Isolated and serene, Daufuskie Island is becoming a mecca for travelers seeking a more authentic South Carolina low-country adventure. Not accessible by car, Daufuskie is somewhat isolated adding to the island’s inherent charm. Hop on a golf cart or grab your two-wheeler and set out to enjoy these amazing experiences on Daufuskie Island.
Serving as a great day trip from Hilton Head or Savannah, this popular island was once home to native tribes who were overrun by settlers. Later, under British rule, the island was divided into indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations. Slaves worked the plantations while the owners were away for most of the year. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied the island chasing away the residents. Freed slaves, the Gullah people, returned to the island after the war. Due to isolation from the mainland, they retained many of their traditions. The Gullah history of Daufuskie is one of the few places where the culture was altered by outside influence. It is a snapshot into southern African American history.
1. Party At Old Daufuskie Crab Company
As you approach Freeport Marina from the Cooper River, the brightly-colored umbrellas and tables dotting the patio of the Old Daufuskie Crab Company catch your eye. Here, the specialty of the house is the deviled crab appetizer. Slather the finely-prepared crab on a saltine, pair it with your favorite beverage, and watch the boats come and go along the harbor.
This is the party place in town. Locals and visitors will hop a boat over to the island for cocktails, dinner, and a kick back night under the stars.
Pro Tip: Order at the bar, then look for the wait staff carrying a food tray calling your name.
2. Explore Silver Dew Winery
The winery closed in 1956, but the rustic old buildings are perfect for a Daufuskie Island photo op.
Pro Tip: You can purchase some wonderful local wines at the Bloody Lighthouse gift shop just down the driveway.
3. Meander Around Bloody Lighthouse
The Bloody Point Lighthouse served ships along the Savannah River Channel guiding them to safety from 1883 to 1922. It was eventually moved from the shore to keep it from falling into the ocean from beach erosion. Today, the lighthouse serves as a historic museum, teaching garden, and gift shop.
Pro Tip: Walk around the back of the museum and, a short way down the old golf hole, is an active bald eagle nest.
4. Sip At Daufuskie Island Distillery
This fairly new addition to the Daufuskie scene, Daufuskie Island Distillery, is a sweet spot to wet your whistle on a hot island afternoon. Grab a seat on the deck and enjoy one of their rum, vodka, or bourbon offerings. Order the mixed drink of the day or a shot of the exceptionally smooth bourbon to get your party started.
Pro Tip: State laws restrict distillers to selling only one drink per customer per day. You can, however, purchase a bottle and enjoy several drinks on the front deck.
5. Dine At Bells At The Beach
Bells At The Beach is located in the Melrose Beach community. This pub grub-style eatery offers creative specials, fun evening entertainment, and a spectacular water view. The deck is the place to welcome the cooling evening breezes.
Pro Tip: Bells is a seasonal restaurant, be sure to check their website for opening and closing dates.
6. Enjoy A Picnic At D’fuskie’s Store & Eatery
D’fuskie’s Store & Eatery is a great spot for a picnic lunch. With wide water views, sandwiches made to order, a store filled with snacks and necessities, and a pub, it is the best spot for a midday nosh. Situated near the historic district, it is perfect for refueling before you undertake more island exploration.
Grab one of their grilled sandwiches and head down to the dock for an on-the-water experience.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for dolphins playing in the water while you munch on your lunch.
7. Shop At The Iron Fish Gallery
As you are touring the island looking for just the right souvenir to bring home, stop at the Iron Fish gallery. You will find interesting and delightful coastal decor. This renowned artist creates metal sea creatures that will enchant you. Adding these beauties to your home will bring the island vibe right into your living room.
Pro Tip: This shop works on the honor system. If the artisan is not available, you can leave cash through the door slat or venmo the owner for your purchases.
8. Take A Horseback Ride On The Beach
Daufuskie Trail Rides will customize your hooves-in-the-sand riding experience. Private or group rides during the day or at sunset are worth a notch on your horseback riding belt. You will love finding your inner peace riding atop a gorgeous horse along Daufuskie’s pristine deserted beaches.
Pro Tip: Where you ride will depend on the season. Avoiding certain parts of the beach during high season is required to protect nesting sea turtles.
9. Wander The Historic District
The historic district includes several churches, cemeteries, and homes. The First Union African Baptist Church still conducts Sunday services in the circa-1884 church (restored in the 1990s).
You will find many historic homes on the island, however, they are mostly private residences. You can drive by for a look at the Frances Jones Home, a vintage Gullah house. The Hinson White House offers another great viewing of Gullah architecture. Homes often had haint (island slang for haunt) blue trim to keep evil spirits away.
Pro Tip: Download the Robert Kennedy Trail map below for the detailed descriptions of each historic spot.
10. Walk The Robert Kennedy Trail
The best way to explore the island’s Gullah history is to follow the Robert Kennedy Trail. The trail map (PDF) allows you to explore the island’s historic landmarks and highlights pertinent facts at each site. It is an invaluable tool in delving into the island’s Gullah history.
Pro Tip: Download the trail map before you head over to Daufuskie. The internet can be spotty.
11. Take To The Water
There is no bridge to Daufuskie Island. You will need to access the island by boat.
The Daufuskie Difference runs boats to Freeport Marina from the marina on Simmons Road on Hilton Head Island. Be sure to take a right just before Up The Creek Pub and park by the check in trailer.
Pro Tip: You can prepay and reserve a golf cart when you book your ferry with Daufuskie Difference. This will save you time when you get to the island and guarantee you get the cart size you need.
12. Exploring The Island
Golf carts, bikes, and e-bikes are your best bet for exploring the island’s many dirt and occasionally-paved roads. According to Hiltonhead.org, Daufuskie Island is 5 miles by 2.5 miles, easily navigable by either a golf cart or bike. You don’t need to worry too much about getting lost, and private roads are well marked.
There are essentially five communities that make up Daufuskie Island: Haig Point, Melrose Beach, Bloody Point, Oak Ridge, and the historic district. You can easily explore all the areas in an afternoon, except the gated community of Haig Point.
Pro Tip: If you are bringing your bike on the ferry, check beforehand to ensure there is enough space or if there is an extra fee.
13. Where To Stay On Daufuskie Island
There are plenty of beachy rental properties on Daufuskie. From cute little cottages to bring-the-entire-gang homes.
Colorful Cottages of Daufuskie at Freeport Marina will allow you to rest your head right in party central. You can enjoy a fun night at the Old Daufuskie Crab Co and roll across the parking lot to your own rustic cottage to sleep it off.
You can stay in the Bloody Point area at this charming ocean view cottage. Perhaps a 1926 Gullah cottage in the historic district would be more to your liking. Families will love staying in the Melrose Beach cottage that sleeps 10. Whatever you choose, hanging out on Daufuskie for a getaway is the best way to lower your heart rate.
Coastal South Carolina’s Climate
Winter on the island is off-season and the temperature ranges with lows around 40 and highs in the mid 60s (Fahrenheit). During the spring and fall, the weather is perfect for island hopping with temps ranging from the mid 50s to high 70s. Summer is hot with lazy days, high humidity, and temps in the low 90s, requiring shade and lemonade. You will enjoy the lazy island life and cool ocean breeze.
Pro Tip: The No-See-ums — a biting midge — come out when it’s low tide. They bite, so pack bug spray.
South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island
Daufuskie Island is an underdeveloped, low-country island where you can spend a day or two zipping around on your golf cart enjoying the Spanish moss draped trees, gorgeous white sand beaches, and delicious local seafood.
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