Grand Bahama Island stands as un ultimate boating destination, combining stunning natural beauty with a diverse range of activities. The island's allure lies in its abundant pristine beaches and secluded coves, accessible exclusively by boat. With miles of untouched shoreline, it offers endless opportunities for relaxation, sunbathing, and picnicking in picturesque surroundings.
Boaters will appreciate the numerous marinas and harbors on the island, providing excellent facilities and services. Deep-sea fishing charters are popular, providing the chance to reel in trophy-sized fish like marlin, wahoo, and tuna. The surrounding waters of Grand Bahama Island offer exceptional opportunities for fishing, snorkeling, and diving. Teeming with vibrant coral reefs, colorful tropical fish, and the occasional encounter with dolphins or sea turtles, the warm and clear waters are a haven for underwater exploration.
For those seeking adventure, boaters can venture into the vast underwater caves of Lucayan National Park or embark on a leisurely cruise through the picturesque mangrove forests. On land, Grand Bahama Island has much to offer to complement the boating experience. Visitors can explore vibrant local markets, indulge in delicious Bahamian cuisine at waterfront restaurants, or immerse themselves in the island's rich culture and history through guided tours and visits to charming settlements.
With its breathtaking coastal beauty, diverse marine life, and onshore attractions, Grand Bahama Island stands as an irresistible destination for boaters seeking an unforgettable experience.
Chuck Baier and Susan Landry purchased their 34-foot Marine Trader, Beach House, with the sole purpose of cruising the Great Loop (circumnavigation of Eastern North America). They planned to depart from Naples, Fla. in December 2012. Before heading north along the east coast, the pair decided to take a detour and cruise around the Florida Keys and Bahamas.
They spent most of November prepping and gathering enough supplies for a three-month excursion. Once underway, they spent time in Marathon, Fla. visiting some of their old cruising friends before heading to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, with weather delays and mandatory repairs needed on the boat, the trip was unexpectedly put on hold and they were unable to leave for the Bahamas until early March. They have highlighted their favorite marinas along the way.
HIGHLIGHTS: They departed for the Bahamas from Key Biscayne, Fla. (near Miami) and had a leisurely trip to Bimini. They docked at Bimini Big Game Club in North Bimini, primarily due to their reasonable prices and very manicured facilities. Adrenaline was pumping when Chuck and Susan enjoyed the custom built shark cage at the marina where visitors can experience the wild Bull Sharks of Bimini. They spent about three weeks in Bimini, exploring what the island has to offer while enjoying early morning walks gathering shells and sea glass along the beach. They ventured to the Dolphin House (242-347-3201), one of the highlights of the trip. Built by historian and artist Ashley Saunders, visitors can tour and book a room at the house made entirely of collected materials salvaged from old buildings and materials washed up along the shoreline. The couple dined at CJ's Deli (Queen's Highway, 242-347-3295), a smaller yet quaint restaurant on the island where they feasted on conch fritters and fried chicken, a favorite dish for the couple throughout the entirety of their trip.
HIGHLIGHTS: According to Chuck, harbormaster and manager, Peter Attaloglou, helped make this marina a top choice with his welcoming nature, expert knowledge and guidance on the best places to eat, visit and explore. The couple stayed at the marina for about a week and made multiple trips to the fish market, a popular spot where local fishermen dock along the sea wall and sell their catch of the day, primarily grouper and snapper, under a swarm of red roof tents. They enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of the Botanical Gardens, maintained by the Bahamas National Trust, where they enjoyed the natural beauty of Nassau.
They dined at The Poop Deck (242-393-8175, thepoopdeck.com) a local restaurant in Eastbay that serves typical Bahamian fare and a variety of staples including a delicious club sandwich. You also can't beat the incredible view of the island while dining.
HIGHLIGHTS: The couple enjoyed this marina with added help from the Kelly brothers, the managers and harbormasters, whom have been working together running the business for over 20 years. They work like a concierge service for the boaters, said Baier. The marina staff goes out of their way to make guests feel welcome, arranging golf cart rentals, offering visitor recommendations and even helping Chuck and Susan find a diver to check the propellers before they headed to the Abacos. A ferry service took Chuck and Susan from Spanish Wells to Dunmore Town on Harbour Island located on the northeast part of Eleuthera. They explored Dunmore Town's various shops and restaurants. They also took the ferry from Spanish Wells to the main island of Eleuthera, where they rented a car and drove the entire length of the island in one day, only to discover new and enticing views on land that visitors are unable to see from a boat. Back at Spanish Wells, they ate fantastic conch fritters at The Anchor Snack Bar (242-333-4023), a local restaurant with a waterfront view located within walking distance to the marina. It had been almost 20 years since the couple visited the marina, but each visit brought new memories to bring back home with them.
HIGHLIGHTS: Chuck and Susan stayed at Leeward Yacht Club due to its close proximity to New Plymouth near Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, the location where the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes place on the first weekend in May. This festival brings visitors from all over to the Abacos to celebrate the heritage of the island with music, food and an array of activities for all to enjoy. The marina hosts a 28-slip dock offering access to free WiFi, and is home to the Lizard Bar & Grill (242-365-4191) with an adjacent pool overlooking the Black Sound. The couple enjoyed a night out dining on conch burgers and fritters while friends they were with sipped on the restaurants signature Leaning Lizard cocktail. They rented a golf cart from the marina and explored the town of New Plymouth, taking in the gorgeous beaches surrounding them and touring the new housing developments being built next to the marina.
Vacationing to foreign countries is exciting, but traveling to another country aboard your own boat is an adventure and accomplishment beyond compare. Fortunately for boaters in the U.S. and Canada, the Bahamas gives us a beautiful island country we can easily visit with a little careful planning.
The Bahamas is one of the largest island states in the world, an archipelago consisting of more than 700 islands, cays and islets, and covering 180,000 square miles of ocean. Spread over its 700 islands, the Bahamas has enough diversity to appeal to every type of boater. You can find the excitement of nightlife, shopping and casinos, the adventure of world-class sport fishing and diving or the peaceful relaxation of being anchored in quiet coves of turquoise blue water and white-sand beaches.
The Bahamas is divided into a collection of island groups known as districts, each with their own character and personality. Depending on time, type of boat, budget and sense of adventure, you can enjoy a weekend fishing trip to Bimini or the adventure of an Out-Island getaway to the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Island Chain. The Bahamas holds something for every boater's interest. See below for more information about cruising the Bahamas.
Bimini is frequently the first island boaters visit in the Bahamas. Located just 43 nautical miles east of Miami, Bimini is an easy one-day run, even in the slowest trawler or sailboat. Many choose to approach Bimini from farther south in the Keys, using the Gulf Stream along the way.Bimini consists of two main islands North Bimini and South Bimini, along with numerous smaller cays. Its unique location coupled with a roguish history makes Bimini a favorite destination for fishing and scuba diving. Beyond the prized fishing, Bimini also offers the quiet escape of empty beaches and peaceful protected waters for kayaking and snorkeling.
The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that form a 120-mile-long chain stretching over 650 square miles. The coastlines are scalloped with bays, coves and protected harbors with full-service marinas and resorts. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco serve as the mainland. Marsh Harbour has a lively downtown area with all city amenities. Treasure Cay boasts miles of pristine beaches, including one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Elbow Cay, with its quaint village of Hope Town, and Green Turtle Cay are old English loyalist settlements, where you'll find beautifully preserved colonial architecture with a touch of Bahamian pastels. Great Guana Cay is famous for Sunday barbecues atop the island's tall sand dune, which overlooks a magnificent seven-mile-long beach.
Miles of remote beaches, exhilarating dive sites, along with world-class sport fishing are just a few of the things that make the Berry Islands a unique destination. Comprising a cluster of 30 Cays, a majority of the Berry Islands are uninhabited. It is not difficult to find completely deserted beaches in secluded private coves.Great Harbour Cay is the largest of the Berry Islands. It is eight miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide. The largest port of the Berry's is on Great Harbour Cay. Chub Cay is the second-largest island in the chain and is known as the billfish capital of the Bahamas. Little Stirrup Cay is leased by Royal Caribbean International, which calls it Coco Cay. The cruise line uses it as a private island for its fleet of cruise ships.The Berry Islands are an easy stop along the way to other islands or worthy as a destination of their own.
