Nassau, Bahamas, stands as a premier boating destination for boaters seeking an idyllic tropical getaway. Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, Nassau offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and vibrant culture. Boaters are greeted by crystal-clear turquoise waters, pristine white-sand beaches, and a breathtaking archipelago of surrounding islands and cays.
With its convenient location and world-class marinas, Nassau serves as a gateway to some of the most coveted boating experiences in the region. Boaters can easily explore the Exumas, a chain of pristine islands known for their secluded beaches, abundant marine life, and famous swimming pigs. The Berry Islands, Andros, and the Abacos are also within reach, offering captivating diving and snorkeling sites, hidden anchorages, and charming waterfront towns.
In Nassau itself, boaters can indulge in a myriad of experiences. Paradise Island beckons with its luxurious resorts, including the iconic Atlantis Paradise Island. From here, visitors can revel in thrilling water sports, such as jet skiing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. The vibrant Nassau Harbour showcases a bustling waterfront scene, dotted with charming restaurants, bars, and shops.
Culture enthusiasts can explore the vibrant Bahamian heritage in Nassau's historic district. Stroll along colorful colonial buildings, visit the captivating National Art Gallery, or delve into the island's history at the interactive Pirates of Nassau Museum. For those seeking relaxation, Nassau offers tranquil marinas with top-notch facilities, providing a serene oasis to unwind after a day of boating adventures.
With its warm climate year-round, welcoming locals, and an abundance of natural wonders, Nassau, Bahamas, truly stands as a top destination for boaters seeking an unforgettable Caribbean experience. Whether it's exploring hidden coves, basking in the sun on pristine beaches, or immersing in the vibrant local culture, Nassau offers an unrivaled boating paradise that continues to captivate visitors from around the world.
So close to the United States, yet the Bahamas are worlds away with a tropical paradise vibe. This must-visit popularity comes not only from proximity but also a plentiful number of islands to visit, each with distinct personalities. You find everything from upscale resorts to laidback beach bars and pristine nature preserves.
While four islands have international airports, and more than 50 have smaller airports and airstrips, some reachable solely by boat. This means the only way to travel to these destinations is by ferry, water taxi or private boat. Here’s a sampling of seven boat-only Bahamas islands to visit.
Sea turtles abound on this namesake three-mile-long barrier island considered part of the Abaco “Out Islands.” Fly from the United States into airports on Treasure Cay or Marsh Harbour. From Treasure, it’s a 20-minute ferry ride to the cay. A couple of marinas, such as at the Green Turtle Club and Bluff House Beach Resort, make it easy to arrive by private boat. The best place to see endangered green sea turtles is Coco Bay Beach. This calm shallow bay to the north is the perfect place to swim and snorkel next to these gentle giants. Reach the bay either on shore by walking or golf cart, or by boat.
Green Turtle Cay is full of civilization too. To the south is the historic town of New Plymouth, founded in the 18th century by British Loyalists during the American Revolution. Walk past the quaint New England-style homes to sight-see at the Loyalists Memorial Sculpture Garden and Albert Lowe Museum, which is housed in a Victorian-era family home and traces the island’s history from its origins. Restaurants, shops, galleries, banks, churches, hardware and grocery stores are on the island.
Smack in the middle of this 30-square mile chain of 100-plus islands and cays, it is relatives of Chester Darville who first settled here nearly a century ago. Today, Darville owns the cay’s sole business, Flo’s Conch Bar & Restaurant. He brought his father’s dream to life by taking the family back to their home when he opened Flo’s in 1993. Darville’s mother, Flo, served as head chef until her death, building a reputation for the best conch fritters. Today, conch fritters, conch salad, cracked conch and conch burgers are on the menu along with Danville’s special rum punch.
Beyond Flo’s, expect good snorkeling on the nearby reef beyond the small dock and anchorage and sport fishing near and offshore. Located 40 miles north of Nassau, the closest airport is 9 miles south in Little Whale Cay, with no ferry service. This makes Little Harbour remote to reach by boat. Perhaps that’s why some of Darville’s customers have included Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Sylvester Stallone.
Find a best-of-both-world experience on this 12-mile-long island located three miles east of Nassau. Away from the hustle and bustle of the Bahamas’ capital city, Rose is full of peace and quiet. Back to nature after past lives as a pineapple plantation and private residence until 2005, the now road-less, nearly resident-less island is ripe for a day trip. “While on Rose, guests can partake in snorkeling, exploring, and of course swimming with the world-famous pigs,” says Deb Saunders, sales and marketing at Sandy Toes, which operates full-day private excursions to Sandy Toes Beach on Rose.
