Where is Daufuskie Island?

Where is Daufuskie Island?

Nestled between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia, lies one of the last genuinely remote sea islands—Daufuskie Island. This serene isle feels worlds away yet is just a five-mile ferry ride from the popular resort area of Hilton Head. Daufuskie offers an authentically low-country experience. Exploring requires golf carts or bicycles along sandy lanes.  

Location & Geography

Daufuskie Island is located in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region, south of Beaufort and north of the Savannah River. 

The small island is about 5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, encompassing over 8,000 acres. It’s positioned near the entrance to Calibogue Sound, a tidal estuary that separates it from Hilton Head. Daufuskie is only accessible by boat—a passenger ferry runs regularly from Bluffton, SC, and Hilton Head. There are no bridges to the island. 

Where is Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie has around 25 miles of shoreline fronting the Atlantic Ocean and inland waterways. Its diverse ecosystems include lush maritime forests, salt marshes, oyster beds, and tidal creeks. The ocean side has wide, unspoiled beaches, while the marshy Calibogue Sound side offers peaceful kayaking through the grassy wetlands.

History & Culture

Daufuskie has a rich Gullah history and culture. Gullah refers to African Americans on the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia who maintained much of their ancestral heritage from West Africa through centuries of isolation.  

Where is Daufuskie Island?

During the colonial era, Daufuskie Island and other sea islands were ideal for growing rice and indigo thanks to their tidal irrigation and hot climate. African slaves were brought to the US to work these plantations. After emancipation, the freed slaves established self-sufficient communities on the islands, sticking to traditional crafts, foodways, music, and storytelling traditions. 

This isolated island environment allowed Gullah culture to remain intact through the 1900s. Today it lives on through arts like sweetgrass basket weaving and storytelling events that share Gullah history and folklore. Local galleries showcase works by Gullah artists and artisans.

Things to Do on Daufuskie Island

Despite its small size, Daufuskie Island has a bounty of low-country adventures. Outdoor pursuits take advantage of the island’s diverse ecosystems and secluded location: 

Where is Daufuskie Island?
  • Kayaking – Paddle through the tidal creek or go to undeveloped shoreline beaches. See wildlife like egrets, oystercatchers, and dolphins. Calibogue Sound is calm and ideal for beginners.
  • Biking – Explore miles of uncongested sandy lanes passing old farmhouses, maritime forests, and ocean vistas. Rent a bicycle or bring your own over on the ferry.
  • Beachcombing – Daufuskie’s beaches are uncrowded, making for excellent shelling and beach exploring. You can find sand dollars, whelks, and olive shells along the Atlantic shore.
  • Birdwatching – Spot egrets, herons, ospreys, painted buntings, and wood storks around the island’s salt marshes, maritime forests, and beaches. Prime birding is from May through October. 
  • Fishing – Cast for red drum, sea trout, flounder, and more in the surrounding waterways. Charter boats leave from Freeport Marina to fish inshore or offshore.
  • Golf – Play a round on the challenging course at Melrose Golf Club, set within a lush Audobon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Dining & Nightlife on Daufuskie Island

There are few dining or nightlife options, but a stay on Daufuskie Island does include delicious low-country fare. Local favorites include:

Where is Daufuskie Island?
  • Bells at the Beach: This restaurant at the Beach Club offers stunning ocean views and a variety of seating options, including indoor, outdoor, and screened porch areas. Their new menu and dinner specials cater to the entire family.
  • Lucy Belle’s Cafe: Opened in late 2016, this restaurant from the “Daufuskie Entertains” catering business has become a local favorite for its hearty, southern-style lunches served quickly.  The cafe is located at the intersection of Benjie’s Point Road and School Road.
  • Old Daufuskie Crab Company: Situated in the Freeport Marina, this establishment serves a range of southern dishes such as deviled crab, local fish, chicken quesadillas, and burgers. Seating is available at picnic tables outside with views of the Freeport dock.
  • School Grounds Coffee: Housed in Maryfield School’s old cafeteria, this coffee shop offers high-quality coffee, iced lemonades, teas, and sweet treats.
  • D’Fuskies: Located at the public landing at the county dock, D’Fuskies provides deli sandwiches, pizza, and a general store for various needs.
  • Freeport Marina: Visit the open-air bar here for sunset drinks and live music, which is provided by local musicians many evenings.

