Daufuskie Island

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Daufuskie Island Historic District
Haig Point Lighthouse, Daufuskie, South Carolina.jpg
Haig Point Rear Range Light
Daufuskie Island is located in South Carolina
Daufuskie Island
Daufuskie Island is located in the US
Daufuskie Island
Nearest city Hilton Head, South Carolina
Coordinates 32°6′47″N 80°51′59″W / 32.11306°N 80.86639°W / 32.11306; -80.86639Coordinates: 32°6′47″N 80°51′59″W / 32.11306°N 80.86639°W / 32.11306; -80.86639
Built 1728
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP Reference # 82003831
Added to NRHP June 2, 1982[1]

Daufuskie Island, located between Hilton Head Island and Savannah is the southernmost sea island in South Carolina. It is 5 miles (8.0 km) long by almost 2.5 miles (4.0 km) wide – approximate surface area of 8 square miles (21 km2) (5,000 acres). With over 3 miles (4.8 km) of beachfront, Daufuskie is surrounded by the waters of Calibouge Sound, Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.

Accessible only by ferry or barge, and with a full-time population of just over 400, Daufuskie Island encompasses a rich cultural experience, with environmental preserves, private communities, resorts, Gullah houses, diverse art galleries and history. The island was named a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places due to its Gullah and Civil War history.[2][3] The island is also the setting of Pat Conroy’s novel The Water Is Wide recounting Conroy’s experiences teaching on Daufuskie in the 1960s.


The island's recorded history traces back to Pre Revolutionary War times. It was the site of a skirmish called the "Daufuskie Fight" during the Yemassee War of 1715–1717. The island was home to a sizable population of Gullah inhabitants from the end of the Civil War until very recently. The Jimmy Buffett song, "Prince Of Tides" (from his 1988 album, Hot Water) laments the urbanization of the island and loss of the Gullah.[citation needed] Pat Conroy's 1972 book The Water is Wide was set on Daufuskie, fictionalized as Yamacraw Island. The book recounts Conroy's experiences teaching on the island in the 1960s.

The Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation has a museum with historical artifacts of the island as well as a display with information about the Gullah history of the island.


The island is now split into five parts.

To the northeast is the Haig Point Club[1], a private, member owned residential club with around 150 year-round residents and over 225 homes.

South of Haig Point is the Daufuskie Resort, Melrose on the Beach. Formerly a private vacation club with an emphasis on golf and tennis, and offering a private residential component, this is now a publicly accessible resort. Farther south on the eastern side of the island is Oak Ridge, a small undeveloped oceanfront community, followed by Bloody Point, a semi-private residential and golf club community.

The western part of the island is unincorporated land. Several dozen residents live in a variety of accommodations, from trailers to beautiful waterfront homes with private docks. This section of the island received federal designation as a Historical District in the early 1980s. According to a study conducted by the Savannah College of Art and Design, the island has excellent examples of Gullah homes which have not been altered. There are descendants of the Gullah people living in this area on land which they have owned since just after the Civil War.

A census in 2007 by the local Daufuskie Island Fire and Rescue Department counted a total of just 429 residents living full-time on the entire island. Rock musician John Mellencamp built a house on the island and uses it as a retreat. [4]

Haig Point Front Range Light
Daufuskie Island

Culture and Governance[edit]

The island is also home to the First Union African Baptist Church, which is Daufuskie's oldest building, and is still in use today as a place of worship.

There are two historic lighthouses on Daufuskie Island. The Bloody Point Lighthouse, built in 1883, and the Haig Point Lighthouse, built ten years earlier.

The island is part of Beaufort County, SC and has an elected council composed of representatives from the Island’s existing groups including the Historic District, Island Conservancy, and Property Owner’s Associations. The Daufuskie Island Council serves as the official voice between Daufuskie and the County.


Daufuskie Island School is a Beaufort County public school built in 1997. It is a modern facility with two classrooms, lunchroom and library. The students are in multigrade classrooms; Pre-K through 2nd grade and 3rd grade through 5th grade. Generally there are around 15-18 students each year and the school has significant community support and many volunteers on the island.