The name Eleuthera refers to an individual Bahamian island but is also used to refer to its associated chain of small islands, which include Harbour Island, Windermere Island, Man Island and Current Island. They are the fourth most populated island group in the Bahamas, with approximately 11,000 residents. Most who live on Eleuthera and Harbour Island either fish or farm the rolling acres of pineapple plantations.The islands have an air of casual sophistication, with isolated communities and well-developed resorts. They have a diverse natural beauty of rocky bluffs and low-lying wetlands. Harbour Island was once the capital of the Bahamas and was awarded The Best Island in the Caribbean by Travel & Leisure magazine in 2015; it also received this same award in 2005. Harbor Island is renowned for lush tropical greenery and magical pink-sand beaches.
New Providence is the 11th-largest island in the Bahamian Archipelago and is the seat of the nation's government. New Providence is also the home of the capital city, Nassau, and the largest population. Nassau is a bustling metropolitan hub full of culture and modern amenities. Immediately to the north lies Paradise Island, whose name says it all. The island is home to resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, nightlife, a golf course, an aquarium and a casino. Nassau's main harbor is protected by Paradise Island, creating a sheltered harbor with all of the marine services a boater could want or need.While New Providence is best known for the fast-paced city life of Nassau, there are also quiet outposts along its southern shoreline, welcoming visiting boaters with deep protected harbors. These harbors make for great provisioning and a jumping-off point to the Exumas.
The Exumas is the largest island group in the Bahamas with 365 individual islands and cays. Beginning just 27 nautical miles southeast of Nassau and stretching in a 120-nautical-mile arc southeast. They are divided into three major areas Great Exuma, Little Exuma and The Exuma Cays. Each offers its own unique Bahamian experience. Great Exuma and Little Exuma are known for their laid-back surroundings, while the Exuma Cays hold numerous private homes.The Exumas are an unspoiled boater's paradise. Many of the Cays, including extensive offshore reef areas, are protected in the Exuma National Land and Sea Park of the Bahamas National Trust. Fishing, diving and development are tightly controlled within the Park. There are over a dozen marinas and hundreds of anchorages in the Exumas. A boater could spend several seasons cruising there and not see it all.If upon arriving in the Exumas for the first time, they seem somewhat familiar, it's likely because you've seen them in several popular movies, the James Bond lm underball and Pirates of the Caribbean were both filmed there.
You've done all your homework. You've picked the perfect weather window. Now you are in awe as the dark blue of the Gulf Stream gives way to the crystal clear, shallow waters of the Bahamas Banks. The feeling of accomplishment just can't be described. You have finally reached the Bahamas, so what's next? The answer is almost as endless as the island chain itself.
Arriving on your own boat is by far the best way to experience the Bahamas. Simply island hopping itself can take up an entire season. The Abacos, with their New England flavor, offer settlements such as Hopetown and Marsh Harbor, which have become boating community hubs. If nightlife and excitement are your pleasure, Grand Bahamas and Freeport, with their large casinos and resorts, will occupy all of your time and a lot of your money. The calm, protected waters of the Northern Bahamas are wonderful for sailing, snorkeling, diving and world-class angling. Fishing is a big part of the Bahamas experience. Mahi-mahi, marlin, tuna, wahoo and mackerel are but a few of the possible catches of the day. Hooking a jack, snapper or bonefish in the morning and cooking your catch on the grill that night is the definition of the good life. Fish from your own vessel, hire a guide, or charter a boat.
Fishing and island hopping are not your only choices of what to do. The diving and snorkeling in the Bahamas are some of the best in the world, and no place is better known for its dive sites than the Exuma chain. Dive or snorkel on patch reefs, do deeper wall dives, or try one of the well-known blue holes for a scuba experience you will never forget. Bring along a kayak or rent one from one of the many vendors in the Exuma settlements for an up-close-and-personal view of the spectacular waters and coastline. Preserves such as the Exuma Land & Sea Park have nature trails to hike and undisturbed underwater habitats to explore. The southern Bahamas offers a real Caribbean experience, with deserted islands and white sandy beaches that rival any other in the region.
If golfing is your passion, hit one of the Bahamas' three world-class golf courses. The Abaco Club is a private facility with reciprocal privileges. Treasure Cay Golf Club, at Treasure Cay, and Grand Isle Resort, on Great Exuma, round out the offerings. All three are challenging 18-hole courses with stunning vistas that will at times be distracting to players, and all offer amenities that rival or surpass many golf clubs in the U.S.The lower Exumas are a seasonal destination for many boaters. During the winter months, the warm and balmy trade winds make for some very comfortable weather. Your options for adventure are almost endless. Feed the iguanas on Allans Cay, swim with the pigs at Pig Beach on Big Major Spot, snorkel Thunderball Grotto -- of James Bond fame -- at Staniel Cay, or join in the festivities that run almost nonstop in Georgetown. Elizabeth Harbor, located near Georgetown, is home to the annual Family Island Regatta Week, held during the last full weekend of April. The event brings together Bahamian boat builders and sailors to compete during five days of sailing. More than 400 boats at once have been known to visit the harbor during regatta week, still leaving ample room for more. Daily volleyball games occur at, you guessed it, Volleyball Beach, plus there are sing-alongs, pot lucks, boating seminars and local holiday festivities.
