Just a couple miles across Calibogue Sound from Harbour Town lies Daufuskie Island, a small, largely undeveloped barrier island begging to be explored. As the weather cools in October, it’s the perfect time for a day trip to the island.
A 45-minute ferry ride up the Intracoastal Waterway whisks visitors back in time when, depositing them on Daufuskie — accessible only by boat — and a world away from from the trappings of modern-day life.
Or at least one half of it is.
Daufuskie, steeped in history and drenched in natural beauty, is divided into two distinct worlds — the private Haig Point community, where cars are prohibited and residents access top-notch amenities by golf cart or bicycle, and the rest of the island, virtually undisturbed for decades. Native American artifacts are frequently unearthed on the island’s beaches, including arrowheads and pieces of centuries-old pottery.
Haig Point is mostly for members only, but the club does rent rooms in the historic Strachan Mansion and the Haig Point Lighthouse (rumored to be “eternally occupied” by Maggie, the former keeper’s daughter). Visitors have two other options if they want a look behind the gates: Booking a horseback ride via Daufuskie Island Trail Rides, one of the few places in the country where you can still ride horses on the beach, or snatching up one of the limited number of public tee times available on the club’s renowned Rees Jones signature golf course.
AFTER A DAY ON DAUFUSKIE, YOU’LL EITHER BE LEFT YEARNING FOR MORE OR CONVINCED YOU NEVER NEED TO GO BACK.
If private clubs aren’t your speed, fear not. The rest of Daufuskie is another world entirely. You’ll disembark from the public ferry at Freeport Marina and, depending on the time of the year, you might walk right into a party. On weekends during the summer, Freeport is the place to be: It’s where visitors hop off the ferry and gather to eat and drink at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company, dance the day away to live music, play cornhole, and hit the public beach that looks across Calibogue Sound toward Hilton Head. The area near the marina is something of a town center, with a general store, a few cottages for rent, and a handful of shops.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can rent a golf cart or bike — or bring your own bike on the ferry — and explore more of the island. And there’s plenty to explore along Daufuskie’s dirt roads.
A number of unique galleries dot the island. Most notable among them is the Iron Fish Gallery, where 17-year Daufuskie Island resident Chase Allen — who has sold more than $1 million worth of art — produces metalworks in an open-air studio and accepts payments on the honor system when he isn’t present at the gallery. Another must-see for art lovers is Daufuskie Blues — located in the famed Mary Fields School, where author Pat Conroy taught in the 1960s — where organic indigo harvested on the island is used to create stunning and unique fashions.
The school is also home to School Grounds Coffee, but those looking for something a little stronger won’t leave the island disappointed. Stop by Silver Dew Winery for a tasting and check out the museum inside the old Bloody Point Lighthouse, or slip over to Daufuskie Island Rum Company, where its locally distilled spirits have been served to visitors from every U.S. state and 64 countries. The distillery is located next to a quaint pond, where visitors sometimes enjoy a picnic lunch.
If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, you can book one of a number of tours, including one led by Daufuskie native Sallie Ann Robinson, who was Conroy’s star pupil in “The Water Is Wide.”
After a day on Daufuskie, you’ll either be left yearning for more or convinced you never need to go back. Life on Daufuskie isn’t for everyone, and its full-time residents have a saying:
“We’re all here because we’re not all there.”
GET ON THE BOAT
Ferry services from Hilton Head Island to Daufuskie Island:
Haig Point Ferry: Private service runs 16 times per day for residents and guests of the private Haig Point community. haigpoint.com
- Daufuskie Island Ferry Service: Public ferry departs from Buckingham Landing and Melrose Landing for four round-trips a day — five on Friday — and allows passengers to bring bicycles. Cost is $35, children younger than 6 ride free. daufuskieislandferry.com
- Daufuskie Difference: Departs from Broad Creek Marina and Freeport Marina for four round-trips a day. Cost is $25 for adults, $12.50 for children 12 and youner. www.daufuskiedifference.com