Daufuskie Island is one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, just a mile across the Sound from Hilton Head Island. It’s one of the most unique and underdeveloped islands on the east coast with great food, alluring artists, and a rich history.
Enjoy our complete guide to the island, including tips on how to get there, how to navigate it, what to do, where to eat and where to stay.
Where Is Daufuskie & How To Get There
Daufuskie Island sits between Hilton Head and Savannah (to be more precise, between Hilton Head and the Savannah Nation Wildlife Refuge) The Calibogue Sound separates Daufuskie and Hilton Head, with the narrowest point between the two being less than a mile. The island itself is only 5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide.
There are multiple transportation options available if you’d like to spend some time on this beautiful Island, none of which are by car. It’s not called “the island with no bridge” for nothing.
You can catch the Daufuskie Island Ferry from the Embarkation Center at Buckingham Landing throughout the year. The ferry general runs 4 times a day spaced 3 hours apart. And the ride takes about 45 minutes.
If you’d like to arrive faster and more privately than the public ferry, a slew of water taxis are available. Some can get you across as fast as 10 or 20 minutes.
If you’re staying at Haig Point, there’s no need to worry about any of this. Haig Point has its own private ferry that leaves every hour 18 times a day. They also have water taxis available by request.
How To Get Around
Most visitors and residents of Daufuskie travel by golf cart. It’s a primary reason for the charm and uniqueness of the Island. If you’re staying at Haig Point, renting a cart is a breeze. They’ll have one waiting for you and ready to go when requested.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb or other property, check with the owners or management company. Many have golf carts available, and they’ll let you know the best way to get from the ferry to your accommodations.
Golf cart rentals are also available on the Island at various locations, and they generally provide transportation from the ferry or water taxi, or will have your cart waiting. Check with them for more information.
While not recommended for short stays, you can get your car to the Island via barge if you plan to stay a while. The barge does not take passengers, so you’ll need to use the ferry or water taxi after you load your car.
Our family thoroughly enjoyed tooling around on our golf cart. Some of the main roads are paved, but most of the winding offshoots are not. But no worries – they all seem to be in great condition and easy to navigate.
We were told that the state government offered to pave more of the roads and the local community fought successfully against it. They were afraid, probably with good reason, that the roads would not be maintained and wind up in worse shape than their current, beautiful paths.
Just be sure to keep an eye on the battery gauge if you have an electric cart. We did just fine, but we were warned early on that the gauge can drop quickly down to zero after reaching the 50% mark. We found this to be exactly true!
We drove the cart around for hours before it reached the halfway point, and sure enough, it went from half to 10% in minutes. You’ll be just fine if you keep it charged up while parked at your accommodations. Some locations on the Island offer charging, and our cart charged up very quickly.
Things to Do on Daufuskie
Gullah History Tour
Sallie Ann Robinson is an author, chef, and 6th generation Gullah and Native American born on Daufuskie Island. She was also our guide on the Sallie Ann Authentic Gullah Tour.
Sallie Ann’s stories of growing up on the Island were the perfect pairing to learning about the history and current affairs.
She took us to her mother and sister’s gravesite, to share how the cemetery is one of six Gullah-only cemeteries in Daufuskie and as they fall into disrepair, she is diligently working to get them restored and saved. We also visited the First Union African Baptist Church, built about 140 years ago. It’s where Sallie Ann attends church, as she sang for us – songs passed down from her family. Have a listen in the video below.
We also visited the Mary Field School built by the natives in 1934. It currently serves as a coffee house and home to the amazing artists of Daufuskie Blues.
Back in 1970, the famous author Pat Conroy served as teacher here to 6th grade student Sallie Ann. In his book (later a movie) Water is Wide, you might recall the character of Ethel, which as based on Sallie Ann and indicative of the close friendship the two shared up until his death.
These are just a few of the highlights from our 3-hour tour. If you’re not visiting Daufuskie Island for long, 3 hours might seem like too much, but I assure you that this tour will help you appreciate the history and culture in a truly special way.
