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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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HomeBahamasBeyond Nassau & Freeport: Unveiling the Bahamas' Top 10 Cruising Gems

Beyond Nassau & Freeport: Unveiling the Bahamas’ Top 10 Cruising Gems

You know you want it...

Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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I was telling Lily about my time in the Bahamas, back in the day, and she asked which of the islands were my favorites. I explained there were over 700 islands, but they could be grouped together into 14 or so areas. That got me thinking this would make a great Top 10 article and here we are.

Remember these Top 10 articles are simply my opinion and if you have been to the Bahamas, you might put them in a different order. If you have never been then this might be a good overview of the country. I personally prefer more nature-oriented islands so both New Providence (with Nassau) and Grand Bahama (with Freeport) did not make the cut. Nor did Samana, Mayaguana, and Inagua islands, because they each only really have one anchorage and not much cruising. 

Andros - Swinging at Uncle Charlie's
Andros – Swinging at Uncle Charlie’s

10. Andros Island – This is simultaneously the largest and least visited island in the Bahamas. For some reason cruisers do not come here and that is a shame. Almost the entire west side has an amazing coral wall a mile offshore with wonderful snorkeling. The bottom half has three different bights going clear through to the other side of the island. At the village of Coakley, you can visit the Androsia Factory and there are also blue holes, Mennonite farms, and Morgan’s Cave to explore.

Come Explore the Sites of Andros Island

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Shipwreck
Shipwreck

9. Bimini Islands – Straight across from Miami, and only a stone’s throw from the Gulf Stream, this small island group is a sport fisherman’s dream location. Don’t believe me, then trust the master of them all, Earnest Hemingway! Having drunk from the Fountain of Youth on South Bimini and snorkeled the SS Sapona shipwreck (the training target of the famed US Navy Flight 19) I loved waiting out a northerner here and it is a great introduction to the Bahamas.

Underwater Christmas Trees at Raccoon Cay
Underwater Christmas Trees at Raccoon Cay

8. Jumentos (Ragged) Islands – Starting between Grand Exuma and Long Islands this 60-mile-long chain stretches south halfway to Cuba. The Ragged Islands are a smaller version of the Exuma Island, which you will read about soon, except with no people until you get to the town of Duncan at the end of the chain. As long as you like beaches, snorkeling, sandy bays, blue holes, and palm trees you will love it here.

Relaxing at Big Gaulding Cay
Relaxing at Big Gaulding Cay

7. Berry Islands – Near Andros Island and the Bimini Islands is another small chain. At the north end you will find two islands cruise ships use for their guests and at the south end Chub Cay Resort and Marina. In between you will find a wonderful collection of private and public islands with deep water to the east, sand flats to the west, and hardly any other boaters around.

Front of Hermitage
Front of Hermitage

6. Cat, Conception, Rum, & San Salvador Islands – This “group” of islands is a bit different, because they are each separated by deep water. With that said they are still within 10-25 miles of each other. Each one has a special charm waiting to be discovered. Cat Island has the Hermitage Father Jerome built in the 1940’s as his retirement home. Conception Island is a national park with the interior containing an amazing tidal creek to explore. Rum Island has some amazing pre-Columbian petroglyphs, but it is the welcoming nature of the community you really want to experience. It is the last of this group, but first for Christopher Columbus as this is the first landing the great navigator made in the New World.

French Wells - Small Boat Channel
French Wells – Small Boat Channel

5. Acklins Island – This is a group of three small islands in the shape of a triangle with a shallow bay in the middle. What I loved about this group was finding my favorite lighthouse on Bird Rock Island, exploring the jail and church on Long Cay, the anchorage at French Wells, and the cherry on top is Hogsty Reef about 25 miles away. This is a 5-mile by 3-mile atoll right out of what you imagine the South Pacific to be like.

Long Island Lagoon
Long Island Lagoon

4. Long Island – For an island that only really offers two anchorages due to shallow water to the west and deep water to the east, there is a lot to do on Long Island. You have a choice between Christopher Columbus monuments, bat caves, beaches, the 2nd deepest blue hole in the world, amazing father Jerome built churches, old salt pans, and more. There is so much to see you will need at least two days with a car rental to even have a chance to take it all in.

3. Exumas Islands – Now we are to the cruising mecca of the Bahamas and it all starts with the anchorage off Stocking Island. The good news is that with 400+ boats comes an amazing cruising community and a daily list of activities available to participate in. As you move up the chain of islands you will find so many things to see. These notable highlights include Musician Mermaid underwater sculpture, Oven Rock Cave with water inside, Black Point settlement with Lorraine’s coconut bread and a blow hole, Thunderball Grotto made famous by a James Bond movie, swimming pigs, the Land & Sea Park, Shroud Cay with endless tidal creeks to explore, plane wreckage to snorkel, and iguanas. It is easy to spend a couple months in the chain alone.

Replacing the Windows on the Dodger

Guana Cay - Nipper's Tractor
Guana Cay – Nipper’s Tractor

2. Abaco Islands – The other popular cruising ground is the Sea of Abaco between Great Abaco Island and the barrier islands to the east. Here you will find one of the cutest tropical towns ever with a candy-striped lighthouse. From Hope Town you can head south to the Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park and the most amazing Little Harbour where you will feel years removed from the hustle and bustle of Marsh Harbour 10-15 miles away. Heading northwest you will find other wonderful settlements on Man-O-War Cay and Green Turtle Cay. The Sunday pig roast at Nipper’s is not to be missed and Double-Breasted Cay may be my favorite sand flats ever.

Glass Window
Glass Window

1. Eleuthera Island – As amazing as everything above is, they can’t compare with Eleuthera Island for me. Spanish Wells is as industrious as it is beautiful. The Devil’s Backbone is an exhilarating trip to Harbour Island with the famous pink sand. I had a blast swimming in Current Cut at 7-8 knots and the Glass Window is awesome. Heading down the narrow island is the extensive Hatchet Bay Cave and Ocean Hole in Rock Sound. In between are countless beaches to explore and the western side of the island is a huge shallow bay to sail.

The good part of doing a Top 10 for the Bahamas is I got to reminisce with Lily and get her excited to visit someday. The bad news is that I barely skimmed the top of how great this country is. In the future I plan on doing a Top 10 list for most of these island groups to deep dive into the magical cruising ground that is the Bahamas.

Eleuthera Bound

Captain Shane and Lily are back in the US and Mexico visiting family while they wait for hurricane season to end so they can continue to explore the Caribbean. Feel free to join their adventure on the web or social media at svGuidingLight.

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Shane McClellan
Shane McClellanhttp://www.svguidinglight.com
Visit www.svGuidingLight.com to read more from Captain Shane about the Bahamas, Caribbean, life aboard, and more.
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