Last September, I fell in love with an island called Eleuthera. I was only there for a few hours on a day trip from Nassau, but it was enough to know. Say it loud with me and let it roll off your tongue: E-leu-th-‘ra. Woo! Doesn’t it sound elusive and magical?
One of the Bahamas’ 700 islands or “out islands,” Eleuthera is the antithesis of Nassau. There’s no traffic, you won’t find large all inclusive hotels and the beaches aren’t lined with dozens of loungers or umbrellas. And yet this long, skinny island lies just 55 miles south of tourist-packed Nassau.One of the Bahamas’ 700 islands or “out islands,” Eleuthera is the antithesis of Nassau. Click To Tweet
Eleuthera also includes neighboring Harbour Island, which does attract crowds for its pink beaches, but it’s far enough from shore that you won’t see it.
In the 1600s, Captain William Sayles and a group of European puritan preachers set sail from Bermuda, in search of religious freedom. They shipwrecked at Devil Backbone reef and once on shore, they named their new home Eleuthera, meaning “freedom” or “free” in Greek.
The island remains as elusive as its origins. It’s no wonder artists have come here to create. Among them, Bahamian Lenny Kravitz has kept a home and recording studio on Eleuthera for years. If you’re lucky he’ll pop up at a bar near you for an impromptu performance. Tyler Perry filmed Why Did I Get Married Too, featuring Janet Jackson, at Lush Life villa, available for rent.
I wished I’d had more time to explore my new Bahamian love. But in a single day trip to Eleuthera, driving around her edges and exposed to her wild nature, I left with a memory of what it feels like to be free and away from it all.
We arrived with the first light of day, on a 23-minute flight from Nassau on Pineapple Air. It wasn’t long before we were on an uncrowded beach, facing Unique Village Resort. The name is misleading: there are just 10 rooms on site and a swimming pool. I could definitely stay here.
We warmed up to the cool, October breeze with a Bahamian breakfast: stewed grouper, with johnny cakes (so fresh and steamy I quickly dug in).
Stretching 110 miles and boasting over 100 beaches, with 11,000 inhabitants, Eleuthera’s rustic, laid back charm is obvious as soon as you start driving.
Narrow roads that barely fit two cars are flanked by verdant forest or green fields of pineapple, and sparse in development. The Atlantic Ocean roars on one side and the calm Caribbean lies on the other, while vacation villas and local shops occasionally appear.
One of Eleuthera’s unique characteristics: the eastern side of the island faces the Atlantic Ocean, while the western side lies along the Caribbean Sea, or the Exuma Sound. The perfect place to see this dramatic contrast is known as the Glass Window Bridge.Eleuthera's dramatic landscape: the eastern side faces the Atlantic Ocean, while the western side lies along the Caribbean Sea, or the Exuma Sound. They come together at the Glass Window Bridge. Click To Tweet
This concrete bridge was built to replace a giant natural rock arch that was destroyed in a hurricane. You can see how the force of the storm also lifted and tilted the boulder (in the above image).
Above: The blowhole where you can see Atlantic waters crashing and meshing into the Caribbean. The weather quickly changed that day while we stood on the bridge, making for an even more dramatic scene. When the waves rise too high, the bridge is closed.
Hiking trails abound on the island, like the one leading to the craggy James Cistern Cliffs, with panoramic views over Eleuthera.
Not up for villa renting? French Leave Resort — a Marriott branded property — is one of the newer boutique hotels on Eleuthera. It’s ideal for those who want to combine seclusion with the convenience of an on site restaurant, a golf cart to get around and a nearby beach.
I’ll be back for you one day, Eleuthera — and I’ll stay longer than a day. I want to try my luck at a Lenny Kravitz run-in, but also sample your fresh catch at fish fry Fridays in Governor’s Harbor. I want to experience your annual pineapple festival in Gregory Town (I’m allergic to pineapple but it sounds fun) and I want to practice my Bahamian rake n’ scrape skills at Daddy Joe’s.
I’ll snorkel and dive too, dip in your therapeutic blue holes, explore your caves and maybe even glimpse those pink beaches on Harbor Island for a day. And I’ll definitely sit on my beachfront porch for hours to listen to the unpolluted sounds of nature.
Most of all, I’ll come back to remember what freedom feels like on a secluded Caribbean island.
Have you been to Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas?
I was a guest of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and visited Eleuthera as part of the 2018 Caribbean State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), hosted in Nassau and organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization. As always, all my opinions are my own.
For more of my images from the Bahamas, visit this page and bookmark it for upcoming additions.