Daufuskie Island Things to Do
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Although Hilton Head Island is largely thought of as a playground for the rich or a great area for water activities like boating, fishing and all that is considered "Low Country" in Southern lifestyle, it also possesses a history of ancients, Indians and perhaps most notable in terms of a surviving culture -- The Gullah. Depending on when or where one utters the word "Gullah", the facial expressions range from blank stares to elation from those who grew up watching the Nickelodeon program "Gullah Gullah Island." Which to the latter thought, it should be noted that this show was a very strange and poor reflection of the Gullah Culture itself. But for all intensive traveler purposes, the only things you need to know until you arrive, is that the Gullah and or the Geechee (from Georgia), are direct descendants of former slaves who since Emancipation, have largely defined most of what is considered "The South." In terms of food, art, craft, music and just about every other aspect of life here, the Gullah have been the authors, artists and spiritual underwriters. Furthermore, when one gets down to the roots of the South's gothicness or mysticism, the Gullah have also been the resident poets of regional spiritual concepts like "haints", "hants", "witches", "conjurers", "root doctors", "goofer dust", "hags" and other terms relative to evoking fear and concern for one's safety! In addition, their language merits more surprise as they speak a dialect that the U.S. Government identifies as "indigenous" to the United States! Which turns out is a playful mix of European, Nigerian and even odd bits of Gaelic! Perhaps most surprising is that most people have no concept that 750,000 Gullah-Geechee live right under everyone's noses inside of the United States! Hopefully your own eyes raised at that one! Okay, so now that their mysteriousness has been established, might it further intrigue the reader to know that a mere handful of them reside on Daufuskie Island and that they are in so many words, the oldest "Keepers" of this complex and sacred culture? Or better yet, that one could not only see and experience their land, but that one could have access to them through the story presentation of an islander who is counted by them as a friend and surrogate? Well hold one's breath no more because this previously unavailable opportunity is now a daily and nightly program and your storytelling island host is a man known to the Gullah as Low Country Joe.
In many respects, visiting Daufuskie Island during the day proves to be a very transporting journey. For one, its only accessible by boat and that by itself smacks of adventure and anticipation. Cruising the visually stunning waterways for an hour continues to add to the excitement of reward for the tourist. But in most cases, people arrive to discover that as an outsider, their options are rather limited in terms of satisfying true discovery. Meaning? Typically one arrives to find that they have option to rent a golf cart and a map but are generally left to one's own devices. Which yes, appeals to everyone's internal sense of wanderlust. But to those that wish to go deeper with the place, to come away with up close understanding and knowledge, Daufuskie can leave one feeling a little left out and emptyhanded. In reality, the majority go home never knowing or caring that there was a difference to be found. But for those who have advance knowledge that the island has secrets to be revealed, it can be kind of a bummer. There are some advertised touring options for Daufuskie, but they are either above the budgets of most or are vaguely offered by existing companies who it might be argued, have less interest in unveiling the island's greater mysteries and are more motivated by...well just letting you figure it out. Sad but true. Which is why Low Country Joe's Excursions is the best possible elixir for the truth seeking romantics drawn to Daufuskie's shores. Not only does he have this very special stature on the island as keymaster to all of the storytelling rooms, he's willing to help the thrillseeker do what no one else does or would even conceive of doing - daring the island at night.
So who is this bold and unusual character and why is he so determined to freak people out? Joe Yocius, aka, Low Country Joe has been a "Daufuskian" for over 10 years and has been visiting the island off and on for two decades. He and his wife Mary reside in their own 1880's haunted lighthouse known as Bloody Point Lighthouse, named for one of the Indian massacres that occurred in the island vicinity. Low Country Joe by profession is a successful realtor but to meet him and experience his aura, one quickly realizes he more resembles the look and conversational stylings akin to a spiritual guru than does he businessman. Which to no surprise, his persona and unique lifestyle has brought him into the company of fellow Daufuskie kindred like song master Jimmy Buffet and novelist, Pat Conroy. Buffet penned his famous tune The Prince of Tides about the dying, dwindling Gullah culture. In addition, on Low Country Joe's lighthouse property, one finds the Silver Dew Winery mentioned in Pat Conroy's novel, The Water Is Wide which as a story was devoted to Conroy's year of teaching Gullah children on the island. The Silver Dew Winery is the oldest winery in the state and is a mystical stop exclusive to the Gullah Gullah Ghost Tour. Joe and others are entirely convinced that the winery is intersected, or perhaps better said, "undersected" by subterranean ley lines. According to Joe, to stand inside or around the winery one finds themselves restored or invigorated with new life and can make one's head abuzz with strange understandings of the universe or grants one certain powers of greater spiritual awareness. Of which he's only too happy to demonstrate to his guests! Often found at the winery, is Joe's Gullah sidekick, Freddy, a huge man that brings to mind Michael Clarke Duncan who played John Coffey in The Green Mile. Freddy was one of Pat Conroy's students and speaks in a heavy Gullah dialect. If his stories of recently burying a friend inside of a secret cemetery (also on the tour) doesn't irk shiver the tour taker, his impromptu appearances along the island's pitch black, forested paths will. Freddy's unpredictable arrivals prompts one to wonder if in addition to freaky stories, he might also be in possession of real life shape shifting power!
