Dafuskie Island Marathon

Dafuskie Island Marathon Runcation Guide

Wellness Travel for Runners

Every year for our wedding anniversary, Wesley and I pick a southern city to go explore. We try to schedule our trip around at least a half marathon when possible too. I prefer half marathons, but Wesley likes a full marathon.

We signed up for the Dafuskie Island Marathon for two reasons:

  1. It was scheduled on our 5-year wedding anniversary date and had both a half and full marathon.
  2. I had recently read travel articles in Southern Living and Travel & Leisure magazines about visiting Dafuskie Island that had me drooling. 

When we started discussing where we would go for our anniversary this year and the race popped up on that weekend, it was a no-brainer!

The Dafuskie Island Marathon did not disappoint. It was gorgeous. Every single step of this race you are surrounded by beauty.

What – Dafuskie Island Marathon

The Dafuskie Island Marathon has three race distances to pick from: 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles, or 39.3 miles.

The course is one 13.1 mile loop that you either run once, twice, or three times.

The start/finish are the same location near the Haig Point Ferry Landing.

Given it’s off-season for tourism, the island is fairly empty so don’t expect cheering crowds. The race is capped at 250 runners across all three races to minimize environmental impact.

https://www.daufuskieislandmarathon.com/

Where – Dafuskie Island

You can only get to Dafuskie by a ferry. Transportation on the island is primarily by electric golf cart or by cycling or walking.

Dafuskie Island Ferry
Dafuskie Island Ferry

Dafuskie Island is partly a luxury vacation home destination with a country club (Haig Point) and home to 400 full-time residents. Many of the residents proudly claim to be the 6th or 7th generation of their family living on the island.

When

We ran the race for our 5-year wedding anniversary on January 18, 2020. It’s a Saturday race sponsored by the Savannah Striders running club.

Other Race Information for Dafuskie Island Marathon

Views, views, views!

That’s what sets this race apart. There is always something new to look at from beautiful homes with immaculate gardens, the lighthouse, the ocean and golf course, horse properties, historical and cultural sights, the beach, marshland, a community farm, and moss-draped, oak-tree lined roads. Dafuskie Island is the south at its best.

Dafuskie Island Marathon

A few things to note:

  • The course covers several types of terrain including a small section of brick road, asphalt road, hard-packed dirt road, some fairly loose sandy sections, beach boardwalks, and an ocean-side walking/cycling path.
  • Road running shoes work fine and trail shoes would actually be overkill.
  • It’s mostly shaded except for the last section along the ocean (about 2 miles).
  • Be sure to carry your own water bottle—it is a strictly enforced cup-less race.
  • The same medal and running jacket with the race logo is given for all race distances.
  • There is a post-race party with live music (they were pretty good too!) and barbecue with hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and a variety of salads, chips, and fruit. You also get one free local beer.

Temperatures in mid-January in coastal South Carolina are generally mild but cold. At the race start it was in the 40’s but it didn’t take long for the sun to heat things up into the 60’s. Layer appropriately or go without at the start. There is nowhere to drop your unwanted clothing along the way. If you drop it, you are littering. There is a bag drop right at the start/finish.

Getting There

There are two ferries to Dafuskie Island from Hilton Head but you want to make sure you take the Haig Point ferry for the race. The Haig Point Ferry Landing is also the location for packet pickup on Friday.

Dafuskie Island Ferry on Hilton Head Island
Dafuskie Island Ferry Meeting Point on Hilton Head Island
Haig Point Ferry Landing
Haig Point Ferry Landing

The $1.25 toll road takes you directly to the Haig Point Ferry Landing from the mainland or you can drive through Hilton Head on toll-free roads and get there too.

The ferry costs $35 roundtrip and takes about 30 minutes.

To get to the Hilton Head area, you can fly into Savannah International Airport (45 miles away) and rent a car. We drove from the Orlando area and it was less than a 5 hour drive.

Lodging on Dafuskie Island

You can stay on Dafuskie Island but the options are limited and on the pricey side. Haig Point manages rentals of the island’s luxury homes and has a few rooms available at The Mansion. You can also stay in the lighthouse! Book it through Haig Point too.

Dafuskie Island Lighthouse
Dafuskie Island Lighthouse

We stayed on Hilton Head Island where every price point and brand is available along with hundreds, if not thousands, of condo rentals.

Food on Dafuskie Island

Haig Point hosts a post-race barbecue in the park. They served hamburgers, a very good homemade veggie burger, and hot dogs. There were several side salads, chips, fruit, and cereal bars to choose from too.

There are only two restaurants on the island: Lucy Bell’s for lunch and the Old Dafuskie Crab Company for dinner. There’s also a small general store at the public marina.

Sightseeing on Dafuskie Island

People have lived on Dafuskie for over 9,000 years! A rich Gullah culture and language remains with locals providing unique storytelling tours. Historical buildings and ruins are scattered across the island with signage explaining their importance. 

Dafuskie Island Museum
Dafuskie Island Museum
Ruins from the 18th century

Modern day attractions include a beach club where you can rent kayaks, SUPs, or enjoy a  day on the sand. The Haig Point golf club has a limited number of public tee times available. The course is beautiful and looks quite challenging.

A ferry worker told us that author Pat Conroy taught English at the Dafuskie Island School in the 1960’s and later wrote a non-fiction book about his time on the island called “The Water is Wide.”  The book is about his early teaching experiences on what was then an isolated island and the inequalities of the American education system at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I love Conroy’s books so I will definitely read this one!

A Great Way to Spend an Anniversary

Dafuskie Island lived up to the magazine hype that had me drooling to visit!

I am so happy this race exists and on our anniversary. We both really enjoyed the race and the opportunity to see the entire island by foot. The thing that I love best about running destination races is being able to see a place from such a unique perspective. Races take you to places where you probably would not go otherwise.

If you’re thinking about a South Carolina race, don’t hesitate to do the Dafuskie Island Marathon.

Happy 5th Wedding Anniversary to Us!
Dafuskie Island Marathon medal
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