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Bahamas Out Islands: Eleuthera, with Video Tours

Updated on September 23, 2012

Where do members of the British Royal Family go when they want to get away from it all on a tropical island? Eleuthera! It’s an undeveloped natural island with rocky cliffs, pink and white sandy beaches, friendly natives, and loads of history.

The island was originally inhabited by the Arawaks. When the Spanish needed workers for the mines on Hispanola, however, these native people were taken from Eleuthera and transported to the mines. By 1550, Eleuthera was uninhabited. Then, in 1648, a group of Puritans from Bermuda settled on the island, and its name is derived from the group. They called themselves the “Eleutherian Adventurers,” from “eleutheria,” the Greek word for freedom. Eleuthera has been given the distinction of being the New World’s oldest republic.

An interesting historic site is Cupid’s Cay, the seat of the old settlement. Here, the Wesley Methodist Church, old homes, the Old Jail, a 100-year-old library, and the site of the first United States consulate can be seen. At Governor’s Harbour, Victorian homes and buildings still stand.

Eleuthera is 110 miles long but only about 2 miles wide. The coastline is speckled with quaint fishing villages, beautiful villas, and colonial towns. The interior is home to small farms and sprawling pineapple plantations, said to produce some of the best fruits in the world.

The island is a favorite with divers. Several unusual underwater geological formations known as Ocean Hole, Current Cut, and Devil’s Backbone provide one-of-a-kind dives. Wrecks are numerous around Eleuthera, too, and some are in shallow water. Snorkeling in the glass-clear sea is also popular.

Eleuthera is also a paradise for surfers. Just south of Gregory Town is Surfers’ Beach, on the Atlantic side of the island. The waves are large here, and according to Fodor’s Guide, they’re the second best in the world for surfing. Hawaii’s waves were rated number one.

On the other side of the island, the sea is calm and the beaches are wide and sandy. At these beaches, sunning, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and jet skiing are popular pastimes.

Nature lovers will find plenty on Eleuthera to pique their interest, too. On the north end of the island is Preacher’s Cave, a natural cavern that bears a strong resemblance to a church. Hatchet Bay Cave is a mile long and is filled with stalagmites and bats. Just north of Gregory Town is the Glass Window Bridge, a must-see. The original natural bridge was destroyed by a hurricane and has been replaced by a man-made bridge that separates the Atlantic from the Caribbean. The contrast is amazing, with the rough navy blue of the Atlantic on one side and the tranquil aquamarine of the Caribbean on the other.

Fishing the waters near Eleuthera can provide heart-pounding action. Wahoo, sharks, mahi-mahi, barracuda, tuna, sailfish, and both white and blue marlin are regularly caught. Several charter guides and services will take guests out to where the big ones are. Bonefishing the shallow flats is somewhat of an art form here, and many visitors come to the island for this sport alone.

If you enjoy horseback riding, visit the beach at Harbour Island, where you can ride on the beach. The beach here is pink sand, and it's rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world. There a lot of interesting homes in the town, too. Rent a golf cart and spend the day exploring and sightseeing on your own.

Visitors to the island have a range of lodging choices, including duplexes, vacation homes, villas, hotels, motels, cottages, condos, resorts, and apartments. There’s even a Quality Inn on Eleuthera! Prices vary as much as the choices themselves. For example, a bedroom, kitchen, and living room at Ethel’s Cottages is less than $60 a night, while a condo at the exclusive Windermere Island Resort is around $700 a night. With a quick search on the internet, you can find all sorts of package deals and reduced prices for last-minute Bahamas vacations.

Restaurants on Eleuthera range from seafood shacks to fine dining, and everything in between. The best nightlife features live Caribbean and calypso music and tropical drinks, especially those made with local pineapple.

Perhaps the most wonderful attraction on the entire island is the people themselves. They’re helpful and friendly and seem to just enjoy life. Almost every week there seems to be some sort of festival going on, and visitors are encouraged to join in.

Three airports on the island – Governor’s Harbour Airport, North Eleuthera Airport, and Rock Sound Airport – have regular flights to and from Florida on charter planes. There’s also ferry service between Nassau and Harbour Island and Spanish Wells.


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