The motto claims, “Eleuthera, it’s not for everyone.” But when gazing at the magnificent blue-water views from beneath the shade of the palms, it’s difficult to imagine anyone not loving Eleuthera.
This island in the Bahamas sits just 50 miles east of Nassau. It’s a destination for travelers who want to enjoy the sea, beaches, and natural beauty away from high-rises and cruise ships. While its rugged terrain and quaint, quiet atmosphere may not be for everyone, those looking for adventure will find it here.
The tranquil Caribbean laps one shore of the island, while the Atlantic is a mile away, separated by the 110-mile-long spit of land. Along its length, the island’s landscape changes in places from rugged, rocky cliffs to soft sand beaches to quaint, secluded harbors. It is also known as home to some of the most renowned diving opportunities in the Caribbean, including the famed Current Cut, one of the most popular “drift dives” in the world.
There are plenty of beaches to explore. On the island’s southern tip is Lighthouse Beach, near Cape Eleuthera. Traveling north, there are several beautiful spots for swimming, kayaking and sunbathing. The famous Bahamian pink sand can be seen at French Leave and Pineapple Fields near Governor’s Harbour. Don’t miss the annual Pineapple Festival — from June 1 to 6 — that celebrates the tradition of pineapple farming in Eleuthera. Possibly the most popular spot is Surfer’s Beach, near Gregory Town in the north. Here, the high, soft sand dunes make their way gradually to a spot on the Atlantic known for its seemingly endless swells. Many travel to the Out Islands just to catch a wave. The newly renovated Cove Resort near Gregory Town has created buzz for its contemporary luxury.
A bit farther north is Preacher’s Beach, a popular picnic and camping spot known as the original landing site of the explorers who discovered the island in 1640. Led by William Sayle, the group set sail from Bermuda seeking religious freedom and shipwrecked just off Eleuthera’s coast. Visitors today can tour Preacher’s Cave, where the explorers took refuge. The boulder-shaped altar where they held their first religious ceremonies still stands, and a plaque at the cave’s entrance tells the story of their plight. Preacher’s Cave is just one of nine caves that dot the island, each open to visitors.
Its topography and diversity of plant and animal species make Eleuthera an exciting place for exploration. One place designed to protect and nurture the native flora is the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve near Governor’s Harbour. The 25-acre site is the first national park on the island and was conceived with the mission of being both an environmental education center and a facility for the propagation of native plants and trees. Visitors can walk miles of trails through native habitat. Along the way are beautiful orchids, food and medicinal plants and hardwood trees that played an important role in the history of the island.
The Bahamas’ mild winter weather makes it a popular destination year-round, but the best time to go by boat is from May to August, when the Gulf Stream is typically calm. There are plenty of options for dockage at marinas and resorts — refer to the list on page 59 — as well as independent lodging options throughout the islands. A rental car is the most convenient mode for those who want to explore Eleuthera; however, ferries and water taxis are available for excursions to Harbour Island and Spanish Wells.
While spending a getaway on island time, a visit to a farmers market or retail shop is a great way to get the locals’ take on this relatively undiscovered paradise. While it may not be for everyone, those who have chosen to be here are welcoming and quick to share this island’s treasures.
More and more visitors are finding an Eleuthera getaway is for them. Whether for surfing and spelunking or relaxing and restoring, this spit of land in the Out Islands chain is a natural choice for those looking for a real outdoor getaway.
Harbour Island, a small island just north of the main island often called “the Nantucket” or “the Hamptons” of the Caribbean, is famous for its celebrity sightings and its famous pink sand beaches, stretching three miles on its Atlantic coast. The Island’s luxurious accommodations and dining options rival its colorful architecture and scenic beauty as top reasons to visit. Travel & Leisure magazine recently named Harbour Island the No. 1 island destination of the Caribbean.
Two airports (North Eleuthera and Governor’s Harbour) serve the area and make it easy for boaters to access the marinas on Harbour Island. Arriving by boat, you will pass through what is known as the Devils Backbone, and using a pilot to navigate through this area is highly recommended (the local marinas can assist you in finding an experienced pilot). Once you are settled, there is plenty to do in town. Do not miss Bay Street in Dunmore Town, which dates back over 200 years and was the first capital of the Bahamas before Nassau. You will find excellent dining options including: The Landing — overlooking the bay and serving up fresh local seafood dishes; Rock House — a boutique hotel offering causal and fine dining with a fabulous wine list and mouthwatering menu; Runway Hill — located at Runaway Hill Inn with executive chef, Krishna Higgs providing an extensive menu offering steaks and seafood; The Dunmore — presenting both lunch and dinner and overlooking the Caribbean blue waters; Sunsets at Romora Bay serving Bahamian, European and American dishes and a perfect place for sunsets. And there is shopping galore with unique boutiques lining the streets including The Sand Dollar Shop with many local treasures. The Sugar Mill Trading Co. owned by India Hicks (Princess Diana’s 13-year old bridesmaid and famous globetrotter and designer) has a mix of eclectic items from around the world, and the Princess Street Gallery displays works from some of the islands famous artists.
Where to dock:
- Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina (844-884-1014, capeeleuthera.com) On the island’s southern edge at Rock Sound, Cape Eleuthera’s Cape Marina has a deep draft entry and can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet. Amenities include full utilities, water, WiFi, on-call customs and immigration access and a provisions store and new restaurant.
- Romora Bay Resort & Marina (800-688-0425, romorabay.com) Located on Harbour Island, this deep-water marina offers 40 modern slips to accommodate yachts and sport-fishing and recreation boats up to 150 feet. Slips are equipped with power, water, WiFi, pump-out service and cable television. The resort also features luxury accommodations and two restaurants, plus a concierge service to assist visiting boaters with activities, restaurant recommendations and more.
- Valentines Resort & Marina (954-463-4519, valentinesresort.com) The largest facility on Harbour Island, can accommodate vessels up to 160 feet. The marina and docks feature fuel service, full electric hook-ups, unlimited fresh water, cable hook up and WiFi access at every slip.