Map Credit: Perry Joseph: http://www.eleuthera-map.com/

Eleuthera

Eleuthera is an island in the Bahamas, lying 50 miles east of Nassau, with a population of less than 10,000 people. It is very long and thin... 110 miles long.  More fascinating is the average width of the island which ranges from one half to two miles, so you are never far away from the beach.  The "narrowest place on Earth" is on Eleuthera on the Queen's Highway at the famed Glass Window Bridge where the distance from one side of the island to the other is less than 100 feet. Here giant waves smash against the rocky headlands with spray arching hundreds of feet into the air, while a mere 100 feet away on the gentle western coast, gin clear water rests as still as a pond. 

The Lucayan Indians originally occupied Eleuthera.  The Lucayans were enslaved by the Spanish in the 1500's and shipped to South America to work in the gold and silver mines.  They fled to the Bahamas in search of a more peaceful place to live.

Eleuthera was founded in 1648 and is the birthplace of the Bahamas.  Captain William Sayles and a group of Puritans, known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, sailed from Bermuda in search of religious freedom.  Along the way, they found this beautiful gem of an island and named it Eleuthera.  Eleuthera means "free" or "freedom".  Eleuthera still has that unspoiled and untamed feel about it.  The interior of the island is dotted with shrubs, casuarinas trees, coconut palms and jagged coral rock.  

Southern Eleuthera: Rock Sound

We sailed from Warderick Wells, Exumas, over to Rock Sound, Eleuthera, a 53 mile trip.  We traveled with Stacy and Rene from Pipe muh Bligh, who photographed our boat under sail.  It took us about 7.5 hours to get to our destination, Rock Sound anchorage.

    

Rock Sound is the largest township on the island and also boasts the largest shopping center on the island... which is why we traveled to Eleuthera from the Exumas. We and Pipe muh Bligh needed to provision to get ready for boat guests arriving in the next few weeks in the Exumas.  There was a big grocery store, liquor store, hardware store, NAPA store, and a bank.  All for our provisioning pleasure! We anchored out in the bay, brought our dinghies to a nearby dock, and the grocery store gave us a ride back to the dock with our goods. We rented a car for a couple of days to soak up the local flavor of the island and visited Harbour Island and Governour's Harbour.  We liked Eleuthera so much LA and I ended up staying 16 days!  Pipe muh Bligh headed back a few days before we did to meet boat guests.  We stayed on, rented a car for two additional days, and visited Spanish Wells and the south point of Eleuthera.

Rock Sound is a quaint community.  Front Street is lined with pretty little houses decorated with beautiful stands of bougainvillea. 

Even the government buildings are colorful...and the churches are white-washed and neatly maintained.

  

Ocean Hole, located near the center of the island, is a large inland saltwater lake 100 fathoms deep connected by tunnels to the sea.  Steps have been cut into the coral on the shore, so you can climb down to the lake's edge.  We brought some bread to feed the fish which swim their way in from the sea.

 

Southern Eleuthera: Bannerman Town and South Point

At the very south end of Eleuthera is the tiny settlement of Bannerman Town. Bannerman town is the terminal point for the Princess Cay Cruise Lines.  The cruise ship anchors off-shore and ferries the tourist ashore by small lifeboats to a small tourist shopping area and for shore excursions.  

Bahamians display their colorful arts and crafts for sale to the cruise ship tourists.

The southernmost tip of Eleuthera has what many consider to be the most beautiful beach in Eleuthera.  It's a little hard to get to.  We drove slowly down a rocky road to reach the south point.   

The old cliff-top lighthouse is one of the most interesting features of the beach. It is a weatherworn artifact and is a survivor of many hurricanes.  On a clear day, there are spectacular views from the cliffs; sometimes you can see the Bahamas' highest elevation Mount Alverina (206 feet high) on distant Cat Island.  

The pink sand beach here was gorgeous and deserted.  This beach is the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and has some strong undercurrents.  

Central Eleuthera: Governor's Harbour

Governor's Harbour is the capital of Eleuthera and is one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas.  It sits atop a high ridge that gently slopes toward a sheltered harbour.  Faded Victorian houses and beautiful old churches near the harbour recall the town's Loyalist heritage.  It has the rare distinction of being the first permanent European settlement in the New World as well as the home of the first Republican form of government in the New World.  The town features a 100 year old public library. They also have a fine liquor store, Bristol Liquors, where we all contributed to the local economy in preparation for our boat guests' visits.

Cocodiamama, located at Alabaster Bay above Governour's Harbor on the Caribbean side of Eleuthera, features a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean, a perfect place to dine and enjoy the spectacular sunset. We celebrated Valentine's Day with a wonderful dinner.

