South Carolina Sea Islands: Take a Day Trip to Daufuskie Island

By:Kerry Egan

Date:5/21/2015

Everyone knows it's more fun to drive a golf cart than to drive a real car. But even better is driving one down the dirt roads, through the cabbage palmettos, and under the dripping live oaks of a sparsely populated, mostly undeveloped Sea Island in search of history, art, deviled crabs and the beach.

A day trip to Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, just off the coast of Hilton Head Island, gives you the chance to see for yourself.

Daufuskie is an island like no other. A barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, it remains largely untouched by modern development. There are no grocery stores, no strip malls, no gas stations and no bridge to the island.

There are, however, gorgeous beaches, rich history, beautiful art and a fun island vibe.

Enjoy Daufuskie offers public ferry service to the island from Hilton Head. Their day-trip packages give you the option of taking a guided tour or renting a golf cart and exploring the island on your own. Or both.

Guided tours on an old, painted school bus like something from the movies, take a couple of hours. Tour guides, often longtime residents, offer not just history but personal stories that make the island come alive.

After the tour, you’ll definitely want to get a golf cart. Take the map from the ferry company, put the kids in the back, turn up the radio and start exploring every little road you come upon. Historic cottages emerge from lush forests. Live oaks loom above, and bright beaches twinkle at the end of the road.

You might be happy spending the entire day on the beach, and in fact, many families do just that. The map, as well as half a dozen signs nailed to trees, will point you to the spectacular public beach. Just make sure you bring some sunscreen and water. There are no convenience stores or snack bars to ruin the natural beauty or provide you will a cool drink. But if you want to soak in undisturbed beaches as far as the eye can see, there is no better place to go.

After a few hours at the beach, it’s time to keep exploring. Have the kids search for tabby ruins among the trees. They also can play in the old, restored one-room schoolhouse that now serves as part museum, part public library. Adults will enjoy reading and looking at the photographs from years past, when Daufuskie had almost no visitors whatsoever. The kids will love the swing hanging from a massive oak tree at Iron Fish Gallery, and adults can look at award-winning folk art (and take something home.) Before you know it, the afternoon will be over. Time to zip back to the marina.

Lunch at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company is included in the price of the day trip. You can order off the menu for standard pub food fare, but you can’t go wrong with the lunch buffet. Made by Daufuskie native Chef Ernestine, it’s a great array of traditional Gullah foods, from stewed okra and tomatoes to roasted chicken. It changes every day.

When you get off the ferry back on Hilton Head, you'll feel like you've been in two worlds in one day.

So if your family is in search of miles of untouched beaches, fascinating history and Gullah culture, take a day trip to Daufuskie Island part of your vacation to Hilton Head.

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