Boating in The Bahamas: Rated "Top of the List" for good reason
Jan 30, 2017
Here's how The Bahamas differs from other top Caribbean boating spots
The Bahamas is often rated top of the list for best boating spots in the Caribbean. It often shares company with Aruba, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe and St Martin. While it's great to know which islands are the best, sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to actually figure out where to go. From our travels across the Out Islands of The Bahamas, here are a few standout features that differentiate The Bahamas from the rest.
A journey of 700 islands
First things first: The Bahamas is not an island. Unique in the Caribbean, The Bahamas is a massive archipelago: Correction, The Bahamas is a massive collection of archipelagos. We say Abaco, but the official name is actually The Abacos. We say Exuma, but the actual name is The Exumas. The same goes for the Berry Islands, Bimini Islands and so on: There are several archipelagos within the overall chain of islands. Mind bending? Not really. It's just that The Bahamas literally has over 700 islands and 2000 cays.
Overwhelming? Maybe. Back in the day when The Bahamas promoted all of its islands to travelers, it was a bit much for some to digest. Admittedly, even for us, it is much easier to plan a Bahamas vacation when the menu is organized by 16 islands with national airports or 13 islands with boating ports of entry.
Regardless of what the commercials say, however, boat lovers know, the vastness of the archipelago is one of its great differentiating virtues. When you cruise through the islands there is a neverending parade of little island oases. You can casually pick and choose your own private beach enclave; we're talking an entire island all to yourself. It is just so loveable.
Many options for dropping anchor
Where to drop anchor is, of course, an important choice to make no matter where in the Caribbean you are headed. In The Bahamas it just so happens that we have many options that deliver a great variety of vacation experiences. We have private islands with world class marinas for luxury, exclusivity or remoteness: Highbourne Cay or Compass Cay are examples. But who needs a marina when you can have an all-around aquatic trip but choosing a mooring sight in the middle of the sea. We love the Exuma Land and Sea National Park for this, as it has designated mooring spots that will provide safe harbor.
For a more immersive encounter with Bahamian culture then look to the Out Islands like Harbour Island and Elbow Cay, quaint and luxurious little places that boaters love. Similar to these, but with fewer people and a little less celebrity are Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands or Green Turtle in the Abacos. Not our top choice, but of course there is the capital Nassau, the island city where you’ll find mega resorts and urban nightlife, but also, traffic on the streets and on the seas. You may have to compete to enter the harbor with commercial fishing boats, cruise ships and tugs, mail boats, and pleasure cruisers.
It’s easy to bring your own boat (BYOB)
From the United States, The Bahamas is the closest Caribbean country which means you'll use the least amount of fuel to get here. Crossing the Gulf Stream that separates Florida and the Out Islands is not as treacherous as it would seem. Even a modest-sized boat can handle the trip with a little preparation and planning. Many boaters from Florida and the east coast make the 50 mile run on a regular basis: sometimes to fish in the Tongue of the Ocean or to fulfill a magazine-inspired dream of white-sand beaches.
The closest port of entry is in the Bimini Islands; Key Largo is a good launching pad if you are headed there. For a port in the Abacos, departing from Miami or Fort Lauderdale will suit you well. A few times a year we organize Boating Flings, for first-timers who want to cross the Gulf Stream with a caravan of boaters and a lead pilot. It is our version of a road trip.