Mary Field School
If you don’t take Sallie Ann’s tour, you need to stop by the school on your own (or, like us, you might stop by again anyway because the coffee here is super.)
As I said above, the school was built in 1934 for the black children of the Island. In 1962 segregation ended, and shortly after that is when Pat Conroy began teaching. Little did anyone know at the time the notoriety he would later bring the little white building.
School Grounds Coffee
When we visited, the building was closed to visitors for COVID, but we were still able to purchase coffee and muffins from a School Grounds Coffee via a walk-up window. The coffee is fantastic! If they are open when you visit, sit inside to enjoy your cuppa; the space is located in what used to be the cafeteria/lunchroom of the school.
Another note if you’re with kids. The playground is still there. It’s the old-school kind, and my boys LOVED it. We might have also played a few rounds of basketball on their outdoor court while waiting on our coffee.
The school is also home to Daufuskie Blues, an indigo dye studio. Again, the building was closed during our visit but the owner/artists brought their textiles outside under a large tent and shared the dye process with us.
Artist Rhonda Davis first showed us an indigo plant growing in the yard. She explained the “old” and “new” ways that the dye is extracted from the plant. And then she showed us the magic! She dipped a piece of white cotton into the bowl of blue dye…let it sit a while…and then pulled it out to reveal a still-white strip.
As the air hit the fabric, it slowly…slowly began to turn blue. By the time we had finished chatting and shopping, it was a rich blue much like the South Carolina flag. Yes – magic!
Iron Fish Gallery
Chase Allen is the award-winning artist behind Iron Fish Art. His sculptures begin as a sheet of metal and unfold into mermaids, fish, stingrays and more. He is a humble member of the “million dollar club” hosting a very select group of prolific artists or artisans with lifetime sales above one million dollars – but his art is very affordable should you fall in love like we did.
His coastal inspired metal sculptures can be found decorating walls around the globe. We enjoyed visiting his gallery and seeing his workshop. I think the large fish that welcomed us was my favorite, but he didn’t fit in the golf cart. 🙂
If you to learn more about Chase Allen and other artisans on the Island like Rhonda Davis & Leanne Coulter, Lancy & Emily Burn, Mike Loftus and more then be sure to take the Guided Daufuskie Island History & Artisans Tour.
The Daufuskie Marsh Tacky Society
Designated the South Carolina State Heritage Horse in 2010, Marsh Tackies have a five-hundred-year history in these parts. These little colonial Spanish horses are known to be level-headed, easy to keep, easy to train, sure-footed, and tough as an oak plank.
Their DNA traces them back to Spanish war mounts from the 1500s. They were left to fend for themselves on the Island for hundreds of years, but were eventually domesticated – first by the Native Americans and then by those in the European Settlements here.
After the Civil War the horses were used mostly by the native Gullah community in the fields and gardens. In fact, they got the name “tacky” because they were considered common and cheap – everyone had one.
Today, there are only about 400 in existence. Stop by the stables to get up close to several Marsh Tacky horses including the first the first Marsh Tacky born in 40 years, which just arrived November 2019.
Bloody Point Lighthouse
Bloody Point Lighthouse was built in 1883 for the southeastern side of the Island. (The northern lighthouse on Daufuskie sits on Haig Point.) It’s not a grand, tall lighthouse like you might see in Outer Banks…but a two-story building that was designed by the very man who became the first lightkeeper.
The building was closed when we visited, but was still a very fun excursion. You can roam the property and see a large Angel Oak, rows and rows of grapevines, an old hand-dug canoe from the time the Native Americans inhabited the Island (read the story on how this was discovered – amazing!), and a soaring Bald Eagle’s nest. The nest area is marked well, with a viewing tube and box holding complimentary binoculars to get a better view.
Silver Dew Winery
As you make your way toward the lighthouse, you’ll pass a small red brick building. It served as the wick house (oil storage) for the lighthouse, but today is home to Silver Dew Winery.
Arthur “Papy” Burn began making wine here in the 1950s – in fact, there is mention of it Conroy’s book about the area. It’s the USA’s only “island winery”.
