Just a short distance across the water from Hilton Head is Daufuskie Island, a century removed from the upscale resorts, vacation villas, and power yachts of the Lowcountry’s busiest tourist destination. Its Gullah and Civil War histories are so significant that it has been named a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is no bridge to Daufuskie. The only way to get there is by boat. If you don’t own your own boat but want to be guided through Daufuskie’s storied past, join a narrated tour to many of the Island’s landmarks.
Most of the Island is still natural and timeless, a very small community of island residents. It is a wonderful example of the unique Sea Island culture. The Island’s sandy lanes and quirky tin-roofed oyster homes are shaded by dense live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The beaches are wide and open. You will see only a few cars that belong to Island residents. This is not a museum like Williamsburg – this is real, undeveloped and unspoiled.
Inhabited ages ago by Native Americans, Florida’s Yemassee used Daufuskie as a bivouac for raids on English settlements around Charleston. The English put an end to the raids in two battles at what is now known as Bloody Point.
Planters later raised a profitable indigo crop on Daufuskie and sold it to England, prompting them to remain Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, while nearby Hilton Head residents were Patriots. A prosperous era of cultivating Sea Island cotton followed the war in the 1800s.
After the Civil War, Daufuskie Island was given over to freed slaves who made their living as oystermen, lumbermen, and farmers. Descendants of those slaves, known as Gullah, still inhabit the Island and make up part of the small number (about 300) of year-round residents of Daufuskie.
Pat Conroy brought fame to the Island when he described his first year of teaching in the two-room schoolhouse in his novel The Water is Wide. The movie Conrack is based on the novel.
Several companies offer half-day or full day guided history and nature tours from Hilton Head to Daufuskie, and reservations are necessary. All of these companies’ schedules vary by season, so make sure you call ahead for departure times and fares.
Guided tours range from dolphin and nature cruises around the Island (by large or small boat, or kayak), history tours (by golf cart, school bus, van, or on foot), guided trail rides on horseback, fishing expeditions, beachcombing tours, or even golf excursions.
You can even take a water taxi or a “cruise to dinner” to one of Daufuskie’s two popular restaurants – the Old Daufuskie Crab Company or Marshside Mamas, both of which offer a live entertainment schedule.
However you choose to get there, ride over to Daufuskie gives you spectacular views of Hilton Head behind you, densely wooded Daufuskie ahead, and the tranquil marshlands that line the waterway.
For more information, contact:
Commander Zodiac (843-671-3344)
Dolphin Seafari (843-785-2345)
Dafuskie Difference (843-342-8687)
Live Oac Adventures (843-384-1414)
Outside Hilton Head (843-686-6996)
Vagabond Cruises (843-363-9023)