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Doing Daufuskie: Lodging and Food Finds

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Great! You've decided to vacation on Daufuskie Island and are eager to put your plans together. You're also just a little anxious  – escaping to a remote island requires an especially thoughtful approach as resources like food and day-to-day necessities will be far more limited than what you are accustomed to. No need to worry, though. Here are some tips for ensuring you have everything you need for the perfect Daufuskie holiday.

A Place to Stay

Planning ahead is key for finding the right Daufuskie Island vacation abode for you and yours. This isn't Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head Island – if you want a specific kind of property, start searching far in advance of your trip. Last-minute planning isn't a good strategy, especially if you have a large group.

Airbnb, VRBO, HomeToGo, Orbitz and other vacation rental sites are avenues for securing an island place to lay your head. If you're looking for a little luxury for a big family or group, the gracious and spacious Captain Monroe House might fill the bill. The team at Jonbie Maison offers a host of waterfront guest cottages with plenty of creature comforts as do the folks at Daufuskie Vacation Rentals. The colorful little bungalows between the general store and Old Daufuskie Crab Co. at Freeport Marina are perfect for solo travelers or couples. If you want to experience a treasured piece of island history, try your luck at snagging a few nights in the Frances Jones House – a renovated Gullah cottage that's always in high demand. For this one, you'll need to be on top of your game and reserve far ahead. 

Find Food

There is a commonly held belief that if you don’t haul your own groceries to Daufuskie Island, you risk starvation, or at least the grim prospect of sitting down to packs of peanuts and canned sodas at mealtimes. Happily, this is not the case, unless you have specific dietary needs or preferences.

Because the majority of lodging options are equipped with a kitchen, you may well wish to prepare some meals yourself - depending on the length of your stay. A kitchen, in fact, is a desirable feature if you are dead set on taking your meals according to your own schedule.

While you might not be able to head to a store for a steak to throw on the grill, there are plenty of resources for enjoying a ready-cooked meal or putting together one of your own. And you can certainly rest assured that a snack and drink can be had without much effort, too. Here is the lowdown on the food scene on Daufuskie:

 

Old Daufuskie Crab Company 
Considered “party central” on the island, this hopping restaurant and bar might be no-frills, but it is a solid source for tasty, local sustenance. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner with live music outdoors on the weekends, this is where you’ll find the famous Daufuskie deviled crab prepared by islander Ernestine Smith. There’s also shrimp, chicken, flounder, burgers, nachos and such. Wash it down with a cold beverage or Scrap Iron cocktail – a drink steeped in island history dating back to when the Gullah smuggled their illegal moonshine concoction in their bateau canoes, carefully covering them with pieces of scrap iron to hide it from the prying eyes of revenue officers. You can only get it here – and the recipe remains a secret. Fill your belly and slake your thirst indoors or outdoors – there are plenty of seats to go around.


Freeport General Store 
Just off the docks and adjacent to Old Daufuskie Crab Co., you’ll find this island general store filled with all kinds of options for pulling together a beach picnic, hot breakfast, quick lunch and more: chips, cookies, candy, pantry items, eggs, dairy products, bread, condiments, drinks, beer, wine, etc. This is also a good place to find an island souvenir, including bumper stickers, local crafts, Daufuskie T-shirts and books written by storied author, sportsman and islander Roger Pinckney XI.


Lucy Bell’s Café 
The dining darling of Daufuskie, Lucy Bell’s popularity never waivers. There is almost always a line of folks ambling out the door and tables filled with happy diners under the oaks. Even if the Food Network had never happened upon the lunchtime oasis in 2018, this would likely be the case. Good food is good food, no matter if it is served up on a remote sea island or in a metropolitan dining room. And word travels fast on a small island like Daufuskie. Seafood, sandwiches, sides and desserts consistently hit all the right notes for freshness, flavor and presentation. Portions are generous, too. Take the cafe's most famous meal – the deviled crab dinner – served on a paper plate brimming with twin deviled crabs, rice, collards and coleslaw. The blackened redfish sandwich is just as generously plated, and the lobster roll is one of the best this side of the Mason Dixon. Keep in mind that Lucy Bell’s is closed Sunday and Monday. Plan accordingly to avoid disappointment.


