If you dream of getting away to a tropical, deserted island escape, the closest thing to that in South Carolina or perhaps in the entire United States would be Daufuskie Island.
While not entirely deserted with a population of around 400 people and not entirely tropical except for in the summer months when the temperatures are warm and the sun shines most days, Daufuskie Island is certainly beautiful. This lovely little slice of paradise may be small, but there are endless things to see and do.
As one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, you can bet that one of the top draws on Daufuskie Island is its beaches, but this underdeveloped paradise is also home to pristine nature areas, world-class attractions and stunning scenery. Having been inhabited for millennia, it’s steeped with fascinating history too! In fact, its Civil War History got the island listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hiking, camping, kayaking, swimming and biking are popular activities on the island and as you explore the area, you might run into some wildlife including alligators, sea turtles and a wide variety of bird species. Even whales are often spotted offshore. On those lazy days when you just feel like doing something low-key, take a walk down the island’s gravel roads lined with ancient oak trees and feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when things were much simpler.
If you’re seeking the perfect place to take a daytrip or weekend getaway from nearby Hilton Head or Savannah, Daufuskie Island is definitely worth looking into. Read on to find out more about this incredible place.
Where is Daufuskie Island Located?
Daufuskie holds the distinction of being the southernmost inhabited island in the state of South Carolina. The island measures approximately 5 miles in length and nearly 2.5 miles in width, encompassing a surface area of around 8 square miles. The coast stretches over 3 miles, so there is plenty of space to dig your toes in the sand!
How To Get to Daufuskie Island?
There’s no bridge going to Daufuskie Island, so the only way to get there is by boat. The Daufuskie Island Ferry leaves the docks at Buckingham Landing on Hilton Head every day and takes passengers on a one-hour journey through the Calibogue Sound.
The Daufuskie Difference offers daily service but departs from the Freeport Marina on Hilton Head Island. This option also includes a guided tour of the island or golf cart rental. The no-hour sail to Daufuskie includes an informative narration by a local guide so you can learn about the island before you arrive.
May River Excursions also offers daily ferry service from Old Town Bluffton to Daufuskie Island.
Water taxis are another popular method of transportation to and from Daufuskie Island and they can be found at Harbour Town and Shelter Cove Marina.
How to Get Around Daufuskie Island
It may seem strange, but one of the best ways to get around Dafauskie Island is with a golf cart and yes, visitors can rent them! Because the area is fairly remote and things are spread out over the island, it’s not advisable to rely solely on your feet to get around.
Using a golf cart will allow you to see and do more in a shorter amount of time if you’re in a hurry. It’s best to rent your golf cart before your arrival to the island if possible to ensure one is available for you.
Alternatively, you can also rent a traditional bike or electric bike to get around. Some of the companies that rent golf carts, bicycles or both include Tour Daufuskie, Island Carts, Daufuskie Carts and Sports Addiction Bicycle Rentals.
Best Things to Do on Daufuskie Island
Visit the Mary Field School
Constructed in 1934, the Mary Field School was a school solely for black children that were living on Dafauskie Island at the time. That was until the early and mid 60s when segregation was abolished.
Today, the building that once housed that historic school is still standing except it’s a place where you can go to enjoy some of the best coffee around. School Grounds Coffee is located in the old building and there’s also a variety of muffins and sweet treats available to go with your beverage.
Head over to The Daufuskie Marsh Tacky Society
If you’ve never heard the term Marsh Tacky, you might be surprised to learn that a Marsh Tacky is a type of Spanish Colonial Horse that has roamed Daufuskie Island for around 500 years.
This breed of horse has been named the South Carolina State Heritage Horse and you can learn about the breed and its history at the local Marsh Tacky Society. There are 400 of these horses left and you can meet some of them in the on-site stables.
Go Shopping at the old Silver Dew Winery
Not too far away from the lighthouse, you’ll spot a red brick building. This building was once the wick house for the lighthouse and then became the Silver Dew Winery where Arthur Burn started making wine in the 1950s. Although the winery is closed now, there’s a gift shop where you can purchase wine and other local trinkets.
Visit the Daufuskie Island Rum Distillery
The rum made at the Daufuskie Island Rum Distillery is distilled and hand-packed right on the island. When you visit the site, you can embark on a tour of the distillery and enjoy a tasting featuring three different flavors. After the tour, you can linger around and enjoy a tasty cocktail or browse the shop where you can purchase a variety of flavors of rum and several other spirits.
Tee off at the Haig Point Club Golf Course
If you happen to get to the Haig Point Club before they reach their daily limit for public access, you can enjoy an exclusive golfing experience featuring a 20-hole, par 72 course. Many of the greens offer spectacular ocean views and the course itself is challenging so you can be sure of an exciting day.
Check out the Daufuskie Island History Museum
Covering the island’s history from the pre-colonial days to recent times, this museum is the best place to visit to get a complete run-down on the area’s cultural and natural history.
As you browse the exhibits, you’ll learn about the American Indians and the Gullah culture and you’ll see fascinating artifacts including coins, an organ from the late 1800s, a huge stuffed alligator, an original land grant from the 1700s, an old family bible, photos and ancient Indian arrowheads.
