Eleuthera Island

Overview

Introduction

The Eleuthera island group was the first area in the Bahamas settled by the British more than 300 years ago. The main island is long and thin: 110 mi/175 km long, averaging only 1.5 mi/2.5 km in width. Because it has three airports— North Eleuthera, Governor's Harbour and Rock Sound—and is visited by daily flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Nassau, it's one of the most accessible of the Out Islands.

Be sure to find out which airport is the correct one for your hotel before arranging your flight. Get it wrong, and you could find yourself facing a taxi ride of 90 mi/145 km or more—expensive, not to mention inconvenient. Use Governor's Harbour if your destination is mid-island in Rainbow Bay, Palmetto Point, Double Bay or Ten Bay; use North Eleuthera if you are headed to Harbour Island or Gregory Town; and use Rock Sound if heading to South Eleuthera, where accommodations are thin.

On the north end of the island, Preacher's Cave is where some of the area's 17th-century settlers took shelter when shipwrecked. Other attractions of note in these parts include Hatchet Bay Cave and the Hot Tubs—also known as the Queen's Bath, they are sun-warmed tidal pools set in a stark limestone setting (ask locals for directions). The area boasts some of the island's finest hotels, several nice restaurants, and a lively music scene—check out Elvina's in Gregory Town, a favorite party haunt of Lenny Kravitz, who owns a home on the island. Gregory Town is sleepy by day, with a bit of shopping and dining to make it worth a visit.

The island's two coasts are very different: Waves pound the east side, particularly at Surfer's Beach near Gregory Town. The sea on the west side, however, is often as smooth as a pond. At Ten Bay Beach, 2 mi/3 km north of Savanna Sound, you can wade 400 ft/125 m out into the ocean at low tide and the waves will still be below your knees.

When traveling to the south end of the main island, stop at the Glass Window Bridge, a narrow stretch of land that forms a natural bridge between the smooth and rough waters of the ocean, and the Blow Hole—water shoots straight up through eroded rock, when conditions are right. On the south end of Eleuthera are the Ocean Blue Hole in Rock Sound—go there to feed bread to the fish, visit Tarpum Bay (a small artists' colony, where fisherfolk go daily at 3 pm to sell their catch) and the resort at Cape Eleuthera.

The sights of Eleuthera could be seen in two hectic days, but if fishing, superb diving and lazing on beaches sound appealing, plan to stay a week. Because the main island is so long, plan part of your time on the north end and part on the south. When you're on the north end, stay on one of two smaller islands—Harbour Island (called "Briland" by locals) or Spanish Well.

Briland's Dunmore Town is one of the oldest and most beautiful towns in the Bahamas. It has true character: Its pastel-colored houses with white picket fences resemble New England cottages (reflecting its British Loyalist heritage), and the hilly streets make for a pleasant place to stroll. The gorgeous pink-sand beach is wide and long (and, at times, home to sand flies—take along repellent). Harbour Island offers fine diving, golf and tennis. Many visitors find that settling down for an entire week in Harbour Island is a perfect lazy holiday.

Harbour Island and three other Eleuthera towns can be reached by high-speed hydrofoil from Nassau.

In the town of Spanish Wells, blond-haired, blue-eyed residents are descended from a few families of English and Scottish fisherfolk and reportedly inbred. They are among the most affluent in the Bahamas because of the town's lobster trade. The town, which is the closest thing to an English village in the Bahamas, is now a yachter's haven. While you're there, stop at the quilting shop and visit the Spanish Wells Museum for more information about the history of the settlement.

Accommodations there are limited, however, as Spanish Wells isn't established for tourism.
For a tour of the area, Bahamas Out-Island Adventures specializes in activity tours of Eleuthera. Phone 242-551-9635. http://www.bahamasadventures.com.

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