Bahamas Vacation: How to Choose an Island

By: Matthew Simon
Thinking about a vacation in the Bahamas but don’t know which islandto visit? This article will introduce you to each island’s unique character andthe mysteries and adventures it has to offer.

New Providence Island is home to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamasand by far its largest city. Nassauwas first settled in the 1600’s and is rich with history, including plenty ofgenuine pirates. Nassau has some beautifulcolonial architecture, and on the outskirts, a strip of high-rise hotels andcasinos along CableBeach. ParadiseIsland,connected to New Providence by a bridge, ishome to the gargantuan Atlantis resort with its shark pools and water slides. New Providence offers golf, tennis, diving, fishingcharters, gambling, night life, sight-seeing, and cultural activities.

Half a century ago, Grand Bahama Island,where Freeport is located, was almostuninhabited. Today, its port is one of the largest in the hemisphere, and thecity of 50,000 is well known as a resort and cruise-ship destination. Thetourism center is Port Lucaya, which features a large marina, high-rise beachresorts, shopping, and dining. Unlike New Providence, the island of Grand Bahamahas less populated regions as well, with deserted beaches and tropical pineforests. The LucayanNational Park includes anature preserve and vast underwater cave system.

The Abacos, theacknowledged sailing capital of the Bahamas, are among the world’s mostbeautiful cruising grounds. MarshHarbour on Great Abacois a major boat-charter center as well as a base for diving and deep-seafishing. The Abacos were settled by Loyalists who fled New England after theRevolutionary War, and the islands are known for their Cape-Cod-style houseswith clapboard siding and picket fences. To contrast its quaint villages, Abacohas several major resorts complete with championship golf courses and acres ofcondominiums.

The Exumas are achain of over 300 islands and cays. Aside from Great and Little Exuma, whichare the two largest, most are uninhabited—and that’s half the fun. Like theAbacos, the Exumas are wonderful cruising grounds. The largest settlement is George Town on GreatExuma, a village of?1000 souls with a fine harbor. The ExumaCaysLand and SeaNational Park, at thenorth of the chain, is popular with divers, and even has a few nature trailsfor landlubbers. Exuma also has several major resorts, including the FourSeasons at EmeraldBay.

Hemingway’s famous “Island in the stream," Bimini lies in the Gulf Stream, just 50miles from the east coast of Florida.Hemingway helped make it famous as a center of deep-sea fishing, and it remainsso to this day. Bimini—which is actually two islands and a number of cays--isalso a popular cruising ground, and the main settlement, Alice Town, caters tothe yachting crowd. Bimini has one major resort, BiminiBay,but is otherwise still very rustic. Bimini’s other claim to fame is Bimini Road, ahighway of stone in twenty feet of water that some believe is a remnant of thelost city of Altantis.

With sixty miles of beaches and only a few dozen hotelrooms, Eleuthera is a paradise forbeach lovers who enjoy privacy and unspoiled natural beauty. Eleuthera is anisland of rolling green hills and sleepy villages. The guidebooks are fond ofnoting that Eleuthera has not a single traffic light, but that isn’t surprisingwhen you consider that most of it has only one road. Needless to say, there islittle need for a map, and on an island less than a mile wide for longstretches, you’re never far from the? beach. For more information about Eleuthera click here.

Androsis by far the largest of the Bahamian islands, with an area of 2300 squaremiles. The interior, said to be the largest still-unexplored landmass in theworld, is home to six-foot iguanas and the rare Bahamian boa constrictor.Sasquatch has not been sighted, but only because no one has braved the iguanasand boas to look for him. The east coast of the island, the only populatedarea, has scattered villages and miles of beautiful beaches. Just offshore is Andros’s other great attraction, a vast barrier reef—thesecond largest in the world.

Long Island is one of the few Bahamian islands which does notdepend primarily on tourism. Fishing, and to a lesser extent agriculture, stillpredominate. The island was settled by American Loyalists from the South, whocame with their slaves and established plantations. The soil would not supportlarge-scale farming, however, and the plantations were gradually abandoned.Their ruins can still be seen. Long Island isalso home to Dean’s Blue Hole, one of the deepest in the world and a spectacularsight with its high cliff walls.

Fifty miles long and with a population of 1600, Cat Island is a place for people whowant to get away from the hustle and bustle of, for example, rural NorthDakota. Cat has many miles of deserted, pink-sand beaches, and a central ridgethat reaches 200 feet, the highest elevation in the Bahamas. A monastery known as theHermitage, hand-built by an Anglican clergyman turned Catholic priest, islocated atop the peak. Aside from heaven itself, a hermit could hardly have founda better place for peace and quiet.

Columbus made his firstlandfall in the new world on the Bahamian island of San Salvador.There are four monuments to the event scattered about this lonely island of1000 souls. The interior of San Salvador is taken up largely by salt lakes andmarshes, and the only road follows the circumference of the island. San Salvador is almost entirely surrounded by a reef andhas some of the best diving in the Bahamas, including cave diving andwreck diving. The beaches are also excellent. The island is home to the Bahamas’only Club Med, a vast resort of 200 roomsArticle Submission, one of the most luxurious in theClub Med chain.

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