Powered by Blogger.

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of the links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Earlier this summer, we all went on a mini-vacation by visiting Daufuskie Island. It's off the coast of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and is accessible only by a twice-daily ferry.

There's one restaurant, one hotel, and one sundries store where you can buy a $2.00 snack-size bag of Cheetos that normally costs 78 cents at a convenience store. I guess that's the price you pay when everything (and I mean everything) has to be carted in by boat.

Everyone rides around on golf carts because they are so much better on gas, and the imported gas is SO expensive (at $4+ a gallon, wouldn't you want to be eco-friendly?).

In other words, it's one of the coolest, most serene places I've ever been. There are very few cars, no billboards, no cell phone reception--the perfect way to spend a day with my family.

Best of all, it's the ultimate in Hilton Head day trips, as it's an easy ferry ride to and from the marina on Hilton Head Island. While I definitely encourage you to stay longer than just a day, you can easily get a taste of Daufuskie Island by taking the morning ferry, riding or hiking around the island, and then arriving back in Hilton Head by supper time.


Booking.com


Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com
The sundries store on Daufuskie Island

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com
Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com
One of the main roads through the biggest town on the island!
The reason for visiting Daufuskie Island was for my sister's birthday. She'd wanted to visit for awhile, and the fact that she would get to drive a golf cart during our visit only enhanced the appeal. That woman is crazy about a golf cart! 

(Most little kids save up for a doll or a bike or a video game. Not my sister, who actually had a golf cart fund going there for a while in elementary school.)

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com

Stop #1: Daufuskie Island Museum


My entire family loves history, so we started out by visiting the Daufuskie Island museum, where we learned about the earliest settlements, arguments over who owns the island (as it is close to the South Carolina / Georgia border), and Pat Conroy's early teaching career on Daufuskie Island.

It's small, but very well done. It's also a fantastic way to dive into the incredible history and culture here on the island.

FUN FACT! Daufuskie is actually derived from the Gullah-Geechee people who still live there. The word "Daufuskie" is Gullah for "Da Furst Key," or "The First Key." Have I ever mentioned that I find linguistics fascinating?!

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com



Stop #2: Daufuskie Island Library 


Armed with some new knowledge, we hopped back on our luxurious golf cart and continued our gallivanting around the island.

We stopped at the library (and former one room schoolhouse), where my sister got put into detention for throwing spitballs. It's incredible to think that Pat Conroy--the revered Charleston writer who wrote many novels, including Prince of Tides--got his start teaching in this tiny spot.

Another fun fact that's only tangentially related, but is still fun: my husband's great-aunt was once Pat Conroy's high school English teacher!

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com



Stop #3: First Union African Baptist Church


We also explored this historic church on Daufuskie. This beautiful building was actually built on the site of an earlier church which was built in 1881--and then burned down in 1884.

Like many of the island's properties, the church has served in many capacities over the years as the needs of the community changed. After the church was rebuilt, worship services were held for over 20 years, while it simultaneously served as a schoolhouse in the early part of the 20th century.

By the 1950s, the population of Daufuskie Island had fallen so steeply that there was no need for the church to remain active. It stayed shuttered for over a decade, until 1968 when the population had recooped enough to require gathering space once more.

In the last 40 years, the church has once again became a thriving part of the Daufuskie Island community, and it now serves as an active church and a historical reminder of the island's history.

The church, along with pretty much every other building we visited, was open to the public.

Other than at the museum, we didn't need a ticket, there weren't any lines or crowds, and everything was done on the honors system. The buildings were unlocked and unmanned, and visitors are asked to be respectful and not damage anything.

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com


Stop #4: Melrose Resort


The island really did have some unusual places to roam around, including a few spooky ones like an abandoned golf course and a Victorian-era graveyard.

We stumbled upon the Melrose Resort, which looked like something out of a horror film. 

Thankfully, nothing jumped out to grab us while we were exploring the property, but it was eerie to see such a vast estate crumbling right by the ocean.

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com

Above, my husband, Landon, and I are standing on the porch of the resort's golf pro shop, which is just one of the many buildings on the Melrose Resort. There's also an 18-hole golf course (which has mostly been taken over by nature at this point), an inn, and multiple beachfront cottages. 

UPDATE: When we were visiting the island several years ago, the property was not in great condition, and, as of late 2018, it is still abandoned (and for sale, if you can come up with a few million in cash!). If you plan on exploring the property, be cautious, as things are not structurally sound after rotting for more than a decade.

Stop #5: Gullah Cemeteries

As I mentioned earlier, the island is seeped in the Gullah-Geechee culture, and many of the island's original slaves have descendants remaining on Daufuskie who keep the language and traditions alive.

While you're visiting Daufuskie Island, I encourage you to talk to the people you'll meet along your way: they're typically very happy to share stories and tips with you and even point you onto your next stop. 

After you learn from the living, it's time to head to the cemeteries to learn a bit about those who once called the island home. There are 6 Gullah cemeteries on the island, and all incorporate the wild, untamed approach that's vastly different than the carefully maintained burial plots you're probably used to. 

The original headstones were made of wood, so the earliest burials are no longer evident. What you can see date from the 1920s to the present, and most still allow for contemporary burials. 

The uninhibited greenery that you see all of the cemeteries doesn't mean that no one is taking care of them; it's quite the opposite, in fact! Originally, the Gullah people were buried in the shaded forest areas without much regard for perfectly lined up graves: it was a return to nature, so there was no need to have parallel lines among the plots. 

Daufuskie Island's Gullah cemeteries remain in this tradition, so local plants and vines are allowed to grow among and over the established graves. If you're as fascinated with Gullah burial traditions as I am, you'll definitely want to include time to carefully wander through at least one of the island's cemeteries.

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com


Final Thoughts on Visiting Daufuskie Island


While the trip 'round the island left us sticky in the July heat and covered in dust from our golf cart travels, it was definitely worth the trouble that it took to get there. Because of the isolation, you get to experience a little slice of Southern life--dirt roads, beautiful live oaks, old clapboard houses-- that is quickly disappearing as more people move to the area.

So, the next time you're near the South Carolina/ Georgia border, plan your own secret Hilton Head day trip and catch the ferry to Daufuskie Island for an experience you won't soon forget.

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com


What do you think about visiting Daufuskie Island? Does something WAY off the beaten path like this appeal to you on your travels?

PIN ME!

Visiting Daufuskie Island, South Carolina: A Secret Hilton Head Day Trip | CosmosMariners.com
______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!

Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup