How Big is Daufuskie Island?

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie Island rests about five miles across the Calibogue Sound from the famed resort destination Hilton Head Island. Yet this tiny sea island remains largely undeveloped, with dirt roads and landscapes still roamed by wildlife. The island is 5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide.

Daufuskie’s modest size allows it to be explored via golf cart in a day or two, but its varied ecosystems beg you to linger. There are the wide sandy beaches that see more sea turtles than sunbathers. From the island’s dimensions to its topography and ecosystems, read on to learn what makes Daufuskie so big on coastal character.

The Dimensions of Daufuskie Island 

Daufuskie Island is small, measuring just about 5 miles long from Bloody Point to Hawks Point and 2.5 miles across at its widest span. The total land area covers around 8,000 acres. 

Despite its size, portions of the island, like the Marshside area, have retained their Gullah history and culture passed down from freed slaves. Other areas house private residences, a golf course, historic sites, and unspoiled land protected for conservation. 

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie Island is divided into several distinct areas. In the northeast is the Haig Point Club, a private, member-owned residential community with around 150 year-round residents and over 225 homes.

To the south of Haig Point was the Melrose Resort and residential community. Further south on the island’s eastern side is Oak Ridge, a small undeveloped oceanfront community, followed by Bloody Point, a semi-private residential area.

As of 2019, the Melrose Resort remains in disrepair, and the former owner is facing charges for misusing resort funds.

The western part of the island is unincorporated land, home to around 100 residents living in various accommodations, from cabins to waterfront homes with private docks. This section of the island was federally designated as a historic district in the 1980s, known for its well-preserved Gullah homes and descendant communities, artisan shops, restaurants, the Mary Fields School (where author Pat Conroy taught), and historic churches and roads.

Topography and Elevation of Daufuskie Island

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie’s highest point is only about 40 feet above sea level, giving the island a flat, low elevation. Even though the terrain isn’t dramatic, the interior still delivers enchanting scenes as gnarled live oaks draped in Spanish moss tower over dirt paths. Rising dunes line the coast. Inland pine and oak forests carpet the sandy soil. Small freshwater ponds dot the wooded areas. Along the marshy fringes, winding tidal creeks carve the landscape. 

This varied topography brings diverse ecosystems into a compact space. From beach dunes to inland forests to tidal flats, you can experience a range of low country habitats without traveling far on Daufuskie.

Surrounding Bodies of Water on Daufuskie Island

As with most sea islands, water defines the Daufuskie landscape. The Atlantic Ocean borders the eastern edge with over 5 miles of beachfront. To the west, the wide Calibogue Sound separates Daufuskie from neighboring Hilton Head Island. Smaller tidal guts and creeks etch the interior.

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

This abundance of coastline and protected waterways makes Daufuskie a recreational paradise. Beachcomb mile after mile of sand on the ocean side in search of shells, sharks’ teeth, and driftwood. Or paddle a kayak through the tidal marsh observing herons, oysters, and other wildlife.

The Intracoastal Waterway also courses behind Daufuskie, adding boating and fishing opportunities. Thanks to its defining aquatic landscape, the island practically begs to be explored by water.

Beaches and Coastline on Daufuskie Island

Daufuskie has around 25 miles of shoreline thanks to its ocean and sound coasts. The beachfront along the Atlantic side consists of broad, hard-packed sand punctuated in places by small tidal pools. Sand dollars and whelk shells often wash in with the tides. 

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

Since the island has avoided large-scale development, most beaches retain a rugged, unpopulated feel. Sea oats and dunes line the backdrop. The Melrose Beach area offers a popular beach with a boardwalk access trail. Bloody Point has a picturesque stretch of often empty sand. Haig Point Lighthouse looks over a scenic expanse of shore.

Bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway, the inland Calibogue Sound side has marshy conditions perfect for kayaking through maze-like tidal creeks that meander through grassy wetlands.

Unique Island Ecosystems on Daufuskie Island

How Big is Daufuskie Island?

Within its modest dimensions, Daufuskie contains unique island ecosystems:

  • Coastal Marshes and Wetlands: Daufuskie Island is surrounded by an extensive network of tidal marshes, creeks, and wetlands. These coastal ecosystems are home to various plant and animal life, including cordgrass, spartina, waterfowl, fish, crustaceans, and other estuarine species. The marshes and wetlands protect the island’s shoreline and provide critical habitat.
  • Maritime Forests: Inland from the coastal marshes, Daufuskie supports maritime forests dominated by live oak, palmetto, and other hardy, salt-tolerant tree species. These maritime forests create a unique wooded landscape, providing habitat for birds, mammals, and other wildlife adapted to the island’s coastal environment.
  • Freshwater Ponds and Streams: Daufuskie Island has freshwater features like ponds, creeks, and small streams. These aquatic ecosystems support diverse assemblages of plants, amphibians, insects, and other freshwater organisms, complementing the island’s coastal habitats.
  • Barrier Island Beaches: Daufuskie’s sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline constitute a vital barrier island ecosystem. These dynamic coastal environments host sea turtles, shorebirds, and other specialized species adapted to the island’s sandy, windswept beach habitat.

Preserving these unique island ecosystems – marshes, forests, freshwater systems, and beaches – is critical to maintaining Daufuskie’s rich biodiversity and natural character. Conservation efforts help protect the delicate balance of these habitats in the face of development pressures.

Daufuskie Island: A Remote Getaway

For an authentic low-country experience compressed into a small package, Daufuskie Island perfectly delivers. Its five-mile length allows for easy foot, bike, or golf cart exploration. Yet varied landscapes from forest to marsh to endless beach unfold thanks to the island’s diverse ecosystems and topography. Discover the magic that resides within this wee sea island.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Daufuskie Island:

How many miles long is Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie Island is about 5 miles long from Bloody Point to Hawks Point. It spans around 2.5 miles at its widest point.

What is the population of Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie has a very small year-round population of only around 45 residents. During peak tourist seasons, the population swells with vacationers and part-time residents to about 500 people.

Can you walk around Daufuskie Island? 

No, Daufuskie Island is not walkable. There are no paved roads, only sandy lanes best navigated by bicycle or golf cart. It’s around 5 miles end to end, making walking difficult and inaccessible primarily to crucial points of interest.

Do Gullah people still live on Daufuskie Island?

Yes, Daufuskie has a strong Gullah culture and community that has been preserved over the centuries thanks to the island’s isolation. Approximately 20-25% of residents today identify as Gullah and maintain cultural traditions.

Are there police on Daufuskie Island?

There is no active police force on the island. Law enforcement is provided on a needed basis by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, which can dispatch deputies from Hilton Head Island by boat if required.

Were there slaves on Daufuskie Island?

Yes, during the plantation era Daufuskie had a large slave population that worked the island’s cotton and rice fields. After emancipation, many freed slaves stayed, establishing the thriving Gullah communities.

Can you live on Daufuskie Island?

Yes, about 45 full-time residents on Daufuskie Island are largely concentrated in two small settlements—Haig Point and Melrose. Homes and private properties are available for purchase or rent.

Why is it called Bloody Point Beach?

There are a few origin theories, but Bloody Point likely gets its ominous name from a legend about a massacre between Native American tribes on the beach centuries ago. Spanish explorers may have named it after finding graves of the killed tribesmen.

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