“We make our own water and power to leave the smallest footprint, so Rose Island may retain its beauty for many years to come,” Saunders adds. Rose is popular with private boats to cruise over from Nassau. First Beach, on Rose’s west end, is closest at a little over 4 miles east of Nassau Harbor. MacTaggart’s Beach, to the east, is farther and delightfully secluded as a result.
Baby sharks and bigger ones too are the star attraction in the naturally protected harbor of the Compass Cay Marina. “Visitors come from all over the world to have a close interaction with these docile nurse sharks,” says Trevon Rolle, assistant manager. “Aside from these precious creatures, enjoy several hiking trails, a large maze of mangroves leading out from the marina that’s great for kayaking and paddle boarding, a beautiful sandy crescent beach on the eastern shore with gazebos, and a natural formation at the island’s northeast tip called Rachel’s Bubble Bath, which is a natural swimming pool.”
Fly from Fort Lauderdale or Miami to Staniel Cay and take a water taxi to Compass. Or cruise from the Exuma Banks and Exuma Sound through buoy-marked channels, where the draft is six-feet in low and nine-feet in high tide. Marina docks accommodate yachts up to 200 feet and are equipped with reverse osmosis water and 30-, 50- and 100-amp electricity. The marina store sells beverages and food items. The closest fuel is Staniel Cay five miles south.
Where to Dock: Compass Cay Marina
Once used as a nature-made corral where nearby communities raised chickens (hence the namesake fowl), this 50-acre island has been a private luxury destination for two decades. Its vibe is Robinson Crusoe meets the Ritz. Six secluded yet spectacular one-, two- and three-bedroom rental villas start around $20,000 per week in season. That combines with resort amenities such as a restaurant, pool, tennis courts, housekeeping services and watersports equipment. Best of all, an 18-foot powerboat with unlimited gas is included in every villa hire.
Fowl is a perfect homeport to cast off on a trolling trip for snapper and grouper. Or snorkel at the nearby underwater Thunderball cave, so- called for the same-named James Bond spy flick filmed here. Or cruise to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for lunch. Staniel is the closest airstrip to Fowl, and the resort offers guests a seven- minute ferry ride. Or, BYOB (bring your own boat) and tie off at Fowl Cay’s north dock.
Where to Dock: Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Shaped like — you guessed it — a long narrow stocking, the one-mile distance from the Government Dock in Georgetown, Great Exuma, across a protected harbor, makes this an easy dinghy trip. You can explore several beaches on this three-mile-long island, from Starfish and Powder beaches to the northwest and northeast, respectively, to Sand Dollar beach at the southern tip. Right in the middle, and nearest to Georgetown, on a small beach sits the Chat ‘N’ Chill beach bar and grill.
“Try our fresh conch salad and experience a Bahamian tradition,” invites owner Kwanza Bowe. “Watch as conch is taken straight from the sea, cracked and broken out of its natural shell right before your eyes. The conch man then skins the conch, washes it, chops it up, and prepares it with locally grown onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, goat peppers and Bahamian sea salt for your conch salad.” An easy walk from this eatery is gorgeous sand dunes. Beyond, on the island’s Atlantic side are stromatolites. These are fossilized bacteria dating over 1 million years old and found only on Stocking Island and in Australia. “We also recommend visiting the Jacques Cousteau Mystery Cave,” Bowe adds. “This is reached by a two-minute boat ride from the Chat ‘N’ Chill. The cave’s mouth teems with fish and is an excellent snorkeling spot.”
Where to Dock: St. Francis Resort & Marina
Take a visit to the wildlife side. Christopher Columbus first sited it in 1492, but no humans have lived on this 4.5-square-mile island for over a century. The Bahamas National Trust established a national park here in 1964. Pink sand beaches, lush mangrove ecosystems and spectacular sandstone cliffs make this one of the prettiest islands in the Bahamas. Imperiled long-tail tropicbirds, ospreys, sooty terns and oystercatchers nest on the island, while surrounding waters are nurseries for conch, crawfish, sharks and fish. Green turtles are a common sight in the creek off the southwest shore. Discover ruins of several early 20th century structures made of limestone, shells and mortar, but no amenities or facilities are ashore. So, bring food and water to explore on land. The best anchorage is in West Bay, and a couple of moorings, marked by large red buoys, are nearby. The closest island is Rum Cay, 20 miles south, which has a small airport.
Where to Dock: Conception Island National Park
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.
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.