THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT DAUFUSKIE ISLAND
Accessible only by boat, Daufuskie Island offers a unique and rustic experience for visitors. Tourists will discover a place teeming with rich history. Our historic district, which is named in the National Register of Historic Places, boasts original Gullah-constructed homes, churches, and schools. Evidence of a once-thriving Gullah oyster community can be still be found throughout the island. Nowadays, Daufuskie hosts around 400 full-time residents and 3 private/semi-private resorts. Our landmark artisans have made a splash in their hard-to-get-to galleries with island-inspired art. Much of Daufuskie’s land is undeveloped, which gives the island its characteristic untouched feel. Whether it’s as part of a guided tour with Tour Daufuskie, LLC or a fun excursion exploring in your own golf cart, it is a day trip worth the adventure!
HOW TO GET TO DAUFUSKIE ISLAND: WATER TAXI AND FERRY TRANSPORTATION
From Hilton Head or Old Town Bluffton:
- May River Excursions: 30 minutes, $45, (Old Town Bluffton) Enjoy the most scenic route to Daufuskie with May River Excursions. This semi-private, quick boat ride will wind through numerous small creeks, giving you the chance to view wildlife such as shorebirds and dolphins. With no set departure times, they can work around your schedule! Plus, they are located in Old Town Bluffton – exploring this historic town is a great way to extend your trip. You will arrive on the island at the Public Dock, which is home to Daufuskie’s famous Marshside Mama’s restaurant.
- Daufuskie Island Ferry: 45 minutes, $35 (Buckingham Landing, Bluffton) The public ferry offers an affordable and comfortable ride over to the island. Make sure you book ahead and arrive early! This ferry runs four times a day, with an extra run on Fridays. You will disembark at the Melrose Landing, which is a short walk from the Freeport Marina and Old Daufuskie Crab Company.
- Bull River Marina: 30 minutes, $45 (Wilmington Island, Tybee Island, Savannah) For those of you visiting from Savannah, Bull River Marina is the clear choice! This boat leaves from the marina at 8:30, 12:30, and 4:30 daily. The cost is $225 per boat (6 people maximum) or $45 per person round trip if the boat is not full. You’ll be dropped off at the public dock on Daufuskie Island.
GOLF CART TRANSPORTATION
A common misconception of Daufuskie Island is that no cars are allowed. There are some car restrictions within the private resorts, but many folks outside of the resorts drive cars or trucks. That being said, 99% of all visitors or tourists rent golf carts as their mode of Daufuskie Island transportation. Tour Daufuskie offers 4-seater golf cart rentals for self-guided adventures; $75 for a 4-hour block, $85 for 5 hours, and $5 per additional hour. $45 for a 2-hour block is offered to Tour Daufuskie customers finishing up a guided tour. Give us a call at 843-842-9449 to book your cart! We do not offer bike rentals since the majority of our roads are sand, which can be difficult to maneuver on. However, Island Carts (843-505-3937) offers bicycle rentals for those of you who want to take a spin.
DAUFUSKIE ISLAND RENTAL HOMES AND ACCOMMODATIONS
DAUFUSKIE ISLAND ARTISANS
These creative minds have a made a splash among locals and visitors alike. Collectively they have been showcased in national and regional magazines such as Coastal Living, Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, Charleston Home, Hilton Head Monthly, and more!
- The Iron Fish Gallery & Studio (est 2001): Chase Allen has received national recognition for his coastal sculptures and unique pieces. He won the 2014 American Made Audience Choice Award hosted by Martha Stewart, and his artwork has been shipped worldwide. Chase uses inspiration from the island’s rustic feel to create these eye-catching fish, mermaids, blue crabs, stingrays, and more. No two pieces are alike, as each sculpture is hand-cut, hammered, and painted right here on Daufuskie Island. The gallery is open every day from 8am-6pm.
- Silver Dew Pottery (est 1996): Lancy and Emily Burn create beautiful hand-spun pottery styled after the Native American pottery found on Daufuskie Island. At Silver Dew you’ll find gorgeous bowls, mugs, serving plates, all of which are one-of-a-kind. In general, their store is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 8am-4pm.
