Between the vibrant city of Savannah and vacationer's paradise Hilton Head Island, happily lesser-known Daufuskie Island doesn't welcome traffic via bridges or causeways — it can only be reached by water, offering a remote island experience that transports visitors back in time.
There are no grocery stores, hospitals, or high schools; the population of about 400 includes solitude-seeking celebrities such as John Mellencamp and those with Gullah roots dating back to slaves freed during the Civil War. Today there are luxury housing developments with grand waterfront homes boasting wrap-around porches and upscale southern charm, but beyond them lies land that has been largely untouched since Native Americans were collecting oysters on its shores.
Straddling the old and new Daufuskie is the Haig Point Lighthouse — it's now part of the high-end Haig Point development and regularly hosts magazine-worthy weddings on its lawn, but it's been watching over the wading birds and bow-riding dolphins of the Calibogue Sound since 1873. Anyone passing in a boat or kayak will see a quaint white house with a picturesque, red-topped tower and shiny black shutters, but the little lighthouse is more than a cozy coastal hideaway.
Legend states a young woman named Maggie Comer, the daughter of the first lighthouse keeper, Patrick Comer, fell in love with a naval engineer who came to work on the lighthouse, a rare visitor for the secluded family. But their romance abruptly ended and he left the island, never to return, leaving Maggie with a broken heart that would keep her spirit at the lighthouse to this day, waiting for her long-lost love to return and spooking guests in the process.
Adam Martin, director of marketing for Haig Point, confirms ghost stories abound, though he promises they're not that spooky. "From what I've heard she is a very friendly ghost," he told Travel + Leisure. "Guests recollect her turning lights on and off, or bedside alarm clocks ringing when they weren't set. But, this could also be that guests typically spend evenings enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine on the porch."
Curious guests can secure their own meeting with Maggie on an overnight stay by booking a Discovery Experience to learn more about the community's real estate and membership opportunities. Haig Point members, guests of members, and members of reciprocal clubs are also welcome to book a stay, and couples who get married there often spend their first night as newlyweds at the lighthouse.
The lighthouse comfortably sleeps four guests with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Restored in the 1980s, it has modern amenities including a washer and dryer, air conditioning, and high-speed internet, plus plenty of old-fashioned touches from antique furniture to fireplaces.
It's open year-round, but Martin says spring is his favorite time to visit for "flowering magnolia trees and azalea bushes," although "summer is a great time to visit and enjoy long days on the water."
Haig Point is made accessible by its private ferry system, with seven boats that leave from Hilton Head Island 18 times a day. "The [30-minute] ferry ride is a way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life," Martin says. There's also a 24-hour water taxi that takes eight minutes to get to Hilton Head Island.
While on Daufuskie, guests can learn more about the island on a historical tour, visit the Daufuskie Community Farm and Artisan Village, ride horses, browse local art galleries, visit what might just be the world's cutest little winery, have sunset drinks on the water, golf, and spend quiet time at the beach. They can also stay at the Frances Jones House, a blue cottage under an enormous oak tree, to immerse themselves in the Gullah culture and get a taste of what the island was like in the 1920s.
A two-night stay at the lighthouse is $895 and a three-night stay is $1,195. Martin suggests inquiring at least 30 days in advance for reservations by filling out a brief form at haigpoint.com.