Resorts where small island charm comes with an extra helping of luxury
There are no cruise ships. No high rises. No tourist clogged straw markets. Welcome to the Out Islands. This is a very different side of the Bahamas, one where traditional fishing villages are served by the weekly mail boat, cell phones may not work, and the stars can be seen each night from beaches far, far away from streetlights. If this is your idea of an ideal vacation, there are properties where you can indulge your desires for Out Island isolation while still enjoying a few upscale luxuries and plenty of exciting activities. Here are four of our favorites.
Abaco Club on Winding Bay
If you love the Abacos, join the club. That’s the opportunity offered to guests of this exclusive enclave. The Abaco Club is not a resort, but a private club where members can get away to golf, swim, play tennis and enjoy fine dining. Here, you are isolated from the outside world, as the property is set on a private peninsula on the southeastern shore of Great Abaco Island, overlooking 2.5 miles of deserted beaches and clear water. Members enjoy a wide range of water sports from paddle boarding, kayaking, Hobie Cat sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and fishing. For the active minded, there are beach boot camps, a fitness center and tennis courts, and the on-site spa offers a full range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. The club’s attraction is the Scottish-style links course, created by renowned British golf course architects Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie.
To share a taste of island life, the club welcomes visitors, who are free to enjoy all the club’s activities and amenities. Guests can choose from a range of rental accommodations that range from cozy one-bedroom cabanas and two to four-bedroom cottages, or even a grand oceanfront estate home. Private decks provide inspiring ocean views, and each fully equipped residence is positioned on the landscaped grounds to ensure privacy. Guests are provided with golf carts for easy access to all parts of the club’s grounds and facilities, and a dedicated staff is on call for any requests. The only requirement asked of guests is that after three visits, they must become a member or resident to continue to visit. For many, this seems a tempting offer after their first stay.
Resorts World Bimini
For decades, the small islands of Bimini were the exclusive playground of the boaters and big game fishermen. Most made the run from South Florida in private boats, and that changed with the opening of a large-scale resort complex on the island of North Bimini. The 750-acre development known as Resorts World Bimini includes private residences, villas, cottages and a 305-room hotel by Hilton. A centerpiece of the resort is the 10,000 square foot casino, which is the only one in the world with panoramic water views. There are four pools, including an infinity-edge rooftop oasis with panoramic views and full food and beverage service, to the family-friendly lazy river at ground level. Guests have nine restaurants and lounges to chose from, along with exclusive beach access to Paradise Beach, private cabana rentals, and numerous water sports activities to enjoy.
Guests arriving by water can dock right at the resort, which is now home to the largest marina complex in the Bahamas. There are actually two marinas. The one percent can dock their 200-foot showboats at the Mega Yacht Marina, while sport fishermen and family boaters will prefer the Fisherman’s Village Marina, which includes open air shopping venues and a dining promenade. No boat? No problem. Resort World is served by seaplane flights, conventional air service to the adjacent island of South Bimini and a daily fast ferry from Miami.
French Leave Resort, Eleuthera
The name of this unique resort comes from a traditional British expression meaning to escape without notice, which is what guests can do effortlessly when they arrive on the quiet island of Eleuthera. Here, it’s easy to fall into the lifestyle and openness of the Out Islands. The resort sits on 270 acres that includes an exclusive stretch of pink sand beach. Accommodations are limited to just 20 seaside cottages, which combine traditional Out Island architecture with a contemporary British West Indies décor. Each cottage includes all the amenities needed for a self-sufficient stay, including full kitchens and laundry facilities. But if cooking isn’t on the agenda, there’s also room service, and a personal golf cart to whisk you to the resort’s signature 1648 restaurant, or one of the eateries in the nearby village of Governor’s Harbor. A nice added touch is the in-room, on-demand iPad that allows for maximum beach and downtime, as guests can request everything from additional towels to lunches packed to go.
Eleuthera is an island of deserted beaches and wild coastlines that are wonderful for long walks. There are small, authentic Out Island villages to explore, while activity seekers will find kayaks, snorkel gear and paddleboards on hand, right at the resort. So too is the marina that is the launching point for diving and fishing excursions. Two island favorites are horseback riding along the shoreline and cliff jumping into the clear water. For an authentic taste of Out Island life, guests can try the Friday night fish fry at Governor’s Harbour, check out the Historic Hanes Library or visit the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve for some inside history and background on the island. It’s easy to become a local on this island.
Coral Sands, Harbour Island
Small, colorful and far away from the crowds, Harbour Island has long been the favorite hush-hush escape in the Bahamas for the wealthy and well traveled. Many visitors rent private homes or villas, and spend days relaxing on the island’s famous pink sand beach. Of the limited number of small hotels that are available, a favorite is the Coral Sands. Fresh from a three million dollar renovation, this boutique eight-acre property now includes several additional ocean view cottages and a new soaking pool. In addition to these high-level renovations, interiors were refreshed with a modern, island theme that complements the property’s British Colonial style. Guests can opt for individual rooms, suites or a spacious two-bedroom cottage, all providing direct access to the beach.
The Coral Sands is home to the Latitude 25 restaurant, which is noted both for it’s food and the open air dining terrace, which delivers sweeping views of the beach. At night the lights are dimmed, candles flicker, and Chef Ludovic Jarland serves Caribbean cuisine with a French flair. The resort is just steps away from the colorful cottages and small shops of Dunmore Town, and those who are able to resist the sirens song of the beach can venture to the west side of the island to charter a fishing boat, book a diving or snorkel trip, or just join the locals relaxing at the town dock. Getting to Coral Sands will require an island hopping flight, a taxi ride and then a boat trip across a sheltered lagoon. But as anyone who has visited this charming Out Island can attest, the reward is well worth the journey.