South Carolina

4 amazing, unique places to stay in SC — including a treehouse, castle, train caboose

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The end of 2018 is around the corner, but there’s still time to make a few last-minute holiday plans — or to just get things set for next year.

South Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful resorts and hotels in the country. The options are limitless when it comes to where you can stay.

Conde Nast Traveler even named several resorts from Hilton Head to Charleston as best in the South.

But what if you’re someone who wants to try something different? Something off the beaten path (treehouse, anyone)?

Well, you’re in luck because there are a number of places where you can make memories you couldn’t make elsewhere, including a stay in a train caboose and even a castle, especially if you’re want to enjoy some luxuries.

Each of these places offers something different than your usual hotel, bed and breakfast or resort.

Make yourself at home at one of these spots:

Edisto River Treehouse Adventures

You can feel like a kid again and canoe down the Edisto River to this outdoor paradise.

All you have to do is bring your own — or rent — canoe to travel down the river to one of the treehouses — along with the usual food, water and a sleeping bag or pillowcase you’d take for camping.

There are three treehouses to choose from that vary in size, but they all have the same amenities:

  • Cooking utensils
  • Futons
  • Outdoor grill and deck
  • Torches and oil candles for light

The cost for a canoe and treehouse package ranges from $160 to $190 per person a night with an additional $100 if you want to stay a second night. A third night will cost you $70. For kids, that price is lowered by $30, but Edisto River Treehouse recommends kids only 11 or older.

You have to make reservations to stay in either the smaller or large treehouse. The unique adventure has been featured as one of the best vacation getaways in the region in Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, Garden & Gun Magazine, and Travel + Leisure.

As part of its 2013 “Adventure Bucket List,” Outside Magazine wrote you can “fall asleep to winking of fireflies, the hum of insects, and the occasional hoot of the resident owls.”

Sadly, we’ll have to wait until April to stay at this hidden oasis, but it’ll be worth the wait based on these views.

You don’t have to stay at the treehouse — although why you wouldn’t is beyond us.

You could make the Edisto River and Edisto River Treehouse part of your day trip. The site states that if you decide to take one of the self-guided canoe trips, you’ll need three to four hours to explore 10 miles up the river from SC 15. It’s $35 per person a day for a two-person canoe adventure.

Mugdock Castle

And who said castles are only in Europe? Well, sort of.

Mugdock Castle made its home on Sullivan’s Island thanks to owner and curator Vince Graham and a team of local volunteers.

It was once a “host chapel.” The U.S. Army had acquired the old church in 1906, and it housed soldiers who fought at Fort Moultrie all the way to World War II, Graham said. Years ago, the chapel was actually located in the I’On neighborhood in Mount Pleasant.

Graham knew of the church thanks to being a member of the Church of the Holy Cross. He wanted to buy the old chapel — located on Sullivan’s Island — and move it to Mount Pleasant where it was originally located.

But in 2002, the Sullivan’s Island Council pushed back and said it wanted to keep Sullivan’s Island historic charm, which included the chapel.

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The final decision was made to keep the chapel on Sullivan’s Island, and Graham and a team of local volunteers got to work.

It took about a year and a half to build the castle and cost at least $2 million to update things, Graham said.

The walls were a “soggy, moldy mess,” with the original plaster walls suffering from water intrusion.

The inspiration to turn the church into a castle came to Graham as he and his crew worked on the chapel over the years.

“I saw the ocean and thought, ‘Maybe I should build a lighthouse-looking structure here,’” he said. “The idea just evolved overtime.”

As far as the name goes, well that was thanks to Graham’s Scottish heritage. Graham knew of another castle named Mugdock in Scotland and the name stuck to him from then on.

“I was fortunate to work with people who threw their hearts into it,” he said. “We wanted to create a place with a sense of awe of wonder, romance and hospitality.”

Be prepared to save up before going and splurge once there.

The price ranges from $10,000 to $24,000 for a month, Graham said.

No wonder celebrities such as Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Justin TImberlake and Jessica Beale decided to stay there.

Mepkin Abbey

Staying at Mepkin Abbey is a spiritual journey and experience, said Mary Jeffcoat, communications director.

The abbey is one of the most visited sites in Berkeley County, she said. Thousands come to explore the grounds, take guided tours and even stay at the abbey’s Welcome Retreat Center.

The center lets people stay for a “retreatance” that can last from three to four nights, she said. The abbey can host up to 12 people and remains booked, especially around Advent and Lent.

The abbey’s 3,000-acre site includes not only the abbey itself, but beautiful public gardens near the Cooper River.

MA Welcome Retreat Center.jpg
Photo courtesy of Mepkins Abbey

The monks at the abbey live under the rule of St. Benedict, which includes a philosophy of offering hospitality to others.

Part of their mission statement states: “We, the monks of Mepkin Abbey, are responding to God’s call to live in solitude and silence in and for the Church according to an ancient form of radical Christian discipleship focused on seeking and finding God in community where we ‘are of one heart and soul and everything is held in common (Acts 4: 32-33)‘”

That’s one reason why the abbey continues to host tours and has a retreat center for those who want to experience the monk life.

There are only 17 members of Mepkin Abbey, another key reason the abbey allows visitors to stay and experience life as a monk through the Mepkin Affiliate Program.

The program happens for one month in either June or July, Jeffcoat said. That month allows people in the program to practice prayer and work like the current members do without fully committing to it.

oak-allee at Mepkin Abbey.jpg
Photo courtesy of Mepkin Abbey

If you want to truly get away from everything and reflect on your life or spirituality, go to Mepkin Abbey and maybe discover something new within yourself.

(Choo, choo) Train Caboose

Yes, you read that right. You could literally stay in a train caboose.

Staying in a converted train caboose is actually a fairly popular trend, and there are a number of them in which you can stay across the world. (There’s one even in Germany and Australia).

The caboose is in Mount Pleasant and hosts up to six people with a sofa bed and two bunk beds, according to the site. The caboose includes a full kitchen with a mini-fridge, Keurig, hotplate and microwave.

You can anticipate staying for $158.88 per person.

Also, don’t worry, the caboose does come with A/C and heating.

This unconventional stay is perfect for people who want to spend a night out in the elements, but want more than just a tent and some firewood.

Make sure to make your reservation and prepare for everyone to say “all aboard” as they hop onto the caboose.

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