Just outside Hilton Head is South Carolina’s true gem, Daufuskie Island. This barrier island still maintains much of its remote, timeless personality and is accessible only by boat.
Daufuskie Island has about 500 full-time residents who ride around on golf carts or bikes. There are only a few paved roads, and cars are a rare sight, adding to the island’s laid-back atmosphere and charm.
With its unspoiled beauty, cultural richness, and slow-paced lifestyle, Daufuskie Island is a dream destination if you want to get away from it all.
Daufuskie Island Ferry
The ferry ride is the most economical and reliable way to get to the island. The ride takes about 45 minutes and includes a free round-trip shuttle to the Daufuskie Island Visitor Center.
The first ferry departs from Buckingham Landing 4 times a day (every three hours), starting at 7 am. The last ferry leaves at 4 pm, except Fridays when you also get one in the evening at 9 pm.
You can check the official Daufuskie Island Ferry website for the exact schedule and ticket fares.
If you are staying at Haig Point or visiting Haig Point for the day, there is a private ferry service available. The Haig Point ferry departs from the Haig Point Private Embarkation Center on Hilton Head Island.
Getting Around Daufuskie Island
The best thing about the island is that there is no traffic. You can get around by golf cart or bike.
Just make sure to keep an eye on the battery if you have an electric golf cart. You want to avoid getting stuck somewhere remote.
Daufuskie Island Golf Cart Rentals
Many rental properties on Daufuskie Island come with a golf cart, in which case you only need to arrange transportation to your accommodation.
When a property does not include a cart, you have the option to rent one for your entire stay. Multiple companies on the island provide golf cart rentals:
Daufuskie Island Bike Rentals
Another fun way to get around the island is by bike. The roads are flat, making it a pleasant way to explore all the island has to offer. Fuskies Bikes offers Electric Bike rentals and additional package add-ons for fishing, trailers to bring your pooch, and a beach option.
Top Things to Do on Daufuskie Island
The atmosphere on Daufuskie Island is reminiscent of a simpler time. Visitors can enjoy white sand beaches, ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss, and historical landmarks, creating a rural and nostalgic feel. Combined with million-dollar homes, championship golf courses, and private beach clubs, this barrier island is full of southern hospitality and low country charm.
1 Learn About Gullah Culture and History
If you just want to take a day trip to the island, I recommend booking a guided Dafuskie Island Historic and Artisan Tour.
The tour includes a round-ferry ticket, golf cart rentals, and a local guide who will accompany you to Dafuskie’s main highlights, such as the First African Baptist Church, Mary Fields School, Iron Fish Gallery, Silver Dew Winery, and more.
The tour takes about 4 hours and 30 mins. You can spend a pleasant day relaxing and getting in touch with the Gullah culture.
If you prefer exploring on your own, you can visit historical sites along Rob Kennedy Trail.
2 Take a Stroll Down the Secluded Beaches
Daufuskie Island’s unspoiled pristine beaches are an ideal escape from the crowds.
Bloody Point has the best strip of white sand beach on the island. It’s also a place with historical significance, where the battle between Native Americans and European settlers took place.
If chilling on the beach isn’t your cup of tea and you prefer something more active, you have the option to rent a kayak, paddleboard, or go fishing.
3 Cycle Your Way Around the Island
Biking is an exciting way to explore the island. Just keep in mind that some dirt roads are quite sandy and impossible to ride.
Melrose and Bloody Point golf communities have paved roads, which are ideal for cycling.
If you want to have a picnic on the beach, you can ride through Melrose to Avenue of Oaks.
Haig Point Road is also paved and has a couple of interesting stops along the way, such as the Billie Burn Historic Museum, Community Farm, and Daufuskie Island Distillery.
You can rent a bike from Fuskie Bikes or bring a bike with you on the ferry for a small additional fee.
4 Go Horseback Riding
For a memorable experience, go horseback riding with Daufuskie Island Trail Rides. The trail ride will take you through the South Carolina Maritime Forest.
You’ll get to admire the beautiful coastal views as you stroll the beach on horseback. If you get lucky, you might even spot dolphins along the way.