Students in grades 6–12 are transported to the Hilton Head Middle School and High School by a ferry. On Daufuskie, these students take a small school bus to the ferry. Once the students reach Hilton Head, they are picked up by a county school bus and taken to their appropriate school campus. The entire trip is about an hour and ten minutes each morning and afternoon. The students often do their homework or simply nap during the boat ride.


There are no bridges that connect Daufuskie with mainland South Carolina; therefore all island access must come by boat. A public ferry makes several daily transits between Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head and Melrose Landing on Daufuskie.

Beaufort County provides a subsidized ferry that transports residents. The Haig Point Club has its own private ferry service. There are also several private companies that provide high speed water taxi services to the island. Residents of the clubs, as well as some of the other residents on the island, use golf carts and bicycles to travel around the island, although there are a handful of cars and trucks, too.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Dolphins gliding in front of the Haig Point private ferry

The Daufuskie Island Conservancy is one of several local organizations charged with preserving the ecosystem, flora and fauna, and quality of life on Daufuskie Island. Details of these groups and their meetings can be found at the island's only news source The Daufuskie Front Porch. In addition there is a web portal for the island with local interests and local business listings at Daufuskie Tides

Daufuskie Island boasts a wide variety of nature and animal life. One of the notable animals that inhabits the island is the fox squirrel. The bald eagle is also one of the magnificent creatures found on the island. During the day, you can see eagles soaring high in the air and occasionally swooping into the water for a catch.


Daufuskie Island has a humid subtropical climate.

Climate data for Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 60
Average low °F (°C) 39
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.8
Source: Weatherbase[5]

Resort amenities[edit]

The island has four golf courses, the Bloody Point Course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, the Melrose Golf Course designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the 20 hole Haig Point Signature Course plus the 9-hole Haig Point Osprey Course designed by Rees Jones.

The 20-hole Haig Point Golf Course is designed to be played as two separate 18-hole courses, one easier, one more difficult. The course has two extra "easy" par threes and many holes have two sets of tees. It is a unique and ingenious design that allows every level of player to enjoy the Signature Course and its natural beauty. Ten of the twenty holes have spectacular marsh, sound and ocean views.

Notable natives[edit]

In Popular Culture[edit]

The Jimmy Buffett song, "Prince Of Tides" (from his 1988 album, Hot Water) laments the development of Daufuskie and loss of the Gullah culture.

Pat Conroy's 1972 book The Water is Wide is set on Daufuskie, fictionalized as Yamacraw Island. The book recounts Conroy's experiences teaching on the island in 1969. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award from the National Education Association and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy’s novel describing his teaching experience on Daufuskie, was made into a feature film, “Conrack”, starring Jon Voight in 1974. The novel was also produced as “The Water Is Wide” (2006 film), a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie starring Jeff Hephner.

In the novel Reefer Moon (2009), by Roger Pinckney, the principle action takes place on Daufuskie, as well as other Lowcountry locations.

The adventure novel Daufuskie Island (2016), by John Lueder, is centered on Daufuskie.

One episode of the National Geographic Channel television series “Diggers” (S2, E10; 2013) featured professional treasure hunters Tim Saylor and George ‘KG’ Wyant visiting Daufuskie seeking pirate’s gold.

The March 2014 issue of Architectural Digest magazine featured the Daufuskie part-time home of singer John Mellencamp.

The romance novel A Ferry to Catch: Daufuskie Island (2016), by Carol Bellhouse, features life on Daufuskie.

Travel + Leisure magazine designated restaurant Marshside Mama’s, at the County Landing on Daufuskie, as one of the “Ten Best Beach Bars in America.

Travel TV Channel show “Bizarre Foods America” featured a segment with Daufuskie native Sallie Ann Robinson on a show (S1, E8; 2012) dedicated to Lowcountry and Gullah food and culture.


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Starr, Rebecca (1981). "Daufuskie Island Historic District" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Daufuskie Island Historic District, Beaufort County (Daufuskie Island)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Architectural Digest, March 2014
  5. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, United States of America". Retrieved January 4, 2016. 

External links[edit]