A Stay at the Haig Point Lighthouse

For a fantastic Daufuskie experience, book a stay at the historic Haig Point Lighthouse, built in 1873. The lighthouse cottage’s guests enjoy panoramic views of Calibogue Sound from the tower balcony. The beach is just 200 yards away.

Where is Daufuskie Island?

Start the morning with coffee on the deck amid the Live Oaks. Try crabbing off the dock before an afternoon kayaking through the grassy marsh. End the day gathered around the fire pit under the stars, sharing a bottle of local Gullah wine.

A round in nearby Melrose Golf Club completes the Lowcountry escape. Then gather for dinner and storytelling at Marshside Mama’s to soak in the island’s enduring Gullah heritage.

How To Get To Daufuskie Island

Where is Daufuskie Island?

Reaching Daufuskie requires taking a scenic ferry ride:

From Hilton Head Island, the Calibogue Sound ferry takes 45 minutes. It leaves Broad Creek Marina on the south end of Hilton Head multiple times per day. Parking is available.

From Bluffton, the passenger-only ferry takes 20 minutes from the Bluffton Oyster Factory dock. Look for available public parking.

Advanced reservations are recommended as capacity is limited. The ferry ride provides spectacular views.

Note: There is no bridge access to Daufuskie. You can also charter private boats or a scenic seaplane. Many guests fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and then take the Hilton Head ferry.

Why Visit Daufuskie Island?

Daufuskie Island delivers for travelers seeking authentic low-country culture and savory coastal landscapes away from crowded resorts. Here are the top reasons to visit this unspoiled sea island:

Where is Daufuskie Island?
  • Immerse in Gullah history and heritage through food, arts, and storytelling
  • Wander completely uncongested beaches, forests, and country roads teeming with wildlife
  • Savor incredible seafood fresh from the surrounding sound and ocean 
  • Enjoy outdoor pursuits like kayaking, biking, birding, fishing and golf
  • Meet talented local artisans in weaving, painting, sculpture, and other media
  • Learn the storied history of the island’s plantations, freed slaves, and their descendants 
  • Experience iconic low country nightlife and dining at places like Marshside Mama’s
  • Return home feeling restored after escaping the stresses and pace of daily life 

For a vacation back in time with natural coastal beauty, plan your trip to Daufuskie Island, South Carolina’s undeveloped treasure.

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

Can you drive a car on Daufuskie Island?

No, there are no paved roads on Daufuskie, only sandy lanes. The island is meant to be explored by golf cart or bicycle. Some lodging properties may allow you to bring a car over on the ferry, but it won’t be helpful on the island.

What famous people live on Daufuskie? 

Some celebrity homeowners reportedly include John Mellencamp, Chris Rock, and Jack Nicklaus. The secluded island offers private estates.

What is Daufuskie Island known for?

Daufuskie is known for its pristine beaches, Gullah culture, southern hospitality, seafood cuisine, and general remoteness. It’s a place to unplug and immerse yourself in low-country island life. 

How do you get to Daufuskie Island?

The only way to access Daufuskie is by passenger ferry or private boat. Ferries run regularly from Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, SC. Many guests fly into Savannah airport and then ferry over. 

How much does it cost to go to Daufuskie Island?

The ferry ride costs around $35 round trip. Golf cart rentals are around $60 per day. There is no gate fee or entry cost to Daufuskie itself. Accommodations vary from around $200 to $600 per night. 

Do you have to take a ferry to Daufuskie Island?

Yes, the ferry is the only public transportation to Daufuskie. Private boat charters are another option but you cannot drive directly to the island via car.

How long is the ferry ride to Daufuskie Island? 

The Daufuskie Island Ferry takes 1 hour from Buckingham Landing at the base of the Hilton Head bridges to Daufuskie Island, crossing through Calibogue Sound. The ferry runs 4 times daily at 7 am, 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, with an additional late night 9 pm trip on Fridays. Return trips from Daufuskie are at 8:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, and 5:30 pm, plus a 10:15 pm trip on Fridays. The round-trip ticket is affordable at only $35 per person.

What movie was filmed on Daufuskie Island?

The 1994 Disney movie adaptation of The Jungle Book was partly filmed on Daufuskie. The island’s natural scenery replaced the jungle setting in the film.

Why is Daufuskie Island abandoned?

Daufuskie is not abandoned but still has only around 45 full-time residents. Its isolation and lack of development, paved roads, and infrastructure make it seem almost abandoned compared to busier tourist islands. But it very much has residents, businesses, and vacation properties.

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