The whole experience is intimate, with max six people per ride. All skill levels are welcome.
If you would like to stay on the private side of the island at Haig Point, you can book an Equestrian Discovery Package, which includes accommodations, one equestrian experience, a round trip ferry pass, complimentary parking at the Haig Point Private Embarkation Center, and a complimentary golf cart during your stay.
Another option for horseback riding on the island is going on a tour with the Dafuskie March Tacky Society. This tour is only available to experienced riders.
5 Tour the Daufuskie Rum Distillery
If you’re a fan of rum, you’ll love the tour of Daufuskie Rum Distillery, where you can sample delicious rum varieties.
After all, rum and island life go hand in hand.
You can taste Gold Edition, their silver rum aged in a bourbon oak barrel for six months, the Kona Edition, as well as Fuskie Fire, vanilla spice, and more. Tastings are either $10 or $15, depending on the tasting flight chosen.
6 Check out Daufuskie Lighthouses
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Haig Point Lighthouse, located at the northern end of Daufuskie Island. It is South Carolina’s only lighthouse where you can stay overnight for an unforgettable experience in one of the state’s most captivating destinations.
Picture yourself spending a weekend in the iconic square tower of Haig Point, where you will find two bedrooms on the second floor and a functioning navigational light source high above.
Surrounded by lush golf courses amongst one of America’s most luxurious communities, this 40-foot lighthouse is nothing short of delightful – featuring a picturesque rocker chair-lined porch overlooking Calibogue Sound’s waters.
You can book a Discovery Package with Haig Point for accommodations at the lighthouse or book a day trip during one of their 150th-anniversary celebration events.
On the other side of the island, Bloody Point Lighthouse doesn’t look like a typical lighthouse, but it’s fun to visit nonetheless. It’s a two-story house with light installed in a small dormer window.
Its lights guided ships into the Savannah River Channel from 1883 to 1922. Today, the lighthouse is a museum and a gift shop with one of the best-preserved Batou Indian canoes.
The lighthouse is surrounded by Angel Oak and rows of grapevines.
Keep your eyes peeled in the pond behind the lighthouse, where you might spot an alligator called “Pappy.”
While here, check out Silver Dew Winery, a small red brick building selling wines just next door to the lighthouse, where you can purchase a bottle of wine.
7 Visit Animals at Daufuskie Island Community Farm
Daufuskie Island Community Farm is home to various farm animals, a vegetable garden, an orchard, and an artisan village.
As soon as you enter the farm, you’ll be greeted by cute goats, chickens, and ducks. A must-visit, especially if you’re traveling the island with kids.
8 Play Golf in Style
Golf carts around every corner make this island feel like a golfer’s playground. Not surprisingly, Daufuskie is one of South Carolina’s prime golfing destinations, offering a world-class golf experience.
Haig Point Golf Club features a 29-hole golf course known for its spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been listed as one of the top 100 golf courses in the United States.
If you like golf, you’re in for a treat. Haigh Point Golf Club is private, so you must arrange to be a golf member for a day or book a Golf Discovery Package, which includes accommodations in Haig Point.
9 Buy Handmade Souvenirs & Crafts
Daufuskie Blues is an indigo dye studio run by local artists Leanne and Rhonda. Their beautiful indigo clothes and scarves are hand-dyed with natural indigo dyes.
When you visit the studio, you’ll get to learn all about the art of indigo. Indigo merchandise is also available for purchase. What a great little souvenir from Daufuskie Island!
The indigo studio is located at Marie Field’s School.
Equally as stunning are handmade lotions, soap, and scrubs from Daufuskie Soap company. All the products are made from natural ingredients.
The business owner, Jan Crosby, created over 20 signature scents, including peppermint, lavender, and a “camp fuskie” bug-repellent soap bar with citronella, lemon eucalyptus, cedarwood, and lavender essential oils.
Many scents are inspired by the island aromas, such as aquamarine, ocean spa, and beach music.
10 Explore the Local Art Scene
Dafuskie is not only about golf, tennis, and beaches. The island also has a thriving art community.
