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.
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.
Where to Dock
- Spring Bling Bimini (March)
- NCAA Women’s Junkanoo Jam (November)
The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that form a 120-mile–long chain stretch- ing 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.
Where to Dock
- Hope Town Arts and Craft Festival (November)
- Marsh Harbour St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March)
- Bahamas Great Abaco Golf Classic (January)
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.
Where to Dock
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.
Where to Dock
- Valentines Resort and Marina, Harbour Island
- Spanish Wells Yacht Haven & Resort, Spanish Wells
- Romora Bay Resort and Marina, Harbour Island
- Valentines Farmers Market (weekly)
- Christmas Day Junkanoo Parade (December)
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.
Where to Dock
- Sunday Jazz at Coral Beach House (weekly)
- The Island House Triathlon (November)
- Creative Nassau Market (weekly)
- NCAA Battle 4 Atlantis (November)
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.
Where to Dock
- Bahamas Great Exuma Golf Classic (January)
- Labour Day Fair (June)