Bell’s on the Beach

This beachfront restaurant and bar in Melrose serves up lunch and dinner in its oceanfront dining room. Sandwiches of all kinds – from BLTs to cheesesteak subs to shrimp po'boys – are rousing favorites by day. At night, the menu gets a little more sophisticated with steaks, shrimp scampi, bourbon-glazed salmon, Alfredo and off-the-chart burgers with killer onion rings. Cocktails, wine and beer, and live music on weekends help set the mood for memorable island dining. When the weather is fine, the on-site pool is open for your enjoyment. Of course, with the shore just steps away, a post-meal walk on the beach is always a wonderful way to conclude your time at Bell’s. Closed on Mondays; lunch served Tuesday through Sunday; dinner served Thursday through Saturday. Check the restaurant's Facebook page for special menus.


D’Fuskie’s Store & Eatery
Head down to the county dock and you’ll find this hotspot for noshing and picking up necessities and kitchen goods. Hungry? Head inside and place an order for a made-to-order pizza or deli sandwich like the Smoky, with layers of top round roast beef, smoked Gouda, roasted red peppers and pickled banana peppers, slathered with a bit of pesto mayo and tucked between marbled rye. A rotation of irresistible weekly specials draws hungry islanders, too: tacos made with fresh-off-the-press tortillas, gooey cheesesteak sandwiches, pasta night – it’s all delish. Grab a table in the spartan dining room complete with TVs for game watching and a bar for ordering up your favorite beer, wine or spirits, or eat outside on the deck. Let the kids hit the playground beneath the gorgeous live oaks while you relax. Islanders and overnight guests love the convenience of the market inside where you can buy everything from a fine bottle of wine to candy bars to a bag of grits, spaghetti fixings, milk, eggs, bread, cheese and necessary items like toothbrushes or ibuprofen. Closed Tuesdays, but hours tend to vary, so check the website for the latest.


Janie’s Devil Crab
Daufuskie Island deviled crab is legendary, and you can get your fill when you purchase directly from local Willis Simmons. Made from an island recipe that is more than a century old, these tasty beauties are made with 100 percent blue crab meat – no fillers. You can simply stop by Simmons’ house on Benjies Point Road and toot your golf cart horn (you’ll see the big sign in his front yard advertising devil crab) or give him a call at (843) 842-1263 to place an order.


Catered Meals
Earnestine Smith (the deviled crab wizard of Old Daufuskie Crab Co. fame) prepares and delivers family-style meals to locals and visitors. Think fried chicken, deviled crab, collards, peas, rice, cornbread and other delicious sides – more than your family can eat in one sitting. Call (843) 842-3011 to make arrangements.

Sallie Ann Robinson, an island native who found fame as an American cookbook author, celebrity chef and cultural historian, will also prepare a home-cooked meal using her celebrated Gullah recipes. Please call (912) 604-8210 to coordinate meals prior to your arrival.


School Grounds Coffee House
Savor a cup of freshly brewed java, chai and other tea drinks, frozen lemonade and more at this island favorite operating in the back of the historic Mary Fields School. Yummy baked goods make for fine accompaniments. Place an order at the window and enjoy it at one of the picnic tables while the kids hit the swings or test their skills on the basketball court.


Ice Cream at Fuskie Bikes Kiosk
Listen up. If you want a second-to-none sweet treat, head to Melrose Landing where you’ll find this nifty little kiosk serving up amazing soft-serve ice cream studded with the fresh fruit of your choice: strawberry, mango, pineapple, peach, blueberry, raspberry and more. Get a cup or cone and thank us later. Hours vary, so check the website for the most up-to-date information.


Saturday Farm Stand, Haig Point and Church roads
Most Saturdays, weather permitting, a small, but worth-your-while farm stand appears in this tiny lot. Fresh catch like red snapper, flounder and local shrimp are among the seasonal offerings, which also include an array of fresh veggies. Bring a cooler and stock up.

The Burger Boat
Melrose Landing is a regular stop for the Burger Boat, a Savannah operation that services the island a few times a month. But to catch them, you will need to follow postings on the food boat's Facebook page. This is where islanders fill up on juicy burgers made your way, awesome dogs, fish tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches and more. 

Daufuskie Island Distillery 
Though not a source for food per se, this island rum, vodka and bourbon distillery serves up a cocktail of the day for your enjoyment. Be aware, however, that this isn't a bar and there is a one-cocktail limit per person. And don’t try to go tooling down the road sipping a bloody mary. Daufuskie might be its own thing, but basic safety rules and laws still apply. 

Grocery Delivery 
If you still feel the need to stock up on groceries, you can get them delivered from the mainland via two services that come to the island: the Nauti Butler and Low Country Grocery Runner. Order prior to your visit and your groceries will be delivered and stocked in your vacation rental when you arrive. While it’s a little pricier than doing the shopping yourself, the convenience and variety are priceless.

 

 

 

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.