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CRUISING THE BAHAMAS - EXUMA ISLANDS

Source: Marinalife


Beginning just 35 miles southeast of Nassau awaits an enchanting cluster of 365 cays and islands called the Exuma Islands. They're divided into three major areas: Great Exuma, Little Exuma and The Exuma Cays. Each section offers a unique Bahamian experience. Great Exuma and Little Exuma are known for their laid-back surroundings, while The Exuma Cays act as a playground for the rich and famous, boasting numerous private homes, luxury resorts and beachside condos.

 

Rich in history, The Exumas were settled by British Loyalists who fled the American Revolution with their slaves and developed cotton plantations. However, many settlers eventually returned to England, leaving behind the region's secret inlets and coves as treasured hiding places for 17th century pirates such as the nefarious Captain Kidd.

 

Many boaters leave South Florida and stop at either Bimini or Nassau to break up the 150 NM trip. Nassau/Paradise Island is a great jumping-off point to Highbourne Cay, your first stop in the Exumas.

 

STARTING POINT:

 

Albany Marina comprises a 600-acre luxury resort community on the southwestern end of New Providence, including a 71-slip megayacht marina for vessels up to 250 feet. This lovely, planned community provides amenities from a luxury boutique hotel to a championship 18-hole golf course designed by Ernie Els.

 

LEG 1: HIGHBOURNE CAY MARINA

Estimated mileage: 42.5 NM

 

Once a refuge for escaped slaves during the Colonial Era, Highbourne Cay is now home to a stunning, scarcely visited beach along the east coast. The island sits at a slightly higher altitude than most Bahamian islands, so it's easy for boaters to spot. Peer over the dock to see nurse sharks feed in a frenzied swarm as local dockhands throw unwanted conch into the water. Highbourne Cay Marina features 750 feet of face dock for yachts up to 180 feet and 16 back-in slips for boats up to 75 feet. Boaters can provision with fuel, water, ice, groceries and basic supplies from the Highbourne Store.

 

LEG 2: EXUMA CAYS LAND & SEA PARK

Warderick Wells

Estimated Mileage: 22 NM

 

Stretching 22 miles north to south from Wax Cay Cut to Conch Cut, Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park was originally a pioneering initiative established in 1958 to protect and preserve the marine environment. No one is permitted to remove anything, living or dead, from the area. Features include pristine beaches with diverse wildlife, hiking trails with tropical foliage and many species of birds to gaze upon. The Warderick Wells park office offers a gift shop, ice, Wi-Fi and visitor information. Its moorings are first-come, first-served (Hail Channel #9).

 

LEG 3: COMPASS CAY MARINA

Compass Cay

Estimated Mileage: 13 NM

 

The marina at Compass Cay, located in one of the rare, totally protected harbors of the Exumas, is accessible from both the Exuma Banks and Exuma Sound through channels marked with buoys and range markers. Boats with up to 4.5-foot draft (6 feet at high tide) can enter the harbor from the Exuma Banks by following the channel marked with buoys and a range. Deeper draft vessels up to 6.5 feet enter the marina from the Exuma Sound through Joe Cay Cut by following a series of channel markers and a range.

 

Visitors won't want to miss swimming with pet sharks at the marina and walking to the Bubble Bath, a lagoon fed by water from the Exuma Sound that breaks over lava rocks. Close by, “Rocky Dundas,” a spectacular cave only accessible by swimming, dazzles those daring enough to get there. Colorful algae-lined walls greet visitors of Rocky Dundas, who discover stalactites and stalagmites, fossilized beetles, and other aquatic creatures within the cave.

 

LEG 4: STANIEL CAY YACHT CLUB

Estimated Mileage: 9.5 NM

 

Jimmy Buffett listed Staniel Cay Yacht Club as among his top 10 island bars, and most patrons agree that it's the Shangri-La of the Exumas. Many tourists visit Staniel Cay to dive into the cave where scenes from the James Bond movie Thunderball were filmed. The 18-slip marina sports 14 charming bungalows and multiple dining options, as well as fuel, electricity, fresh water, ice, bait and Wi-Fi. Don’t miss a visit to a small local cay called Big Majors, where wild swimming pigs devour leftover conch fritters or any food you bring them while floating by.

 

LEG 5: FARMER'S CAY YACHT CLUB & MARINA

Little Farmer's Cay

Estimated Mileage: 18.5 NM

 

Little Farmer's Cay is a picture-postcard settlement in the Exuma Cays famous for sloop racing and diving. Along with moorings in a well-sheltered anchorage and four slips for yachts up to 120 feet, the marina offers water, fuel, ice and a casual eatery/watering hole. A small airport is conveniently located nearby.

 

LEG 6: THE MARINA AT FEBRUARY POINT

Elizabeth Harbour

Estimated Mileage: 43.5 NM

 

The marina at February Point equips visiting boaters with LED-lit concrete floating docks, along with dry boxes for storage. The 50-slip full-service marina is part of a five-acre complex that includes waterfront shopping, dining options, an infinity pool and a luxury spa. Just minutes from George Town, February Point is also a short 20-minute drive to the airport.

 

On nearby Stocking Island, stroll on some of the finest white sand beaches in the Bahamas or snorkel among eagle rays and turtles while exploring coral gardens and the island’s blue holes. Either way, don’t miss a visit to the Chat ‘N’ Chill, a popular barefoot beach bar. Other activities like feeding stingrays on the shore or playing volleyball in the sand are sure to charm.

 


Boating Exumas Bahamas

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