Not only is it “Better in the Bahamas” – it’s better all year long. The Bahamas enjoys a moderate climate cooled in the summer by the northeast trade winds. Summer temperatures rarely rise above 90 degrees F and the occasional coolest days in the winter seldom drop below 50 degrees F. Days of course are sunny and beautiful – usually in the 70’s and 80’s year around. So don’t think of the Bahamas as just a winter destination, summer months are my favorite time to visit.
While there are 700 islands in the Bahamas, Eleuthera is one of the most beautiful. It is just 30 miles NE of Nassau, is about 90 miles long and about 2 to 3 miles wide. Lots of beautiful beaches and with hills of nearly 100 feet above sea level – yes I know those of you near real mountains are laughing at that – but that’s a higher elevation than almost anywhere else in the Bahamas or in nearby Florida.
After the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the 1400’s the local population was nearly wiped out. Only a very few survivors lived on Eleuthera for the next 200 years. In 1654 William Sayle, former governor of Bermuda, petitioned Parliament to settle Eleuthera. Prospective settler, who became known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, were promised 300 acres of land for coming to Eleuthera and helping to settle and develop the island.
There are currently several small villages on Eleuthera which are fun to visit. The town of Rock Sound is one of the largest settlements and even has an airstrip. You’ll enjoy the assortment of shops here and be sure to check out the coconut tarts at the local bakery.
Just outside of town is a unique little tidal saltwater lake called Ocean Hole. The lake is completely landlocked but is connected to the sea by tunnels so it is filled with fresh saltwater and an abundance of fish that have found their way into these protected waters. The hole is estimated to be about 75’ deep and is a favorite swimming spot for locals and visitors alike.
Another charming town is Tarpum Bay with hilly roads, charming weather-beaten homes and even a few goats roaming the streets adding to the local color. The town is the site of a small artists’ colony. A little to the north of Tarpum Bay is Gaulding’s Cay beach, a great long shelling stretch for beachcombers.
Harbour Island is just off the northeast coast of Eleuthera and is often called the Nantucket of the Caribbean. It is one of the prettiest Out Islands in the chain. It features three miles of powdery pink sand beach, pastel-colored houses, white picket fences, narrow lanes bordered by stone walls, quaint ships and tropical flowers. Definitely post card photographic material here.Other settlements include Governor’s Harbour which is a little further north, but since there is a Club Med there probably not a place to go for peace and quiet. Alice Town, by Hatchet Bay would be a more tranquil option. There is a mile long cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites at Hatchet Bay, where the Eleutheran Adventurers mentioned earlier, took refuge and held meetings and services when they arrived on the island. This is a fun place to explore and something you might not expect to be doing on a yachting holiday in the islands.
Another spot to visit just to the west of the northern Eleutheran tip is Spanish Wells. The Spaniards used this as a safe harbor during the 17th Century while they transferred their riches from the New World to the Old. During the 1800’s the local population became known for the practice of wrecking ships by luring them with lights that appeared to be beacons from lighthouses – but were actually lanterns tied to donkeys. Today Spanish Wells is home to commercial fishing vessels whose primary catch is Spiny Lobster. During lobster season these vessels may stay out to sea for 4 – 6 weeks at a time. Lobster season runs from August 1 through March 30. If you visit Spanish Wells you may also want to check out their Museum for a little more history about their past shenanigans.
So pack your bags and grab a flight, Eleuthera and her neighboring islands are waiting for you.