ABOUT DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, SC
Daufuskie is one-of-a-kind.
The name Daufuskie has been attributed as an Indian word meaning either “Place of Blood” or “Land with a Point.”
Most of the eight-square-mile island is still natural and timeless, with a very small community of fewer than 300 full-time Island residents whose lifestyle and culture has evolved over three centuries with little impact from the outside world. There is no bridge to the Island. The only way to get there is by boat.
The Island is a wonderful example of the unique Sea Island and Gullah cultures. Its sandy lanes and quirky tin-roofed oyster homes are shaded by dense live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The beaches are wide and open.
You will see only a few cars that belong to Island residents. Numerous artists have set up studios and galleries. Although there are a number of historic buildings and sites, the Island is not a museum like Williamsburg, Virginia, for example. This is not a shopper’s paradise nor does it have a plethora of restaurants. It is simple, rural, undeveloped, and unspoiled.
There are three major residential developments on the Island: Bloody Point Golf Club, Haig Point, a private residential community, and Melrose on the Beach.
Daufuskie is where you go to escape the modern world and live quietly.
Inhabited ages ago by the Yemassee Indians who used Daufuskie as an encampment for raids on English settlements around Charleston and Savannah. In 1715 during the Yemassee Wars, the English put an end to the raids in two horrific battles at what is now known as Bloody Point, where the “waters ran with blood.”
Planters then settled the Island to raise the profitable indigo crop to be sold to England, prompting island residents to remain loyal to England during the Revolutionary War. Nearby Hilton Head Island, on the other hand, were Patriots.
A prosperous era of cultivating Sea Island cotton and indigo followed in the 1800s. Then, after the Civil War, Daufuskie Island was given over to freed slaves who made their living as oystermen, lumbermen, and farmers. Descendants of those slaves, known as Gullah (pg. 125), still inhabit the Island and make up part of the small year-round community of Daufuskie.
Pat Conroy brought fame to the Island when he described his first year of teaching on “Yamacraw Island” in a two-room schoolhouse in his novel The Water is Wide. The movie Conrack is based on the novel.
The Island became a Nationally Registered Historic District in 1982.
Visiting Daufuskie can be a completely impromptu adventure, requiring nothing more than a few dollars, lots of curiosity, and a day to spend exploring. As with all things Daufuskie, dress is casual, but make sure you dress in weather-appropriate clothing. You might want to pack a cooler and some ice, and don’t forget the bug spray and a camera.
If you opt for a guided tour of Daufuskie from Hilton Head, several companies offer half- or full-day guided tours. Advance reservations are necessary, and rates and schedules vary by season.
Guided tours range from dolphin and nature cruises around the Island (by large or small boat, or kayak), on-island history tours (by golf cart, painted school bus, or on foot), fishing expeditions, beachcombing tours, or even golf excursions. You can even take a “cruise to dinner” from Hilton Head to one of Daufuskie’s two restaurants – the Daufuskie Crab Company or Marshside Mama’s.
If you’re not with a guided tour, your best bet is to rent a multi-passenger golf cart, the Island’s preferred mode of transportation. You probably don’t want to hike or bike the Island, particularly in the summer, unless you’re up for eight-square miles of mostly sandy, albeit flat roads.
Reserve your golf cart in advance through your ferry service or boat rental company. Just like renting a car, you must have a valid drivers license. You will be provided with a map showing all the significant historic landmarks.
A self-guided tour of the Island should begin at the Billie Burn Museum, located in the old Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. Here you can pick up a guide to the Rob Kennedy Historic Trail that will lead you to 20 historic sites on the Island. Visiting the entire trail will take about three to 3.5 hours by golf cart.
In addition to the Island’s unique history, beachcombers will appreciate Daufuskie’s unspoiled and uncrowded public beach. Also, there are a number of art galleries spotted around the Island, but they are not your traditional galleries. They are more like studios where the artists live, create, and might sell you a piece of their artwork. You may find the studio closed, but don’t be upset - you’re on Daufuskie time. Please respect their privacy.
Daufuskie is also known as a premier golf destination. Two 18-hole golf courses are open to the public that include a clubhouse, pro shop, locker rooms, and a restaurant.
Horse lovers will appreciate trail and beach rides offered through the Equestrian Center at Melrose on the Beach.
There are a two places to eat in Daufuskie’s Historic District. The Daufuskie Crab Company Restaurant, located at Freeport Marina, and Marshside Mama’s, located at the Beaufort County Dock.
Enchanting, reclusive Daufuskie Island can give you a day to escape and explore a forgotten culture. But a word of caution: It is easy to lose track of time, so check your watch every once in awhile.
There is no bridge to Daufuskie. The only way to get there is by boat. Travel time is about 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the boat and embarkation point. If you don’t own your own boat, or have reservations at one of the three resorts (Haig Point, Melrose on the Beach, or Bloody Point Golf Club), you have four choices:
1) Take the public passenger ferry;
2) Hire a water taxi service from either Hilton Head or Bluffton;
3) Rent your own boat from one of the numerous boat rental companies on Hilton Head;
4) Take a guided tour of Daufuskie with one of Hilton Head’s many boat tour companies.
If you own or are renting your own boat, know that there are four boat landings on Daufuskie. Coming from Hilton Head, the first you will see is Haig Point Landing, a private dock and you cannot land there. The second is the public Freeport Marina (location of the Old Daufuskie Crab Company). The third dock is Melrose Landing, another private dock. The fourth is the Beaufort County Public Dock (location of Marshside Mama’s). Be aware that there is no marine gas service on Daufuskie. Also, the public dock has a three-hour time limit for docking.