- Wine and Woodworks (est 2015): Mike Loftus builds hand-crafted wooden boats, canoes, kayaks, and more in his woodworking shop while his wife Joanne offers local organic wine and beer. For the eager-to-learn, Mike offers kayaking kits and teaches folks how to build their own boat! The craft wine & beer shop is open every Saturday afternoons, but poke your head in anytime to see if Mike is around.
- Daufuskie Island Rum Company (est 2014): Tony Chase and his partners offer delicious rum with an “American-made” guarantee. The Rum Company offers tours Wednesdays to Saturdays. For $5, you’ll receive a half-hour tour including three tastings. Ever-creative, Tony has crafted a variety of flavors such as Vanilla, Gold (aged in bourbon barrels), “Fuskie Fire”, and Spiced (made with 9 secret ingredients).
- Daufuskie Blues (est 2015): Leanne Coulter and Rhonda Davis have teamed up to create gorgeous indigo-dyed fabrics. They have set up shop in the historic Maryfield School, and you can find them inside most days hard at work.
- Daufuskie Peach (est 2014): Jan Crosby draws inspiration from the sights and smells of Daufuskie Island to create her home-made soaps and body products. She makes these soaps in small batches with unrefined shea butter and coconut oil, and the result is always luxurious.
THINGS TO DO ON DAUFUSKIE ISLAND
On Island Tours
- Sallie Ann Native Gullah Tour : Sallie Ann Robinson is the only professional native tour guide on Daufuskie Island. As a 6th generation native, Sallie is known to be the authority of Gullah culture and history. Enjoy a 2.5 hour tour through the eyes of a native Gullah! $65 per person.
- History and Artisans Tour : Take an in-depth look at the past and present of Daufuskie Island in this 2.5 hour guided golf cart tour. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the Billie Burn Historical Museum & Gullah Learning Center, Gullah-constructed homes, churches, and schools. You will also get a chance to meet our local artisans and check out their off-beat galleries. $45 per person.
- “Wild Daufuskie” Eco-Tour : Come check out the wild side of Daufuskie! In this 1.5 hour tour, our Naturalist will bring you to some of the best wildlife viewing spots on the island in hopes of catching a glimpse of alligators, shorebirds, marine life, and native plants. Binoculars are provided! $35 per person.
- Kayaking and Paddle Boarding Tours : See Daufuskie from one of the most unique perspectives… the water! Your guide will take you through winding creeks and inlets full of shorebirds and dolphins in the 1.5 hour tour. $55 per person. Kayaks and paddleboards are also available for rent.
- Self-guided Golf Cart Tour : Would you rather explore the island on your own? You may want to rent a golf cart for a 4-hour block ($75). Map and orientation included!
Visit Daufuskie’s historic buildings
- First Union African Baptist Church: This church was established in 1881, and rebuilt in 1884 after a fire burned down the original. Joining the church back in those days was not easy; you had to prove your faith and show your enthusiasm to become accepted. These days, the church remains active as a non-denominational community church. Services are Sunday mornings at 10:00am.
- Maryfield School: Built in the 1930s, this school was created for the Gullah children on the south end of the island. Transportation from the North end began in 1950, making Maryfield the primary school for Daufuskie children. This is the school at which the famous author Pat Conroy taught in the late 1960s, later documenting his experience in the novel The Water is Wide. Maryfield School is now home to Daufuskie Blues which makes indigo-dyed scarves and fabrics.
- Billie Burn Historical Museum: This small museum was named after Billie Burn, known as the first true “Daufuskie historian”; she wrote “An Island Named Daufuskie” which documents countless details of the island’s past. Inside the museum you’ll find artifacts found on the island such as arrow heads and pottery shards. Knowledgeable museum volunteers can help answer questions you have about the island’s fascinating past. Before this was a museum, it was the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. This was a multi-use space; it was a church, it was a school for a period of time, and it held nighttime reading classes for adults.
