“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”– Ernest Hemingway
The Bahamas have been on my mind this past week. As many of you know, Florida dodged a horrific Hurricane last week, unfortunately the Beautiful country of the Bahamas was not so fortunate. This monster of a storm stalled over the Bahamas as a Category 5 for over 30 hours and left the islands in devastation. I have visited this country several times and have been thinking about all of the fun memories of these islands; I wanted to reminisce and share a trip I took to Bimini, a small island in the Bahamas.
We took a convenient ferry from Miami to Bimini with FRS-Caribben (even though this was only a couple months ago, they are no longer in operation and are directing traffic to Balearia Carribean Fast Ferry). For our trip we boarded the ferry at 9:00 am in Miami and landed in Bimini a little after 11:00 am. On the ferry you can get a map of the island and plan out the different sights you want to see, rent golf carts, drink frozen daiquiris and margaritas, and schedule excursions. We indulged in a couple buy-one-get-one breakfast margaritas- we were already on Island Time. By booking through FRS we were provided the option of adding on the hotel, so we did. We stayed a night at the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini which is a beautiful resort with a couple restaurants, pools with pool-side bars, and a rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. We like to make the most of our time in a new city by exploring as much possible, so we do not usually spend much time in the hotel nor care too much about the lodging- aside from cleanliness, safety, and hospitality of course; however, I could have easily spent two days here without leaving the resort. One drawback was that the Hotel ran out of beach towels. All day. Both days. Next time I would bring my own towel to be on the safe side.
As I was researching for this getaway I found that the island of Bimini has few cars, and no public transportation or taxis: the main mode of transportation is golf carts! How fun!? When we disembarked the ferry we walked to the golf cart rental location to rent a cart for the weekend- best decision ever. With this decision we were able to see the entire island- including a portion of the island that is a future residential community under construction. We checked into the hotel which was super close, maybe a 5 minute golf-cart ride. There are golf cart shuttles to and from the resort, port, and beaches. If you plan to lounge at the resort and beach you would not need a cart, you could easily just take advantage of the shuttle around the resort area. After checking in at the hotel, we immediately went searching for lunch.
We ventured into town to eat at Bimini Big John’s, a casual restaurant on the water. Actually, every place was casual and on the water, which is awesome! We shared an incredible fried seafood platter. The water was absolutely gorgeous, so blue and crystal clear. The island, being as small as it is, you can see water basically in any direction you look. We took the cart up and down all of the roads, stopping at Nate’s Bimini Bread to buy a loaf of cinnamon bread. This bread was amazing! We had some while we were driving around town, and had plenty to bring back home to make delicious french toast! We drove to the beaches in Alice Town and sat and watched the water, and found a rusty boat wrecked on the shore. While relaxing in the shade, a teacher walked her small class of children (ages seemed to range from four to ten) to the beach to do an afternoon foot race- it was so fun to watch. When the teacher said “Ready? Set. Go!” one little girl launched herself and face-planted immediately. We sat back and watched the kids interact with her as she jumped up and tried to keep up with the others. We were laughing way too hard at her little misfortune. I love people watching- especially hilarious little humans.
While on our explorations, our golf cart died. We were stranded in between the “real Bimini” and the resort area. Luckily the keys to the cart had the number to the company and they drove us out a fresh cart within a few minutes…then we we were off again! We also drove by the Dolphin House / Bimini Museum, which was designed by a local man who used all recycled materials. He just happened to be there when we stopped by and was providing a private tour. I saw on Facebook prior to our trip that is was under renovations and may be closed; I do not think they have scheduled tours, they seem to be impromptu and irregular. We saw the outside of the unique building, but did not take the tour (other than eavesdropping a bit on the private tour). A couple blocks down the street is the home (or the remnants of the house that was once there) of Ernest Hemingway. He spent much of his time writing and fishing on Bimini.
After our explorations, we stopped by Stuart’s Conch Salad Shack for some fresh conch, lobster, Sands beer, and punch (with rum!). This little shack is surrounded by piles of conch shells, and serves super fresh shellfish – it was basically plucked from the water below and immediately chopped up and served. It was fascinating to watch the chef prepare the salads, he prepared these effortlessly and so quickly! As it turns out there are no laws about drinking and driving on Bimini- so we took our punch on the road.
The next day we woke up and took the golf cart into the “real Bimini” to get breakfast at CJ’s Deli in Alice Town (yummy breakfast sandwiches) before our snorkeling tour to see the S.S. Sapona Shipwreck with Bimini Undersea. The tour was 9:30 am-1:00 pm and they offered snorkel and fins rentals, but we tend to bring our own gear if we have space in our luggage. On this trip we brought our snorkel masks and rented fins. The tour was so fun! We made two stops, the first stop was at a reef where we saw tons of fish and coral! The second stop was at the S.S. Sapona Shipwreck– this was an unbelievable experience. This gargantuan ship can be seen forever away- we thought it was a dark cloud from afar. This ship was supposed to be used in WWI, but it was not completed in time, so it was sold a few times in its history, eventually for scraps. During a hurricane in the 1920s it ran aground so it was used for target practice by the military in WWII. It also served as the transporter of rum during the Prohibition Era! Snorkeling is always a fun time, we always see something neat. This was extra special, being able to swim through the windows and doorways of this abandoned ship, as intimidating as it was, was absolutely incredible!! We saw all kinds of fish and stingray, and several huge lobsters and conch! The tour guide was great, not only did he provide us with these interesting facts and history about the ship, he was very helpful for those on the tour who were not comfortable in the water.
The day of our tour the water was quite chilly and choppy with a strong current. Luckily we are skilled swimmers and have snorkeled a lot so we were zipping through the ship- many people on the tour had never done it before and had some trouble with the chop. If you so do not have experience snorkeling, it would definitely be intimidating. I would suggest practicing off the beach to get familiar with the snorkel and fins before an open water tour. Another tip: take Dramamine! I get motion sickness in cars, boats, roller coasters, walking down a winding street (just kidding!) so Dramamine is always within reach. There was a cute young couple on the tour that we were talking with, and she was really seasick. I gave her a granola bar and some Dramamine, but it was too late. Been there!
After the two stops, we made our way back to the island, showered off, and got lunch at a nearby pizza place. We ended our weekend driving up and down the island some more, watching the waves from the beaches, taking in the salty air. We also drove right into the new housing development which was gated with a guard! We must have looked trustworthy or confident, because he just waved us in. This neighborhood is currently a barren area, with a few almost completed buildings, that will soon be filled with huge modern homes. It was pretty neat to be standing there imagining that homes will be covering the land in no time. We were joking that when we are old we can tell people we were on Bimini before this part of the island was developed.
At the end of our tropical weekend, we boarded the Ferry at 6:00 pm, and docked in Miami around 9:00 pm. Upon our arrival in Miami we had to remain on the ferry for almost two hours to wait for customs and immigration to allow us to disembark, since they only allowed 50 people off at a time. By this point, everyone was very restless, and not listening to the crew- not my favorite situation I have ever been in. If you decide to take this trip, be sure to keep this in mind, if I had been mentally prepared, I may have been less antsy myself.
Overall this was a great anniversary get-away that was super easy, fun, and relaxing! I would highly suggest a weekend away in Bimini. Every time I have gone to the Bahamas I have encountered such nice people, amazing food, and gorgeous beaches and water. With so much devastation there now it is important to help in whatever way we can, if you are interested in helping the Bahamas rebuild after the storm, here is a link with a variety of opportunities for you to help!