Mélange Caribbean Travel & Lifestyle Magazine

The Bahamas

Lazy Days in Eleuthera

Shelley Townley

Seeking a secluded getaway for our family summer vacation I booked tickets from Miami and the four of us road tripped from our home in the mountains of North Carolina down the Florida coast. A short hop of a flight delivered us to the tourist bustle of Nassau and we taxied to the ferry docks to board for the trip to Eleuthera.

The luxurious, air conditioned fast ferry from Nassau to Eleuthera has a tiny bar and lunch counter so we enjoyed snacks and icy Kalik beers on the three hour trip across azure water, before landing in Current on the north section of the 100 mile long strip of island. Right off of the ferry dock we splashed into the sea from a tiny ring of beach next to the little shop that greets visitors from the ferry.

Known as one of the “family islands” Eleuthera is ranked as the “Best Secret Island on Earth” by Travel and Leisure but retains its sleepy out island feel with friendly people, local owned guesthouses and virtually vacant beaches. The island has the benefit of two completely different coastlines with the crashing Atlantic on the northeast and the still, clear Caribbean Sea on its southwest. At Glass Window Bridge, the narrowest place on earth, you can stand in the middle of the road and see both bodies of water, distinctly different within a few feet of each other. The astronaut John Glenn declared Eleuthera one of the most beautiful sites on earth from outer space.

Puritans from Bermuda seeking religious freedom founded Eleuthera in 1648 and the little island of Harbour Island just off the coast is still populated by white descendants who live in tiny cottages and drive golf carts through the narrow streets.

Tourist infrastructure on Eleuthera is significantly less than on the more visited islands of Paradise and Grand Bahama and in order to pick up our rental car (keep left!), we had to stop at a tiny bar to get the keys to a 1970’s clunker that barely ran and had no radio but we didn’t mind as we zoomed alongside spectacular white sand beaches on the Queen’s Highway, Eleuthera’s one main road.

We stopped by Governor’s Harbour, the main settlement on Eleuthera and visited a little grocery where we bought some staples and local produce from a friendly old gentleman, before heading to our vacation rental cottage in Ten Bay Beach. The islanders make a living through farming and fishing and fresh fish and pineapples are readily available while most other items are imported and very expensive. A low quality half gallon of orange juice was a prohibitive $8.00 but in the rum shop next door we found good local rum for $3.00.

Ten Bay Beach is a gorgeous stretch of white sand ringed by Casuarina trees and pines. The water is gin clear and shallow out for over a hundred yards so you can stroll in knee to waist deep water far from shore and splash with the friendly island dogs that frequent the area. Our “villa” sat on a small cliff’s edge with steps down to a little thatched palapa where we could step into the water and have near complete privacy in our own cove.

For $650 we had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a full kitchen and dining area, a comfortable living area and French doors opening to a concrete deck which ran the length of the house and had a stunning vista of the Caribbean. Below the house was a cistern where rainwater collected for our use. We rented a rubber dinghy with an outboard motor for the week so that we could zoom around to other beaches and drop anchor for a snorkel wherever we liked.

From our palapa we watched barracuda and bonefish, small sharks and colorful parrotfish go by. We took a picnic lunch and beach blankets to Ten Bay beach and set up for the day in the welcome shade of the pines and luxuriated in reading books and finding sand dollars in the shallows.

Some days we drove to the little settlements along the coast: Tarpon Bay, Palmetto Point or Rock Sound to try out the various luncheonettes for cracked Conch served with coleslaw and homemade breads by gregarious Bahamian women. We visited tiny bakeries housed in the front rooms of private homes to buy fresh loaves and sweet breads and stopped into the cool shade of little galley like rum shops for frosty Kaliks or rum punches. Everyone we met was welcoming and kind.

Our week in Eleuthera ended with a flight to Abaco aboard a little prop plane with five seats. The Captain arranged us by weight to keep us aloft and I had the honor of sitting in the copilot’s seat where I watched the pilot lazily glide us away from the mermaid shaped island and back to civilization.