some species have long since disappeared from the state. The animals are mostly birds and mammals. Birds include: black-crowned night and blue herons, great and snowy egrets, pelican, white ibis and wild turkey. Mammals include: black bear, deer, elk, bobcat, bison, mountain lions and river otters. Friends of Charles Towne Landing offers an adopt-an-animal program where donors contribute a certain amount of money to "adopt'' one of the animal forest animals.
Archaeologists are seen working on digs around Charles Towne Landing. They are available to answer questions for visitors. Archaeological digs have revealed Native American villages and ceremonial sites, earth fortifications from the Revolutionary War, plantations and vineyards. Information gained from archaeology has helped to recreate the living history part of the park to the most accurate standards. The park uses many volunteers for the archaeology program and offers internships during the summer for college students.
The Legare-Waring House and its gardens are an example of post-colonial life in the mid-1800s. The house is not part of the living history section of Charles Towne Landing. Instead it has a modern functional purpose of hosting state, national and international officials. It has also become a popular location for weddings because the entire house and gardens can be rented out.
In addition to the main attractions, Charles Towne Landing also offers musket and canon demonstrations, stories of court cases and their punishments and a hands-on demonstration of how land surveys were conducted. Visitors also have access to walk or bike through a marsh or garden that hosts camellias, azaleas, and hundreds year old oak trees. The African American cemetery spans from nineteenth century to twentieth century and is still being researched by park officials.
Information on daily activities, restrooms, gift shop, vending machines and a museum are available at the visitor center.