       

Northern Eleuthera: Spanish Wells

A short ride from Gene's Bay Dock took us to Spanish Wells.  The Spaniards once used this island as a safe harbor during the 17th century while they transferred their treasures from the new world to the old.  Unlike the rest of the Bahamas, most of the islanders are European... white, blonde-haired, blue-eye descendants of the original Eleutheran Adventures who founded the original settlement in the mid-1600's.  

 

Today, Spanish Wells is a quiet, conservative, prosperous fishing community with a population of 1500. It is only three square miles and most of the residents get around in golf carts, not cars.  We toured the island by golf cart.  Spanish Wells is a neat, manicured island with clapboard gingerbread houses that look like they were transported from a New England fishing village.  

 

Lobstering is the main activity here. So lucrative is the trade in lobster, the inhabitants of Spanish Wells are the most prosperous Out Islanders in the Bahamas.  The waterfront is lined with fishing boats ranging in size from 40 to 75 feet in length.  The life of a fisherman requires that he must sometimes leave home for up to 4 weeks at a time.  The fishing boats are equipped with freezers to store the lobster in until they reach port for sale.  The fishermen use smaller boats (18-20 feet) to dive from to catch the lobster.  They are then taken back to the big boats for freezing. The lobster tails are brought back to port for sale to a processor who then ships the tails to different customers.  Spanish Wells supplies Red Lobster with a great deal of their lobster supply, as well as to restaurants in Florida, Nassau, and Freeport.

Lionfish:  The Scourge of the Bahamas

Lately there has been much concern over the introduction of a non-native species of fish, the Lionfish, to the waters of the Bahamas (and the United States).  Lionfish are known for their venomous tentacles and they are dangerous to fishermen and divers.  The venom can cause vomiting, fever, and sweating, and have been lethal in a few cases. These fish have no natural predators and are killing the fish that are the main source of income for the islands' fishing industry.  They have become the source of frustration for all Bahamian fishermen.  

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Resorts, such as the Atlantis Paradise Island resort, are considered possibly responsible for the release of Lionfish eggs into the sea, which then were carried on currents throughout the Bahamas.  Some believe that the lionfish were introduced when Hurricane Andrew destroyed an aquarium in southern Florida, and others believe the lionfish were purposely discarded into the sea by unsatisfied aquarium enthusiasts.  No one has officially been named responsible for the appearance of these killer fish.  Lionfish have successfully pioneered the coastal waters of the Atlantic in less than a decade and pose a major threat to reef ecological systems.  Lionfish could be decreasing Atlantic reef diversity by up to 80%.  A combination of methods will be needed to keep the lionfish population at bay. The population of the lionfish are increasing at drastic rates... lionfish are able to reproduce monthly.  To even maintain the current lionfish population, 27% of the entire population would have to be killed monthly.  In November 2010, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary began to give out licenses to divers to kill lionfish inside the sanctuary.  This is the first time this has been done for any species in the sanctuary, in a desperate attempt to eradicate the fish.  The Environment Education Foundation recently hosted its third "lionfish derby" in the USA, offering $3000 in prize money for dive teams catching the most lionfish.  Other interest groups, such as NOAA, are setting up events and campaigns that encourage the killing and eating of the fish.  Many people are wary of eating a venomous fish, but when properly filleted, the fish is perfectly healthy to eat. It will be interesting to see what happens to this situation in the future.

Northern Eleuthera: Harbour Island

Harbour Island, part of the Out Islands of the Bahamas, is located off the northeast coast of Eleuthera.  The island is only accessible by boat.  We took a private ferry over to the island, which only took 15 minutes, and $5 each way.  

The frequent parade of the fashionable and famous, and the chic small inns that accommodate them, has earned the island another name: the St. Barths of the Bahamas.  Over 3 million tourists visit this tiny island each year.  Only 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, we toured the island by golf cart.  The island is colorful with pastel New England style cottages with white picket fences and flower lined streets. On Bay Street a pink and white cottage, Loyalist Cottage, one of the original setters' homes from 1797, is still standing.  

The only town on the island is Dunmore Town. Dunmore was known for its ship building and sugar refinement in the late 1800's.  Making rum was popular during Prohibition. We ate some of the local fare.... whole fried snapper, rice and peas, Bahamian Mac and cheese, and cole slaw....with beer, of course.  

Then, we drank a little rum (Goombay Smash!) at a local marina...

Then we started seeing things.... like chickens that live in garbage cans and chickens that live in the street. The unusual is the usual for this little island!  Chickens rule! 

Harbour Island is famous for its pink sand beaches, which are found all along the east side of the island.  The sand is a composition of bits of coral, broken shells, minute rocks and calcium carbonate from tiny marine invertebrates.  The pink color comes from tiny microscopic shelled animals known as Foraminifera, which has a bright pink or red shell full of holes.

We enjoyed our visit to Eleuthera!

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