- Gullah Learning Center: To widen your understanding of Gullah history and culture, spend some time inside this quaint museum full of Gullah artifacts, writing, clothing, and more. This building was the Jane Hamilton School in the 1940s; children on the North end of the island learned here before transportation took them to the Maryfield School. Both the Billie Burn Historical Museum and the Gullah Learning Center are maintained by the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation and are open Tuesdays-Saturdays 1pm-4pm.
- Frances Jones House: Painted in bright blue and adorned with a 500+ year old Live Oak tree, the Frances Jones house is a picturesque favorite for visitors. Frances was an important figure in Daufuskie’s history; she was one of the first teachers at Maryfield School, eventually became principal, and was a prominent fund-raiser for the reconstruction of the First Union African Baptist Church. Some folks lovingly called her “Daufuskie Mayor”. Since Frances’ death, the house has been restored from ruins by the Palmetto Trust for Historical Preservation, along with many other historic houses in the area. It is now privately rented, so you may admire from the road.
- Moses Ficklin Cottage: Here you will find yet another Gullah-constructed home positioned under a giant oak tree. Again, this house is now privately owned, but it is worth a drive-by.
- Bloody Point Lighthouse: Erected in 1882, this lighthouse housed a rear-range and front-range light which helped boats navigate safely into the Savannah River. Due to erosion on the island, the tower was deconstructed and the keeper’s house was rolled back on logs to its current location. The keeper’s house has been converted to a museum and gift shop. Inside the shop you may do wine tastings of the Silver Dew Winery. On this property a “Lowcountry Heritage Walk” was created to showcase some historically-significant crops such as sea island cotton and indigo blue.
Yoga: For a relaxation boost, join yoga instructors Laura Winholt or Renee Harding for a 60 minute class. Yoga classes are offered in the Melrose Fitness Center which showcases a gorgeous view of the ocean. Schedule is Sunday 9:30am and Thursday 4:30pm and each class is $13 for drop-ins.
Beaches: Daufuskie offers 3 miles of pristine sand beaches, all of which is open to the public. You may lounge in the sand & sun all day, or perhaps take a walk down to Bloody Point, a historic battleground between Native Americans and English settlers. Bloody Point is also the local fishing hole of Daufuskie, for those of you who may want to test your luck. Dolphins, Pelicans, and Osprey are a common sight for beach-goers, as well as a wide variety of shells. Loggerhead turtles use these beaches for nesting, so be mindful by only using red flashlights at night from the months of May-October and never driving your golf cart on the beach.
Horseback Riding: Contact Haig Point Equestrian Center for more information regarding horseback riding tours of Daufuskie Island!
Golfing: The Bloody Point Resort offer 18-hole golf courses, full service practice facilities, and pro shops.
Farm: Take a guided tour Daufuskie Island Community Farm or grab a self-guided pamphlet at the Welcome Center to explore on your own. This farm was created in 2010 on “a dream and a dollar” by Pat Beichler along with friends and partners. Interested in volunteering at the farm during your stay? Contact Pat at (678)897-0942 to find out more.
DINING ON DAUFUSKIE ISLAND
Marshside Mamas: Located a stone’s throw away from the Public Dock (or “County Dock”), Marshside Mamas Cafe is a regional favorite for southern cooking. The menu changes daily, reflecting what is locally available. Highlights on the menu include fried grouper, low country gumbo, pork loin chop, and the shrimp burger. Open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday 12-3pm, dinner Wednesday-Sat 6pm-10pm, and Sunday brunch 11am-4pm.
Lucy Belle’s Cafe (843)341-6477: “Daufuskie Entertains” catering business opened up their new restaurant, Lucy Belle’s Cafe, at the end of 2016. It has been a hit ever since, with people flocking to their doors for lunch and breakfast. The meals are southern-focused, hearty, yet quickly arrive after ordering. The cafe is located at the intersection of Benjie’s Point Rd and School Rd.
The Eagle’s Nest: Bloody Point Resort offers southern cuisine and fresh seafood Thursdays through Mondays for lunch and dinner. Monday nights are a local favorite for “Pizza Night”, and Thursdays offer a “Fresh Catch” dish.