Unfortunately the winery closed in 1956. Currently the old wick house still carries the sign of Silver Dew Winery and a sweet little gift shop where you can still pick up a bottle of wine.
One final note – as you walk the grounds, keep an eye out in the pond behind the lighthouse. We saw an enormous alligator sunning himself – and he is affectionally know as “Papy.”
Daufuskie Community Farm
Daufuskie Community Farm and Artisan Village is a 100% volunteer organization devoted to advocating sustainable living on Daufuskie Island.
The local community has contributed to the planning, construction, and growth of this thriving work by expanding the farm from animals into gardens, orchards, and the new Artisan Village.
Stop by to see the adorable goats – plus chickens, geese, cows and more.
If the animals here , as well as the indigenous inhabitants, excite you then consider taking the Wild Daufuskie Island Eco-Tour (or any of the eco tours) from Tour Daufuskie. You can get up close with the “wild side” of Daufuskie which includes the birds, gators, edible weeds and plant life abundant on Daufuskie, marsh life, marine life, insects, and other critters readily found on Island – like those at the Community Farm.
Daufuskie Island Rum Distillery
I was so sad to learn when we arrived that the rum distillery was still closed for COVID. If it is open when you visit, you’ll have to share your experience.
The rum is distilled, bottled and packed by hand on Island, and you can take a tour of the facility and grab a tasting of three different flavors. There are more than three flavors available for purchase, plus a vodka, blueberry vodka, and a bourbon. After your tour and tasting, hang out a bit with a cocktail.
Haig Point Club features a 20-hole Rees Jones Signature championship golf course that offers two slightly different feels, depending on whether you play the Haig or Calibogue variant. This scenic and challenging course is a par 72 with a 142 slope rating. While most “ocean courses” only have two or three holes that touch water, Haig Point has 7 tee boxes or greens with ocean views.
Learn more about Haig Point on Daufuskie Island here.
I’ll admit that one of my favorite things was sitting on the beach and doing nothing at all.
OK – that’s not entirely true. We watched the tide come in. We hunted for sharks teeth and sea shells. We kept an eye out for turtle tracks. We splashed in the surf. We laughed and smiled and giggled and relaxed.
Our favorite strip of beach was on Bloody Point. The sand was soft and – with the tide out – the beach was wide.
Where to Eat on the Island
Lucy Bell’s Cafe
Lucy Belle’s is a special place where the Daufuskie community gathers for sensational eats and all the latest Island news.
They serve breakfast and lunch, and with casual outdoor dining (Fido-friendly) under grand Live Oaks, which is reason enough to come. But the food….oh my! It’s so sensational that they even have regulars that come from the mainland just for a mind-blowing lunch.
The Grouper Sandwich and the “James Favorite” po’ boy on a steamed hoagie are among the popular choices. My boys had the hamburger and gave it two thumbs up.
Since it was my first time, I went for the Deviled Crab Lunch made special by Food Network (Seaside Snacks & Shacks). Two creamy and delicious housemade devile crabs, coleslaw, perfectly seasons collards and the house rice.
Old Daufuskie Crab Company
Enjoy a cool beverage and the freshest seafood in the lowcountry at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company. This unique Island treat features a variety of delicious entrees set with the backdrop of Daufuskie’s magnificent Island sunset.
Dine on the freshest shrimp, fish, deviled crab (the Island specialty), and all the ‘fixin’s . You can even shuck your own oysters right off the roasting pit.
Stay for a Weekend
When we visited Daufuskie Island, we were lucky enough to stay at Haig Point, the Islands’s only private community.
With so many amenities, you don’t have to leave the community (but you’ll want to explore like we did!) The Calibogue and Beach Club restaurants, the Clubhouse and golf courses, Tennis and Fitness Centers, Equestrian Center, Community Center, Dock and Private Beach are all available to enjoy.
If Haig Point is not available for you, don’t let that deter you from visiting. We’ve shared some of our favorite on-Island Airbnbs here.
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Disclosure: Thank you to Haig Point Club and Community for hosting our family. Opinions here are our own, as always.