Visit the Bloody Point Lighthouse and Explore the Grounds
Situated on the southeastern side of the island and constructed in 1883, Bloody Point Lighthouse is not as tall as you might expect since many of the lighthouses in the region are quite tall. It’s a two-story structure that was designed by its first light keeper.
Even if the building itself happens to be closed when you visit, there are still many interesting things to see around the grounds including a huge Angel Oak, grapevines, an ancient hand-dug canoe and a bald eagle’s nest.
Go on the Gullah History Tour
Daufuskie Island has a long and fascinating history and one of the best ways to learn about it is to embark on a guided tour with a local who can show you the historic landmarks and tell you all about them. The Gullah History Tour is one such tour available and over three hours, you’ll hear stories about local people and past events while learning about the island’s past.
During the tour, pay your respects at an old cemetery, visit the First Union Baptist Church and hear traditional songs that were passed down through generations, make stops at other noteworthy landmarks on the island and admire the old architecture.
Enjoy a Day at the Beach
South Carolina has some amazing beaches, and those around Daufuskie Island are no exception. The main beach on Daufuskie Island is three miles long so you have plenty of sand and surf to explore!
The best part is that even at the height of summer, the crowd on the beach might reach several hundred people which isn’t a lot of people considering all the space available.
Local company Tour Daufuskie offers a unique beach day experience where they take the work out of your beach excursion by having tents, beach chairs, tables, kayaks and paddleboards all ready for visitors to use.
See Baby Loggerhead Turtles
If you happen to be in the area during Loggerhead Turtle hatching season, which is between May and September, you can take a tour to see these adorable sea turtles emerging from the sand and making their mad dash for the open water.
Check out the Iron Fish Gallery
Imagine a piece of metal. It’s just a piece of metal, right? Now imagine that piece of metal transformed into a beautiful sculpture of a mermaid, fish, or other aquatic feature. That’s what Chase Allen does at Iron Fish Art.
He transforms plain ol’ pieces of metal into works of art for visitors from all over to come and admire. You can purchase a piece for yourself at a rather affordable rate considering the work involved!
Embark on a Nature Tour
Daufuskie Island has many nature areas and is home to many species of plants, birds and other wildlife. You can get up close and personal and learn about the natural side of the island with an eco-tour through Daufuskie Island Birding & Eco-tours.
Learn About Sustainable Living at the Daufuskie Community Farm
The Daufuskie Community Farm is run by community volunteers who wish to promote sustainable living in the area. You can learn all about their cause with a visit to the farm where you’ll also see beautiful gardens, orchards, an Artisan Village and domestic animals such as chickens, goats and cows.
Wander Around the Island Aimlessly
Whether you decide to go on foot, by bike or in one of the popular golf carts, Daufuskie Island is a great place to explore on your own.
Wander around aimlessly just admiring the scenery, hanging out with friendly locals, enjoying the nice weather or searching for wildlife. Stop wherever you see a view worth admiring for a while and go where you please for as long as you want!
Where to Eat near Daufuskie Island
D’Fuskie’s Store and Eatery
When searching for a place to enjoy a wholesome meal on the island, look no further than D’Fuskie’s Store and Eatery. The on-site restaurant serves a variety of familiar favorites including sandwiches and pizzas.
After your meal, be sure to check out the shop and stick around for a bit and mingle with the friendly people who frequent this local favorite that has become a popular spot for visitors too. Most of the food served at the restaurant is made using locally-sourced ingredients so you know you’re getting a delicious and fresh meal every time!
CQ’s Restaurant – Hilton Head
After touring Daufuskie Island, why not treat yourself to an exquisite meal at an exquisite dining establishment. CQ’s restaurant is an upscale eatery in a beautiful house on Hilton Head Island that features American cuisine made with regional ingredients.
Pine floors, antique finishings remnant of days gone by greet you and delicious, expertly prepared cuisine satisfies your hunger.
Stay On Daufuskie Island
Colorful Cottages of Daufuskie Island – Freeport Marina
If you plan to stay on Daufuskie Island overnight or for a few days, the Colorful Cottages of Daufuskie Island at the Freeport Marina are cute, central and affordable. Every cottage features a unique theme.
Each cozy cottage also features all of the amenities you need for comfort and enjoyment including Wi-Fi service, a mini bar and air conditioning for those hot summer days. On site, you’ll also find free parking, a spa, a fitness room and a business center. If you’re traveling with a furry companion, you’ll be happy to know that pets are welcome to stay in the cottages as well.
TRAVEL AROUND THE AREA
Hopefully this guide to Daufuskie Island helps you have an amazing vacation! For more travel around the area, see below:
- 50 Best Things to Do in Savannah, Georgia
- 20 Best Small Towns In South Carolina To Visit
- 20 Best South Carolina Wineries and Vineyards
- 22 Best Things To Do In Beaufort, SC
- 25 Fun Facts About South Carolina to Know
Plan For Your Trip to the South!
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- See our favorite cooler for the road!
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car for traveling the Carolinas. Check Prices on RentalCars.com
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always Allbirds.
- Check out our favorite South Carolina Souvenir!
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