Do you have questions about the wild and wonderful place called Daufuskie Island, South Carolina? Are you looking for places to visit near Hilton Head Island? Here are some answers to help you better understand what you'll see and experience on a trip to Daufuskie.
Q: What is all that gray stuff hanging from the trees?
A: It's Spanish moss, a tropical plant (related to the pineapple!) that has no roots and gets all of its water and nutrients from the air. It especially likes to grow on live oaks but does not harm them at all.
Q: Why are many of the old houses, or windows and doors of old houses, painted blue?
A: That lovely shade of blue is called "haint blue." It was believed that the color blue would drive "haints" (ghosts or bad spirits) away from a house. It's the same reason so many Southern porch ceilings are painted blue.
Q: Why are many of the old houses under gorgeous, ancient, enormous live oaks?
A: For shade! Many were built in a time before air conditioning, or even electricity, and a shady place was important. Because most of the island was farm fields 100 years ago, people sought out the massive live oaks as places to build.
Q: Why are most of the graveyards on the water?
A: All but one of the graveyards on Daufuskie Island are right by the sea. The native islanders, mostly descendants of slaves, always built their graveyards facing east and overlooking the water. There are several legends about the reason, most dealing with the fact that the graves faced east toward Africa, or were near the waters that brought their ancestors to America and could return them home. You can visit these peaceful, beautiful spots today.
Q: Are there still plantations on Daufuskie Island?
A: No, not in the historical sense. There are no large farms on the island anymore. There are, however, three large housing developments and golf clubs that were built on land that was once occupied by plantations and derive their name from them. They are sometimes referred to as "plantations" today. There is a great community-run farm you can visit called the Daufuskie Community Farm.
Q: What are these bugs?
A: Daufuskie has its fair share of tiny biting bugs, locally known as "no see 'ums." It doesn't really matter what they are. The most important thing to know is that they can (and should) be stopped from making a meal of you. Make sure you bring lots of strong bug repellent, and while on the island, pick up a bottle of Daufuskie Survival Spray. This all-natural repellent has to be reapplied every 15 minutes or so when the bugs are really out in force, but it is remarkably effective. You can purchase this spray at the General Store at the Freeport Marina.
Q: What's a "deviled crab?"
A: It's a local specialty of crab meat that's cooked with herbs and spices, and then spooned back into the crab shell and baked. As you explore Daufuskie, look for signs outside of houses advertising deviled crabs. Knock on the front door, and the owner will sell you frozen deviled crabs you can bake at home. You also can order them at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company restaurant.
Q: Why do so many of the historic houses look so similar?
A: These old homes - low-slung with wide porches, tin roofs and centered front doors - are called "oyster houses" after the oyster industry that dominated the island from the turn of the 19th century to the late 1950s. They were all built following the same plans.
Q: Where do the Gullah people live?
A: "Gullah" refers to the distinct culture and history of the people of the Sea Islands of South Carolina who are the descendants of slaves. Because the Sea Islands were geographically isolated from the rest of the country in the decades after the Civil War (before bridges were built connecting them to the mainland), the people were left alone to develop their own folklore, arts and crafts, cuisine and even dialect. In this academic sense, the African-American people of Daufuskie were Gullah. Be aware, though, that many of the people who were born and grew up on Daufuskie Island would never identify themselves that way. Some people, but certainly not all of them, even find the word somewhat offensive. They would say they are simply American, like everyone else.