During the bulk of the 2 hour "Gullah! Gullah! Ghost Tour!", between secret Gullah cemetery and decrepit haunted house stops, Low Country Joe does an amazing job at keeping one's senses and imagination primed for the next ghostly rendezvous by telling personal ghost stories along with those of his friends and other Gullah neighbors. Yet they're also more than dryly narrated. Joe is an extremely passionate storyteller and one feels like they're privy to an ongoing performance being conducted at times by a madman. It isn't unusual for Joe to become overwhelmed by the spiritual environs around him and guests are stunned to say the least when they find him suddenly speaking in "tongues" near hallowed Gullah sites and then performing Indian chants respective of those sacred spots. At certain points in discussing friends buried here and there it isn't strange to find him in tears. Joe is never content with just scratching the surface of his subject matter as he talks. He very much takes the onlooker inside of Daufuskie's spiritual living quarters. Whether they like it or not. But can he be blamed?Afterall, hundreds of Gullahs have lived and died on the island. Thousands of Indians were massacred on it's sands. Joe it would seem not only feels every bit of this spirit energy, but for his guests he becomes a full fledged living conduit! Quite simply? There is no more of a dedicated storyteller or thoughtsperson on the whole of Daufuskie. When one buys a ticket to this experience, one is granted access to not just an island, but to a story telling dimension. One full of spirits who for some reason cannot leave Daufuskie and have chosen Low Country Joe to be their spokesperson.
On a final preview note, other than guests being flavored to so many unusual sights, sounds and mental scenes along the moss draped, winding paths of Joe's ghost tour, he also takes the hospitality level over the top by providing a light meal that includes fresh Daufuskie, Gullah prepped "debbil crab"(deviled crab), bread pudding and a beverage. This tour should also be considered a "Mature Audiences" experience with parental discretion advised. Which isn't to say its not for kids, but just like its for the "right" adults, it should be considered for the "right" children. The tour departs from Hilton Head, SC at the Daufuskie Island Embarkation Point at 5:30 and returns there at 9:30 each night. Parking in the lot is $3.00 paid at the parking lot and the tour itself is $95 all inclusive. The tour has a 25 person minimum and maximum and reservations are reserved by credit card only. There are certain discounts for Daufuskie Island residents so please inquire if you're a resident or staying on the island. Low Country Joe also operates a daily history tour of Daufuskie called "Daufuskie: The Lost Island" and look for its separate article soon.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
Daufuskie Island Favorites
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Favorite thing: Daufuskie Island is the southernmost island of the state of South Carolina, located between Hilton Head Island and Tybee Island, Georgia. Continuously inhabited for more than 4,000 years, the name is most likely rooted in the Moscogee and Creek Indian languages… and means "sharp feather," or "land with a point."
You can only get to Daufuskie Island by boat. Faintly visible in the picture (which was taken with a film camera) is the Haig Point lighthouse, which was built in 1873 and was manned continually from the time it was built until 1924. It was a rear range light - if you lined it up with the other light in the range you were in the channel. It is now restored but is inside a private community.
Fondest memory: According to the Haig Point website (a development on the island)
"Daufuskie’s first residents were the Cusabo Indians, a loose confederacy of fishing tribes known for their gentle ways. During the 1600’s, however, tranquility dissolved into violence as the King of England began making land grants and skirmishes broke out between the English, the Spanish and three different Indian tribes: the man-eating Westo, the fierce Savannah Indians (later to become the Shawnees) and the equally tough Yemassee Indians, who had been invited onto the island by the English to help keep the Spanish in check. Among the recorded melees were two battles between colonial settlers and Yemassee braves that were so fierce the island’s southern tip became known as Bloody Point, a name it has carried into the 21st Century. "Related to:
- Sailing and Boating