Daufuskie Island is only thirty minutes from Hilton Head by boat, and an hour from Savannah, but it feels like you’re going back 100 years in time. Still sandy dirt roads reveal an island that is rich in history and nature with one of the most beautiful and fragile beaches on the East Coast.
Native Americans lived on Daufuskie ten-thousand years ago leaving many artifacts that tell of their presence. Indians remained on Daufuskie until the 1800s.
The Spanish came to the Island in the 1500’s when Daufuskie was part of Florida bringing a building technique called “tabby” construction using oyster shells as a base. The Spaniards left a herd of sturdy small horses called “marsh tackys”.
Plantations were started in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s when England ruled South Carolina. For the most part, Daufuskie land grants were given to wealthy English families by the King of England. The early planters grew indigo, and later, long-staple sea island cotton. At the start of the Civil War, there were seven working plantations on Daufuskie Island, working many slaves.
Union forces captured Daufuskie in 1861. Thousands of troops were camped on Daufuskie during the Civil War until 1865. At the end of the War, Daufuskie was inhabited primarily by freed slaves. These residents, because of the isolation of the Island, kept a culture alive that would have disappeared decades ago. The culture is called “Gullah” and remains to this day on Daufuskie Island. The word “Gullah” may come from Angola, the African nation origin of many slaves.
In 1974 the famous motion picture, “Conrack”, was a story about on Daufuskie Island based on the award-winning autobiographical book, The Water Is Wide, by Pat Conroy. This is a story which recounted Pat’s early days of teaching African-American children at the Island’s two-room schoolhouse in 1969.
In 1984, Doctor Jack Scurry built the first Marina on Daufuskie Island. Soon after came the Haig Point and Melrose developments. With no airport or bridge on this isolated and beautiful island, Daufuskie is a rare gem that can be visited by private boats or public ferries.
At the Daufuskie Island Resort and Breathe Spa, visitors travel paved roads in golf carts, watch the sun rise over the Atlantic from luxurious rooms at the Inn, quaint beach cottages, or sprawling private homes. Outside the plantations, island residents travel dirt roads at a leisurely pace and enjoy the beauty of Daufuskie and a quiet lifestyle.