For families that seeks intimate seclusion, Daufuskie Island Resort and Club is the perfect tranquil backdrop.
Daufuskie Island Resort and Club is certainly “a world apart.” Located one nautical mile off the coast of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, this casual retreat lets families unwind in a beautiful and isolated island setting. Getting to Daufuskie is an adventure in itself; our family’s journey included a car, a ferry and a bus ride.
In previous years, after landing on Hilton Head, Daufuskie guests would find the resort’s marina, from which ferries still depart several times each day. Since spring 2007, Daufuskie Island has run ferry service directly from Savannah, Georgia, cutting nearly one hour off the drive time. This ferry departs from the Savannah Welcome Center at 425 East River Street six times a day for the scenic trip along the Savannah River.
The traditional Hilton Head ferry has an indoor seating area with tables and an open roof-top deck with padded benches which we chose. Our children enjoyed the 45-minute boat ride as we glided past pelicans, ducks and other seabirds. Daufuskie’s helpful bellmen check in your luggage dockside, then bring it directly to your room or cottage on arrival. At the marina, there is also a shop, playground and staffed desk, as well as 24-hour secured parking, for guest convenience.
A Central Inn & Cottages
After a short bus ride from the resort’s marina and an easy check-in, we quickly settled into our large room, ready for a rest. Rooms in the Melrose Inn are very spacious. Our room included two queen beds, a single day bed, card-size table with chairs (great for snacks and games), plenty of drawer and closet space, coffeemaker and a bathroom with large tub and two sinks. The small refrigerator was empty, waiting for the bountiful supply of snacks and drinks that we brought with us. The lovely view from our room included the golf course and the waters of the Calibogue Sound beyond.
Private cottages are also available and perfect for families. Daufuskie’s colorful cottages reminded me of summer camp (but much nicer!) and are scattered along both sides of a path that leads from the inn to the Beach Club amongst a grove of fragrant pine trees. The cottages have two bedrooms and can be combined to create a four-bedroom unit. Each cottage has a full kitchen, washer and dryer, very large rooms with two queen beds in each, two bathrooms, good-sized living area with fireplace, books and a screened porch. The bright, casual furniture makes these accommodations very charming.
In the main inn, you can find a lounge for playing pool, and upscale dining in the Stoddard Room. Since the only cars on Daufuskie Island are the resort’s maintenance and shuttle vehicles, a golf cart is highly recommended for families. (Bikes and golf carts can be rented from the inn.) The walk from the inn to the Beach Club was about a mile, too far for pre-schoolers but a very pleasant walk. On the ocean side of the inn, we found lawn bowling, croquet, a nice pitch-and-putt golf course and a quaint gazebo for enjoying the view.
We enjoyed dining at Jake’s Place Grill at the Melrose Golf Clubhouse. The varied menu was reasonably priced with a good choice of entrees for children. However, we could have done without the large-screen TV flashing violent programming during our meal.
Additional dining and shopping options are available in Harbourtown on Hilton Head Island. Daufuskie offers a regularly scheduled water taxi to get you there and back. We met some families who even headed back to the main ferry terminal for other dining choices.
Families usually enjoy fixing meals in their cottages. The resort’s small general store sells snacks, drinks and other food items in case you did not bring a full stock of cooking supplies with you. With advance notice, they will also prepare pizza and rotisserie chickens, but for a price.
For groups and large reunion gatherings, Daufuskie offers a beautiful and new meeting facility, the Island House, near the golf clubhouse.
Golfers in your family will appreciate Daufuskie’s two 18-hole championship courses: the signature Jack Nicklaus’ Melrose Course and historically named Bloody Point Course, where golfers can come play for the day or on an overnight stay. The clubhouse has a golf shop and locker rooms in addition to the restaurant mentioned above, and club rentals and lessons are available. Also located at the clubhouse are eight Har-Tru tennis courts in a Stan Smith-designed tennis complex.
During our visit, we found construction going on at the Beach Club to extend the covered patio area. Now completed, it serves as a seasonal dining option. The Beach Club overlooks two pools, a whirlpool and a kiddie pool. Luckily for us in March, the pool was well heated and the children spent an afternoon swimming. We didn’t check out the new Breathe Spa but the decent fitness center has large locker rooms for swimmers and exercisers. A nearby arcade with video games, pool, ping-pong, etc. keeps families entertained on rainy days. There is also a good-size playground, and gear for basketball and beach volleyball available to guests.
During the school breaks, Daufuskie really comes alive with plenty of family activities and a fun children’s program. The supervised Kids Kottage opens year-round for half ($37) and full-day ($70) programs with lunch, designed for children ages 4-12 years. In summer, there’s a daily, more structured Camp Calibogue (pronounced KAL-lee-boe-gee) for ages 6-12 years, for those families who know you have to register early. There’s also a seasonal Kids Night Out which offers parents a break while their 4-12 year-olds are entertained and fed.
During our stay, our children truly enjoyed their time at the Kid’s Kottage. Adam, a college intern studying recreation, was happy to see us and our kids after a few quiet, off-season weeks. He led the children in games, crafts and cookie making. We all appreciated his enthusiasm.
An array of watersports and landsports is available throughout the summer, plus guided nature tours, family crafts, kayak rentals and water skiing. Families keep as busy as they want with a full list of daily activities organized by the resort. For those seeking additional relaxation, a new spa recently opened at the Bloody Witch golf course that can be reached by resort shuttle and, soon, by golf cart.
The gray-gold sand of this Atlantic beach is unspoiled and uncrowded. A walk back from the Beach Club to the Melrose Inn gave us plenty of time to find lots of shells, driftwood and some errant jellyfish. We are still trying to figure out where to find all the sand dollars and starfish that someone left drying on a table by the inn. But, we did spot a large pod of dolphins swimming through the Sound. At low tide, we felt as if we could walk right out to them.
The horse fans in your family will love the full service Equestrian Center at the entrance to the resort. Lessons, trail rides and more are offered to all ages, at reasonable fees.
The (800/648-6778, 843/842-2000) is located at 421 Squire Pope Road, Hilton Head, SC 29926. In addition to families, Daufuskie is also a pet-friendly resort. Special packages for families traveling with dogs and cats include a keepsake water dish, pet treats, special ID tag that includes resort information, and special hikes to do with pets.
I must note that Daufuskie does have it share of pests. The Carolina Low Country is well known for nasty “no see ums,” small bugs that love to attack your scalp! Depending on the weather and the wind, these pests may or may not be a problem. Families should be prepared with chemical insect repellent, static cling dryer sheets or Avon’s Skin So Soft lotion, a scent which bugs despise.
Overall, our family found the Daufuskie Island Club to be a tranquil getaway with a laid-back Southern atmosphere. The resort’s top level of service, family-friendly accommodations which made our stay easy, and the varied activities add up to make this a great vacation destination. By the way, ferry transportation is included in overnight, golf, or activity packages for Daufuskie Island Resort guests, but you can buy tickets for day trips.
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