The biggest problem with cruising to the Bahamas is, when it's time to leave, you may not have done everything you wanted to. It truly is better in the Bahamas, and that's probably why boaters are drawn back there over and over and over again.
For decades the islands of the Bahamas have attracted anglers like a magnet to sample the bounty of gamefish that roam its waters. For inshore action some of the best bonefishing in the world can be found throughout the Bahamas, where fly fishing fanatics and bait-fishing anglers alike savor the miles of pristine water in pursuit of the fabled gray ghost of the flats. These flats span for miles in protected backwaters and on the ocean side as well where miles of white sand, marl and turtle grass provide cover for forage species such as shrimp and crabs bonefish target. On the edges of the mangrove shoreline found along many of the Bahamas islands water depths can range from a few inches to a few feet. Once hooked it can often be challenge to keep these speedsters out of the mangroves and other impediments, where they can easily break off in an instant.
The bonefishing in the Bahamas is exceptional and it's not uncommon to see schools of upward of a hundred of fish when conditions are right. Though most of the bonefish caught range between 3 and 6 pounds, fish of 8 pounds or more are possible. The Bahamas also hold a population of permit and tarpon from early spring through fall and while not as popular a target species as bonefish in these islands, each have their following and are equally exciting to catch. Other species to be found along the flats include barracuda, jacks and several species of sharks.
Miles of sandy bottom strewn with turtle grass, loggerhead sponge and conch create the perfect habitat for the bonefish where they blend in to the bottom and it takes a keen-eyed guide to spot them. We recently spent a day plying the beautiful gin-clear waters of the flats around the Bimini Big Game Club, and our guide kept us tight on several bonefish from four to 7 pounds. While the 25-knot wind was not conducive to fly fishing, we did have good luck casting fresh shrimp with sixpound spinning gear to bonefish schools ranging from hundreds of fish to small schools of three or four. The drag-searing runs each fish provided as it shot across the flat after feeling the hook was truly an amazing experience. The best analogy one could use to describe it is to imagine catching a bonito in two feet of water. The speed of a bonefish is incredible, and they don't slow down until they're in the net!
Like most guides in the Bahamas our guide had eyes of a hawk and often spotted the fish before we did. A wide-brim hat and polarized eyewear are a must to help reduce glare off the water. Locating tailing fish as they root crabs and shrimp and other forage out of the bottom is easy as their tail breaking the surface of a glass-calm flat is a flag that signals fish here! Spotting fish under the surface can be trying for the novice though you'd be surprised how fast one can learn to differentiate bonefish from other species.
If you've never fished the flats you'll quickly understand why these fish are so spooky. The peace and tranquility that surrounds you translates to the bonefish as well, and it takes little more than a raindrop hitting the water to spook these weary fish. Precision casting is critical, and we found out the hard way, as several times as casts within five feet of the school quickly scattered the fish like spilled marbles across a tile floor. If you're planning a trip, hone your casting skills ahead of time because you'll need to be able to cast at specific distances to be successful.
Bonefish are available all year round with winter, spring and fall offering the best shot at them on the flats. The heat of summer pushes the fish to cooler, deeper water, and although they can still be caught, it's a lot harder to sight cast to the fish because they're harder to see. Permit can be found here as well, though we didn't see any during our day on the flats. Sharks to well over 100 pounds and some big barracuda can fill the voids in between bites from the gray ghost, and tangling with either on light spinning gear will test your skill as these toothy brutes make drag-searing runs in the skinny water.
While our trip included a stay at the beautiful Bimini Big Game Club (biggameclubbimini.com, 800-867-4764), several other participating Marinalife resorts and marinas offer exceptional accommodations and have access to some of the best bonefish guides in the Bahamas. Once you're bitten by the bonefish bug, you'll need a yearly visit to cure the fever!
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