Exploring Bahamas Beyond The Obvious: The Outer Islands

The Bahamas has gained the reputation of being the most exotic and tourist-friendly of Caribbean destinations, attracting hoards of global visitors every year. Quiz anyone about the Bahamas and chances are that the immediate thoughts would be about sky-glazed oceanfronts and scuba diving expeditions. However, among these general perceptions, a significant part of the Bahamas has gone largely unnoticed. Famous island spots like the Abacos and Long Island are mentioned in every conventional Bahamas touring guide, but equally-breathtaking landscapes like the Cat Island, Eleuthera and parts of the Bimini are usually given a miss.

What do all these locations have in common? They are all a part of the Out Islands or the Outer Islands, also called Family Islands of the Bahamas. The Outer Islands are located on the outer edge of more popular Bahamas destinations like the Grand Bahama (along Freeport) and Nassau (New Providence). For some strange reason, while Nassau has managed to engage international attention for decades, many parts of Out Islands are still in obscurity, i.e. from a touring perspective. If you want to savor what authentic Bahamian culture has to offer, these smaller, sparsely populated islands are the perfect solution.

Exploring Cat Island

Location: about 130 miles to the southeast of Nassau, close to Tropic of Cancer. It can be reached via Paradise Island.

Why Cat Island?

Cat Island represents the purest part of the Bahamas, still untouched by the rampant tourism industry. It has a unique, fishhook-type of shape and is just about 50-miles long. Even at its widest stretch, it is under four-miles wide. The entire Island can be explored within two days. There are many remains of colonial cotton plantations dating back to the 16th century. This is the perfect setting for those wanting to spend a few days along hushed coastlines and soak-in nature’s tranquility. Those who love the idea of self-exploration would love the opportunities offered through unnamed cays and coves that are still being excavated.

Cat Island's Colonial Heritage Sites

Travel Tip — this is the only Caribbean island that has genuine Arawak Indian caves but most local guides don’t know their way about them. It is best to seek local help to explore these ancient civilization caves. Instead of looking for guesthouses, try to spend a day under thatched roofs in the nearby villages. The locals are friendly and often rent-out their homes to vacationers.

Exploring Eleuthera

Location: about 50 miles to the east of Nassau. The Island’s shape is very unusual, almost like a slithering pencil.

Why Eleuthera?

Often called the ‘Pineapple Capital’ of the Bahamas, Eleuthera is divided into North and South Eleuthera. It is a very small island, just about two miles wide, concentrated with lavish spreads of unblemished beaches with an unbelievably white shade. The first impression is bound to be of a town that is literally asleep but herein is it unmatched charisma — it gives you a chance to experience the Bahamas without being bothered by other visitors or pesky tourist guides. The 110-mile long Island is dotted with colonial fishing villages like the Bannerman Town and Gregory Town that give a glimpse into the local traditions. Some other noteworthy places here include:

Glass Window Bridge — this spectacular rock formation has been crafted by nature itself. The Window Bridge has small bits of land on either side that unexpectedly fall into deep cliffs, along the sea.

Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera

The Cow & The Bull — just a bit further from the Glass Window Bridge, to the south, are two gigantic boulders that seem to have been intentionally placed along each other. However, these are nature’s own rock figurines creating the impression of their namesakes. Every time the wind passes through the bull-shaped boulders, it seems as if the rocks are roaring, breathing more life into this bizarre creation.

Cow & The Bull Rock Formation in Eleuthera

Travel Tip — it is said that the center of the Glass Window Bridge is along the estimated mid-point of the Atlantic Ocean. If you can manage to stay on the Bridge for a few hours, you can see the lights coming from the Exuma Sound, bordering on the notorious Bermuda Triangle.

Exploring Bimini

Location: about 48 miles from the southern coast of the US. It is uniquely perched along the edge of a steep cliff, facing a stunning deep, blue abyss. Gulf Stream flows to its north, making it home to a rich variety of coral reel life.

Coral reef sites in the Bimini, Hawksbill Reef

Why Bimini?

It is likely that you would consider Bimini among the well-known destinations in the Bahamas. Tourists can be seen flocking to the pink sandy beaches and the dolphin-feeding zones but there are still many parts of the Bimini that are yet to attract international travelers.

The Porgy Bay Beach beachfront is located just north to Bailey Town and is largely unoccupied during the day. You can combine your visit to the Porgy along with visiting the Healing Hole, to the south of Easter Cay. It is among the rare healing spots here that don’t overcharge customers for dipping into the warm sulfur spring pools.

Travel Tip — if you want to get your hands on something outlandish, head straight to the Memory Ledge. Local belief says that anyone who lies along the ledge can actually flashback through his entire life and sometimes even the past life, i.e. a trip into your past reincarnations!

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