Old Daufuskie Crab Company: Located in the Freeport Marina, the Crab Company offers a variety of southern dishes including deviled crab, local fish, chicken quesadillas, and burgers. Seating includes picnic tables outside overlooking the Freeport dock.
DAUFUSKIE ISLAND HISTORY
Native American History
The first people on Daufuskie Island were Native Americans from the Creek and Yemassee tribes. Artifacts of these people have been found such as arrowheads and pottery shards that date back 9,000 years! The name “Daufuskie” comes from two Creek Indian words; daufu meaning “feather” and fuskie meaning “sharp/pointed”. The Native Americans compared the shape of the island to a pointed feather, and over time Daufufuskie was morphed into “Daufuskie”. Nowadays, the name is loosely translated to “Land with a Point”.
The first encounter Native Americans had with Europeans was in the 1520s. The Spanish came to Daufuskie Island, had a look around, and then continued South to what would become their Florida sanctuary. It wasn’t until the 1670s that settlers from England and Scotland settled on Daufuskie Island. At first, relationships between natives and settlers were amicable. The Native Americans traded produce, pelts, and local knowledge for the European’s tools and weaponry. The relationship became bitter once the Europeans began to overcharge the natives for trades, eventually putting the Native Americans “in debt”. Over time, the natives got pushed off of the island after the English took advantage of them and overpowered them with strength and numbers. Most of these natives joined the Yemassee in an alliance with the Spanish.
The Spanish had claimed territory from Charleston SC to St. Augustine FL, so they recognized an encroachment of their land when the English settled on Daufuskie. The Spanish started rewarding their Yemassee allies for raiding territories that the English had settled on. In 1715, the Yemassee came to Daufuskie in an attempt to surprise-attack the settlers. The English, however, got wind of the onslaught ahead of time and were ready for the attack. When the Yemassee arrived on the southeast tip of the island, they encountered gunfire from the woods where the English were hiding. In the battle that gave “Bloody Point” its name, the Yemassee invaders were massacred. A series of skirmished followed with losses from both sides, but in the end the English won out and kept their land.
Plantations began to develop on Daufuskie Island after the Revolutionary War. Twelve original plantations existed with sizes ranging from 200 – 1,100 acres. Similar to the rest of the Carolinas low-country, the main crops grown were rice and sea island cotton. The Daufuskie cotton was renowned as the finest cotton in the country. Some plantations grew Blue Indigo and used the stunning color to dye their cotton, producing blue fabrics and clothing. Keep in mind that blue was a tough color to produce before synthetic color arose, so these blue fabrics were sought after by royalty. African slaves worked on these plantations and lived primarily in houses made from “tabby”; a combination of oysters, sand, and water.
During the Civil War, Union troops occupied Daufuskie Island and drove off most of the plantation owners and slaves. Once the war passed, many of the freed slaves (or “Gullah”) returned to the island. A large portion of the Gullah population on Daufuskie worked in the Oyster industry; oysters were plentiful in the waterways surrounding the island and a canning company was located near what is now the Public Dock. In 1959 the Savannah River became severely polluted from a paper mill, and the oyster population got wiped out. This caused the majority of Gullah people to leave the island in search of a living in the big cities. Churches, schools, and other community gathering places shut down for a period due to low population on the island. A handful of families stayed on the island, however, to continue farming and working in other trades. To this day, you can find evidence of this time period through Gullah-constructed homes and buildings sprinkled throughout the island. Interested in discovering more about the Gullah culture? Read here about our Sallie Ann Native Gullah tour!
PRIVATE / SEMI PRIVATE COMMUNITIES ON DAUFUSKIE ISLAND
MEDICAL & EMERGENCY
- Emergency Medical Services 911
- Daufuskie Island Fire Department 843-785-8358
- Daufuskie Island Crime Hotline 843-255-3356
- Hilton Head Hospital 843-681-6122
- Power Outage SC Electric & Gas 888-333-4465