Accessible only by boat, Daufuskie Island offers a unique and rustic experience for visitors. Whether you’ve taken a day trip from Hilton Head Island or Savannah, you will discover a place teeming with rich history and culture. 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 still be found throughout the island. Nowadays, Daufuskie hosts around 400 full-time residents and 3 private/semi-private resorts. Our landmark artisans have received national recognition for their hard-to-get-to galleries with island-inspired art. Much of Daufuskie’s land is undeveloped and roads are unpaved which gives the island its characteristic “are we still in the United States” feel. Whether it is part of a guided tour with Outside Daufuskie or a fun excursion exploring in your own golf cart rental, a day trip to Daufuskie Island is well worth the adventure and a day you will not soon forget!
Golf Cart Transportation
A common misconception of Daufuskie Island is that no cars are allowed. There are some car restrictions within the private communities, 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 transportation on Daufuskie Island.
Although the island is small, dirt and paved roads weave throughout the community. Renting a golf cart allows visitors to explore the galleries, eateries, and natural and historic spots that line Daufuskie’s scenic roadways.
Tour Daufuskie offers 4-passenger golf cart rentals for self-guided adventures starting at just $75. Or upgrade to a 6-passenger cart, starting at $115.
Daufuskie Island History
Unearthing the vast and colorful history of Daufuskie Island is no easy task. With artifacts found on the island dating as far back as 7000 BCE, it is apparent that the island has a rich history. But with limited written records and resources, Daufuskie’s history is ever evolving as new information comes to light.
The first inhabitants that we have records of are the Creek, or Muskogee, Indians. It is the Creek Indians who named Daufuskie. In the Muscogee, or Creek in English, language the name was derived from two terms; “daufu” meaning feather and “fuskie” meaning sharp or pointed. The terms reflect the shape and appearance of the island.
Early European explorers included the Spaniards, French, English and Scottish. The first land grants were given to Native American traders, although eventually relations became strained and after a number of skirmishes Native Americans were forced off the island in lieu of death or imprisonment. Lands were gifted to numerous families, eventually leading to 12 plantations on Daufuskie Island.
Plantations were small, and produced crops such as sea island cotton, corn, potatoes and indigo. Filled with Loyalist during the Revolutionary War, Daufuskie experienced a number of clashes with the Tories of Hilton Head. Post Revolutionary War, plantations on the island continued to produce and export crops. The island stayed relatively quiet during the Civil War, however there were Union troops stationed on Daufuskie.
After the Civil War, some lands on Daufuskie were repossessed by original slave owning families. Parts of the island were sold to freed slaves returning to the area. This gave rise to Daufuskie’s Gullah population. Being forced to America through slavery, descendents of West Africans worked the lands on the South Carolina sea islands. The descendents of these West Africans kept tight their cultural heritage, creating the rich Gullah culture now present.
Up until the mid twentieth century, Daufuskie had a substantial population of mostly Gullah families. Oystering, farming and logging were just a few economies that drove Daufuskie Island. But competing pricing, pollution and limited resources led to an incredible decline in the island’s economy. Many families left the island in search of work, establishing roots elsewhere.
Developers came onto the island in the 1980s and 1990s. Haig Point, Bloody Point Resort and Melrose were developed as resort communities. Daufuskie Island now boasts around 400 full time residents.
For the full historical experience, join Tour Daufuskie on our History and Artisans Tour.
Daufuskie Island Rental Homes and Accommodations
Daufuskie Island is truly one of the best kept secrets on the east coast for the perfect family coastal vacation. Although a day trip is a great adventure, staying on the island allows for a true Daufuskie experience. Below, we have compiled a list of links for rental properties and companies we recommend.
Daufuskie Island Artisans
These creative minds have 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 afternoon, 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 trough Saturdays. For $7, you’ll receive a half-hour tour followed by a tasting. 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 afternoons 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
- 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 2.5 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! $45 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!
- Daufuskie Day at the Beach : How can you visit a barrier island and not check out the beach? With 3 miles of secluded, white sanded beaches, Daufuskie Island is the perfect place for some R&R. Don’t worry about lugging equipment over. Tour Daufuskie can take care of all the heavy lifting with any of our rentals!
Visit Daufuskie’s historic buildings
- First Union African Baptist Church: This historic 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 is also the author of 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 attended this school 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 breathtaking centuries old live oak, 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.
- Moses Ficklin Cottage: Here you will find yet another Gullah-constructed home positioned under a giant oak tree. Moses Ficklin was one of Daufuskie’s undertakers. 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 sample some of Silver Dew Winery’s sweet scuppernog wine. 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 instructor Laura Winholt for a 60 minute class. Yoga classes are offered in the Helmus Community Center. Yoga classes are offered Sunday and Tuesday mornings at 9:30 am. Schedule ahead of time (email at [email protected]) for $15.
Beaches: Daufuskie offers 3 miles of pristine sand beaches, all of which are 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 a pro shop.
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
Melrose Beach Club: Enjoy the beautiful ocean views while dining at the Beach Club. With indoor, outdoor and screened porch seating, their new menu and dinner special are sure to please the entire family!
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. 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.
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.
School Grounds Coffee: Located in the old cafeteria of Maryfield School, stop by the coffee shop for a delicious treat. In addition to their top quality coffee, School Grounds also offers iced lemonades, teas and sweet treats.