One of the most popular art galleries on the island is Iron Fish Art Gallery. The gallery features Chase Allen’s metal sculptures inspired by marine life.
Another artisan spot to visit is Silver Dew Pottery, where you can find unique hand-crafted pottery made by Lancy and Emily. Each ceramic piece has a bit of Daufuskie island infused in it, whether it’s the marine motifs or grains of sand from the beach mixed into the clay.
Daufuskie Wine & Woodworks is the woodworking workshop close to Freeport Marina. You’ll find wooden kayaks, surfboards, canoes, and paddleboards.
To make your life easier, you can go on a guided local artisan tour that will take you around the island to visit all these artisan places.
11 Admire the Island’s Majestic Oak Trees
The island has an abundance of old oak trees covered in Spanish moss, some of which are more than 500 years old. The Council Tree, located just next door to First Union African Baptist Church, has special significance for locals.
Gullah men used to gather under this grand oak tree after Sunday church services and chat about various topics such as their families, animals, oystering, crops, and other island issues. They believed it was inappropriate to discuss private matters inside a church.
Daufuskie Island Tours
Sallie Ann Robinson Island Tour
There is no better way to learn about Gullah culture and history than to mingle with locals. Sallie Ann Robinson, a sixth-generation native of Daufuskie Island and a passionate cook provides a three hour guided tour around the island.
She’ll share with you interesting stories of “true Daufuskie,” as well as her personal experiences growing up on the island.
The tour includes a visit to Gullah historic sites, such as the Daufuskie Museum and Library, the Oyster Hall, the over 100-year-old First Union African Baptist Church, Mary Field Cemetery, the largest Gullah graveyard, and the Mary Field School built in 1934.
Interestingly, Pat Conroy, a famous author, used to teach in this school, and Sallie was one of his sixth-grade students.
His book, The Water is Wide (1972), is a chronicle of his experiences teaching in a one-room African American school on Daufuskie Island.
Get to know Daufuskie Island’s abundant plants and wildlife on a guided wildlife eco-tour. Palm trees, magnolias, loblolly pines, red buckeye, oleander, and many more belong to this lush island’s ecosystem.
While riding on a golf cart through the woods past ponds and marshes, you can see various animals, including alligators, loggerhead sea turtles, fox squirrels, eagles, wood storks, snowy egrets, and deer.
The wildlife tour is customizable based on your personal interests. The only downside is the insects, so bring repellent to keep the bugs at bay.
Daufuskie Dolphin and Nature Cruise
Do you like dolphins and marine life? Then you’ll love the Daufuskie dolphin cruise. This 1-1.5 hour cruise around Daufuskie’s gives you a chance to see dolphins, manatees, osprey, eagles, alligators, and maybe even a shark while you enjoy the coastal scenery.
The captain is a Daufuskie local who is happy to show you the natural island’s beauty. To make your experience even more pleasant, a small refreshment is included.
The boat is only for six guests, so it’s a nice and intimate tour.
Daufuskie Island Restaurants
Old Daufuskie Crab House
Old Daufuskie Crab House is conveniently located just next to the ferry. Their menu offers delicious seafood.
It’s a pleasant restaurant to hang out at, sip cocktails with live music, or enjoy the sunset on the outdoor patio.
As the dining options on the island are limited, it can get super packed here, especially on the weekends, so plan accordingly and avoid the times when the ferry brings in crowds.
Maryfield Schoolground Coffeshop
While you’re exploring the island’s historic sites, stop by for a coffee or a cool drink at Maryfield Schoolground Coffee.
Coffee is amazing here, and they also sell delicious homemade cookies and cakes. Their bourbon maple pecan milkshake is a must-try!
The School Grounds Cafe is located at the rear of the historic Mary Fields School.
While sipping your coffee, you can hear about the history of the school where Pat Conroy taught and later wrote “The Water is Wide” based on his experiences as a Daufuskie teacher of Gullah children.
D’Fuskie’s Store and Eatery
D’fuskie’s is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or lunch. They have sandwiches, pizzas, and even ice cream.
You can also buy staples from their general store, selling a bit of everything. Their taco Thursdays are a hit!
