CITY GUIDE 2021: Daufuskie Island


Just a couple of miles across Calibogue Sound from Harbour Town lies Daufuskie Island, a small, largely undeveloped barrier 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 the trappings of modern-day life.

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). 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, is always a unique experience. Living here also means a chance to play a round on the club’s renowned Rees Jones signature golf course.

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.

The main mode of transportation is via a golf cart or bike — which are perfect to explore 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 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. Daufuskie is a haven for art lovers, inlcluding 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 if you are looking for something a little stronger the island will oblige. Silver Dew Winery is a great spot for a tasting. There’s the museum inside the old Bloody Point Lighthouse and 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.”

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.”