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Deadline looms for Daufuskie Island's ferry service to move

Victoria Hansen
South Carolina Public Radio
Arriving by ferry at Daufuskie Island. Aug. 2, 2018.

Details of the Daufuskie Island ferry service's new embarkment point on Hilton Head Island are still being worked out, even as it faces a deadline to move from Bluffton by year's end.

Daufuskie Island is deliciously remote. Located between Hilton Head and Savannah, the only way to get there is by boat which takes about an hour.

Now a deadline looms for the island’s only ferry service to move, causing concern for some 500 islanders and throngs of tourists who rely on the ferry daily to get to and from the mainland.

Beaufort County Council Chairman Joseph Passiment released a statement this week, saying the county is committed to transparently addressing the “uncertainty that our residents and visitors may be experiencing."

The trouble began not long after the ferry’s embarkment point was moved in 2016 to Buckingham Landing in Bluffton. Hurricane Matthew wiped out its previous location.

People who live in the surrounding neighborhood quickly became fed up with traffic, noise and trash from ferry goers parking along residential streets. They sued in 2021, claiming the county violated zoning laws.

Then, this April, the county was ordered by the court to stop running the ferry out of Buckingham Landing by Jan. 1, 2024. The plan is to move the service to Cross Island Boat Landing in Hilton Head. But the details are still being worked out.

“Beaufort County is actively negotiating the contract for the Ferry service provider,” chairman Passiment said in a statement.

The council chairman also says they’re moving forward with implementing a shuttle system as a temporary measure for parking at the new Hilton Head embarkment site.

Right now, ferry riders park at a nearby strip mall and hop a bus to the Bluffton landing in an effort to alleviate parking issues in the neighborhood.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.