You will also find Spartina 449 Handbags for sale. The owner used to live on Daufuskie Island, and these handbags are absolutely beautiful.
Places to Stay on the Island
Depending on your preference, there are plenty of vacation rental properties on Daufuskie Island, from condos, villas, and cottages to private rooms. If you plan to stay for a few days, you should book accommodation with a kitchen and bring groceries over to the island with you.
There are a few small convenience stores on Daufuskie that carry basic essentials, snacks, soft drinks, and beer but no supermarkets or drug stores.
Holiday Homes & Cottages
You’ll also find plenty of accommodation options on Airbnb.
Haig Point Club + Community
You also have the option to stay at the members-only Haig Point Club. Their Discovery Experience package includes accommodation at either the historic Strachan Mansion or the 1873 Lighthouse, both with stunning ocean views.
The Haig Point offers plenty of activities to keep you entertained, from tennis and golf to horseback riding.
Is Daufuskie Island Worth Visiting?
Daufuskie Island is perfect for a day trip from Hilton Head Island or for a relaxing beach holiday.
Although it might seem like there isn’t much to do on the island, you can easily spend a couple of days and not run out of things to do.
It’s a place where you can enjoy boating, kayaking, golfing, cycling, art, and historical sites but, above all, relax.
Dafuskie Island FAQ
What is Dafuskie Island Known For?
Daufuskie Island is known as a bridgeless island where you can only get by boat. What’s unique about this island is that it’s mostly car-free. The main transport on the island is golf carts and bikes. It’s also the home of the Gullah people, African Americans of the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia.
How long is the ferry ride from Hilton Head to Daufuskie Island?
The ferry to Daufuskie Island from Hilton Head takes approximately 45 minutes. The ferry runs four times daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Is Daufuskie Island a good place to live?
If you enjoy tranquility, a slow-paced lifestyle, and a strong sense of community, Daufuskie might be an ideal place to live for you. The biggest challenge is island transportation and limited amenities.
Are there alligators on Daufuskie Island?
Yes, Daufuskie Island has alligators. It’s home to the American Alligators. They live primarily in the fresh waters of coastal marshlands. Alligators are generally shy and prefer to avoid people. They’re only dangerous if they feel threatened. You can watch them from a distance but don’t approach them too close, especially if you see a nest nearby.
Is there a beach on Daufuskie Island?
Daufuskie has 3 miles of beautiful secluded beaches. Bloody Point Beach is the most popular public beach on the island. There are also several private beaches on Haig Point.
How do you get around Daufuskie Island?
The most common way to get around Daufuskie Island is by golf carts, bikes, and walking, which is part of the fun. The island only has two or three paved roads crisscrossing the island. You’ll need to rent a golf cart to traverse the network of dirt roads.
Why is it called Bloody Point on Daufuskie Island?
Bloody Point was named after the battles between the Indians and English settlers that took place there in 1715. It was said that the water turned red from the blood of dead and injured people, hence the name Bloody Point.
Are cars allowed on Daufuskie Island?
Yes, you can bring your car to Daufuskie Island via ferry. There are some car restrictions within the private area of the island, but outside of the resorts, people are allowed to drive cars. That said, golf carts are more suitable for the island’s roads.
How much does it cost to get to Daufuskie Island?
The ferry from Hilton Head to Daufuskie costs $49.50 round trip for daytime visitors and $60.50 round trip for overnight visitors. Children under seven have a free ride. A one-way ticket costs $33.
Can you live on Daufuskie Island?
Yes, you can live on Daufuskie Island. While there are still a few remaining native islanders residing on Daufuskie Island, most of the permanent residents are vacationers who fell in love with the island’s vibe and scenery and settled here.
How much does it cost to rent a golf cart on Daufuskie Island?
The price for a full-day golf cart rental starts at $65. If you’re planning to stay on the island for multiple days, you can take advantage of package deals.
Were there slaves on Daufuskie Island?
Gullah refers to descendants of native Africans imported as slaves to Daufuskie Island to work on the rice, indigo, and cotton plantations. Their culture survived relative isolation on South Carolina’s Sea Islands after the Civil War.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.